Henry Hyde Was Right, G.W. Bush Was Wrong

Events unfolding in the Middle East are proving that Henry Hyde was right and George Bush was wrong on the wisdom of a foreign policy focused on promoting democracy.

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared in Hyde’s House International Relations Committee on Feb. 16, 2006, she presented written testimony touting Bush’s messianic policy.

“In his second inaugural address, President Bush laid out the vision that leads America into the world: ‘It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world,'” said Rice.

She pointed to Iraq and Afghanistan as evidence that Bush’s policy had sown the seeds that would make freedom blossom across the Middle East.

“In December, over 12 million Iraqi people voted in free elections for a democratic government based on a constitution that Iraqis themselves wrote and adopted,” said Rice.

“Today, Afghanistan has a democratic constitution; an emerging free economy; and a growing, multi-ethnic army that is the pride of the Afghan people,” she said.

“The people of Iraq and Afghanistan,” she concluded, “are helping to lead the transformation of the Broader Middle East from despotism to democracy.”

Hyde, who chaired the committee, calmly poured cold water on this.

“It is a truism that power breeds arrogance,” he said. “A far greater danger, however, stems from the self-delusion that is the more certain companion.”

“To illustrate my point,” Hyde said, “let me focus on a school of thought that has gained increasing prominence in our national debate — namely, the assertion that our interests are best advanced by assigning a central place in the foreign policy of our nation to the worldwide promotion of democracy. I call this the Golden Theory.”

Hyde, who had commanded a landing craft when U.S. forces re-entered the Philippines in World War II, and who had been a key member of both the intelligence and international relations committees at the height of the Cold War, spoke with deep experience on national security issues. His rebuttal of the Golden Theory was devastating.

It was wrong, Hyde said, to liken efforts to implant democracy today in problematic regions of the globe with what happened in Europe and parts of East Asia after World War II.

Even in Europe, he said, the U.S. needed to invest “enormous resources toward enforcing order, removing barriers, reviving economies and a host of other unprecedented innovations.

“The resulting transformation is usually ascribed to the workings of democracy,” he said, “but it is due far more to the impact of the long-term U.S. presence.”

In East Asia, too, Hyde said, “stable democratic” governments were rare where the U.S. did not have an extended presence.

Hyde argued that those who thought democracy could be grafted onto any nation on earth did not understand how deep the roots of representative government must run in a culture.

“But democracy is more than a single election, or even a succession of them,” he said. “It is a way of life for a nation, embracing its life and institutions, and all of their complexity, and embraced in turn by its people and their actions, thoughts and beliefs.

“Viewed in its more compete historical context,” Hyde said, “implanting democracy in large areas would require that we possess an unbounded power and undertake an open-ended commitment of time and resources, which we cannot and will not do.”

In his second inaugural address, Bush had argued that his policy of promoting democracy was rooted in America’s religious understanding of the nature of man.

“America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” Bush said. “From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of heaven and earth.”

This principle — articulated in our Declaration of Independence and based on an understanding of God and man that traces back to both classical philosophy and the Bible — is undoubtedly true. But the dominant cultural forces in the very lands Bush tried to fashion into democracies deny it.

Four years after Hyde rebutted the Golden Theory, the last Christian church was razed in Condoleezza Rice’s Afghan democracy. The State Department last month published a report on religious freedom there that said “two men were in detention for conversion to Christianity.”

In Iraq, according to State, the Christian population has been cut at least in half since 2003 — and is now no more than 600,000. Christians are fleeing a country where the government has failed to protect them from sectarian acts of persecution and murder.

The State Department also reports that in Iraq’s democracy it is a crime “subject to punishment by death” to express “moral support” for “Zionist organizations.”

Last month, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Ra’i of Lebanon warned that Syria might be headed for sectarian war. “This, then, is a genocide and not democracy and reform,” he said.

In Cairo two weeks ago, the Egyptian military killed about two dozen unarmed Coptic Christians participating in a demonstration to protest the destruction of a Christian church.

“We must also be cognizant of the fact that a broad and energetic promotion of democracy may produce not peace and stability, but revolution,” Hyde said back in 2006.

“History teaches that revolutions are very dangerous things, more often destructive than benign and uncontrollable by their very nature,” he said. “Upending established order based on theory is far more likely to produce chaos than shining uplands.”



Terence Jeffrey


Terence P. Jeffrey started as editor in chief of CNSNews.com in September 2007. Prior to that, he served for more than a decade as editor of Human Events, where he is now an editor at large.

  • pammie

    It has been a long, long time since there have been real conservatives in positions of power in the US , and Britain too actually. Globalists and neo cons have taken over the conservative position and we can see what state we are in and what we have become for lack of a true opposition.The only substantial difference I can see between Republicans and Democrats is the bones they throw to their hardcore supporters occasionally as they both sell out the middle class to the highest bidder.

    • sarto

      Right on. Except, theoretically, the Democrats opposed the war. But, cowards that most of them are, they were afraid to take an unpopular position. Remember, 75% of America was in favor of going to war with Iraq.

      • Pammie

        Yes, rather depressing isn’t it? One would think that some of us had been paying more attention to recent American history , but apparently not.

  • Cord Hamrick

    For myself, I would agree with Pammie except that I would not lump all the Republicans under one group. The “real conservatives” to whom Pammie refers would likewise not lump them all under one group.

    There are two: The RINOs and the Tea Party or “Movement Conservatives.” The RINOs (John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Olympia Snowe…and such loyal “republicans” as Jeffords, Chafee, and Specter) are equivalent to Democrats in many ways:

    1. They’re often pro-choice or think life issues a low priority (this is why, although we’ve sometimes had a Republican congressional majority in the years since Roe, we’ve not once had a pro-life congressional majority.

