Welcome to our debate between the current President and the first President of the United States. The subject is, "Should The United States promote Democracy In Every Land?" George W. Bush speaks via his Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 2005. General George Washington speaks via his Farewell Address, September 17, 1796. Since Mr. Bush has proposed an increased involvement of the United States in the domestic affairs of other peoples, in variance to specific policies recommended by General Washington, he has the Affirmative, and will go first. Then General Washington will answer. After that President Bush will offer a summary, succeeded by General Washington's rebuttal.
You will note in the text, that President Bush's paragraphs have been numbered, General Washington's lettered. These designations are to facilitate the reader in following our comments and analysis of the quality of the two presentations, which will immediately follow the debate. Such designations did not appear in the original texts. Now, President George W. Bush.
[President Bush offers the affirmative:]
1. 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.
2. At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For half a 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people from further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America's resolve, and have found it firm. We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.
10. We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies. Yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.
11. Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty -- though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.
12. Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
13. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are, the future leaders of your free country.
14. The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
15. The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.
16. And all the allies of the United States can know: We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat.
Now, let us see what George Washington had to say.
[General & President George Washington Replies:]
A. Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt but, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it; can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
B. In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility, instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty of nations, has been the victim.
C. So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducements or justifications. It leads also to concessions, to the favorite nation, of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessary parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted or deluded citizens who devote themselves to the favorite nation, facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
D. As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
E. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike for another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interest.
F. The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith:--Here let us stop.
G. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collusions of her friendships or enmities.
H. Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient Government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation, when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
I. Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
J. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessary, and would be unwise to extend them.
K. Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments, on a respectable defense posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
L. Harmony, and a liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
M. In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations, but if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dictated.
We will now see George Bush's Summary.
[President George W. Bush:]
17. Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens: From all of you I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet, because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire, as well -- a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power; it burns those who fight its progress; and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.
18. Few Americans accepted the hardest duties in this cause -- in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy, the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments, the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives -- and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.
19. All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself -- and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.
20. America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home -- the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.
21. In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance -- preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.
22. In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character -- on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before -- ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.
23. In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
24. From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few: Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?
25. These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes -- and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.
26. We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" -- they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.
27. When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength -- tested, but not weary -- we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.
And now, the final words from General George Washington.
[General & President George Washington responds:]
N. In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations,--northern and southern--Atlantic and western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
O. As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering, also, that timely disbursements, to prepare for danger, frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions, in time of peace, to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. . . .
P. Towards the preservation of your Government and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only, that you steadily discountenance irregular opposition to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretext. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system; and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. . . . .
Q. It is important likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department, to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it, which predominate in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.
R. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasion of the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield. . . .
President Washington may have been at an initial disadvantage, here, because he had to anticipate what George Bush might say more than 208 years later. If his responses to the Bush rhetoric were generalized, rather than specific, that was unavoidable. Yet in judging the debate, it is clear that while Bush offered only Ex-Cathedra assertions, Washington responded with specific reasons--factually verifiable reasons--for rejecting the Bush policies. Moreover, while Washington, in speaking for the ages, was forced to employ general terms from the human experience, he used those terms with a precision that Bush's argument never managed. In contrast, Bush spoke of "freedom," "liberty" and "justice," not only without clear definition, but often in completely contradictory senses. Consider:
In a first set of assertions (paragraphs 3 & 4), Bush claimed that (1) the source of American "vulnerability" was that whole regions of the world "simmer in resentment and tyranny"; that (2) so long as such continue, "violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders"; that (3) the "only force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment," etc., is the "force of human freedom," [undefined]; that (4) the one conclusion is that "the survival of liberty in our land . . . depends on the success of liberty in other lands. . . the expansion of freedom in all the world." No reason beyond dogmatic assertion was offered for any of the above.
In paragraph 5, Mr. Bush offered a second series of assertions, that (5) from "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"; that (6) "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"; that (7) "advancing" such "ideals is the mission that created our nation"; and that (8) it is now "the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time." Again no reason was offered for accepting assertions 5 to 7, which go well beyond anything suggested in any of the founding documents or in any Biblically based theology; nor was one offered for believing that any of the unsupported assertions that preceded it, justified 8. While George Washington's responses reveal his own deep trust in Providence, they reflect the profound humility and gratitude of the truly reverential. George Bush's completely unsupported assertions are apparently offered to justify a belief in a "mission" and "calling," never before claimed by any American leader.
