Helle C. Dale: I'd like to mention that our event today is made possible by a generous contribution from Douglas and Sarah Allison, longtime supporters of The Heritage Foundation who have an abiding interest in public policy and who are taking a special role in promoting its research and education programs in dealing with international relations. We're most grateful for them today and happy to have them as our guests.
Following the President's soaring Inaugural speech, intense debate broke out here and abroad regarding his rhetoric and intentions. How can the Administration match its ambitions properly with the priorities of national interest and security? How will this doctrine affect tyrants and less than democratic allies of the United States? How will it be sold to our foreign allies, some of whom are already skeptical of American intentions, yet indispensable for this ambitious endeavor? We have with us today four distinguished commentators to analyze this vital foreign policy.
Norman Podhoretz, our first speaker, served as editor in chief of Commentary from 1960 to 1995 and is now editor at large. I want to commend to you an article in February's issue of Commentary, "The War Against World War IV," which is in part very much about the topic we're discussing today. Mr. Podhoretz was Pulitzer scholar at Columbia University and holds degrees from Cambridge University, England, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. A longtime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former chairman of the New Directions Advisory Committee, Mr. Podhoretz was also one of the founders of the Committee on the Present Danger and the Committee for the Free World.
Mr. Podhoretz is the author of 10 books and hundreds of articles in most of the major American periodicals and other countries' as well. He has lectured at many universities and before many civil rights and religious groups and appears frequently on radio and television. In addition to his numerous other awards, in 2004 he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The Honorable Peter Wehner is director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives and Deputy Assistant to the President. Prior to this position, Mr. Wehner was Deputy Director of Presidential Speech Writing. Before joining the Bush Administration, Mr. Wehner was Executive Director for Policy at Empower America, a conservative public policy organization, and he also worked on the cultural studies project for The Heritage Foundation. He has specialized in and has written extensively on political, cultural, and religious issues, including seven books and numerous articles.
Mr. Wehner was an assistant to William Bennett at the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Administration of George H. W. Bush. He was a speechwriter at the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration and, prior to his days at the Department of Education, worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and later at the Hudson Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
John Sullivan has been executive director of the Center for International Private Enterprise, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, since 1991. In 1983, he was associate director of the bipartisan democracy program that created the National Endowment for Democracy. Once the endowment was established, Mr. Sullivan returned to the Chamber to help create the Center for International Private Enterprise, where he served as program director. He has a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Pittsburgh and is the author of numerous articles and publications on the transition to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, corporate governance, and market-oriented democratic development.
Last, but not least, Larry Wortzel is vice president (for one more day) of The Heritage Foundation and director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. He has served in the Marine Corps and the Army. He has collected communications intelligence in the Army Security Agency and served as a counterintelligence officer and foreign intelligence collector for the Army Intelligence and Security Command. He served two tours of duty as a military attaché in the American Embassy in China for the Defense Intelligence Agency and was there in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square massacre and had a very important role to play for the Americans on that occasion.
Larry also served as a strategist on the Department of Army Staff and was director of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He retired from the Army as a colonel in 1999, after 32 years of service. He's also a member of the congressionally mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Please join me in welcoming our extremely distinguished panelists, and I invite Mr. Podhoretz to begin.
Helle C. Dale is Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Norman Podhoretz: I believe Bush's second Inaugural was one of the great presidential utterances of our time and, possibly, of all of American history. I started my career as a literary critic, and I sometimes don that hat again; and in that capacity, I want to say that those who were sour about the second Inaugural, though some of them are professional writers, seem to me, in this instance at least, to have developed a tin ear for English prose. They were deaf to the exquisite rhetorical flourishes that never exceeded the bounds of the best literary taste. They were unable to hear the rhythmical sureness of the language and the beauty of the cadences.
Let me just read a couple of sentences in which the President played with the image of fire: "After the shipwreck of Communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical"- note, in passing, the vividly evocative phrase "years of sabbatical"-"and then there came a day of fire."
