by Austin Bay
January 25, 2005
The Internet, jumbo jets and nerve gas are the hard facts behind
the poetry of President Bush's "democracy on the offensive" Inaugural
For a week, the chattering class has examined the ideological
elements of Bush's future-shaping speech. There's general agreement that
promoting democracy and declaring war on tyranny are deep, essential
American values. However, critics from the decadent left and paleo-right
fear the economic and political challenges implementing a global democracy
Perhaps they fail to realize that the United States is already a
global democracy project, a huge political experiment in human freedom and
creativity that cannot be confined to political borders -- and this is
precisely why the Islamo-fascist imperialists behind Al Qaeda fear us.
Bush's second inaugural recognizes that the strategic collision between
Osama Bin Laden-type extremists and America pits "imperial restoration"
against "liberating reform."
In 2001, bin Laden was promoting a "global caliphate." The
Islamist terror bombers who committed mass murdered in Madrid intend to
restore Spain (Al Andalus) to Islam. A week before Iraq's historic
democratic elections, Al Qaeda commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi declared
"fierce war on this evil principle of democracy." Zarqawi's rant clarifies
the stakes. He knows the Iraqi vote pits democracy against his theo-fascist
Idealism, however, isn't the sole spine of "the democracy
strategy." The strategy seeks to address a very concrete issue:
technological compression. Technological compression is a fact of 21st
century existence -- and it is the superglue now bonding American foreign
policy idealism (promoting democracy) and foreign policy pragmatism
(survival via realpolitik).
An article of mine in The Weekly Standard's Jan. 3, 2005, issue
frames it this way: "Technology has compressed the planet, with positive
effects in communication, trade and transportation; with horrifyingly
negative effects in weaponry. Decades ago, radio, phone cables on the
seabed, long-range aircraft and then nuclear weapons shrunk the oceans.
Sept. 11 demonstrated that religious killers could turn domestic jumbo jets
into strategic bombers -- and the oceans were no obstacles. 'Technological
compression' is a fact; it cannot be reversed. To deny it or ignore it has
Translation: There is no "over there." Everybody lives next
door. All local gossip can become international rumor in an instant. With
weapons of mass destruction in the mix -- particularly if biological or
nuclear weapons are employed -- a tribal war in Saudi Arabia or a border
firefight in Asia can rapidly escalate to global disaster.
Sept. 11 made this case, with the deadly consequences a
self-evident truth. Last week's scramble in Boston to stop a potential
terror strike by a multinational team using a radiological bomb demonstrates
at least some of us remember the lesson. The tip that sparked the FBI and
police dragnet now looks specious -- thank goodness. The threat, however, is
all too real.
Passive and reactive defenses are ultimately that -- passive and
reactive. Domestic police surveillance, and strip searches at the airport
and the bus station ... no matter how intensive and intrusive they become, a
dedicated terrorist will slip them. If they slip them with a hand grenade,
that's one level of tragedy; if they slip them with a nerve gas canister or
a suitcase nuke, then the tragedy gets an exponent, with the death toll
leaping from hundreds to millions.
We're not going to put the genies of modern transportation and
globe-girdling communication back in their bottles. The Pandora's Box of
mass destruction weaponry could conceivably be closed, with its chemical,
nuclear and biological horrors returned and locked away, but that would
require not only collaborative police work but the kind of mutual political
trust only democracies exhibit.
Sept. 11 demonstrated that we cannot tolerate the wicked linkage
of terrorists, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction. Terrorists plus
rogue states plus weapons of mass destruction: That's the formula for hell
in the 21st century. Rogue states are inevitably undemocratic, authoritarian
states -- typically secular or religious tyrannies.
Given modern technology and the role tyrannical states play in
facilitating or exporting terror, a democratic offensive against tyranny is
realpolitik. The explicit American goal is to advance free states where the
consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are
prosecuted, not promoted.