Moreover, the current President completely ignored the fact that the "day of fire," to which he referred as a defining moment, to justify his proposed intrusion into those simmering regions, was planned and engineered by an extremely wealthy foe--himself an exile from such region--who recruited fanatics in the belief that we were deliberately meddling in their region, in an effort to undermine their Faith and culture. While bin Laden's original paranoia would have remained unconvincing to the less fanatic, with respect to an America still guided by the wise counsel of General Washington, here set forth; President Bush's unsupported assertions and claims of a "mission" and "calling," give the Terrorist leader confirmation of his wildest claims. In this, Bush may be inviting generations of problems for Americans in many parts of the world.
Yet our criticism of Mr. Bush is not limited to the fact that his entire case depends upon a knee jerk acceptance of unsupported assertions. Following the above, he proceeded to expand on his concept of the "Freedom," he felt called upon to promote. But he employed the term in several very different, distinct and contradictory senses--while never once acknowledging or even suggesting that he might be doing so. Of course, freedom is an abstraction--the concept of being free from something else--but what one is being "free" of, in any situation or under any policy, is not necessarily consistent with other people's "freedom," either in respect to that particular something, or in respect to the pursuit of civilized institutions or the retention of traditional American concepts of Liberty. Let us review the many ways that Bush used the term:
In his seventh paragraph, President Bush appears to mean "freedom" in the sense of national independence. In his ninth, in the sense of individual liberty, which is not inconsistent with the first sense; however, in the latter paragraph, there are suggestions of a claimed right to judge the internal affairs of other nations, which would certainly be inconsistent with their independence. In the tenth, "freedom" is used in a sense that is neither defined nor apparent, but, unless intended to have an occult meaning, is perhaps only an example of a poorly thought out flight of rhetoric.
In paragraph 11, Mr. Bush makes two more uses of "freedom" with neither clarity as to sense, nor any reason why anyone should believe his assertions in their respect. In the 20th paragraph, however, it becomes quite clear that President Bush is not using the terms "freedom" or "liberty," in any traditional sense. We are told that there is "essential work at home--the unfinished work of American freedom";--and that we need to "show the meaning and promise of liberty." In respect to the traditional meaning of the term, most would conclude that we had already done so, following the counsel of General Washington in paragraph A, over generations. But in paragraph 21, Mr. Bush tells us that he is using a "broader definition of liberty," and makes it clear that at least in this one usage, he means a "freedom from want and fear," and intends to "make our society more prosperous and just and equal."
Of course, nowhere does President Bush even acknowledge the obvious conflicts in his list of attributes; nowhere does he suggest just how Government can make society more prosperous, as Government does not produce wealth; nowhere does he suggest how you can make some people free of want, via Governmental intervention, without making other people far less free in the use and management of their own time and the fruits of their labor and ingenuity. The late R. Carter Pittman used to observe that free men are never equal, and that equal men are never free! Mr. Bush does not address the obvious paradox in his curious use of the term "freedom." Nor does he appear to perceive a need to explain how it differs in any respect from the Socialist "newspeak," which bedeviled ideological discourse in the Twentieth Century, and was used to justify the killing of tens of millions of innocent civilians, holding traditional values.
In Mr. Bush's 22nd paragraph, he seems to base his "ideal of freedom" upon moral and religious considerations similar to those cited by General Washington, in paragraph A. The problem is, that Mr. Bush had already used the term in at least four distinct and contradictory senses, which cannot all be conformable to a consistent morality; whereas General Washington's call (in "A" and the paragraphs that follow) for good faith towards all, and for setting an example rather than meddling, is inherently consistent with most traditional Western theories of moral conduct.
In paragraph 23, Mr. Bush appears to be confusing "liberty" with charity. While charity is certainly laudatory, and may ennoble, the first part of the paragraph suggests an additional loss of clarity by the President. He then declares that the country "must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry."
Different people have used the term "racism" in different senses, but charity to the President would incline us to assume that he has used the term to describe persecution of a people because of race or ethnicity, and not to deny a simple recognition of the demonstrable importance of race and heredity. But if the first is what he means, just what is he addressing? Where in America is there any persecution based upon race? And if there is, four years into his Administration, who is to blame? On the other hand, if he is suggesting that we must pretend that there are no differences between people, he has used "freedom" in a very, very strange sense, indeed.
