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Monday, February 6, 2006
The State of the Union: Foreign Policy First

I finally did it. I had put off discussing -- or reading, or even reading about -- President Bush's State of the Union speech from last week. I finally read it this morning, six days after the President gave it. Here are my notes on the first half of the speech, which addressed foreign policy.

I finally did it. I had put off discussing -- or reading, or even reading about -- President Bush's State of the Union speech, preferring to chat about Groundhog Day, science and engineering fairs, democratically elected terrorist regimes, and so forth. I finally read it this morning, six days after President Bush gave it (last Tuesday evening).

You may recall that I prefer to read these things, not watch them, because I save most of an hour that way. And there's another reason: We haven't had a president in about 17 years to whom I enjoyed listening. Ronald Reagan spoiled me, I guess. It has been difficult to listen to his successors, no matter what they were actually saying -- and I include Bush, Sr.; Bill Clinton; and Bush, Junior, in that group. I did enjoy Tuesday's speech when I read it. I think the President mostly said the right things, and he said them rather well. But I doubt I would have enjoyed watching it.

The first half of the speech was about foreign policy. I have no quibbles here -- either about the vision involved or the overall way in which it is pursued. I guess the Democrats wouldn't want me, with such a view, but that's not news. There was some cogent discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the war on terror generally. I didn't see anything new in it, but it still deserves to be said, and said, and said, now that (lately) the White House is actually saying it.

Here's a good early paragraph -- remember, he's speaking to a joint session of Congress, technically:

In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy -- or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting -- yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership -- so the United States of America will continue to lead.

Now some specific points of interest.

Have you noticed that we're at war with Iran? It's not a shooting war, at least not yet. Perhaps it will never have to be. But that repressive and dangerous regime has to go, one  way or another. The following paragraph is an overt attempt to incite the overthrow of Iran's government.

Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

How many of the citizens of Iran will actually hear or read those words is a fair question. Not every shot fired in a war strikes its target. But you keep shooting.

Meanwhile, the new Palestinian government, a democratically elected terrorist regime, earned this brief mention:

The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.

Memo to Hamas: Welcome to the big leagues, the world of democratically elected governments. You'll find there are certain expectations of those who presume to play at this level . . . (Don't blow up the rest of us, for a start.)

That's it for foreign policy, and that's enough for one post, too. Next: domestic policy.

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