I'd like to find anything in the speeches of John F. Kennedy, so often praised for their great eloquence, that can match that short sentence. And the President picked up the image of fire again later in the speech: "By our efforts"-he meant, of course, our efforts in what I have been calling World War IV- "we have lit a fire as well-a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
It's not quite Lincoln, but it's not all that far from Lincoln either, and I think people who complained against this speech in print will someday be ashamed of themselves for execrably bad judgment. They also were guilty-and I'm talking here about friends and political allies-of wildly distorted characterizations. To everyone's amazement, for example, Peggy Noonan complained that there was too much God in this speech, but the fact of the matter is that it contained fewer references to God than most presidential utterances. I counted something like four, and I suspect that if you looked at Lincoln's second Inaugural, the greatest speech ever made in the history of this country, you would find three times as many.
But there was one criticism that has to be taken seriously, and that was the point made by many critics, including supporters of the President, that he was overreaching, stating goals that are far too ambitious in language that was far too universalist, raising hopes and aspirations that neither the United States nor any other mortal power could possibly hope to fulfill.
This is the same kind of criticism, incidentally, that Walter Lippmann made against Harry Truman when Truman proclaimed his doctrine, and similar things were said about John F. Kennedy's first Inaugural. But I would argue that the second Inaugural of George W. Bush no more overreached than Franklin Delano Roosevelt's promise to bring the Four Freedoms to the world, including freedom from want and freedom from fear. Think about it: He was going to make us all free from fear. It certainly didn't overreach Truman's promise to support "free peoples" everywhere, and neither did it overreach John F. Kennedy's famous statement that we would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
There are echoes of all these speeches in Bush's second Inaugural, and they are used to brilliant effect. One could do a careful explication de texte and tease out some of the allusions which link this speech to some of the greater utterances and nobler moments in our history-and which make it, incidentally, entirely bipartisan in spirit.
I would even go so far as to say that not only did the President not overreach, but he was actually rather modest. Qualifications were introduced-not the kind of defensive qualifications that weaken an assertion, but the kind that, to use the word that became notorious during the presidential campaign, bring nuance to large generalizations. He said that we were not intending to impose our system of government on others. He said that what we were trying to do-namely, to spread liberty throughout as much of the world as possible-was not primarily a task of arms, and he also said that it would not be the work of a moment or a year, but the work of generations. So there was a due note of prudence, caution, modesty that served not as a damper to the soaring rhetoric, but as something of an anchor.
But the question still arises, the first question that Helle posed to us, "How do we match this soaring rhetoric, this great ambition with national security and national interest considerations?"
I don't think that's so difficult a question: Idealism does not preclude prudential judgment in its implementation. The sharp division between idealism and realism is useful for polemical purposes, but there is no absolute ideal and no absolute real. There may be absolute Realpolitik in world affairs, but not in American foreign policy; nor has there ever been an absolute pursuit of the ideal. Not even Woodrow Wilson, who was notoriously thought of as being the most naïve or utopian of American idealists, was blind to considerations of national interest. But prudential judgment means picking your shots, knowing what the right moment is to go after your targets and by what means-military, economic pressure, political pressure, even sometimes the charade of negotiations.
George Bush was denounced all over the world, including in this country, as having rushed to war in Iraq. Actually, I thought he dawdled for eight months with the U.N. Anyhow, we now see him playing what I hope will turn out to be the same game in relation to Iran. To those who think that Iran can be prevented by negotiations from developing nuclear weapons, he's saying, "Okay, I'm going to give you your chance to show me that you're right in believing that there's an alternative to force in this case. Show me that we can handle this problem-that you agree is a problem, just as everyone did about Saddam Hussein, and that you also agree must be resolved. Show me that it can be resolved through negotiations. If so, fine. If not, we may have no other choice than military force." If I read this President right, he's doing again what he did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
But what about the universalism of the President's rhetoric? How, for instance, does it square with the praise he has lavished on Vladimir Putin despite Putin's reversal of the progress that had been made in Russia toward democratization?
