“Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.
Possibly, the greatest inaugural address in American history. I will try to comment on all of it. Here is the first section, from the opening formalities to the promise of a multigenerational struggle.
Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:
On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.
America’s past and present struggles
At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical – and then there came a day of fire.
Read closely — the source of our problems is not ideology. While we struggle against Ba’athism, Salafism, etc, they are not our ultimate enemy. Our true enemy is the cause of those ideas. The true enemy will ignore any border, no matter how closely guarded. Our true weapon is human freedom.
We have seen our vulnerability – and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny – prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder – violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.
The solution may be radical, but we are not revolutionary. We are not leading events — events are leading us. And our reactive strategy is connectedness. The struggle for the entire world was not started by us, and is thus a war of self defense.
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. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
Our reactive war for the entire world is… ideological. In other words, this Global War on Terrorism must transcend realist principles. Short term safety, natural resources, even allies have to be submitted to the overwiding goal of human freedom. If the Cold War was a war against an ideology, the Global War on Terrorism is a war for an ideology.
Human freedom also entails no “American Empire” on the order of the British one. We shall not rule. We are establishing global conditions for minimal rule.
America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
Note every nation and culture, and the use of democratic movements and not “democracy.” The struggle entails both ending hells like North Korea and improving nominal allies like Ukraine.
So 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 our world.
We will fight in what Dr. Barnett calls “war in the context of everything else.” Peaceful efforts, such as expanding free trade and supporting democratic initiatives will be focused on more than war.
It also means that human freedom triumphs over liberal society. A clerical Shia Iraq is acceptable as long as it is a free Iraq. Likewise, an artificially western yet unfree society, say the old Shah’s Iran, is unacceptable.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
The global struggle is similar to the Cold War in scope. It will not be won in any one theatre. It is huge.
The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.