Tommy G. Thompson, former health and human services secretary, explains the role of American generosity as a powerful force in winning the war on terrorism.

But if we have any hope of spreading democracy and ending tyranny in every corner of the globe, it is vital that we use all of the weapons of freedom at our disposal. That includes our most effective arsenal against terrorists and the forces of oppression: education, compassion, and medicine.

That is the principle at the heart of what I call ”medical diplomacy” — the winning of hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere by exporting medical care, expertise, and personnel to help those who need it most.

Medical diplomacy must be made a significantly larger part of our foreign and defense policy, as we clean up from costly and deadly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. America has the best chance to win the war on terror and defeat the terrorists by enhancing our medical and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable countries. By delivering hope we will deliver freedom.

Guns and butter. The doctrines of the Bush Administration are, like every aspect of it, more sound than the executions. And just as Iraq is incrementally changing for the better, after the Saddam nightmare, so, too, America is changing. The fact that this opinion piece was written by a Republican political leader is a sign of how much has changed since the GOP was the party of isolationism.

So many factions of the Republican coalition went along with the neo-cons on the Iraq project, and now they find themselves committed, in their political capital and their personal honor, to the idea that the U.S. ought not to be in the business of propping up murderous dictators, even if their rule is perhaps better for American material interests than the open air that would follow their fall. They’ve rediscovered the truth that America’s ideals are as worthwhile as, and a good deal more exhilarating than, its practical compromises and bad bargains.

It will be that much harder, in the next generation for the traditionally pragmatic wing of the U.S. political scene to say the U.S. ought to devote its power to preserving the next Marcos or shah simply because he’s our bastard. They’ve invested too much of themselves so far, willingly or not, in expounding and embracing the idealism of the Bush Doctrine.

Oh, they’ll back down eventually. But only part way, as long as they retain their current insight into the connection between free markets and free societies. And not for a long time. And hopefully, by then, the Democrats will have emerged from the haunted woods of pessimism.

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