Liberty is solution in Iraq

David Brooks:

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The only real way to secure Iraq, Bush argued, is through self-governing democracy. Only representative self-government denies the terrorists the pretext they need to kill. It is only through the mundane acts of democratic citizenship that Iraqis will be able to build a civil society. It is only through self-government that Iraq can become secure.

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It's a huge gamble to think that the solution to chaos is liberty. But it's fitting that during the gravest crisis of his presidency, President Bush reverted to his most fundamental political belief. He began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens. He said last night with absolute confidence that the Iraqis are democrats at heart.

Bush is betting his presidency, and the near-term future of this nation, on that central American creed.

It's an epic gamble. Because, let's face it, we don't know whether all people really do want to live in freedom. We don't know whether Iraqis have any notion of what democratic citizenship really means. We don't know whether they hear words like freedom, liberty and pluralism as deadly insults to the way of life they hold dear....

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If it all works out, then Iraqis will feel they control their lives. They will stop playing both sides of the fence. They will take responsibility for their future. They will try to expel the foreign jihadists. They will regard Americans as necessary guests, and Americans will behave like guests.

Right now that happy outcome feels a long way away. But at least Bush has now squarely faced the consequences of his creed. There was always something antidemocratic about nation-building — the idea that a country could go into a foreign place, then hand it back to the locals.

Bush is betting his presidency on the Iraqis and their ability to govern themselves better than we governed them. At least he is now behaving consistently with the elemental conviction of this nation. If we have faith in anything, it should be in this democratic dream, which has so far, in our history, vindicated our hopes.

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