We accept democracy as normal; it is not. Democracy is the most radical and revolutionary political idea in the world. Having an election does not, on its own, lead to good government (think of Russia), and democracy can completely fail (as in Zimbabwe). But it can also over time succeed spectacularly (for example, in eastern Europe and East Asia). Democracy is full of risk, but nothing is more full of hope -- ask the voters of Iraq, Ukraine, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere, who so treasure their right to vote that they risk their lives for it.
A foreign policy without principle will fail because it is fundamentally sterile. That is why unadorned so-called "realism" in foreign policy, with its emphasis on stability and the status quo, can sound clever and sophisticated but in the end implodes under its own emptiness. But principle must be pursued with pragmatism and with patience if it is not to end in recklessness and aggression.
The key thing for those on the Left to understand is that intense dislike of Bush and echoes of Vietnam do not make a foreign policy. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bolton - they too will pass. What will go on is the great human desire to be free, which should be at the core of our foreign policy. The great danger for the Left is that its Vietnam and Bush obsessions may mean that it will end up on the wrong side of history.
Well said, Michael. And, for those who are not sure what Michael's referring to, here's the relevant excerpt from Bush's Second Inaugural Speech:
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.
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.
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.
The challenge for liberals and soft Leftists, then, is not to hang on to hatred of a personality, but to carry the political battle to the adversary. Bush has been successful in the same way Clinton had been: He took pet ideas from the other side and ran to the middle with it. When the co-opted side just stands there and looks foolish, the adversary is making off with the electorate. Foaming at the mouth about how the Republicans are insincere makes the Democrats look unwilling to move with the times.
You'd think at least the founders of MoveOn.org would've grasped this, given the name of their organization.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]