It’s easy to criticize the man who gave the Inaugural Address yesterday?for his hypocrisy in not promoting human rights and freedom in allied countries that happen to be tyrannies, for his incompetence in the effort to develop democracy in Iraq, or for his failure to protect civil rights in the United States. However, the speech itself was a ringing endorsement of traditional American liberalism: internationalist, committed to human rights, ecumenical, and respectful of pluralism. There was not a conservative word in the speech, for better or worse.
I think it?s important to take statements as well as people seriously?and then to hold the speakers to what they say. Thus I applaud the speech (hear! hear!), but I hope we can remember which countries need the most attention if we are really going to make it “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.” According to FreedomHouse (pdf), political liberties are least available in: Burma, Cuba, Haiti, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe. Civil liberties are most absent in: Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan. Note the mixture of nations on the Bush enemies list (Cuba, North Korea, Syria), countries that are rarely mentioned by the US government or press (Swaziland, Turkmenistan), and countries that collaborate with us closely in military matters (Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia). Our good friend Pakistan just barely misses the FreedomHouse list of worst offenders. What’s the plan for Pakistan?