Yesterday I read an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Kiron K. Skinner who is footnoted as the assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon and research fellow at the Hoover Institution. The piece was entitled Study the Words, and, as far as I can tell, convincingly relates Bush to Reagan in a myriad of ways. One of the most far-reaching and important similarities between Bush and Reagan is in their view of foreign policy. Broadly, both presidents chose to cripple the opposition by appealing to the weaknesses of the other, albeit in different ways.

Reagan attacked the ideal of Communism through a race-to-the-top approach for military might, banking on the poor incentives structure within the USSR to fail when pitted against the free-market. In a similar way, Bush plays to an ideal, only instead of attacking an ideal, he animates the very ideal which Reagan economically believed would ultimately destroy Communism: freedom and democracy. Fittingly, Skinner pulls a quote from an address outside the Reagan Library on November 19, 1999 tying Bush to Reagan in this regard. In it, Bush “espoused the concept of ‘democratic peace,’ the idea that mutual democracy blocks mutual belligernecy.”

In more recent news, Bush, in his State of the Union address, said of America’s foreign policy:

Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace.

Clearly, these lines expound upon the notion of ‘democratic peace,’ which many may recall was a notion associated with the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In his essay, Perpetual Peace (1795(ish): due to translations and compilation complications (a mouthful!), the dates are scattered), Kant opines that the only way to overcome the Hobbesian state-of-man is to have the whole of the world be democratic.

According to Kant, “the republican constitution [also] provides for this desirable result, namely, perpetual peace” because men will not seek war if they are directly affected by it. Citizens would not seek war if they are allowed to chose not to go to war. But, only with interconnected democracies who uphold the cosmopolitan right to exchange ideas, goods, and peoples across boarders, will citizens see and appreciate the interconnectedness of the world. Respect and understanding, then, is built from democratic institutions.

To insure peace between democratic nations requires the confederation of democratic states into a “league of peace (foedus pacificum).”

Now to the good part. If Bush is invoking this history, what does it lead to? Necessarily, we would need to convince ? Kant is adamant about this ? other governments to turn towards democracy, possibly with trade sanctions (Syrian Accountability Act), but never by force (Iraq?). The federation of states would require the dismantling of the U.N., since it is an utter joke, especially in light of the Bush foreign policy ideal.

Things to come? Possibly. Look out, history is our shadow, not a part of us, but never far behind.