Freedom's messiah

Well now we know. The future and safety of the United States is dependent on the proliferation of freedom and liberty throughout the world.  George Bush said so in his inaugural address. Thus the United States is now committed in some vague way to eradicating tyranny, evil, and authoritarian governments around the world. This is a big job. Perhaps when we have that task accomplished we can get to work eliminating sin.
Must it be said again? George Bush is a good and decent man, honestly trying to make the world a better place. John Kerry is a political hack, dedicated to reaching the pinnacle of his profession, by any means. The American people made the correct choice in November. That being (necessarily) said, if ever the phrase 'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions' needed an example this is it.
Nobody likes a naysayer but someone has to say it.

Mr. Bush is living in a fantasy world, a place of New Frontiers and Great Societies where grandiose Presidential dreams come true. Let us face facts. President Bush has two years to get his agenda through, whatever it may be.  After that, every pundit and politician will focus on the election of a new leader who may have a very different agenda in mind. Bush will be the lamest of ducks. Presidents cannot remake the world. They can't even begin to remake the world. They can, unfortunately, create a lot of damage if their hubris overtakes their judgment.

Transforming the world isn't easy to be sure. Cardinal Manning once famously said, 'all conflict is at its base theological.' The wisdom of his observation is proven time and again. Simply put, it is what you believe, your starting point, what you put your faith in, that determines your behavior. Conflict is the natural result of sincere belief.  The values of Joe Smith may be completely different than those of Muhammad, or his Amish neighbor, or even Maureen Dowd. Assumptions based on these values direct behavior. We speak in different moral languages. This is what makes the discussion of fundamental issues like abortion or promiscuity so difficult even among our friends and peers. Furthermore, humans are afflicted with pride, jealousy, and fear, driven by many forces, many motives, resulting often, unfortunately, in injustice, hate, divorce, war. We are not altruistic by nature. Self—interest is the greatest motive—engine of all, for even the holiest saint is looking toward a reward in the future.

Wise men accept this. Alexander Hamilton, for example, understood this reality and in the Federalist Papers again and again refers to the problem of basic human nature to explain the checks on individual power built into the architecture of the U.S. Constitution. Human beings are fickle creatures and cannot be trusted. President Bush has forgotten this basic truth. Because he has forgotten, he apparently believes in the perfectibility not only of people but also of nations. Like liberals before him he is on a utopian quest.

History has limitless examples of failed attempts to make this a better, a more orderly world. From Pax Romana to the League of Nations, from Carthage to Communist China, ideological (theological) systems have by force of arms or colonial conquest sought a peaceful world on their own terms; a peace based on domination and slavery or a peace based on universal benevolence. But alas, in each case it is learned that peace is to be found in the human heart, not in the world, and thus cannot be realized at the point of a sword, or bargained over at the WTO. It cannot be brought about by even the best (or worst) of intentions.

Ignoring history's lessons, with messianic zeal Mr. Bush sees democracy as the missing key ingredient in human development. Like Woodrow Wilson ninety years ago, he believes that spreading democracy will naturally spread freedom, liberty, and righteousness. This is self—evident folly. Democracy is now the opiate of the neo—cons, as it was for Wilson. It is a political system, a process, not a magic formula for heaven—on—earth. Democracy is in itself neither good nor bad. Remember, Hitler was elected. Chirac was elected.  Even Hillary was elected. 

It cannot be said too often that the United States is a confederation of fifty sovereign states, with fifty governors and fifty legislatures, joined in a non—dissoluble federal union, created as a unique bastion of liberty, and it remains the greatest nation on earth. We are indeed a shining city on a hill, a great beacon of hope, an example for the world. But we are not god—like creatures. Our unique system of government, designed by the Founders, tested through time, based on a thorough study and knowledge of human nature and human history, (and largely squandered by the neglect of modern education,) is the source of our greatness. But peace is hard to come by. Even we waged war among ourselves; a bloody civil war fought within the world's greatest democratic Republic.

Our people as individuals are no different than any other people. As a nation, a collection of different peoples, from different nations, we are the most generous in the history of the world, giving of our blood and treasure for the good of others countless times. But this generosity is not a national duty, or a limitless call to right the wrongs of a disorderly world.

Let our past guide us. George Washington, Father of Our Country, First in War, First in Peace, prophetically warned the young nation to avoid international conflicts and 'entangling alliances'. Woodrow Wilson entered the United States in a European war to make the world safe for democracy.  F.D.R. promised he would not send our boys to fight in foreign wars.  John Kennedy later pledged that America would 'pay any price and bear any burden' to insure the success of liberty as a prelude to a war which belied that statement in short order.

If we are to give the President's words the seriousness they deserve, we must ask where does Freedom's Call —— with words, diplomacy, or force —— take us next? There is not a whole lot of freedom out there. Iran? Syria? Egypt? North Korea? Sudan? Cuba? China? Venezuela? Saudi Arabia? Liberia? Zimbabwe? The list runs on, but the point is made.

One wishes Mr. Bush should set his sights on more appropriate, achievable, albeit less lofty goals. Goals like securing our borders, smashing our enemies, enforcing our laws. You know, federal responsibilities.

As individuals Almighty God calls us to transform the world.  President Bush has confused his sense of personal mission with a national one. We as a nation are not called to transform the world. It is unhistorical, unpatriotic, dangerous, and simply wrong to think so.

Andrew Sumereau is a writer residing in East Stroudsburg, PA