George W. Bush as Woodrow Wilson

I’ve been thinking about the president’s inaugural speech for the last few days. While his proclamation of democracy for the world sounds very noble, it’s worrisome to say the least.

Let’s face it: Our military is not omnipotent. There are places on this planet where our reach exceeds our grasp. Truly enacting a doctrine of universal democracy–“democracy”, as defined by us–is a huge undertaking which involves challenging the largest nation on the planet, China, and the entire Islamic world with the exception of Turkey.

That’s just stupid.

George Washington and the founding fathers knew what they were about when they advised against foreign entanglements. Obviously the neocons believe they know better. When even Peggy Noonan is uncomfortable with the tone of a George W. Bush speech, it’s worth taking notice.

[S]ome things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government.

This world is not heaven.
[…]
“We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” “Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self government. . . . Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.” “It is 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 the world.”

Ending tyranny in the world? Well that’s an ambition, and if you’re going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn’t expect we’re going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it’s Earth.
[…]
This is–how else to put it?–over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you wonder if this White House did not, in the preparation period, have a case of what I have called in the past “mission inebriation.” A sense that there are few legitimate boundaries to the desires born in the goodness of their good hearts.

One wonders if they shouldn’t ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.

Especially when achieving that goal is at the price of American blood, shed in the service of God. It is presumption of the highest order.

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