“What is America’s mission?” is a question that has been debated since George Washington’s farewell speech in 1797.
At last week’s Munich security conference, President Biden set out his vision for America’s mission. And the contrast to the mission articulated by George W. Bush in his second inaugural could not have been more defining or dramatic.
This is Bush, January 20, 2005:
“From the day of our foundation, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has unparalleled rights, dignity and worth, for they bear the image of the Creator of heaven and earth. …
“Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. … Now, this is… the call of our time.
“It is therefore the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”
America’s mission is “to end the tyranny in our world,” Bush said.
Biden’s stated mission is much less ambitious.
“We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world. We are at an inflection point between those who argue that… autocracy is the best way forward… and those who understand that democracy is essential.
“And I believe that – every ounce of my being – that democracy will prevail and must prevail. We must demonstrate that democracies can still serve our people in this changed world.
“This is, in my opinion, our galvanizing mission.
“Democracy is not the result of chance. We must defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model is not a relic of our history.
So we have to “demonstrate that democracies can still serve our people” and prove that our democracy is not “a relic”? Nothing here about the global triumph of freedom or “ending the tyranny in our world”.
Biden reassured Moscow and Beijing by saying that the last thing we want is a new Cold War like the one that ended with America’s victory over Communism, the Soviet Empire and the USSR.
Biden appears to be calling for a “peaceful existence” between democracies and autocrats, and detente with a Russia ruled by Vladimir Putin and a China ruled by Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping.
Biden’s remarks reveal the dichotomy between what is on the minds of his compatriots and what is on the minds of so many of our foreign policy elites.
Our Beltway elites want to “stand up” to Putin for Crimea and for prosecuting dissident Alexei Navalny. They want to stand up to autocrat Alexander Lukashenko for his fraudulent re-election. They want to stand up to China for its crackdown on Hong Kong and the barbaric treatment of Uyghurs.
What are Americans most concerned about?
The half a million Americans died in the covid-19 pandemic. That so many schools have not reopened. They know the economic consequences of sheltering in place. They know the delays in the distribution of vaccines.
They remember the long hot summer of riot and racial hatred that followed the death of George Floyd. Everyone has an opinion on Donald Trump’s contestation of the election results, and the mob invasion of Capitol Hill is etched in the national consciousness.
Americans don’t give a damn about the new crusades for democracy.
They care deeply about what is happening to their own country.
Pat Buchanan is the author of Nixons White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.
Opinion | Pat Buchanan Columns
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