Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

"I took a stand that this may be the last chance in our lifetime to see a change in the Soviet empire's colonial policy re Eastern Europe. We should take a stand and tell them unless and until martial law is lifted in Poland. . . .we would quarantine the Soviets and Poland with no trade or communications across their borders . . .Also tell our NATO allies and others to join us in such sanctions or risk an estrangement from us."

-- Ronald Reagan, diary entry (quoted from Peter Schweizer, Reagan's War)

President Bush's speech at the AEI dinner last night represents the completion of a remarkable re-orientation of the foreign policy with which his administration began. We originally had Condoleeza Rice declaring in her speech accepting her nomination for National Security Advisor that the "US is not the world's 911" and the administration generally deriding "nation-building." Now, nineteen suicide bombers later, we have the president vowing to bring "stability and unity to a free Iraq" -- an Iraq freed by American might.

The president also compared Iraq to Japan and Germany, and argued that it is "presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world -- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. . . .freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror."

We haven't seen this kind of shift in American foreign policy since Ronald Reagan supported the Solidarity movement in Poland twenty years ago after decades of appeasement of the Soviet Union by previous presidents, and we've never seen such a shift occur within one administration. As Peter Schweizer tells it, when Reagan defied Europe and announced a severe embargo against Poland, giving encouragement to the Solidarity movement and causing enormous losses to the Polish economy, he knew it was the chance of a lifetime to begin to roll back communism. On the heels of the embargo came financial aid from the CIA to the Solidarity movement whose ideas were spilling over into other Eastern bloc countries. The Soviets remained hopeful that the "realism" of detente would prevail in the end as it always had in the past. Of course, it didn't, and the end came sooner for the Soviet Union than anyone had imagined.

Unlike Reagan, George W. Bush hasn't had a lifetime of thinking about and battling communism or liberalism's current enemy, Islamism. Give him credit, however, for being a quick study and for being savvy enough to recognize the opportunities of his presidency. This is his chance to change the politics of the Middle East permanently, and he clearly knows it. George W. Bush's respect for his father is charming, but his adoption and adaptation of the Reagan Doctrine is his genius.


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