My answer is that everyone knows, or should know, that the universalism of the Bush Doctrine, while absolutely sincere and valid in the long run, has one main target in the short run. And that target is the despotisms of the Middle East, just as in the Cold War-World War III, as I have come to call it-the Communists were the main target and not other despots.
When Harry Truman promised to help "free peoples" everywhere and John F. Kennedy spoke of supporting "any friend" and opposing "any foe," everybody knew they were both talking about holding back the tide of Soviet expansionism and keeping the spread of Communism in check. They were not talking about dislodging every tyrant and every dictator on the face of the Earth. This would have been a utopian and, indeed, a silly enterprise. There is such a thing as one step at a time, and that too is an element of prudential judgment. So the Communists were the main target in World War III and the Fascists in World II; in fact, in fighting the Nazi regime, prudential judgment dictated that we even ally ourselves with the Soviet Union-a nation that was as bad politically and morally as the Nazi regime itself.
This does not mean that there won't be spillover effects from the narrow casting or narrow targeting of the Bush Doctrine. Thus, the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine was surely a direct result of the enunciation of the Bush Doctrine, and not only its enunciation, but the President's demonstration in Afghanistan and Iraq that he is willing and able to put his money where his mouth is.
But what happened in Ukraine and what may happen in other places outside the targeted region is icing on the cake-a bonus. If you want to put the Bush Doctrine's objective in national security terms that also take account of its universalist professions, you might say that we are, under George W. Bush's leadership, trying to make the Middle East safe for America by making it safe for democracy. You might say it's the foreign policy form of doing well by doing good. We are serving our interests and simultaneously pursuing what most of us, I'm sure, recognize as a noble cause and that I think will eventually be recognized by many other people as such.
Take a look at what's been happening since the election in Iraq on January 30. Already, many people, including a real enemy of the United States in the past, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader in Lebanon, along with a writer for Der Spiegel in Germany and some others, have begun to make comparisons with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
People laughed at Ronald Reagan when he said, "Tear down this wall," and we know what happened very shortly thereafter. They laughed at Bush too, and the author of the article in Der Spiegel now says that maybe it's time to stop laughing. We're hearing this kind of thing everywhere in response to the demonstrations against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, which are going on as we speak and which resulted in the resignation of the pro-Syrian puppet prime minister.
I got an e‑mail this very morning from a friend in Israel who wrote to tell me how astonished he was to see the leading afternoon paper in Israel, Ma'ariv, describe what's happening in Lebanon as a victory for George W. Bush. Because the media in Israel are even more liberal than the mainstream media in the United States, my friend never thought he'd live to see the day when a leading Israeli newspaper would have a good word to say for George Bush. This in itself is a kind of cultural revolution brought about by the Bush Doctrine.
Finally, a quick word about the prospects for the Bush Doctrine. My view is that if the President continues pursuing it with the same determination, stamina, courage, and resoluteness he has shown up to now, it will continue to succeed and, by being successful, will win the hearts and minds of reluctant allies and even enemies. This is the lesson of the election in Iraq. I have to confess that I had not expected that election to have as rapidly benevolent an effect on the climate of opinion as it is proving to have. I thought it would be dismissed the way the election in Afghanistan was.
Of course, although Bush has been credited by some who begin to see the light, others, like Thomas Friedman, the most overrated columnist in the world, have actually made it seem as though the wonderful things that have been happening in the Greater Middle East have occurred not because of Bush but in spite of him-as though the only role Bush has played in this extraordinary series of events is to do everything in his power to prevent it and screw it up. Shame on them all.
I'll end by reiterating the sentiment with which I began. We have been privileged to be present at one of the greatest speeches ever made by an American President, and we have been privileged to participate, to whatever extent is in our power, in one of the noblest enterprises ever undertaken by the United States. For this, I for one am very grateful, and I think everyone else should be as well.
