Bush's Thermidor

by Patrick Buchanan
March 13, 2007

In the calendar of the French Revolution, Thermidor was the second month of summer. On 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794), Robespierre was guillotined and the Reign of Terror came to an end.

Thermidor has thus come to mean the turning point in a revolution, when the fever passes on and the fury abates. Trotsky called Stalin's consolidation of power “Soviet Thermidor.”

And it would appear Thermidor has come to the world democratic revolution of George W. Bush.

In the catechism of the Bush Revolution, liberty is indivisible. If the whole world is not free, America's freedom is not secure, and we must thus use American power in perpetuity to liberate mankind and, as Bush declared in his second Inaugural, “end tyranny on earth.”

No more utopian ambition has ever been declared by an American president.

In 2006, however, reality intruded.

The elections Bush championed as way stations on the road to global democracy produced, from the Mideast to Latin America, defeat after defeat. In Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, the real winners were the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas and Moqtada al-Sadr. In Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, free elections gave Hugo Chavez three new allies, and radicals almost captured Peru and Mexico. Populism, socialism and anti-Americanism are surging in Latin America.

Following the worst year of his presidency, where nothing seemed to go right for him or his country, President Bush appears to be executing an about-face in foreign policy.

Thermidor may be at hand for the Bush Revolution, but there remains a great and unresolved issue.

The first article of the Bush Doctrine is that the world's worst regimes will not be permitted to acquire the world's worst weapons. That article has been defied with impunity by Pyongyang. But is it still applicable to Iran? Will Bush, in the absence of a diplomatic deal with Tehran to halt its enrichment of uranium, leave office without using American power to effect the nuclear castration of Iran?

This question raises others. Does George W. Bush have the constitutional authority, without further congressional action, to order a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and the defensive installations that protect those facilities? And if Bush should ask for authority to bomb Iran, would Congress sign another blank check?

Within the principal antagonistic states of the Middle East – Syria and Iran, Israel and the United States – there appear to be both forces that seek confrontation and forces willing to do a deal that meets the minimal security demands of the other side.

If Bush can broker a deal that suspends the nuclear enrichment program of Iran before it goes critical, he may yet salvage something of value out of the hellish mess in Mesopotamia.

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