It's just a speech, people!
I think the best context and commentary came from Zbigniew Brzezinski last night on the Newshour,
If the speech, if the speech was to be taken literally, then clearly it would imply commitment to some sort of a global crusade vis-à-vis a variety of states with many of whom we have all sorts of mutual concerns, even if we don't like their practical policies. I mean, take a few examples. Take China; we have a major state instability with China, but China is hardly a democracy. What about the Tibetans? Take Russia; we have a common stake with regards to terrorism, but what about the Chechens? They're being treated in a tyrannical fashion. Take an even more complex issue: what about Israel, which is a friend of ours, and its security against Palestinian terrorists? But what about the oppression of the Palestinians and their desire for freedom?It was indeed a vacuous speech from a vacuous man. We all know that, so lets move on to more productive pursuits.
The fact is that the speech was high-sounding. If it was to be taken literally, it would mean an American crusade throughout the entire world, and I don't know how that would be implemented practically. More Iraqs, perhaps, or is it just a general statement which doesn't give us much guide to policy, suited for the occasion but not to be taken as the point of departure for serious policy?
....So the themes are a little different. It's freedom versus tyranny. But where are the tyrannies? In fact, the really serious tyrannies are the ones we have to deal with. And we're not going to deal with them the way we have dealt with Iraq. So as a statement of a program, it's vacuous. As a sermon, it's nice, it's moving, and has some elegant moments, but it's vacuous.
By the way, listening to Walter Russell Mead try and take G-dub seriously was at times laugh out loud funny.