Today, President Bush and his advisors feel vindicated. After
months of receiving criticism – sometimes vicious and often
delusionally vile – from people around the world, it appears that
the war in Iraq will not turn out to be the massive disaster that
his opponents predicted. The cheers of Iraqis celebrating in the
streets – no matter how often diehard Cassandras cry propaganda –
are far more powerful than any wacky, coordinated campaign put on
by history’s three stalwart defenders of liberal democracy: France,
Russia and Germany.

After slapping Colin Powell around at the U.N. Security Council
on behalf of a brutal dictator and a cruel status quo, French
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin would be wise to come down
off his high horse. It would also behoove the Germans to bite their
tongues for a while, as the resemblances between the recent videos
in Baghdad’s Firdos Square and those of East Germans destroying
statues dedicated to the Leninist state in 1989 make their stated
position seem slightly hypocritical.

In short, a bunch of neo-conservatives and an uncouth Texan are
well on their way toward achieving a more liberal end than the
world’s so-called “liberals” would have ever achieved if they had
Bush’s job. Denying the emotional power of thousands of Iraqis
cheering for U.S. soldiers is cynical, not idealistic or liberal.
Denying the symbolic typology that exists between the events of
April 9, 2003 and the events of April 9, 1865, when Confederate
Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant,
denies the ability of the United States to use its overwhelming
power to achieve liberal goals, whether it be emancipating blacks
or liberating Iraqis.

Comparing George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln does indeed – and
should indeed – give anyone reading this pause. To some, it will
seem like heresy. Abraham Lincoln was a great thinker and one of
the great writers in U.S. history. He was the first president to
understand the role that the United States had the potential to
play on the world stage. As the public intellectual Paul Berman
described in The New Republic, “(Lincoln) knew that, in order to
survive, liberal democracy needed to arouse among its own citizens
a greater commitment than ever before to the cause of universal
freedom – in fact, an absolute commitment, which could only mean a
commitment unto death.” Lincoln believed that it was the
responsibility of the United States to spread freedom and democracy
to oppressed peoples. He dreamed of a day when “the family of man”
would stand together, living in free countries, guaranteed a set of
basic human rights. And he knew that this would be impossible to
accomplish without war.

The world is full of people – many of them in Europe – who
believe that the United States is a threat to the world. They see
it as a dangerous hegemon that uses force for conquest. They laud
many of their fellow European countries for providing high
standards of living for their people while acquiescing to world
opinion. These countries are relatively weak and stand for no
principles, no grand ideals; they have no vision, no hopes, no
dreams for the future of the world. From Switzerland to Sweden,
these states have abdicated responsibility for the direction of the
world. If history had been in their hands during the previous
century, the 6 billion people on this planet would be speaking
German right now.

Hopefully, victory in Iraq will put the “reverse domino theory”
– which supporters of this war from The New York Times’ Thomas
Friedman to the newly-resigned chairman of the Defense Policy
Board, Richard Perle, espouse – into action, spreading liberal
democracy across the globe. Either way, our generation will be
faced with the task of continuing to spread American ideals,
possibly without the fiscal resources to do so. The time has come
for Generation Y to realize this destiny and to begin working
toward creating a world our idealistic parents’ generation failed
to bring to fruition.

The sooner we become involved in this process, the easier it
will be to achieve such a lofty vision. The potential to change the
world in a significant way has not been this great since World War
II. Younger Americans envious of the praise that their
grandparents’ Greatest Generation receives have an opportunity to
garner some respect for themselves now. Achieving this outcome will
require more than idealism, however. It will require active
involvement in governmental affairs.

Even though the war is progressing as well as could be expected,
despite the inevitable, yet tragic casualties, the process of
rebuilding Iraq promises to be difficult and long. There remains
legitimate skepticism regarding the Bush administration’s
commitment to helping Iraqis create their own, free nation. Also
troubling is the president’s misguided domestic policy. His
attempts to couple an aggressive foreign policy with massive tax
cuts at home will be a boon to retiring baby boomers, but the
source of major headaches for younger generations stretching for
years into the future.

In addition, the Bush administration is sending members of the
Iraqi National Congress to Iraq. Many observers are concerned that
this signifies an attempt by the administration to gain control
over the country’s future. According to The Washington Post, the
administration is also considering appointing Daniel Pipes to hold
a seat on the board of directors on the U.S. Institute of Peace, a
federally-funded think tank. Pipes represents a radical point of
view in regards to the Middle East that is hostile to the Arab
world. The president’s lack of movement on the issue of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is equally disconcerting. There are
also worries that he will fail to provide the necessary
humanitarian aid and refuse to provide enough troops to stabilize
Iraq. If the administration handles Iraq with the same carelessnes
with which it rebuilt Afghanistan, it will do long-term damage to
the United States’ reputation and credibility, ultimately
interfering with the goal of spreading democracy across the Middle
East.

These are many of the roadblocks that could prevent spreading
the potential gains in Iraq to the rest of the world. But after
yesterday’s developments in Iraq, the president deserves a break.
He may have sparked the most idealistic movement in generations – a
movement that we should make our own.

Pesick is an LSA freshman and a member of the Daily’s
editorial board.

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