Keeping Faith with Our Common Values
By Hon. John Howard, Former Australian Prime Minister
Text of speech: www.aei.org/publications/pubID.27613,filter.all/pub_detail.asp
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard recently gave the annual Irving Kristol Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, entitled "Keeping Faith with Our Common Values." Howard's thesis was that the magnificent achievements of democratic nations should have produced "a soaring optimism about the future of freedom and democracy," but instead optimism and confidence have been steadily eroded by "a soft underbelly of cultural self-doubt in certain Western societies." This self doubt has been generated and sustained by the Left, with its control of educational institutions and large segments of the media, and its penchant for intellectual bullying and moralizing, most recently displayed in the debate over global warming. Smelling blood in the water, radical Islam launched its attack.
Howard believes that the pessimism of the Left is not grounded in reality. Democratic principles of governance are being embraced across the world, particularly in Asia. More people live under democratic rule in Asia than in any other region of the world. In fact, Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, embraced democracy ten years ago without bloodshed and continues to grow in stability. The implications of this development are enormous for the emerging century. Should Indonesia succeed in establishing firmly rooted democratic institutions, its success could be the death knell for jihadists.
Howard noted that this movement toward democratic governance was made possible by the "security umbrella" provided by the United States, and is nourished by U.S. trade and investment. For democracy to triumph, however, the United States and its allies must retain a "steadfast belief in the continuing worth of our own national value systems." It is these values that terrorists despise most and, Howard exhorted, "We should never compromise with them."
Howard warned that significant cultural, economic, and military challenges face the United States and its allies in the coming years, and our success or failure in meeting and overcoming them rests in the degree to which we possess a common guiding philosophy, directed by values and ideas and not merely by an instinct for political survival.