I'm sure others have commented on President Bush's speech in Whitehall Palace in London, but I haven't been surfing much today and I want to write a bit about it myself. There's an awful lot here, and I'm going to try to isolate some of the most significant points.
First, I think the President's opening jokes were pretty pithy.
It was pointed out to me that the last noted American to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames. (Laughter.) A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me. (Laughter.) I thank Her Majesty the Queen for interceding. (Laughter.) We're honored to be staying at her house.President Bush then goes on to list some Britons who were very influential in American history, and talks about some of the many things our nations have in common.
The President then gets in a little dig at France.
President Wilson had come to Europe with his 14 Points for Peace. Many complimented him on his vision; yet some were dubious. Take, for example, the Prime Minister of France. He complained that God, himself, had only 10 commandments. (Laughter.) Sounds familiar. (Laughter.)That's significant; even though it's a minor joke, you know the diplomats around the world are taking it very seriously.
And the UN and multilateralism?
America and Great Britain have done, and will do, all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations. It's not enough to meet the dangers of the world with resolutions; we must meet those dangers with resolve. ...Translation: the world is welcome to help, but we're not going to get tangled up with procedural delays just for the sake of "cooperation".
Our first choice, and our constant practice, is to work with other responsible governments. We understand, as well, that the success of multilateralism is not measured by adherence to forms alone, the tidiness of the process, but by the results we achieve to keep our nations secure.
The President lays out our long-term goals for the Middle East region.
... And by advancing freedom in the greater Middle East, we help end a cycle of dictatorship and radicalism that brings millions of people to misery and brings danger to our own people.Those paragraphs are the strongest declaration I've yet seen on the subject; the Middle East will be democratized, so get on board or get out of the way.
The stakes in that region could not be higher. If the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export. And as we saw in the ruins of two towers, no distance on the map will protect our lives and way of life. If the greater Middle East joins the democratic revolution that has reached much of the world, the lives of millions in that region will be bettered, and a trend of conflict and fear will be ended at its source.
Diplomatically and honestly, President Bush then accepts some blame on behalf of America for our past actions that propped up some of the dictators he now wants to eliminate.
We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.But now...
Now we're pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.I think President Bush is right to admit the mistakes of our past, and to indicate that we're changing our ways. The complaint of past wrongdoing by America was always one of the left's most powerful talking-points (despite it's irrelevance to the present war), and I'm glad the President addressed it.
Things in Iraq are going well, despite hostile news reports.
Since the liberation of Iraq, we have seen changes that could hardly have been imagined a year ago. A new Iraqi police force protects the people, instead of bullying them. More than 150 Iraqi newspapers are now in circulation, printing what they choose, not what they're ordered. Schools are open with textbooks free of propaganda. Hospitals are functioning and are well-supplied. Iraq has a new currency, the first battalion of a new army, representative local governments, and a Governing Council with an aggressive timetable for national sovereignty. This is substantial progress. And much of it has proceeded faster than similar efforts in Germany and Japan after World War II.As for Israel and Palestinian Authority:
We seek a viable, independent state for the Palestinian people, who have been betrayed by others for too long. (Applause.) We seek security and recognition for the state of Israel, which has lived in the shadow of random death for too long. (Applause.) These are worthy goals in themselves, and by reaching them we will also remove an occasion and excuse for hatred and violence in the broader Middle East.The Palestinian leadership -- that is, Arafat -- is preventing democracy from taking hold, and perpetuating the misery of the Palestinian people. European and Arab leaders are also responsible for supporting terror against Israel.
Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of the shape of a border. As we work on the details of peace, we must look to the heart of the matter, which is the need for a viable Palestinian democracy. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve. The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state.
Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel.Many of the President's points we're softly-spoken, but his intentions are very aggressive. It's interesting that he didn't mention Saudi Arabia, but he did put the finger on Iran and North Korea, and particularly criticised some unnamed European leaders for their obstruction and tepid cooperation.
Leaders in Europe should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause. And Europe's leaders -- and all leaders -- should strongly oppose anti-Semitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East. (Applause.)
The speech was strong and passionate, and I hope it makes waves around the world.