According to the exit polls, George W. Bush owes his victory to the priority attached by millions of voters to “moral values.” This somewhat nebulous term is said to have trumped terrorism, Iraq, and the economy as a driving force behind the turnout–and the outcome.
Inevitably, some of President Bush’s critics (possibly on the right, and certainly on the left, once they recover from the electoral-shock trauma) will interpret this finding insidiously: They will assert that the president’s conduct of the war on terror and, in particular, his efforts to consolidate the liberation of Iraq do not enjoy the popular mandate accorded to his social conservative agenda. We will be told, at the very least, that W. won despite
his handling of the war, thanks to the help of the evangelical Christians and like-minded folks who turned out for other reasons.
Don’t believe it for a minute. Such contentions would miss the point of this election almost as much as John Kerry did.
The reality is that the same moral principles that underpinned the Bush appeal on “values” issues like gay marriage, stem-cell research, and the right to life were central to his vision of U.S. war aims and foreign policy. Indeed, the president laid claim squarely to the ultimate moral value–freedom–as the cornerstone of his strategy for defeating our Islamofascist enemies and their state sponsors, for whom that concept is utterly anathema.
It follows, then, that among those who deserve credit for shaping this stunning triumph of American virtues and values are the much-maligned “neoconservatives” and their friends, who have been responsible for helping Bush design and execute his wartime agenda. Special recognition and thanks are thus accorded, for example, to: Vice President Dick Cheney and key members of his staff (including Lewis “Scooter” Libby, John Hannah, and David Wurmser); the National Security Council’s Condoleezza Rice, Robert Joseph, and Elliott Abrams; the Defense Department’s Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and William Luti; and the State Department’s John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, and Paula DeSutter. These people–and too many others–have helped the president imprint moral values on American security policy in a way and to an extent not seen since Ronald Reagan’s first term.
The important thing now, of course, is not simply to acknowledge past achievements, but to build upon them. This will require, among other things:
The reduction in detail of Fallujah and other safe havens utilized by freedom’s enemies in Iraq–a necessary precondition not only to holding elections there next year, but to the establishment of institutions essential to a functioning and stable democracy;
Regime change–one way or another–in Iran and North Korea, the only hope for preventing these remaining “Axis of Evil” states from fully realizing their terrorist and nuclear ambitions;
Providing the substantially increased resources needed to re-equip a transforming military and rebuild human-intelligence capabilities (minus, if at all possible, the sorts of intelligence “reforms” contemplated pre-election that would make matters worse on this and other scores) while we fight World War IV;
Providing, to the fullest extent possible, for the protection of our homeland–including the adoption of sensible policies on securing our borders and contending with illegal aliens, and by deploying effective missile defenses at sea and in space, as well as ashore;
Keeping faith with Israel, whose destruction remains a priority for the same people who want to destroy us (and for the same reasons–i.e., our shared, “moral values”)–especially in the face of Yasser Arafat’s demise and the inevitable, post-election pressure to “solve” the Mideast problem by forcing the Israelis to abandon defensible boundaries;
Contending with the underlying dynamic that made France and Germany so problematic in the first term: namely, their willingness to make common cause with our enemies for profit, and their desire to employ a united Europe and its new constitution–as well as other international institutions and mechanisms–to thwart the expansion and application of American power where deemed necessary by Washington;
Adapting appropriate strategies for contending with China’s increasingly fascistic trade and military policies, Vladimir Putin’s accelerating authoritarianism at home and aggressiveness toward the former Soviet republics, the worldwide spread of Islamofascism, and the emergence of a number of aggressively anti-American regimes in Latin America.
These items do not represent some sort of neocon “imperialist” game plan. Rather, they constitute a checklist of the work the world will demand of this president and his subordinates in a second term.
None of these priorities will be easy or painless. All will require of President Bush a readiness to incur political costs and to assume risks far in excess of those his handlers were comfortable running before the election.
Yet President Bush has amply demonstrated his willingness to take such risks. More to the point, he appears to fully appreciate that his values, America’s long-term strategic interests, and his electoral mandate allow him to do no less.
By redoubling his administration’s efforts along these lines, President George W. Bush will not only be making the world less dangerous for America and her vital interests. He will also be doing so in a way that is consistent with our country’s moral values, the stuff of which history–not just consequential elections and presidencies–is made.
–Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is an NRO contributor and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.