Peter Wehner: I'm grateful to The Heritage Foundation for devoting this event to examining the second Inaugural address of President Bush. I say that because it is, in my judgment, the most philosophically significant Inaugural address in generations, and it is perhaps the single most important speech in understanding the belief system of America's 43rd President.
What I'd like to do is state some common criticisms of the Inaugural address and answer them in a way that I hope is useful and intellectually fair-minded and, most important of all, brief.
Criticism number one is that immediately following the Inaugural address, the White House began to back away from it. The President's "lieutenants," it was said, are out there "spinning that all those lovely words didn't mean quite as much as they seemed to have meant." Now, that may be the wish of the President's critics, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and by now people should know that this President says what he means and acts on what he says.
President Bush knew exactly what he intended to say in his Inaugural address. The idea of what the Inaugural address was going to be was his, and he was intimately involved in every stage of the process, and neither he nor the White House is backing away a single inch from his words. And there is a good reason for that: President Bush believes them deep in his bones.
It is true that in the days after the speech, White House aides simply had to reiterate the words that were in the Inaugural address, since so much of it was overlooked in the post-speech commentary. Sometimes it's necessary to respond to caricatures and sloppy characterizations, but there's a crucial difference between backing away from a speech and actually urging its critics to read the words of the speech.
Criticism number two is that the speech was far too sweeping in its goals. It was said that the White House is suffering from "mission inebriation." The speech included no "moral modesty," lacked "nuance," and so forth and so on. To which I would respond: The speech refutes the criticism, and the President's Inaugural address was far more nuanced than many of the criticisms that were leveled against it.
For example, President Bush spoke about the "ultimate" goal of ending tyranny in our world. Perhaps it is necessary to point out to our critics that "ultimate" is not a synonym for "immediate." "Ultimate" isn't even a synonym for "in the next four years." Ultimate means eventual.
Ending tyranny in our world, then, is a goal that will take time. President Bush, as Norman said, called it the "concentrated work of generations." And if some of the critics of the President believe the goal of American foreign policy should be to accommodate itself to tyranny, let them say so- loudly, clearly, publicly, and repeatedly.
It's worth adding that world events are confirming the President's confidence in liberty. During the last four decades, we have witnessed the most spectacular growth of freedom in history, and in less than four months, we have seen elections take place in Afghanistan, Ukraine, among the Palestinian people, and in Iraq. In a span of 113 days, more than 100 million people living on two continents have cast free votes for the first time in nations that had never known true democracy. More than half of these voters are people of the Muslim faith who live in the broader Middle East. And in just the last few days, we've seen extraordinary developments in Lebanon-massive popular demonstrations in Martyrs' Square in Beirut-and encouraging events in Egypt as well.
For those who remain skeptical of the appeal of liberty and its capacity to take root in foreign soil, it is worth recalling a line from philosophy: You can prove the possible by the actual. Unfolding before our eyes are historical and enormously hopeful achievements. We are witnessing a great movement toward human freedom.
Criticism number three is that President Bush's speech is committing him to an "unending…conflict." It is said that the President has asserted a right to intervene in the internal affairs of "every nation on earth, and that is, quite simply, a recipe for endless war." The response to this criticism is a simple one: Read the speech. The President said that the goal of ending tyranny in our world "is not primarily the task of arms," though he did say we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary.
The President also said this, "We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people." To argue that this statement is a manifesto for endless war is wildly wrong. It ignores that there is a large continuum between doing nothing on the one hand and invading country after country on the other.
I also would ask this of the critics: Is the argument that the United States should be utterly indifferent if a leader is massacring his own people on a massive scale? Don't we want success in our relations with other nations to depend, at least in part, on the decent treatment of their own people? Both the moral good and our national interest argue that they should.
Criticism number four is that the speech was "hopelessly vague" and "without a time frame." It was "more aspirational than practical," and it didn't provide "practical wisdom" on how to attain freedom in a "complex world." In response, I would point out that every successful Inaugural address in history has been aspirational. That's the nature of such speeches, and it's why Inaugural addresses are followed up by something called State of the Union addresses, which give the aims enunciated in Inaugural addresses priority and direction.
