Isolationists, Islamist extremists, and "intellectuals" -- and other types beginning with the letter "i," who will be left unnamed in the interest of civility -- have sneered at the awkward eloquence of President George W. Bush, embodied in his press conference on the evening of April 13.
"Awkward eloquence" is not an oxymoron, for those who express themselves with some difficulty, or when struggling with emotion, may yet speak more powerfully than those whose orations are brilliantly-crafted, and well-practiced. Moses, the prophet of freedom, was afflicted with a stammer, and the prophet Muhammad was an illiterate. Neither of them would have had a chance on most of today's television talk shows, yet they moved the world.
I did not sneer at the President's words. And I believe there are others who, like me, were moved, even to tears, by his statements:
"Freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom… We have an obligation to work toward a more free world."
The Chief Executive of these United States sought, at times haltingly, to explain to the American people that "it's important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East."
Not for many decades, for even a century, has an American statesman so simply and necessarily defined our place in world history. As I explained to my son, other admirable American leaders fought to defend our freedoms -- only rarely, and at great risk, did they commit our nation to the defense, nay, the extension of freedom far from our borders, in places where most of us would never set foot.
Harry Truman did so, when he sent General Douglas MacArthur to the relief of South Korea. What were the Koreans to us? And yet, the people of Western Europe held their breaths in horror, waiting to see if America would save the Koreans -- for if we did not, then Stalin, the most feral of all the 20th century monsters, would be emboldened to invade Western Europe. Revisionist historians may jeer at such an interpretation, yet I have interviewed an American naval attaché who described to me a young German woman rushing to embrace him in the streets of Bonn, when news of the Inchon landing came, saying, "you have saved us!" And I know from the history of the former Yugoslavia that Marshal Tito told his cabinet the same thing -- that MacArthur's daring action had prevented Stalin from marching into Yugoslavia, into Italy, into West Germany, and beyond.
John F. Kennedy promised the same expansion of the dominions of light, when he tried to assist the Cubans in liberating their brothers and sisters from Castro, and refused to back down from the challenge of Vietnam. But his projects failed, for reasons we all know, above all because of his untimely martyrdom.
Reagan succeeded in bringing down the Muscovite empire of evil because he understood that the Soviets were bluffers, that their power rested on the hesitation of their strongest opponents. Somewhere in his soul Reagan understood that history could not stand still, and that the bourgeois revolution, the engines of entrepreneurship, contract, accountability, and individual freedom in general, must inevitably conquer the whole planet.
Shall we shrink, now, from words like "revolution"? Perhaps it would be better not to frighten the amateur thinkers in the isolationist camp, the pretentious pygmies who, knowing little of our history, tell us America never stood for anything but protection of our own shores, our own borders, our own hearths. The Hebrewphobes among them will particularly take offense at the dread word that signifies nothing more than inevitable change in the affairs of humanity, a turning of the mighty wheel of destiny. But let us not give them too much to shriek about. Some of us, like my friend Christopher Hitchens, may smile devilishly when they pronounce the words "regime change," suggesting that it was always a euphemism, and that they were for it on the barricades of Barcelona in 1937 when Orwell stood up against Stalinism, as well as in the streets of Manila in 1986 when "people power" ended the dictatorship of Marcos, and in the Nicaraguan voting booths when the Sandinista usurpers were shoved aside in 1990.
Isolationist poseurs wish the American people to forget that we were once described by Louis Kossuth, the 19th century hero of Hungarian independence, who was liberated from Russian and Austrian aggression by a "coalition of the willing" -- made up of the U.S., Britain, France, and Turkey -- in these terms:
"I have to thank the people, Congress, and government of the United States for my liberation from captivity. Human tongue has no words to express the bliss which I felt, when I -- the downtrodden Hungary's wandering chief -- saw the glorious flag of the Stripes and Stars fluttering over my head -- when I first bowed before it with deep respect -- when I saw around me the gallant officers and the crew of the Mississippi frigate -- the most of them the worthiest representatives of true American principles, American greatness, American generosity -- and to think that it was not a mere chance which cast the Star-spangled Banner around me, but that it was your protecting will -- to know that the United States of America, conscious of their glorious calling, as well as of their power, declared, by this unparalleled act, to be resolved to become the protectors of human rights -- to see a powerful vessel of America coming to far Asia to break the chains by which the mightiest despots of Europe fettered the activity of an exiled Magyar, whose very name disturbed the proud security of their sleep -- to feel restored by such a protection, and, in such a way, to freedom, and by freedom to activity; you may be well aware of what I have felt, and still feel, at the remembrance of this proud moment of my life. Others spoke -- you acted; and I was free! You acted; and at this act of yours, tyrants trembled; humanity shouted out with joy; the downtrodden people of Magyars -- the downtrodden, but not broken -- raised their heads with resolution and with hope, and the brilliancy of your Stars was greeted by Europe's oppressed nations as the morning star of rising liberty."
But enough of concern with the whimpers of the unwilling. President George W. Bush has clearly seen in the Arab and Islamic world an equivalent, for him, of what the Soviet empire represented for Reagan -- a part of the world that must inevitably also share the benefits of capitalism, democracy, prosperity, and peace. As he said on April 13, "Free societies are hopeful societies. A hopeful society is one more likely to be able to deal with the frustrations of those who are willing to commit suicide in order to represent a false ideology. A free society is a society in which somebody is more likely to be able to make a living. A free society is a society in which someone is more likely to be able to raise their child in a comfortable environment and see to it that child gets an education."
These simple phrases were not scripted. They were spontaneous, in reply to questions from reporters. And they speak to the responsibility that was always our American mission, when heroes like Kossuth looked to us for hope, and when our leaders, exemplified above all by Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed "a new birth of freedom" to the globe.
The task President Bush has assumed is an immense one, and is not without risk. When Reagan called on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, Sovietism was moribund. By contrast, the Wahhabi ideology of al-Qaeda, the brutalizing brainwashing that led to horrors like the mutilations of Americans in Fallujah, remains volatile.
But I have said before, and will write now, and will argue again, that President Bush has restored to the Republican party its rightful legacy as a party of liberation. Those who, in the President's words, "don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free," will be proven wrong.
The walls that separate the Muslim world from the planetary realm of light will crumble. Iraq will not be President Bush's Vietnam, but his Berlin Wall.
Let the isolationists and Islamists, the limping leftists and recusant racists, make of it what they will: democracy will be fully globalized.
And as our greatest poet, Walt Whitman, wrote after a war wrought by another Republican war president:
"--Then turn, and be not alarm'd, O Libertad--turn your undying face,
To where the future, greater than all the past,
Is swiftly, surely preparing for you."