I once wrote a column about the epic struggle between Eric Reeves and Madeleine Albright. Albright was the secretary of state at the time; Reeves was practically unheard of. He was a lover of Milton and Shakespeare who taught at Smith College in Massachusetts. He was also a private citizen so incensed about the long war in Sudan that he had taken a leave from his job to do something about it.
It's worth recalling the Reeves-Albright battle because we seem likely to forget its lesson. President Bush's inflated rhetoric, together with Iraq's turmoil, may discredit the idea that foreign policy should be rooted in unabashedly moral claims: that the United States should spread freedom, right human wrongs, aspire to plant democracy. But the Eric Reeves story shows why U.S. foreign policy not only shouldn't lose its moral compass; in all likelihood it can't. For if America's leaders lapse into amoral word-mincing, ordinary citizens will rise up, and their protests will spread at broadband speed to every corner of the nation.