WASHINGTON – President Bush (search), seeking to put muscle behind a promise to support young democracies, said Wednesday the administration is creating a special corps of federal workers that will deploy quickly to help foreign governments in crisis.
Citing the lengthy and difficult task of setting up the U.S.-run occupation government in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's ouster, Bush is proposing $100 million next year for a new conflict response fund and $24 million for a new Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization (search) in the State Department. That office will coordinate U.S. government efforts to support emerging democracies, with the new Active Response Corps (search) of foreign and civil service officers as a crucial tool, Bush said.
"This new corps will be on call — ready to get programs running on the ground in days and weeks instead of months and years," Bush said at a dinner hosted by the International Republican Institute (search), a federally funded group that promotes democracy worldwide. "If a crisis emerges and assistance is needed, the United States of America will be ready."
Bush cited a series of what he referred to as revolutions during the past 18 months in ex-Soviet republics and across the Middle East: in Georgia, Ukraine, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon.
"We are seeing the rise of a new generation whose hearts burn for freedom — and they will have it," Bush said.
He aimed to encourage nations in uncertain times that sometimes follow new, democratic elections.
What must follow, Bush said, is the building of strong institutions, such as a vibrant press, independent judiciary, peaceful opposition and free economy, to support the new freedoms. America progressed to a mature democracy only after fits and starts over many decades, Bush said.
"When people risk everything to vote, it can raise expectations that their lives will improve immediately, but history teaches us that the path to a free society is long and not always smooth," the president said.
He promised U.S. assistance on a number of fronts.
The administration has spent $4.6 billion over more than four years supporting democratic change and will increasingly focus future funding on programs to help new democracies after elections are over. Bush also promised that military forces will be rebalanced with an eye toward making them more effective in helping societies move from war and despotism to freedom and democracy, in part by adding military police and civil affairs specialists.
"Those who claim their liberty will have an unwavering ally in the United States," said Bush, who along with Pope John Paul II, received the group's 2005 Freedom awards. "This administration will stand with the democratic reformers — no matter how hard it gets."