Echoes of Reagan Idealism: Belief in Liberty as Policy Is Cited, Then Expanded to Mideast (David Von Drehle, November 7, 2003, Washington Post)

The name is Bush, but the philosophy was pure Reagan.

President Bush yesterday explained his approach to the Middle East by drawing a comparison to President Ronald Reagan’s stance 20 years ago in the Cold War. “A number of critics were dismissive” of Reagan’s idealistic belief in the superiority of liberty as both a moral right and as a way of organizing society, Bush said. Reagan lashed his foreign policy to the unproven faith that “freedom had a momentum that would not be halted,” as Bush put it — and ignored people who called him “simplistic and naive, and even dangerous.”

Bush believes Reagan was “entirely correct,” and that what worked in the 1980s against the Soviet empire will work again in the Middle East. Reagan’s critics are now his critics, Bush suggested, and Reagan proved them wrong.

But not even Reagan dared press Reaganism this far. Operating in the superpower standoff of the Cold War, Reagan did not risk pushing the closed and autocratic governments of the Middle East to embrace human liberty. Rather, he pursued essentially the same Middle East strategy that his predecessors, Republican and Democrat, had embraced, favoring stability over modernization and an unpleasant status quo over a very risky gamble on progress.

“Even Reagan himself implicitly fenced off the Middle East,” said one administration official.

The hope that this was who George W. Bush would turn out to be–and that he could thereby transform our politics, making the GOP the majority party again–was why conservatives stuck with him even when it became obvious that John McCain could be elected more easily. To his credit, Bill Keller was one of the first mainstream journalists to notice the Reagan’s Son angle and his essay remains, along with the recent one by Jonathan Rauch, one of the best analyses of the Bush phenomenon.

A MASTERWORK: President Bush’s speech to the National Endowment for Democracy–posted by in Arabic–is a masterwork both of speechwriting and of statesmanship. (Gregg Easterbrook, 11/07/03)

[C]onsider that the last time this nation gambled with history–Ronald Reagan’s hugely risky decision to drive the Soviet monolith into collapse–the result was unqualified triumph for world peace, for human liberty, and for the people we hoped to free. If American intervention in Iraq actually does plant freedom in the Arab world, history will call this a magnificent hour.

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