It turns out that many, including myself, continue to underestimate the strength of Bush’s commitment to an outright imperial policy unequaled in its scope and unprecedented in its worldwide impact.

Globalization compels all to have global politics. Bush has declared his in pretty clear-cut terms: The whole world needs the Republican Party’s idea of freedom. Those who think otherwise: watch out! We’re in your face. We will kill you or starve you if you don’t “straighten up.” Allies: be careful you’re not “divisive” — that aids the Enemy.

If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now, that political movements without a clear global vision will no longer be competitive on the national level.

One vision is strengthening international governance and institutions capable of reducing the out-of-control and growing world inequality — arguably the most direct cause of “terrorism.” Another is seizing control of as much territory and wealth as possible before one is compelled, ultimately, if the history of such messianic campaigns is a guide, by catastrophe and cataclysm to adopt the former approach.

The latter is the clear global vision of the Bush administration as it enters its second term: if there’s going to be a global economic and political structure, then it’s going to be “ours”!

Bush articulated his position effectively, even eloquently. It was the kind of “idealism” and rhetoric that George Washington once said should make one unfit for high office. I literally gasped at his words, at the staggering un-reality, and thus immense danger, of the Bush global vision. Iraq, to hear his speech, is just a beginning, is a “success” upon which the spread of “liberty” will be mounted worldwide. He and his administration appear to have a sincere, but radically different, notion of the meaning of “Iraq success” from that of the majority of the rest of the world, and, in the latest polls, of the U.S. public as well.

It’s troubling for there to be such a disconnect over the real situation on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. It means that withdrawal, for Bush, short of outright military defeat, becomes even more unlikely, since, in his view, the fate of Republican Party “liberty” now depends not only on “Iraq success” but its extension throughout the Middle East, and to the entire world.

Much more effective articulations of the first vision — of strengthened international institutions and real reduction in global inequality — are badly needed. Kerry made an effort. It was not good enough.

I heard the pundits debating whether Bush “really meant” it, or was merely indulging in “sermon rhetoric.” Bush may not think there is a difference.

John Case (jcase@steuber.com) is a computer programmer in West Virginia.