Bush’s Agenda to Fight Terror

President George W. Bush’s October 6, 2005, speech is the most coherent case he has ever made on pursuing the war on terror. His primary goal is laudable—eradicating all Islamic terrorists everywhere. But it’s doubtful whether he or anyone can achieve his other laudable aim—turning the Middle East into a bastion of democracy.

If the countries of the Middle East “remain in misery,” Bush said, that part of the world will be a source of endless conflict. On the other hand, if the people are permitted to choose their own destiny, the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will eventually end.

Bush thus sees democracy as the solution to terrorism. But the Middle East is the least receptive place on the planet to democracy. Muslims deny rights to half of their population, their women. The repressive theocracy of Iran, the absolute monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and the emirates along the Persian Gulf, and the dictatorships of the other Muslim countries (except Turkey) are but modern versions of the repressive, authoritarian regimes under which Muslims have lived for half a millennium.

The Middle East “remains in misery” because the Muslim world turned its back on liberty and progress, adopted repressive governments, and fell hopelessly behind Europe as early as the fifteenth century. Bernard Lewis, an eminent authority on the Middle East, says that a key to understanding the backwardness of the Muslim world is its absence of freedom.

Bush listed some of the “practical” ways the United States is promoting democracy. We’re “encouraging” Egypt and Saudi Arabia to reform. “We’re standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes.” “We’re stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination and the rule of law and religious freedom and equal rights for women.”

Such encouragement and such words are commendable, but they will not bring about the sea change necessary to turn the Middle East toward democracy. A complete transmutation of its society is required, and it’s not likely to take place. Even with the full backing of the United States, the transition to democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is beset with violence and uncertainty. To expect tyrannies like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, or Libya to embrace democracy is to expect the impossible. Revolution might bring it about one day. But revolution is a two-edged sword, a mercurial, unpredictable upheaval that might produce the very opposite of democracy, a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.

It’s good public relations for the United States to promote democracy at every turn, but it’s not sensible to base our policy on achieving it. The truly “practical” course we should follow is to root out and destroy terrorist cells wherever they exist and to confront any rogue state in the Middle East or elsewhere that aids terrorists in any way whatsoever. These are actually Bush’s main goals. But he couples them with hopes for the transforming virtues of democracy. We cannot base our foreign policy on turning a huge, unenlightened region into a democratic paradise. We can base our foreign policy on something we ourselves can bring about—destruction of every group and every regime that is trying to do us harm.

President Bush pointed out that the Islamic militants are seeking to gain control of Iraq from which to launch attacks against non-radical Muslim governments and against the West. Their immediate goal is to “claim a strategic nation as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with ever-increasing violence.” They are hoping later to “establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.”

The terrorists’ ultimate purpose is to rule the entire world with an autocratic totalitarian state that denies all political and religious freedom and requires everyone to conform to a rigid religious code.

Some people, Bush noted, claim that the American presence in Iraq “has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals.” This is false. He pointed out that the U.S. was not in Iraq on 9/11, and that Islamic militants killed 300 Russian school children in Beslan, although Russia did not support the American invasion of Iraq.

“We’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed,” Bush said. “We’re facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.” No act of appeasement would change the Islamists’ plans for murder.

“In a courtroom in the Netherlands,” Bush continued, “the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim’s grieving mother and said, I do not feel your pain because I believe you are an infidel.”

To defeat this conspiracy, Bush outlined a four-point agenda: 1) prevent terrorist attacks before they occur; 2) deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and their terrorist allies; 3) deny terrorist groups the sanctuary of “allies of convenience” Syria and Iran and any other rogue nations that help or enable terrorists, and 4) deny the militants control of any nation to use as a home base.

Bush’s program should receive the enthusiastic support of everyone in the United States and from all democratic nations in the world, especially those in western Europe. It will not. The extreme left in the United States is locked into appeasement and doesn’t want to make any sacrifices. The democracies of Europe—with the exception of Britain and to a limited extent Italy---are leaving the job to us. They don’t want to get involved, for fear they will be attacked by terrorists if they do.

That means the United States remains the only country that will actually go out into the world and destroy evil.

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