What I wish Bush would say
By Rod Dreher
Reader JK has asked me to compose a paragraph for the president, one that I could salute. OK, something like this:
We have been humbled by what we have learned in the past three years. We discovered that democracy is not a panacea for the pathologies keeping the Muslim world down. We've learned that liberal democracy -- that is, democracy that respects minority rights, free speech and the rule of law -- cannot be imposed on a society, but must grow out of a culture that prizes these values. America will henceforth do whatever it can to encourage the spread of liberal democratic values, but we no longer believe that it is America's responsibility to make the world democratic, because bitter experience has shown that this is not only impossible, but could actually result in regimes that are more hostile to America's interests than the despotisms they replace.
[Having to utter this paragraph would mean repudiating his Second Inaugural, so Bush couldn't conceivably do it. But I would not vote for a future president who endorsed this crusading utopianism.]
Furthermore, my fellow Americans, I believe it is time for the rest of us to share more directly in the sacrifice we are asking our soldiers and their families to make. I am going to ask Congress to repeal my tax cuts, and to direct the savings directly to the war effort. And I will soon be launching a series of initiatives that will lead the way in saving energy, in providing support for military families, and in doing a host of things to more directly involve all citizens in this war effort. We need your ideas. I ought to have done this immediately after 9/11, but a good idea delayed is better than a good idea ignored.
Finally, I will level with you: this war has not gone nearly as well as I thought it would. We did not plan well for it, and our repeated optimism has not been borne out by events. I'm not going to pretend that things look good in Iraq, and allow false optimism to be our guide henceforth. I will tell you, though, that as difficult as the present situation in Iraq is, it would be unspeakably nastier and more dangerous if we were to withdraw our forces at the present time. Civil war would be a virtual certainty, and it would be all but impossible to keep other nations in the region from invading. This would put the world's oil supply at grave risk, and with it the economies of every single nation. So we have to ask our soldiers, and our people, for more sacrifices. We will go forward guided by realism, not false idealism. These are the hard lessons of the past three years, and as hard as it is for me to admit that I was wrong about some important things, it is vital that I have your trust ...
... or something like that.