In paragraphs 24 and 25, President Bush, indicates that he sees America as existing primarily for the "mission," he has referred to--the one he so loosely defines. The comments more than hint at an evangelistic pursuit--yet not one based on any traditional, Biblically derived, Faith; and certainly not one for which any of the original settlers or Founding Fathers (denominational or secular) signed on for. And in referring to a "unity," that has never existed in the respect to which he puts the term, his comments suggest something almost pathological.
In paragraph 26, Mr. Bush adds at least two other uses of the terms "freedom" and "liberty," again without the slightest suggestion that he has either changed the subject, or embraced rhetoric wholly out of context, for the sake of the rhetoric itself. After asserting that "freedom is the permanent hope of mankind," again with no basis offered, he refers to three totally contradictory examples from American history--yet with no suggestion that he even understands the essential differences:
The first, "when our Founders declared a new order of the ages." (There is nothing in the actual "Declaration," which announced any future design other than for the American States to assume their places among the independent States of the existing world; certainly nothing that borrowed rhetoric from the Third Reich. The liberty sought by the Founding Fathers was clearly the traditional concept.) The second, "when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty." (But using force to hold a union together does not equate with using force to win the independence of the States that later voluntarily entered into that union. In no rational sense does a forced adherence to something equate with that "freedom," which had earlier made a voluntary adhesion possible.)
Bush's third example, "when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner 'Freedom Now,' " obviously refers to the ''Civil Rights" movement, which may have demanded "freedom," but was actually talking about something very different. The demand, then, was to outlaw "discrimination" on the basis of race, religion or national origin, in employment, housing and with regard to local school assignments. But traditional concepts of freedom have always involved discrimination--the right of the free citizen to employ his choices, rather than a Governmentally imposed choice, in his own affairs. Today, the concept of "freedom from discrimination" has been extended to even force religious organizations to employ those whose conduct they consider an abomination. Yet the idea of such "freedom is still applauded in some circles. It does not however bear any similarity to anything that the Founders of America would have considered consistent with the liberty, they fought for.
The brave new world, where personal business decisions, patterns of association, or the education of one's children, are all dictated by a powerful and intrusive central government, is not that of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin or their associates. It is the world of the Bolshevik Communists and German National Socialists, just with different priorities. And that the policy envisioned by Mr. Bush may be just as totalitarian, is certainly suggested by his comment in paragraph 9, previously unremarked, which implies that he thinks it his business to pass judgment on relations between the sexes throughout the world.
Edgar Allan Poe once observed that the British Utilitarian John Stuart Mill had used the word "force" in four different senses on a single page, and maintained that by such artifice, "by ringing small changes on the words 'leg of mutton,' and 'turnip' (changes so gradual as to escape detection), I could 'demonstrate' that a turnip was, is, and of right ought to be a leg of mutton." President Bush has used the word "freedom" in at least six different senses, in a short speech. With such license, meaningful verbal discourse becomes virtually impossible.
In his paragraphs A, B, and C, General Washington develops first, the moral bases for a just and enlightened foreign policy, and the various psychological factors that should weigh against indulging those types of emotional attachment, which create an illusory need to involve ourselves, either in a negative sense or via positive identification, with the peculiar affairs and interests of other nations. In paragraphs D and E, he focuses briefly on the potential negative consequences from such foreign attachments, particularly those which tend to distort our domestic politics and tranquility. In these first five paragraphs, our first President offers logical and cogent reasons, based upon many centuries of human experience, to make his points--a sharp contrast to the bald assertions of President Bush.
Washington could not have anticipated so radical a departure from his sage advice as that envisioned by Mr. Bush. Yet, that paragraph D would be just as applicable, today, to any foreign State, which accepted the Bush tampering with its domestic institutions; while the psychological factors, discussed in those other four paragraphs, although stated from the perspective of an American, would have corresponding inverse aspects, with equally serious consequences, from the perspective of any other nation.