The goal of the Bush Doctrine is to advance liberty, but the means to the end will vary. Is it really necessary to point out that the government of the United States will use different tactics with an ally that is taking steps toward democracy than it will with a totalitarian enemy that's taking steps with aggression? Unfortunately, perhaps it is necessary.
President Bush is an idealistic man, but he's also a practical man. He'll use the best tools America has to advance liberty. But that doesn't mean we should apply the same strategies to every nation under the sun, or that we'll demand everything be done all at once. Different circumstances require different approaches, but the President's policy aims for the same end: advancing human freedom.
When Ronald Reagan said that the march of freedom would leave Marxism-Leninism on the "ash-heap of history," he didn't provide a detailed, multi-year, country-by-country blueprint on how he would achieve this great goal. It would have been impossible for him to do in any event, since President Reagan understood that he'd have to deal with issues as they arose. His goal was to set forth an honorable objective to guide specific policies. President Reagan did exactly that-and, in fact, seven years after his Westminster speech, Soviet Communism was left on the ash-heap of history.
Criticism number five is that the President's speech was too "aggressive," too "hubristic," and "smacks of imperialism." That charge wilts when you actually read the speech. Here is what the President said:
Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
This statement is almost the antithesis of imperialism. In all of history, has any predominant nation ever been as careful with its words or as respectful of other nations and cultures? Charles Krauthammer has written, "America is the first hegemonic power in history to be obsessed with 'exit strategies.'" America's goal is not to invade other countries; it is to allow freedom to take root in them. That is a noble goal, not an arrogant one, and it's very much in our national security interests.
A few weeks ago, during a speech in Davos, Switzerland, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this about President Bush's Inaugural address and his commitment to spread liberty and end tyranny:
Leave aside, for a moment, the odd insist-ence by some commentators that such a plea is evidence of the "neo-conservative" grip on Washington-I thought progressives were all in favour of freedom rather than tyranny.
Prime Minister Blair said this in an interview: "I thought [democracy] was what we used to be in favor of on the progressive center-left." Once upon a time, it was, but those days of passionate advocacy are gone with the wind. As during the Reagan years, today it is conservatism, this time under the determined leadership of George Walker Bush, that has seized the mantle of idealism. Conservatives are strong on defense, and they are strong on defending America's deepest ideals. The dividing wall that once separated American interests and American idealism is being torn down.
This will, I believe, have political benefits down the road. As a general proposition, for a political party, optimism is better than pessimism; achievement is better than obstructionism; and shaping history is more fulfilling than trying to impede it.
But the political benefits pale in comparison with the human good that is being done. To see the joy etched on the faces of newly liberated people is a vivid reminder that political acts have profound human consequences and that to be on the side of freedom is to be on the side of the angels. Many hands and hearts have helped make the gripping and vivifying events of the last few months possible. But in my estimation, one set of hands and one stout heart deserve credit above all the others, and I suspect that when the history of our times is written, a man from Crawford, Texas, will have earned the title as one of history's great liberators.
John Sullivan: President Bush's emphasis on freedom and liberty, as both speakers have mentioned, runs throughout the Inaugural address and thereby places support for freedom and liberty worldwide at the center of American foreign policy.
Many have interpreted this to mean solely the advancement of political freedom through the development of democratic institutions, such as elections. While I would surely agree that political freedom is essential, it seems to me that economic freedom must also be seen as essential for the attainment of stable democratic societies and for the accomplishment of this vision.
In a way, we find this latter emphasis on economic freedom more well-developed in the second half of the President's speech. He talks to the American people in that second part of this speech, and he speaks of building an ownership society as the embodiment of liberty.
I couldn't agree more with that emphasis. President Bush's words to the American people are:
In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, the GI Bill of Rights.
