- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

When you read Jordan’s King Abdullah is taking steps to organize new elections in his country, with regional election districts that look a lot like Iraq’s, you realize just how wrong my friend Peggy Noonan is when she writes President Bush’s Inaugural speech “forgot context.”

When you read the latest fatwa from the murdering terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, that it is our democratic, freedom-embracing way of life that makes us the enemy, you realize how wrong Mrs. Noonan is in calling Mr. Bush’s vision of eradicating tyranny worldwide “rhetorical and emotional overreach of the most embarrassing sort.”

When you recall Franklin Roosevelt’s famous address of more than 60 years ago, when he talked about a world founded upon four essential human freedoms (to speak and worship freely, as well as the freedom from want and fear), you realize how mistaken Mrs. Noonan is in trying to restrain Mr. Bush’s vision.

Go back and reread Mr. Bush’s second Inaugural speech. He says, “There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment … the force of human freedom.” He adds, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” Supporting democratic movements with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world “is not primarily the task of arms.” Read it all, and you know how wrong Mrs. Noonan truly is.

Inaugural speeches should be about vision, and great American presidents pursuing great causes should always seek great visions. If the United States doesn’t do it, nobody will.

But Mrs. Noonan suggests the overthrow of dictators and would-be tyrants would unleash ugly garbage, creating bigger messes. That’s exactly the balance-of-power detente-ism that failed so miserably in the 1970s, before Ronald Reagan ended it. It’s the so-called realist perspective that led us nowhere in the 1990s, as Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, on the advice of their key advisers, refused to take stern action against terrorist-harboring dictatorship states.

It was precisely this failure that led to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Lob an occasional bomb or two? Coddle the terrorist-harboring dictators? That’s the realism George W. Bush has pledged his presidency to stop.

Mrs. Noonan, David Frum and others argue the Bush speechwriters should have thrown themselves in front of the oncoming train of the Inaugural address. This was a familiar refrain during the 1980s, when many of Mr. Reagan’s advisers tried to stop him from calling the Soviets an evil empire, or telling the Russians to tear down that wall.

Yet Natan Sharansky, in his new book “The Case for Democracy” says it was exactly these visionary Reagan declarations that gave the Gulag-imprisoned refuseniks great hope — indeed all the oppressed peoples of the former Soviet empire great hope — that freedom-loving help was on the way.

“Let Reagan be Reagan,” was the cry of that great president’s loyal supporters. How is it that Peggy Noonan is now deciding, “Don’t let Bush be Bush”?

The reality is the Iraqis risked their lives in pursuit of freedom when they went to the polls on Sunday. Do people think the Iraqis in the Baghdad area — knowing full well they might be killed by a car bomb while trying to vote — had more or less incentive to vote after listening to Mr. Bush’s speech?

As Tony Blankley writes in The Washington Times, we have seen such courageous pursuit of freedom before — people throwing safety to the wind in El Salvador in 1984, in Cambodia in 1993, in Algeria in 1995 and of course in Afghanistan only a few months ago.

Osama bin Laden and Zarqawi both know free-election democracy is the death knell of terrorism. They also know the potential effect of free Iraqi elections on the rest of the region — including Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia — is incalculable. The Iraqi elections will reverberate throughout the entire Muslim world, including Indonesia, Malaysia and the whole South Asian tsunami zone.

Sophisticated policy observers know full well that rather than plot a worldwide military invasion, Mr. Bush is building a statement of principles — he is setting new standards and diplomatic benchmarks that will govern our foreign policy for decades to come.

The Iraqi election results for a new government and constitution-writing parliament will produce a pluralistic coalition that will end fears of a mullah-based theocracy or any return of Saddamite Ba’athism.

Mr. Bush’s Inaugural vision will be proven right. His speech will be vindicated, and along with it will come a foreign-policy triumph of moral idealism, human rights and freedom over the cynical “realist” view that after all we have seen in the past 25 years we can still do business with dictators and despots in the name of stability.

Lawrence Kudlow is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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