While in the form of an assertion, Washington's "rule of conduct," in paragraph F, is supported by all the cogent analysis set down before it; and, yet even more to the point, has been verified by the American experience from Washington's own time, until its temporary abandonment in the Wilsonian folly of 1918. Almost everything that America has accomplished since, has depended upon the almost incredibly sound foundation--both from the standpoint of practical economics and from that of a legacy of international respect--which the Washingtonian policy--extending and maximizing commercial relations with all, while minimizing political involvements--wrought.
What General Washington said of Europe in paragraph G, would be doubly applicable to any implication in the affairs of Asia. Europe and America, at least, have a common cultural history; whereas Asia has other sets of "primary interests," and many very different cultures. And if H and I are less compelling in the age of intercontinental missiles; when you take them in the context of the call in paragraph K, for adequate military preparations--one area where Washington's recommendations are apparently yet honored--we are still clearly in a position to remain detached and neutral, while pursuing trade and affable personal relations with every people. And that same military preparedness, if adequate, should enable the present President to secure our borders from any folk coming from regions that "simmer in resentment." If he lacks the will to do so, that is another question.
General Washington's admonition (paragraph J), that "honesty is always the best policy," in our public as well as our private affairs, remains the one sure beacon for maximizing American influence, and winning the trust of all those who deserve our trust in return. It is also a rebuke to the verbal legerdemain of the Bush argument.
General Washington's paragraph L introduces a further note of reality in the dealings between nations, another major factor that must be weighed in determining a proper course in foreign policy; but one wholly ignored in the Bush proposal. Our foreign policy has always had two functions: First, of course, protecting our very independence. But protecting, and furthering, the legitimate interests of individual Americans has always been the other intended purpose. That goes to the essence of Republican government. President Bush's announced intention to pass insulting judgments on other peoples, with the object of meddling in their cultures, may prove entirely inconsistent with protecting the legitimate interests of our merchants, or "diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce."
In that same paragraph, Washington's understanding of the ageless factors in human relations is further demonstrated in the comments, that "it is folly for one nation to look for disinterested favors from another," and that in "giving equivalents for nominal favors," we will yet be "reproached with ingratitude for not giving more." Surely the history of our relations with third world nations, in areas we have tried to influence over the past half century, is replete with examples of just this facet of human reality.
Washington defines his purpose in paragraph M, in words which truly state his role in this and other debates, in the ongoing history of the American people: "To moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." Has there ever been an age in the affairs of these United States, that such a voice was inappropriate?
In Washington's rebuttal to Bush's summary (paragraph N), we have the only realistic perspective from which to evaluate the historic argument that the latter made in paragraph 26. "Soldiers died in wave upon wave," in Bush's words, because of the very geographical antagonisms, Washington had warned against, over sixty years earlier. Anyone familiar with the rhetoric, North and South, that preceded the terrible blood-letting, can only wince at the "jealousies and heart burnings" that sprang from "misrepresentations" that tended "to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection." A similar bout of sectional antagonism was reflected in what President Bush identified as "peaceful outrage under the banner 'Freedom Now.' " Mr. Bush's historic examples make one wonder if he even understands the concept of the "self-government," he claims to be promoting.
In paragraph O, George Washington raises another essential issue, completely ignored by President Bush; to wit: the cost of the policy advocated, its effect upon the public credit, and whether it will result in "ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear." Nowhere does Mr. Bush even hint at an appreciation of the cost of what he advocates, nor how it is ever to be paid.
Finally, in paragraphs P, Q & R, General Washington raises questions of Constitutional balance and encroachment, and of how changes in the Constitutional function of Federal offices may be accomplished. "Resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretext." There is nothing in the existing Constitution which empowers the President (with or without the consent of the Senate) to expend American lives or treasure to reform Mankind, nor to continuously insult other nations, by passing judgment on their institutions, denigrating their histories & ancient heritages, or seeking to change their values & cultures. Surely, the affirmative in such a debate, as this, has both the task of establishing the wisdom of the recommended course, as well as some legal authority for following that course. Having failed to accomplish the first, President Bush has failed even to address the second.
The conclusion is obvious. Even across seven generations, General Washington has offered the only apt, relevant & persuasive argument. In offering specific reasons, drawn from the common experience, to back his contentions, he is the winner. In seeing many more facets of the argument, more aspects that must be considered, he is the winner. In achieving the greater clarity in the use of terms, he is the winner. In charity, we decline to say more.
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