Thursday, March 09, 2006

Democracy backlash

I have always liked the writing of Thomas Carothers, who has done a lot on US and international efforts to promote democracy.

He has a thoughtful article in the March/April 2006 Foreign Affairs called The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion. It raises some concerns I share about the language the US now uses in "democracy promotion." It also mentions consistency, a theme that usually gets overlooked in the pressing political debates. I think it matters.

President Bush can, however, win back some credibility by showing that he is serious about democracy promotion as a matter of principle, not just as an expedient way to justify military action or the use of other tactics of regime change against unfriendly governments. Pursuing democracy as a matter of principle does not mean focusing only on lofty ideals and ignoring hard interests. But it does mean acting with at least a modicum of consistency. In his second inaugural address, Bush seemed to acknowledge this point when he promised to abandon Washington's unfortunate history of supporting autocratic regimes that served U.S. economic and security interests. Arguing that repressive societies breed extremism that can evolve into anti-Western terrorism, he pledged to stand up for freedom everywhere.

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