George Bush is a self-defined Fundamentalist Christian whose rigid religious faith informs his world view. He wants to spread democracy throughout the world in the belief that world peace will result.
This is certainly a noble goal, so what is wrong with it? Why isn’t this the same as Lincoln’s stubborn crusade to preserve the Union during our Civil War, which resulted in 600,000+ American deaths?
Lincoln too was a man of deep religious faith, was uncompromising in his adherence to his principles, despite widespread dissension and protest. He pursued a war of conquest over a self declared “nation” that wanted “self-determination” based on its own values and perceptions that their liberty was being trampled by a majority.
Let’s define our terms and see if we can See The Light.
“1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief.,trust. 3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters. 4.In Christianity, the theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. 5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith. 6. A set of principles or beliefs.”Fundamentalism:
“1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism...”Democracy:
“1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives. 2. A political or social unit that has such a government. 3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power. 4. Majority rule. 5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.”[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.]
The Bush administration clings to its faith that it can establish “democracy” in the Islamic middle east. It defines “democracy” in the American holistic sense, [definition 5, supra], implying tolerance in a pluralistic society.
The leaders in that part of the world, also calling themselves men of fundamentalist faith, resist these efforts. Majority rule involves adherence to fundamentalist Islam, which, by definition violates American understanding of “democracy.” The difference is that they believe definition 5 violates the demands of their fundamental faith.
[Parenthetically, moderate interpreters of the Qu’uran differ; they point out that under the Caliphate, when Islam controlled a vast realm, “infidels” were tolerated, even encouraged to participate in the society.]
So the difference between Lincoln and Bush?
The South claimed also to be men of strong faith. They found support for their policies in the same Bible that their enemies cited. They also defined “democracy” in a narrower sense, denying the need for pluralism.
Lincoln argued that disunion and slavery were wrong, not merely because his Faith told him so; he had brilliantly expressed logical reasons for his conclusion and his stubborn adherence to his policy. His rhetoric was often couched in the language of faith, but he never lost sight of the reasoning behind his quest.