President Bush made “freedom” the main theme of his inauguration speech. The other concepts that featured in his speech were “tyranny”, “government” and “idealism”. The reactions to his speech were mixed, but predictable: his supporters welcomed it; his critics saw it as a declaration of intent to promote American domination by aggressive military means.
But President Bush's inauguration speech does address the most fundamental issues of the present time, and does deserve serious consideration, rather than reflexive support or rejection.
And this is especially so, because “the great objective of ending tyranny”, which President Bush sees as his goal, can succeed, only, if he, and those who will work with him to achieve this objective, have clear understanding of what the words “freedom”, “tyranny”, and “idealism” mean in the context of government1. And it is for that reason that we shall examine these concepts and what has made these concepts so acutely relevant for the present times.
We shall start with the concept of “idealism”, because it is the most dangerous.
Within the context of government “idealism” means justification of government actions by vague, emotive slogans, which motivate people to support and follow a government. Communism and various other socialisms are some recent examples of idealisms in government.
Idealisms attract people, but attempts to implement them in practice, invariably lead to tyranny and oppression.
So, if President Bush intends to use “freedom”, as an ideal, rather than a precise, realistic, legal term, then those who see him as a lawless tyrant, seeking to justify oppression by idealistic demagogy will be justified.
So, we need to reject all idealisms and find the precise legal meaning of the word “freedom” in the context of government.
The most general meaning of the word “freedom” is absence of constraints, which, if applied in such general sense to Human Society, means Chaos and Anarchy.
The word “government”, as applied to Human Society, means regulation and control, which by their very nature imply “constraint”, that is restriction of “freedom”.
And, as President Bush's task is that of “government”, it is clear that the word “freedom” used by him could not have been used in its general sense of “absence of constraints”, but could only make sense as “absence of tyranny”.
The word “tyranny”, when applied to government, means such government, where the ruler governs in accordance with his own personal wishes, rather than by following Principles of Justice, and by violating the Principles of Justice oppresses the people of his own country, or of other countries.
Examples of tyranny are use of violence without valid reasons, such as killings, imprisonments, torture, destruction and seizures of property. Such actions are often committed by governments in the course of wars or internal repressions. Wars and internal repressions without valid reasons are acts of oppression and tyranny.
So, tyranny is abuse of government powers. And, if to prevent governments from abusing their powers, then people will be free from tyranny. And, if this is what President Bush wants to do, then who in the world can say that, at least, his intentions are good and noble?
Having established what “freedom” and “tyranny” mean in the context of government, we shall now look at how these concepts reflect the realities of today's world.
In his speech President Bush cast his view half a century back, to the Second World War, then to the downfall of Communism, and then to “the day of fire”. But the Fire that reached America some three years ago started some half century back. And it was Tyranny and Oppression that sparked off that Fire.
Just shortly after the Americans had finished playing their role in the Second World War, a new state was proclaimed in Palestine with the support and welcome of the Great Powers — the State of Israel. And, although this state was a narrow strip along the Mediterranean Coast south of Lebanon, its proclamation had a profound effect on the whole region of the Middle East. And, yes, the reason for this profound influence was Oppression and Tyranny.
At the time of the proclamation of the State of Israel some million Arabs (Muslim and Christian) were expelled from the villages and cities of the Coastal Palestine and became refugees in the neighboring Arab countries.
To expel people from their houses is an act of Tyranny and Oppression. And this Tyranny and Oppression was the spark that ignited the Fire of the Middle East Conflict.
Over the half century that followed, this Fire was either smoldering or flaming up into short wars, but it was never extinguished. And it was this Fire that kept simmering the Resentment and Hatred, which eventually blew up and crossed the most defended borders and reached the United States itself.
The reaction of the US Government to that Fire was to extinguish that Fire by throwing on it petrol, and this turned a single act of protest into a global war — the War on Terror, proclaimed by President Bush himself.
The War on Terror proclaimed by President Bush did not “break the reign of hatred and resentment”, nor did it “expose the pretensions of tyrants”, nor did it “reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant” — it lead to killings of tens of thousands of innocent people, to destruction of cities, and to wanton torture and unlawful imprisonments — all of which are acts of Tyranny and Oppression. And this Tyranny and Oppression provoked more Hatred and Resentment and multiplication of Destructive Powers.
Yes, President Bush is right — the time has come to put an end to Tyranny and Oppression. The question is: “How can this be achieved?”
Some of President Bush's advisors say that tyranny can be stopped by “democratizing the Middle East”, but Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”, but this did not prevent it from “deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure2” — all of which are acts of Tyranny and Oppression.
The United State of America is “the greatest democracy in the world”, but this did not prevent it from waging lawless wars, killings of civilians, destruction of cities, unjustified arrests and wanton torture — all of which are acts of Tyranny and Oppression.
It is clear that Democracy does not prevent Tyranny.
The opposites of Democracy are Autocracy, Aristocracy and other methods of government — not Tyranny. It is possible for an aristocratic, or an autocratic, ruler to be more just than a democratic tyrant.
Moses was not elected by a general ballot. He was an autocratic leader and he followed the Will of God, not the Will of the People.
Nor is the British legal system a product of Democracy — it has developed in an Aristocratic Monarchy. It was 92% income tax, the lawless Iraq war, and the endless scandals and cover‐ups that were the creatures of the British Democratic Process.
And Hitler was elected no less democratically than President Bush or Tony Blair — and enjoyed greater popularity than either of the two.
So, if Democracy cannot stop Tyranny, then what can?
The only thing that can prevent Tyranny and Oppression is Justice, because it is Justice, not Democracy that is the opposite of Tyranny.
So, the first practical step to stopping Tyranny in the world, that President Bush can take, is to resolve the Middle East Conflict, not on the basis of Democracy, but on the basis of Justice. And, if this is accompanied by stopping the War on Terror, by withdrawing from Iraq, and by making peace with the terrorists, then “the reign of hatred and resentment” will be broken and the way towards a tyranny‐free world will be free. And President Bush will have achieved his inaugural pledge.
1) “Government” being the central concept, because the essence of President Bush's speech was to give a general indication of how he is going to govern America in his second term of office, and how his governance will affect the rest of the world.
2) These words were used in the Road Map to Peace in the Middle East, prepared by US, UN, EU and Russia. But, having acknowledged that these acts of tyranny and oppression are committed by the Israelis in Palestine, the Quartet did nothing to stop them, while the US continued to condone and finance them.