That same spirit needs to be recalled as we read the first part of the President's address. I say that because in recent years, many scholars and, I regret to say, many of those who design and implement American foreign policy and foreign aid have confused economic development with economic freedom.
Economic development is surely a good end, yet it is often pursued through big government and with the unintended consequences-or sometimes the intended consequence-of the repression of economic freedom. Societies which have adopted the approach of creating economic freedom through private property, rule of law, and other key institutions are building economic growth through and on the basis of freedom and liberty.
For many years, we at the Center for International Private Enterprise, our friends at Heritage, and others have worked with Hernando DeSoto, the well-known economist from Peru. Hernando's message is simple: As long as 30 to 50 percent of the people of the developing countries are locked out of the political and economic systems through walls of red tape, they are denied the economic freedom needed to build their lives. In my view, that is at the heart of what we need to address to accomplish a vision of liberty.
The same point is made over and over again in the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom. I recommend it highly. The concepts that are listed here are at the heart of the programs that we're supporting at CIPE in places like Russia, where liberty is undergoing a dangerous erosion, as are property rights and other fundamental economic and political freedoms.
Turning to the practical aspect of all of this, I have to say that, all too often, a grand vision such as President Bush's call for freedom and liberty remains only a grand vision in the day‑to-day work of foreign policy and foreign assistance programs. I'm speaking of our instrumentalities-the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other agencies.
That would be a tragedy, for understood in its entirety, this vision does constitute a departure from business as usual. There is one bright spot that the Bush Administration has put forward, that the President's speech very much addressed, and that is the Millennium Challenge Account. It combines all of the various themes I've talked about above, political as well as economic, ruling justly as well as economic freedom. In fact, the Heritage Index is embedded in that.
However, more will need to be done. Let me just make two quick suggestions. First, within USAID, our development agency, there needs to be a "rethink" of their democracy-support programs, which tend to be based solely on political institutions and good governance. Economics is separated into a different part of the bureaucracy and is mainly thought of as economic development, not building the institutions of economic freedom.
This needs to be rethought. At the policy level, there is understanding at this point, but the machinery is built in such a way as to confound policy. In fact, they have a name for it within the governmental agencies. They call it silos or stovepipes: From top to bottom, they never touch.
A second and final suggestion is that we need to revive a public diplomacy program. Time is too restricted to describe all that that entails. Let me just say that when we had a meeting in our office in Afghanistan to discuss the Inaugural speech, our Afghan staff and Afghan entrepreneurs, journalists, and women's groups all thought it was wonderful. These criticisms were not even thought about. They were focused, really, on the vision. However, what they said was, "We really don't know how to make this work."
Our foreign assistance program does try, to some extent, to build understanding of values and institutions, but it lacks the capacity that we used to have in the public diplomacy unit, when we had USIA and other instruments. Some of those are still around like the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty, but the resources don't begin to meet the magnitude of the challenge. We need to rebuild it, and we need to rebuild it quite apart from other equally important efforts to promote American foreign policy or to address the image of America. We need a more sustained effort to build understanding of the principles of freedom, liberty, and justice, as well as the institutions that ensure these principles, that actually form the basis of democracy and economic freedom.
If I had had the same discussion with our staff in Iraq, I know we would have had the same exact kind of response. In our Iraq program recently, we had most of the major Iraqi political parties with us in Jordan. What we found in talking to them and in talking to the Iraqi business community was a huge gulf between the two, and I would submit that there's a gulf between the entrepreneurial community and the political community, that we do indeed need a new instrument that's going to address ideas.
How do you get people to understand and adopt ideas for themselves? Institutions may differ; as the President said in his speech, we're not trying to impose any set pattern. President Reagan said that in his Westminster speech as well. But unless you have the basic building blocks, I'm afraid people will not be able to construct for themselves their visions of what President Bush's speech means to them in their country. So I would add that as a way to move forward on a practical level.
