SOMEHOW, WE DON'T think George W. Bush is going to lose many votes because he couldn't name the president of Chechnya. On Thursday, a television reporter surprised the Texas governor with an unannounced test on world leaders. Not only did Aslan Maskhadov's name not roll off Mr. Bush's tongue, but the candidate couldn't name the leaders of India or Pakistan, either. On the fourth question -- who is Taiwan's president? -- Mr. Bush managed a family name, so a generous teacher might give him a mark of 25 percent.
Such a low score may reflect a worrying lack of interest in foreign affairs, but, as we say, most voters are likely to be more sympathetic than censorious. A lot more of us have nightmares about pop quizzes than look forward to them, after all. And as Mr. Bush himself has suggested, he can hire people to tell him the name of India's prime minister. "For the American people," Mr. Bush's spokeswoman said, "the relevant question isn't how many names of foreign leaders a candidate knows, but whether he has a strategic vision for America's role in the world."
Which is exactly where Mr. Bush's performance in the pop quiz left us a tad worried. The one thing he did appear to know was that Pakistan's new leader (whose name, by the way, is Gen. Pervez Musharraf) recently seized power in a coup. "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected -- not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country, and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
It's our view that any "strategic vision" for American leadership should give prominent place to the promotion of democracy and human rights. This is so for both selfless and selfish reasons. Most human beings want to have some say over their own futures, and the United States, both as democratic example and powerful leader, is often well-placed to assist and encourage them. Moreover, democracies over time are more likely to be sympathetic to U.S. interests, more reliable as trading and investment partners -- and more stable.
Mr. Bush isn't alone in apparently welcoming the military coup in Pakistan, it's true. Many Pakistanis had become disillusioned as their previous government, democratic in form, became increasingly corrupt and autocratic in substance. Yet history doesn't provide many examples in which strongman rulers bring prosperity and stability over time to their countries. We'd like to hear more from Mr. Bush -- and this time it could be on a take-home exam -- about where democracy fits in his strategic vision of the world.