What does freedom mean to Bush?

Military analysis.
Jan. 20 2005 5:47 PM

Give Me Liberty or Give Me... What?

The muddle in Bush's inaugural address.

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Third, can we undertake this mission to spread freedom all by ourselves? In his 1961 address, Kennedy emphasized the need for allies. Speaking to audiences around the world, he asked, "Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join us in that historic effort?" President Bush today had one short sentence on the subject: "All the allies of the United States can know: We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help." The key words are "counsel" and "help"—not "coalition" or "partnership." We can barely afford fighting insurgents in Fallujah and Sadr City, much less spreading freedom to the darkest corners of the earth. Yet President Bush's language suggests he still views allies as dispensable subordinates.

One could say that an inaugural address is an opportunity to express grand themes with broad brushstrokes, and shouldn't be read closely as a blueprint for the future. But it is well known that many presidents—including this one—dwell on this speech with great care. Certainly the theme of President Bush's address is consistent with the theme of his first term's foreign policy. It therefore offers little hope that his second term's will be formulated with any greater care.