- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Some across the ocean might have been surprised by the grace with which President Bush opened yesterday’s address at Whitehall Palace in London — praising the hospitality of his British hosts, while joking about the fact that some of his harshest critics in London would prefer to see him dangling in a box over the Thames River. But when Mr. Bush got down to business, he provided a sober and strategic assessment of how democracies decide when it becomes necessary to use force to repel an aggressor.

“The people have given us the duty to defend them. And that duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men. In some cases, the measured use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force,” Mr. Bush said.

Most people fortunate enough to live in Western nations today have no memory of that kind of world, the president noted. But in recent years, the world has seen numerous vivid demonstrations of what happens when evil regimes are left free to oppress their own people and attack neighboring states — and what needs to be done to stop the predators. “The victims of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, those who survived the rapists and the death squads, have few qualms when NATO applied force to help end those crimes. The women of Afghanistan, imprisoned in their homes and beaten in the streets and executed in public spectacles, did not reproach us for routing the Taliban,” Mr. Bush declared. “The inhabitants of Iraq’s Ba’athist hell, with its lavish palaces and torture chambers, with its massive statues and mass graves, do not miss their fugitive dictator. They rejoiced at his fall.”

The president forcefully rebutted critics who complain about the supposedly “unilateralist” foreign policy approach pursued by the United States and the Bush administration in particular. “In all these cases, military action was proceeded by diplomatic initiatives and negotiations and ultimatums, and final chances until the final moment. In Iraq, year after year, the dictator was given the chance to account for his weapons programs, and end the nightmare for his people. Now the resolutions he defied have been enforced,” the president said. “And who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting and killing, or that the world was safer when he held power? Who doubts that Afghanistan is a more just society and less dangerous without Mullah Omar playing host to terrorists from around the world?”

There are senators and other Washington types who disguise their cynicism behind the false mask of realism, who should consider their positions rebutted on another critical issue: Mr. Bush’s insistence that Arab and Muslim peoples should be able to attain the benefits of self-determination and ordered liberty. “It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it,” he stated. The president said it was high time that the West “shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East,” which caused us to “tolerate oppression for the sake of stability” and overlook the flaws of local elites.

The president’s speech and demeanor will stand the test of history, if not, perhaps, the test of current Eurojournalism.

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