This breathless NYT article describes this speech, in which President Bush once again indicates the universalistic basis for his approach to world affairs. He says again what he’s said many times before--"Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to all humanity." He proceeds to lay out what might be called the anthropological evidence for the proposition that freedom has a transformative power. Of course, there’s room to argue with him, on anthropological and historical grounds (which is where he chooses to make his stand).
Stated another way, despite the efforts of the NYT reporter to make it seem as if Bush’s foreign policy is altogether faith-based, it just ain’t so. His argument surely could be much more nuanced than it is, but a number of propositions are clear. First, freedom doesn’t require Christianity. The God who created us in His image gave freedom as a gift to everyone; it’s a matter--in Reformed parlance--of common grace, accessible to the Shinto Japanese, the Muslim Afghans, and Americans of all faiths and no faith.
Second, freedom is hard. People with little or no experience of it appreciate it, but don’t immediately know how to protect it and use it well. They also have determined and unscrupulous enemies who don’t wish them to learn these things.
Third, the spread of freedom ultimately [I’d add--perhaps not in every instance immediately] serves America’s security interests.
So the demands of justice and (long-term) interest come together:
People of all faiths and all backgrounds deserve the chance at a future of their own choosing. That’s what America believes. After all, those were the ideals that helped create our nation. Those ideals were an honorable achievement of our forefathers, and now it’s the urgent requirement of this generation.
As I said, this is far from the first time President Bush has spoken in these terms. And I’ll add, in speaking this way, he’s perfectly in the mainstream of American presidential rhetoric.