Some very well respected Conservatives think President Bush's "Fire of Freedom" Inaugural Address bites off more than America can chew. William F. Buckley and David Gelertner call Bush's universal targeting of tyranny an "overreach," while Peggy Noonan cautions that "history is quite big enough right now, without taking on every tyranny on Earth." With all due respect, I believe the critics have missed the point.
For starters, President Bush made it clear that the tactics of spreading freedom must be diversified, and that the worldwide replacement of tyranny with freedom will be a work of generations. Furthermore, to announce a strategy, as Ms. Noonan suggests, restricted to stabilizing and fortifying functional democratic states in Iraq and Afghanistan, while increasing homeland defense, would throw away the "strategic capital" the United States gained by using our military might to change tyrannical regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Teddy Kennedy may still view America as a Paper Tiger, but Bin Laden no longer does, nor do the tyrants in Libya, Iran, Syria, North Korea, or for that matter, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The rulers of these oppressive states now must seriously consider what (pre-War on Terrorism) they could once safely scoff at, namely the possibility of the United States Armed Forces relegating them to the ash heap of history.
Indeed, it would be folly for the President to notify every tyrant on Earth that they have at least four years, during which they may tyrannize with impunity, because the United States will be pre-occupied with establishing liberty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and therefore unavailable for other tasks. Whether or not we actually have the resources in hand for other tasks, every tyrant, and especially those who harbor and support terrorists, should lie awake nights pondering whether he is America's next target for regime change.
Moreover, wise statesmen can form educated guesses concerning the key vulnerabilities of axes of evil or evil empires, just as Reagan rightly perceived that Poland was a tottering cornerstone of the Soviet edifice, and applied an extra push there. But, let's take the full lesson from the Genius of America's Cold War victory. Reagan did not limit the pressure to Poland, but thoroughly probed the Soviet armor for chinks: in Europe with missiles, in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua with arms to freedom fighters, in El Salvador, Honduras and the Philippines with aid to governments fighting Communist rebels, in Grenada with military liberation, on land, sea and sky -- and beyond the skies -- with a military buildup, and everywhere with economic pressure.
Woven throughout the strategy that won the Cold War was the ideological battle, waged through Reagan's speeches declaring the superiority of free markets and democracy over Communism, the pro-freedom propaganda of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and Radio Marti, the promotion of anti-Communist and religious dissidents, and diplomatic pressure to gain their liberty. Reagan understood that the very best hope of bringing down an Evil Empire was to rouse the captive citizens of its oppressed countries to rise up and claim their own liberty, confident that the United States of America would stand with them.
The War on Terrorism demands a no less comprehensive engagement than the Cold War did. America must press the enemy at every point, and by every means. Perhaps most importantly now, oppressed People's must know that America will stand with them when they demand their God-given liberty, and the tyrants who oppress them must know it too. There is no way of telling just where the dam may burst, so America must apply pressure wherever we can, probing for weaknesses in the Islamo-Facist-Jihadist axis, and exploiting every soft spot we find.
During the Cold War there was no shortage of naysayers, who complained that America did not have the resources to sustain such a struggle. They were wrong. The truth was, and is in this World War as well, that America can't afford to not wage war as if our survival depended on it, because it does. America has often been required by destiny to do more than we seemed capable of, but the words of Patrick Henry still brace us to action, "the battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." President Bush has rightly recognized the necessity of the moment, and has sounded a call to his countrymen worthy of the times.
Yes, Ms. Noonan is right that this is Earth, not Heaven; but America has been making things better on Earth for a long time by pursuing "the holy cause of liberty," without veering into utopian delusions. The object of President Bush's policy is not a perfect world, but victory for liberty. That is a hard task, but not a messianic one. It is a tall order, but a necessary one. The battle to spread freedom to all the nations seems daunting, which is why this may prove to be America's finest hour.