Liberty and Freedom Exported

In Bush’s speech last night, he mentioned “freedom” six times and “liberty” three times. He referred to “advancing liberty across a troubled region.” He mentioned “democracy” or “democratic” six times in relation to Iraq. My question is, in his exporting these fine values from the U.S., are we left with less of them?

What about the democracy, liberty and freedom for Americans? This is a “troubled region” too. We are less free and are under a less democratic government now than we were before Bush started his campaign to liberate and democratize the Middle East. We have lost freedom of privacy in library records, phone calls, mail, money transfers, etc. And democracy has been lessened as the Bush administration has decreased access of the people (the “demos”) and their popularly elected representatives to the actions of the government. Having secret programs known only to a handful of sworn-to-secrecy Congress-people is not democratic. Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, said January 9, 2006, “The President will not shape policy according to public opinion.” In other words, “America, here’s your democracy!” followed by a bird flying by.

5 Comments

Traveler says:

Dave, you hit the nail on the head. President Bush will continue to push Congress to legislate away the freedom of the American people. He has exercised and extended more executive authority than any previous president. In my opinion, he has exceeded his mandate as outlined in the constitution. He was elected to represent the people, though it has become increasingly clear that he only represents an elitist minority.

Mike W. says:

Again, Dave, this isn’t unique to Bush. This has been the U.S. M.O. for 60 years at least (I think it actually goes all the way back to the Mexican-American War). We tell people: “You don’t know how to govern, we’ll show you how to be free by fighting you and taking over your territory and then giving in back to you if you are willing to play by our economic rules.” Laying this idea at the feet of Bush removes the responsibility from Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon (I’ll cut Carter and Ford so slack), Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton (although to a lesser degree).

I agree that there has been a more obvious infringement upon civil liberties over the past 6 years, but the method of giving people democracy by force is an old trick: can we teach old dogs new ones?

Centrist says:

Mike, you’re right, but I don’t know that true democracy in the way you envision it is possible. The natural order of things is to have leaders and followers. You will always have people who refuse to accept their fair share of accountability and who would rather have someone else make the hard decisions. Also, you will always have people who are eager to take that power and use it for good or bad. Moreover, some people are simply more capable than others to analyze, decide, and lead. I think that a hierarchy is natural to humanity.

This, of course, does not mean that the opportunity to participate should be lessened by class, wealth, race, etc. Those who want to participate should be able to do so. (I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the funding of campaigns. Maybe I’ll address that in a future post.)

The trick is to find an acceptable balance among the natural leaders between leadership and unrighteous dominion and among followers between being apathy and victimization.

Centrist says:

A the end of Bush’s speech he put his trust in “the Author of liberty” to guide us. That’s fine; I’m just worried about the editor of liberty (ba-dum-ching).

Centrist says:

GWB—August 21, 2007: “The fundamental question is: Will the [Iraqi] government respond to the demands of the [Iraqi] people? If the government doesn’t respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government. That’s up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians.”

Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary—January 9, 2006: “The President will not shape policy according to public opinion.”

Why should what the Iraqis say about their government’s policies and performance be taken seriously and what the Americans say about their own government should not? Are Iraqis smarter than we? Why shouldn’t the Iraqis have to submit to the President-knows-best paradigm that GWB expects of Americans? Shouldn’t GWB be held to account as much as (or more than) Maliki?

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