Our Sacred Honor by Cassandra

Nestled in the folds of this Sunday’s WaPo was a remarkable essay. It contained a quote that should be required reading for the clueless panderers who currently infest Capitol Hill. Viewing the hijinks up there, I frequently find myself searching for glimpses of the Yellow Brick Road. I just know it must be there, because between the lot of them I’m not certain there’s a heart, a brain, or even a single shred of courage to be found. But if The Wizard is nowhere in evidence, I suppose Jim Hoagland will have to do:

The Bush administration promised never, ever to nation-build or to engage itself deeply in pushing Israelis and Palestinians to make peace. Yet Washington undertakes both, with mixed but valuable advances in Iraq and in the flickering peace process.

Good nightshirt. Could this be the WaPo I know and love to mock? That almost sounded like a backhanded compliment for the benighted Shrub. Dazzled, I read on:

Israel’s warrior-politician, Ariel Sharon, is abandoning his Likud Party and taking risks by advancing visible concessions to Palestinians. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak — who once told an American diplomat that democratic reforms were a good concept but would not happen while he ruled — is haltingly and spitefully letting his system become more open as pressure for democratic change spreads in other Arab lands.

Helen Thomas on a treadmill! The man appears to be serious! Of course, lest we get the impression he approves of this unsanctioned outbreak of democracy, Mr. Hoagland rushes to qualify his irrational burst of exuberance:

A significant terrorist attack in Israel or a sudden whim by Egypt’s aging autocrat could stymie the reversals I cite. Yes, it is still the Middle East.

“But it is a Middle East in which those who believe in democracy and civil society are finally actors, even though we still face big obstacles,” says Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt’s battle-scarred democratic activist.

Ibrahim originally opposed the invasion of Iraq. But it “has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon’s 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be the midwives,” Ibrahim told me in Washington.

Mein Gott Im Himmel, finally someone gets it. “It” being what we’re doing over there, I mean. What our men and women in uniform are willing to fight, and bleed, and die to bring to this war-torn sandbox. Now if only someone could explain it to Congress – perhaps send them a few issues of Democracy for Dummies? It’s really quite remarkable.

Democracy: the glorious dream, even with all its uncertainties and imperfections. What a concept. We believed in this, once. What happened?

Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis takes on the notion that Bush is engaged in dangerous radicalism:

All right, my students and even some colleagues have argued, but isn’t idea of ending tyranny a departure from the more sensible policies the United States has followed in the past?

No way: there were echoes in Bush’s speech of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, Wilson’s Fourteen Points, FDR’s Four Freedoms, the Truman Doctrine, Kennedy’s inaugural, Reagan’s 1982 speech to the British Parliament, and any number of speeches by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

What is new is this: previous presidents tended to distinguish between ideals and interests. The expansion of freedom was an aspiration – but the interests of the United States lay elsewhere: in securing independence, suppressing secession, winning world wars, containment, deterrence, the maintenance of a balance of power, the promotion of capitalism, the encouragement of predictably pro-American regimes elsewhere, even if they didn’t meet our own standards for representative government and the defense of human rights.

Bush has now conflated ideals and interests. As he put it in the inaugural: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” Freedom itself is to be the strategy, not just the aspiration. It may, in this sense, be radical. It is hardly un-American.

But democracy is more than just an impractical dream that the richest, most powerful nation in the world can no longer afford to export these days. It also happens to be our best weapon in the war with radical Islam. For the peace-at-any-price crowd are right about one thing: we cannot defeat those monsters alone.

Al Qaeda’s professed goal is to turn back the clock and spread a pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the world. Theirs is not an ideology which tolerates dissent and the only sure way to fight ideology is with superior ideas. George Bush: the idiot, the bumbler, the man who, according to John Kerry, ‘doesn’t read books’ (except he apparently does read Gaddis, Sharansky, and a host of other influential thinkers) gets it. Meanwhie, men like John Kerry and John Murtha want America to hide her light under a bushel so the bad guys can’t find us and hurt us.

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