Josh Rogin writes: For the second time this week, a prominent Republican has made a speech rebuking President Trump’s vision for the United States’ role in the world. On Monday, it was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Today, President George W. Bush joined the call for the United States to reject the “America first” principle in world affairs.
Although he did not mention Trump by name, the 43rd president gave a thorough and detailed rebuttal to Trump’s nationalist, values-neutral, anti-refugee, anti-immigration and anti-free-trade ideology. Bush also called on the United States to reject attempts to play down Russia’s interference in our democracy and warned Americans not to fall for conspiracy theories and fake news.
Bush, who made the freedom agenda a key pillar of his presidency, also called on the United States to lead a rejuvenation of the Western, liberal world order, which he described as under attack.
“The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue, and the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand,” Bush told a meeting of the Bush Institute on Thursday in New York. “We know that when we lose sight of these ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.” [Continue reading…]
While Bush’s defense of democracy and rebuke of Trumpism is, I believe, sincere, the freedom agenda promoted by the neoconservatives who guided the Bush administration, certainly bears a large share of responsibility for breeding widespread cynicism about American democratic values.
By launching a catastrophic war against Iraq whose destablizing reverberations still rock the Middle East and by fighting in the name of democracy, it was inevitable that as popular U.S. support for the war soured, this would lead many Americans to conclude that the promotion of democracy had never been anything more than an excuse for ill-conceived and costly expansionism. A reaction, in the form of America-first isolationism, is part of the backlash.
That said, there is now less value in apportioning blame for the corrosion of democracy than there is in recognizing that it is indeed under threat and that the defense of democracy is a responsibility shared by every single citizen who benefits from its existence.
For us to understand how we are the beneficiaries of a democratic system, demands we look beyond our parochial preoccupations and see what it means to live in societies across the globe where freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, free and fair elections are rights that are constrained or withheld. And it means recognizing that we too stand at risk of losing these freedoms.