    2. Rather than attempting to eliminate all corporate welfare (the conservative position) they favor every bit as much corporate welfare as Democrats do, with the sole difference being that they want the benefits directed to their favorite corporate donors and away from Democrats’ donors, whereas Democrats naturally prefer the opposite;

    3. As an extension of #2, they were in favor of all the bailouts, and the expansions thereof;

    4. Rather than take a humble “enumerated powers” view of Congressional authority under the Constitution, they use and stretch the same set of powers which Democrats earlier usurped through anachronistic “penumbras” and “emanations” from the text of the Constitution. They write these regulations and spend this money for the benefit of conservative priorities, of course; but they’re using illicit means;

    5. They periodically stab their allies in the back by denouncing conservative causes and denigrating conservative citizens. This is viewed favorably by the mainstream media, who refer to such actions in approving tones and call such politicians “mavericks” and “fiercely independent”;

    6. They don’t, in general, have any attachment to a political philosophy of governance or any particular first principles. When they see a problem, they don’t first think, “Is this a problem which is the responsibility of the Federal government, or the States, or of local principalities, or of individual citizens?” They don’t ask themselves, “Does the Constitution grant me any authority to write the law I’m about to write?” They don’t ask, “What’re the long-term consequences of setting a precedent that it is within the power of the government to do this?” They pretty much just do it and hope that by the time any chickens come home to roost, they’re long-since departed and working as lobbyists or on corporate boards of directors.

    Now if you replace all these RINOs with “movement conservatives” you don’t get nearly so much of that nonsense. On the other hand, maybe you lose some blue-state and blue-district elections, where folks are willing to elect a RINO but not a conservative.

    (Aside: Am I the only one who remembers that it used to be Republicans who were associated with the color blue, and Democrats with the color red? What happened? When and why did the party-color associations switch? Sometime in the 90’s, I suppose. Did all the news organizations just get together and decide it was time to flip-flop the colors on their election result maps? A curiosity.)

    Anyhow I sympathize with your take on things Pammie. But I also see a sort of internal struggle for the soul of the GOP which leaves them in these two camps.

    • Aside: Am I the only one who remembers that it used to be Republicans who were associated with the color blue, and Democrats with the color red? What happened? When and why did the party-color associations switch?

      I believe that the colors switched every presidential election. The colors were assigned simply to differentiate between the two parties’ electoral race on election night. I think right around 2000 they stopped switching, though I couldn’t tell you why. I would wildly speculate that it’s the media’s attempt to shift public opinion away from the Left being “Red” (communists), but that’s all it is: speculation.

      • Micha Elyi

        There has never been an accepted scheme of assigning colors to represent political parties in America. Historically, red has been displayed by socialist movements and the political parties associated with international socialism and national socialism.

        The recent jabber about red states and blue states is ascribed to an accident of color-coding by a particular U.S. television network and a network commentator babbling about states being “red” or “blue” instead of polling Republican or Democrat in the 2000 election season. Monosyllables are better suited to the comprehension level of TV audiences, apparently. See http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/1430/

      • TomD

        Andy, your observation is very accurate about party color assignment . . . that it once alternated each election from red to blue between the two parties . . . and the switch did occur to permanent red for the Republicans about 2000. How this permanent assignment of red came about, and how all the media and culture accepted it, is a good project for a savvy journalist.

        Allies of the left would want to avoid the association of the Democratic Party with “red,” and create the permanent impression of “true blue.”

        Also, I believe research has shown that women respond more positively to the color blue, much less positively to the color red.

    • Pammie

      Yes I do agree with your assesments up to a certain point. What you said was valid, but you are overlooking a conservative element that does not get much national media attention or play. I am speaking of the conservative philosophies of the late Sam Francis and Joseph Sobran. Not to mention those of Paul Gottfried , Christopher Manion or PJBuchanan for that matter, who are still with us.

      The Tea Party supports many domestic conservative values but I dont see much difference in their foreign policy postions from Barack Obama or George Bush.
      It’s my opinion that the road to our own recovery starts with keeping our dwindling resources in our own country and investing to rebuild the industries so cavalierly sent abroad by both Democrats and Republicans. Rush LImbaugh used to tell his listeners back in the ’90’s ,”they’re only jobs Americans dont want”. How does that sound 20 years later? We cant continue to pay everyone else’s bills for defense, birth control etc ..etc. in perpetuity.

      When I hear someone articulate that position, I will know that a honest-to-goodness conservative has arrived and I will be very grateful. So far I heard the same old stuff from Cain, Perry, Bachman, Romney et al. Nothing different there.

  • Mark

    “History teaches that revolutions are very dangerous things, more often destructive than benign and uncontrollable by their very nature”

    Glad our Founders didn’t buy into this Hide Amendment.

    “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to all humanity.” – George W. Bush

  • Carl

    “Hyde was right and Bush was wrong”

    There are plenty valid points to be made in this discourse of intervening into foreign affairs.

    Complaining or Bush bashing without offering solutions or alternatives should NOT be one of them.

    How well have Cuba, Central and South America worked out with intervention?

    Our hand off doctrine with Iran for the past forty years has worked how well? How well is this “Arab Spring” going to work? A continuation of the Iran doctrine I think.

    Bush was bashed because the Iraq war exposed Maronite Catholics to horrible crimes. How well are the Maronite’s treated in Syria and how about the Coptics in Egypt without U.S. military egressions? (Arab Spring)

    Where are these non-violent success stories?