Bush's Freedom Speech; A Global Message Worth Repeating

Article excerpt

Byline: Tod Lindberg, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

RIGA, Latvia. - At the Riga airport on the way to a German Marshall Fund-sponsored conference running parallel to the biannual NATO summit, a German friend asked me what I thought George W. Bush would say in the speech he was scheduled to give. I said I thought he had better give a "values" speech. My interlocutor replied, "then we're in big trouble."

My German friend, like the vast majority of his countrymen and no small number of Americans, is no fan of the 43rd president of the United States. He regards Mr. Bush as a quixotic adventurer, out to remake the world in accordance with a naive, religiously inspired mission of spreading democracy, unconstrained either by humility or by due regard for unintended consequences or by law, with Iraq the predictable and disastrous result. And he, by the way, is one of the staunchest German defenders of a strong trans-Atlantic partnership.

This NATO summit was not expected to produce dramatic headlines, such as those that accompanied the initiation of 10 newly free nations of Central and Eastern Europe into the alliance in post-Cold War summits past. Hopes for, and in the case of my German friend worries about, a further push eastward, with the initiation of the accession process for Ukraine and Georgia, came unglued earlier this year with an election in Ukraine and the messy formation of a government that seemed to represent a throwback to the days before the Orange Revolution in Kiev.

Moreover, Mr. Bush had just suffered an epic political loss in the midterm elections, his comeuppance for failure in Iraq, in the view of many. Would he present himself at Riga as duly chastened, at last acknowledging that the course he set out on lacks support not only abroad but also at home? Would he recast U.S. policy in a more circumspect light, scaling back the ambitions now that they have collided with hard reality?

He would not. A "values" speech is exactly what Mr. Bush gave in Riga. He recalled the history of Latvia and its fellow "captive nations" and noted that the NATO meeting there was a tribute to the spread of freedom: "A continent that was once divided by an ugly wall is now united in freedom. Yet the work of uniting Europe is not fully complete. Many nations that threw off the shackles of tyranny are still working to build the free institutions that are the foundation of successful democracies. NATO is encouraging these nations on the path to reform and as governments make hard decisions for their people, they will be welcomed into the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic community. …