Monday, January 30, 2006

The State of the Union Speech: A Counterpoint

From Country Bumpkin:

As American readers of this blog prepare to cluster around their TV sets Tuesday evening to hear George Bush deliver his sixth State of the Union address, they should remember to keep the event in some sort of proportion. Here in New Zealand a week or two ago, the co-leader of the New Zealand Greens, Jeanette Fitzsimons, delivered her State of the Planet address. (Roughly, we'll have to give up everything we enjoy, and even if we do we're doomed; doomed, I say!)

So there! Beat that!

Seen from our corner at the bottom of the Pacific, the hostility generated by President Bush, and what that says about the State of the Union, is more than a little perplexing. (That said, there is here -- and has long been -- a great deal of left-wing hostility to the US, and more lately towards Bush, but it pales beside the vituperative and unremitting hatred of President and Country by the American Far Left.)

Because Americans and New Zealanders live in two of the freest countries in the world, we can say what we think and there is no compulsion to think what we say. The results are not always pretty, and this might be a good moment to try and balance up the argument, with thanks to Shaun for the opening.

(1.) It became an overnight cliché on 9/12/2001 to say that the world would never be the same again. Despite that, enormous forces have been at work in the West which might have been designed to ensure that it, the world, wouldn't change, and chief among these has been the workings of diplomacy.

(2.) For example, as long as Arafat was alive, nothing changed in the Israel-Palestine conflict except that the Israelis built a wall and were condemned for it from pillar to post. Deaths from terrorism, however went down to almost nothing. (And now, although new forces are lately at play in that conflict, radical solutions might well be more acceptable than once they were.)

(3.) Newly inaugurated President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11, began to see the responsibilities of the United States and the Presidency in new ways. Forgive me for the Readers Digest-style paraphrase, but his vision reduces itself to an acknowledgment that the old geopolitical notion that "stability", as the aim of International diplomacy, was not working. Something fresh was needed, and of that the most important recognition was that democratic societies -- however imperfectly constituted -- stand the best chance of granting personal freedom and economic success to their citizens.

(4.) To his everlasting credit, Bush has clung grimly to the execution of this broad policy, and has withstood the bombardment of hatred and criticism which has gone with it. It is entirely unreasonable for his enemies (and his supporters) to expect that results would be immediate, or that new problems would not turn up.

The initiative in Iraq will almost certainly succeed, no matter what the domestic pressures are on the president; Afghanistan is slowly rising to its feet (and I know this from people who have served there); Iran remains a threat to be dealt with.

(5.) Bush is always criticised for his lack of oratorical power. Winston Churchill he ain't, but it is a grave mistake to assume that because a man speaks in simple language, he must therefore be a simpleton. Look no further than the CBS News interview with Bob Schieffer last Friday for evidence of this. Amid the umming and aahing portrayed by the transcript (and that's what transcripts do, because people talk like that) Bush succeeded very well in articulating his thinking.

(6.) Bush may not be president long enough to see all the results of the US's new geopolitics in office.

But this New Zealand commentator, whose information sources are reading and seeing mainstream media, Internet news, and weblog commentaries, thinks that Dubya is a remarkable fellow.

Not least because he's had the balls to go this distance with his policies and beliefs. Compare him, in that respect, to LBJ.

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