The president’s speech last night was inspiring for the nation, and part of it was particularly thrilling for me. The president made a strong appeal to help prisoners transition from prison back into society.
Most important, however, were the president’s words about foreign policy and the war on Iraq and terrorism. I, for one, believe the president’s policy meets the criteria of the “just war” doctrine, guidelines first laid down by St. Augustine that have informed Western thought about the use of military force for sixteen centuries. I say that not just because of the threat in Iraq, but also because of the much broader threat from Islamic fundamentalism worldwide.
The stakes in Iraq, you see, go beyond the borders of that country, beyond the Middle East. Nobody likes to say it — and the president couldn’t say it for obvious reasons — but we are in a clash of civilizations that Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicted in his landmark book. There are not only thousands of terrorist cells spread throughout the Islamic world, but there are also groups in many Islamic countries agitating for violence and thousands being trained for terror attacks.
Terrorism experts recognize that trying to root out groups like this one by one is nearly impossible. You simply don’t know where they are, and the borders of this country are porous.
The better answer is the one the president has chosen, bringing to the Muslim world the benefits of modernity and democracy that can produce free societies and free markets. This is the only way to answer Islamic leaders who excuse their own failures by blaming the deprivation of the Islamic masses on the United States. And they will continue to foment resentment among Muslims until democratic reforms can be introduced.
That’s why Iraq is so important. Now we have a tough job to establish democratic reforms in Iraq. The country has lived under a tyrant for decades who left it chaotic. But I believe establishing a free nation will be a huge symbol of hope to the rest of the Muslim world. We have already seen signs of this in Iran and Libya. And it’s the moral thing to do. Let the critics say what they want — there is no instant solution to the clash of civilizations. It will continue until the terrorists obliterate the West, or the West loses its will — or when we can introduce democratic reforms into the Islamic world.
On the domestic front, the president announced a program for prisoner re-entry. I’m thrilled. With more than 600,000 inmates being released this year, we have got to work to make their transition successful. This proposal is part of a pattern — prison rape elimination, abolition of Sudan slavery, combating AIDS in Africa — cases where the president has shown a moral concern for the marginalized and for the hurting in society.
The president made a strong plea for the sanctity of marriage, directly confronting judicial activism — the first time I’ve heard a president do that. The people, not the courts, Mr. Bush said, ought to be making their own decisions about marriage. Make no mistake: The battle over marriage is shaping up as the Armageddon of the culture war. And the president is taking the lead, courageously saying the people will have to resort to the Constitutional process. He’s right.
This is an election year, and there will be political warfare over the president’s initiatives. That’s okay. Thank God we have the freedom to do that. But on these key issues, for Christians, the president has taken a principled and, I think, wise position. And he has my fervent prayers.
For further reading and information:
President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 20 January 2004.
White House historian/author Richard Norton Smith talks about the history of the presidents’ State of the Union addresses, and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett answers State of the Union questions.
See BreakPoint’s Just War Fact Sheet.
Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Touchstone, 1998).
Visit Justice Fellowship’s website for more information on prisoner re-entry.
Victor Davis Hanson, “The Election of 1864,” National Review Online, 21 January 2004.
Clifford May, “On Offense,” National Review Online, 21 January 2004.
Rich Lowry, “Paranoid Lunacy,” National Review Online, 21 January 2004.
Joel Mowbray, “Increasing Islamic Influence in Iraq,” Townhall.com, 21 January 2004.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030130, “One Consistent Theme: Life, Worldview, and the State of the Union.”
Robert Pear and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Marriage,” New York Times, 14 January 2004.
Andrew Apostolou, “Guilty as Charged,” National Review Online, 19 January 2004.
In “Exploring the Good Society,” a “BreakPoint This Week” special broadcast, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute talks about what is needed for a “good society” to flourish: His solution is a “Caritapolis,” a civilization built on caritas, the biblical notion of love. Call 1-877-322-5527 to order this CD ($10).