- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2005

President Bush’s inaugural address sends the United States on a new, expansionist and far more aggressive global mission to free oppressed countries from dictators — a sharp departure from his 2000 campaign that warned against becoming the world’s policemen.

In a 21-minute speech to the nation and the world aimed at defining and focusing the second term of his presidency, Mr. Bush devoted the major portion of his address to advancing “the cause of freedom” through a much more muscular foreign and national security policy that seeks to topple “the rulers of outlaw regimes.”

The president’s rhetoric did not go as far as the pre-Vietnam War pledge in President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address to “pay any price, bear any burden” to advance liberty throughout the world. But Mr. Bush did lay out an ambitious, perhaps unprecedented internationalist doctrine that could deploy U.S. military power far beyond America’s present commitments to turn once-oppressive Afghanistan and Iraq into peaceful and free democracies.

Mr. Bush said that it is now “the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Lest his intentions be interpreted as military adventurism, the president cautioned: “This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary.

“Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way,” he said.

But Mr. Bush also promised that “all who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”

Some foreign-policy analysts saw strategic maneuvering in Mr. Bush’s statement to reposition the United States if it is forced to act against another repressive regime.

“He obviously wants to preserve this freedom of maneuver, if he decides some time in the future that we have to up the pressure on North Korea — to help provide a theoretical and thematic justification,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution.

William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, criticized Mr. Bush’s call for a more activist military role in the world as “dangerous, eloquent nonsense,” rejecting the implication in the president’s remarks “that anyone’s lack of liberty threatens us.”

Mr. Bush’s newly defined foreign policy is a far cry from his frequently stated opposition in the 2000 presidential campaign to sending American troops around the world to topple repressive regimes that do not threaten the United States.

On Oct. 3, 2000, in a presidential campaign debate with Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Bush said: “If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to prevent that.”

The September 11 attacks changed all that, and Mr. Bush sent U.S. military forces into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime that supported terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and then into Iraq to topple dictator Saddam Hussein.

When U.S. forces took control of Afghanistan, long a training ground for al Qaeda terrorists, and installed a new government allied with the United States, critics suggested that Mr. Bush was engaged in nation building. The administration denied it.

“What the president could not have made any plainer during the campaign, which he repeated emphatically today, is the purpose of the military is to fight and win wars. The purpose of the military is not, as he said … during the course of the campaign, to use troops all around the world as social workers or policemen or school walking guards,” then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said on Oct. 12, 2001.

There long has been strong opposition among some conservative Republicans to the tendency to become the world’s policemen by sending troops to topple dictatorships in various parts of the world.

Pat Buchanan became the leader of this bloc when he challenged the first President Bush for renomination in 1992, denouncing Mr. Bush’s decision to go to war to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. He since has left the Republican Party.

In fact, the first President Bush won broad support for the war in the Persian Gulf, as he did when he invaded Panama to topple military strongman Manuel Noriega and put him in prison.

Today, the second President Bush has drawn similarly strong support within the Republican Party for his actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, including neoconservatives led by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, whose political allies have been a major force behind a more aggressive military posture around the world.

Mr. Bush’s speech yesterday was in sharp contrast to his first inaugural address in 2001, which was devoted almost exclusively to domestic and economic concerns and dealt only briefly with defense issues.

But even in his 2001 speech, Mr. Bush declared his belief in maintaining a global military posture that was ready to defend U.S. interests anywhere in the world.

“The enemies of liberty in our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom,” he said then.

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