In his second inaugural address, President Bush pledged to spread freedom throughout the world. American University professor and presidential historian Allan Lichtman said President Bush delivered one of the most ringing declarations in all of American history that suggested an aggressive, internationalist foreign policy to promote the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy around the world. Even though President Bush said the ultimate goal was to combat tyranny, Professor Lichtman noted the absence of a reference to a specific enemy.
Professor Lichtman, along with Political Science Professor Henry Nau of George Washington University, were guests on this week’s edition of Encounter hosted by Carol Castiel on VOA News Now. Professor Lichtman added that the second inaugural was a “remarkable passage” for President Bush, who campaigned in 2000 on walking humbly around the world, whose first inaugural in 2001 focused on the domestic scene, and who for the past few years has been talking about the war on terror and the war in Iraq.
Professor Henry Nau agreed that the speech revealed a different George Bush than in 2001, but that President Bush in 2005 is fundamentally the same person he was in 2001. Henry Nau said the purpose of the bold address was to lay out the themes of the previous administration and the coming administration. He said President Bush signaled that he is going to remain on course. Professor Nau said the President was arguing both at home and abroad for people who yearn to be self-governing.
Professor Lichtman said that many argue that the war in Iraq, which is now folded into the war on terror, has not promoted democracy because it has undermined the legitimacy of the United States as the voice and beacon of democracy. He says many people around the world see U.S. intervention in Iraq as American imperialism. Professor Lichtman also questioned whether Mr. Bush would support dissident movements in supposedly friendly states, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt as well as in those that the President believes are unfriendly to the United States.
However, Professor Nau suggested that the United States is quietly pressuring autocratic or military regimes like Pakistan, which is also a key ally in the war on terror, to democratize. He also said President Bush is interested in opening markets around the world and providing opportunities for countries like Pakistan and Egypt to become involved in the global economy. Professor Nau added that the United States is pursuing policies in Iraq that have a real chance of providing for a “stable and modestly democratic government.”
But Allan Lichtman said that if a stable and modestly democratic Iraq does not emerge after the January 30th election, then President Bush would begin to lose public support. And, in the same way that Vietnam was the Achilles heel of President Lyndon Johnson, Iraq could become the mortal weakness of this administration. Professor Henry Nau agreed with Professor Lichtman that success in Iraq is essential, but suggested that perhaps by the second year of this next term there will be an Iraqi government in place that is largely in charge of the continuing conflict there. And he predicted that the United States would remain involved for the next 3 or 4 years but with diminishing numbers and perhaps with diminishing casualties.
For full audio of the program Encounter click here.