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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 15:39 GMT
Bush's new book for a new term
By Clare Murphy
BBC News

Natan Sharansky
Sharansky's world view is very similar to that of the president
When it comes to President George W Bush and books, the most enduring image remains that of his reading My Pet Goat to a class of primary school children as planes flew into the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001.

But Mr Bush is hoping that another publication will come to define his second term in office.

The commander-in-chief has been actively promoting the latest work by former Soviet Jewish dissident - and Israeli politician - Natan Sharansky, recommending it as a must-read for those who want to grasp his own world view.

Among the book's many virtues listed by Mr Bush is its brevity. But most importantly, Mr Sharansky's 286-page Case for Democracy mirrors his own views on promoting democracy around the world.

In his book, Mr Sharansky echoes many of the president's favourite themes, likening the fight against terrorism to the struggle with Nazism and communism, and describing a world "divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it".

"I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free," Sharansky writes. "I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe."

'Friends of freedom'

President Bush, with two wars already behind him, vowed shortly after being sworn in for his second term that he would confront tyranny and continue his fight to promote "freedom" across the world. The very future of America, he suggested, was riding on it.

The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world
George W Bush

Freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere
Natan Sharansky

"The survival of liberty in our land," he said, "increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

Some see the book as the inspiration for lines such as these, but the relationship may be more symbiotic. Mr Bush, some observers note, has found an author who validates his own views.

Mr Sharansky - now leader of a right-of-centre Russian immigrant bloc in Israel - has in fact been moving in American conservative circles for some time. The politician has long promoted his view that peace in the Middle East would never be possible without the democratisation of the Arabs.

In July 2002, a month before Mr Bush delivered a key speech on bringing democracy to the Middle East, a number of heavyweights - including Vice-President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - attended a conference addressed by Mr Sharansky.

Mr Bush's speech had already been written, but according to the Pentagon's Richard Perle, cited by Newsweek magazine, "Sharansky provided an important bit of last minute affirmation".

Now with the book in hand, Mr Bush has described it as summarising "how I feel", and has urged people to read it.

Catching on

His nomination for the post of secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, herself a Russian specialist, has done just that - and indeed quoted Mr Sharansky during her Senate confirmation hearings this week.

"The world," she said, "should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the 'town square test'.

"If a person can walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a free society, not a fear society. We cannot rest until every person living in a 'fear' society has finally won their freedom."

Mr Sharansky is in any case not the first author in Mr Bush's book club, nor the first to be invited to the Oval Office.

John Lewis Gaddis, the respected Cold War historian who wrote Surprise, Security and the American Experience, has also been welcomed - and apparently questioned on Otto von Bismarck.

Drawing on historical analogies in an article on the challenges ahead for President Bush, Professor Gaddis noted that, after shattering the post-1815 European settlement in order to unify Germany in 1871, the German chancellor "did not assume that the pieces would simply fall into place as he wished them to...

"He made sure that they did through the careful, patient construction of a new European order that offered benefits to all who were included within it. Bismarck's system survived for almost half a century."

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