Larry M. Wortzel: President Bush's second Inaugural address tied current American policy to the Cold War and the ideological fight against Communism and its particular form of tyranny, and then the President extended that to all forms of tyranny. That's a very important appeal. For someone who's served in the military, and particularly during the Cold War, President Bush's Inaugural address evokes images of preparedness, of military strength, of the forward presence of American forces overseas, and of catastrophic nuclear attacks on the United States, and those are still real concerns today.
Most important, and what I like best about that speech, is that President Bush tied American vital interests directly to our national values and our ideals. I find it very ironic that people who said we're going to war in Iraq for oil suddenly turned around and criticized idealism and the spread of democracy. I don't know how you get from one place to the other.
The President did this realizing that values like the preservation of liberty, freedom to speak and to be prosperous, the freedom to associate, and the freedom to worship as we choose are things that bind us together as Americans, and they bind America to others around the world who have those values or who aspire to those liberties.
If you've ever taken an oath to defend your nation with your own life and your own blood, and you've actually carried arms in the service of your nation, you take this Inaugural address pretty seriously because it makes it very clear that Americans are going to fight for freedom and democracy. To those that carry that fight not only with the courage of their convictions, but with an automatic rifle in their hands, it's a serious speech. It raised the morale and pride of the American military and the American people.
But it seems to have stirred some sort of fear that the results of this speech would be repetitive wars and military adventures to impose democracy and to depose dictators. I think it stirred some fears that our international relations would degenerate, that America would force its will, and sons and daughters would die for nothing in foreign lands.
As you've heard before, nothing could be further from the truth. The Inaugural address brought some Americans to think that the results of such a speech would be these repetitive wars, and I think that many foreigners were a little more suspicious of the implications of the speech than Americans. It's very important to realize when you talk about the American military that it's a professional military, but it's not a mercenary force. American soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines are quite willing to put their lives on the line for America's vital interests, but, as Norman said, there are practical limits to what we can do. So there's going to be a debate, continually, about what constitutes a vital interest.
But this speech was not about the muscular imposition of democracy. I would point to the eighth paragraph of the speech, which made it very clear that this is to be done primarily through the export of our values and our freedoms and not by a force of arms; citizens of nations struggling toward liberty have to choose that freedom for themselves, and we'll be more than happy to help and defend ourselves and them.
The debates at home are going to be over whether the use of force serves American interests and what constitutes a vital interest. I'd argue that today, we face issues like the threats against democracy in Taiwan by the tyranny in the People's Republic of China, the threats against the democracy that the United States nurtured for years in South Korea by whatever North Korea does. I think that you can count on the fact that the United States, as a nation, and its military are going to stand by those democracies.
There are limits to what our forces can do, and they're stretched. I think the President clearly realizes this, and that was the bulk of the speech, discussing the economic and the political and the other real ways to build democracy overseas. So I think that he showed a great deal of courage and insight in that speech, and he ought to be commended for the values that are embedded in it.
I want to take a minute to look at our military. I don't know if you've had a chance to get out and talk to people who are on their way to Iraq in the military, or who have come back, or who are on their way over for a second tour. Most of my contacts are in the Army and the Marines, because that's what I did; I spent some time as an infantryman in both. They're taking the heaviest toll in the Army and the Marine Corps, and it's not always in the infantry anymore. It's supply people and medical people and maintenance people and artillerymen, who very rarely had to get out and patrol up front and now are performing infantry tasks.
But when you talk to people that are coming back, or even the ones on the way over for their second tour, you don't get any cynicism. That's very different from the Marine Corps and the Army I served in during the Vietnam period. You don't get cynicism. People really adopt and have adopted the ideals that are embedded in that speech.
Gary Trudeau and the Doonesbury comic strips do not get it right. The cynicism in there is not what you see when you talk to American soldiers today. They feel great about what they've done; they feel good about being over there; they feel good about going back. They're not happy to leave families to go back a second time, but they feel good about going back, and they see that it's accomplishing something.
So I think it was a great speech. I think it will live to be a great speech, and it's one that inspires our military.