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January 21, 2005

Over the top idealism?

The opinionators at the Wall Street Journal have mixed reviews for the president's inaugural speech. They agree (as do most others) that the speech was idealistic -- declaring "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world" as official U.S. policy.

But is this vision realistic?

Peggy Noonan, normally an enthusiastic supporter of the president, doesn't think so:
Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.
Her objection appears to be rooted in the Christian doctrine of the fallen nature of mankind -- that the tendency to behave badly towards others cannot be tamed apart from the transforming work of God in one's life. However much progress one appears to make in changing the behavior of tyrants around the world, all we can do is compel them to change their behavior -- we can do nothing to change their hearts.
But does this mean we should not set our sights so high? Bush may be setting an unattainable goal, but couldn't it be argued that efforts undertaken to achieve such a goal will take us much farther than we might get through the old-fashioned "realism" based foreign policy that the WSJ editorial board derides?

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