President Bush says the United States has a responsibility to help the world's new democracies survive and thrive through sometimes difficult periods of transition. Mr. Bush is creating a special civilian corps to respond quickly to crises abroad.
The President says it took too long for American civilian workers to get to Iraq to help with the transition to democracy after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He says that will not happen again. "One of the lessons we learned from our experience in Iraq is that, while military personnel can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, the same is not true of U.S. government civilians," he said.
He says he is asking Congress to approve the money to set up a rapid response corps, which can react quickly to crises in countries moving from tyranny or war to freedom. "This new corps will be on call - ready to get programs running on the ground in days and weeks, instead of months and years," he said.
The president says it is crucial to pay attention to this transition period, when expectations are high, and the process of change is often slow. He says the United States - and the free world - have an obligation to help these new democracies through a sometimes difficult transformation.
"No nation in history has made the transition from tyranny to a free society without setbacks and false starts. What separates those nations that succeed from those that falter is their progress in establishing free institutions," he said.
Those institutions include a free press, a free economy, an independent judiciary, religious freedom, and the opportunity for all citizens to express their views even when those opinions are in direct opposition to the government.
The president says all free nations have a role to play in building the free institutions vital to democracy, as do non-governmental organizations. He says the work is crucial, noting recent developments in Ukraine and Georgia where freedom movements ousted governments that came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union. "All these countries still have much work to do, but their people are courageous, their leaders are determined, and with our help they will prevail," he said.
President Bush made the remarks at a dinner honoring members of the International Republican Institute -- a group that runs democracy training programs and monitors elections around the world. Though not officially linked to the Republican Party, most of its leaders are prominent party members. Democrats are involved in a similar organization and the two entities often work together on projects abroad.