From WaPo we get this lovely story that Bush's inaugural address, with the most highflying rhetoric of any Bush speech ever probably, was, well, it was just rhetoric, kids.
Heh. These WH officials say that the speech constituted a crystallization and clarification of Bush's policy, not a policy shift. But you don't assert a mission to defeat tyranny everywhere and then say you don't mean it. And, yeah, they don't mean it. It isn't a cheap shot, really, to bring up that two of our most significant allies in the GWOT are a military dictatorship (Pakistan) and a semitheocratic oil monarchy that treats women as second class citizens (S. Arabia).
There has always been this sort of compromise of ideals in American foreign policy. It's unfortunate that the US government finds itself cozying up to tyrants in order to get along in the world. But the Bush administration seems to embrace tyrants with more enthusiasm than most, and seems less willing to expend political capital to see that its allies are moving toward democracy and away from human rights violations, at the same time it embraces the most bizarre Disneyland idealism rhetorically, and sets bars for its enemies that are impossible to fulfill.
Lets just say that Palestine of the Arafat era was probably more democratic than Pakistan, and a freer society than Saudi Arabia. One can't exclude the fact that suicide bombs keep going off in Israel, but the bar that Palestine needed to meet was democracy first and foremost.
It is one significant measure of the rhetorical emptiness of freedom and liberty that the Bush administration would use these words in such a fashion. Basically, freedom means anything that is good and tyranny means everything that is bad. Freedom is, on balance, good, and tyranny bad. But those words never mean what they actually mean when they leave Bush's lips.
(There is a larger lesson to be taken here about the conservative movement. Conservatarians are always crowing about freedom, but the conservative movement remains largely undivided between the libertarian gun enthusiast types and the cultural reactionaries who want a society based on a rigid social order. Sometimes these sides of the conservative movement coexist in the same person)
"Freedom" for the president and his followers is not about liberating those living under tyranny in gulf oil states or Singapore or Uzbekistan. It's about waving around a vacuous rhetorical cudgel at people we don't like. And in this day and age, it's just a rhetorical cudgel. There is no way with today's US military that Bush has any intention of literally fighting for freedom and democracy. This, like all of Bush's speeches, ever, is directed at a domestic audience. Bush is trying to win back all the morons in this country who believed in the lunatic neoconservative rhetoric that hit its peak around the time of the Iraq War's beginning, but are less than satisfied by that war's results.
"Freedom," then, is nothing more than a sop to that rather large population of Americans who embraced a rhetorical cloak for the invasion or Iraq, which was, substantially, far more about kicking a little Arab ass than it was about freedom or democracy or any of the things it was supposed to be about. "Freedom" is about dumbshit Americans who will never read that the inaugural address doesn't actually mean anything. "Freedom" is about dumbshit Americans lying to themselves, telling themselves that this moral and military and strategic quagmire in Iraq was both necessary and an act of moral courage.
The war party tries to say it has idealism on its side. No, it has Abu Ghraib on its side. And the idealism that Bush is supposed to possess is, as is apparent to anyone who doesn't enjoy being lied to, nothing more than P. T. Barnum salesmanship dressed up as moral mission.
As for myself, I believe that the United States should actually endeavor to m ake the world a freer place. But I know that any US government that does so has to at first be serious. But these people are not serious about anything. These people are clowns, and it will be a good day when the "intellectuals" among them go back to writing asinine essays about Iran and privatizing Medicare at their fancy thinktanks instead of running this country.