Democracy Building

George Packer has a beautifully pitched leader in this week’s New Yorker. It begins:

President Bush has put the idea of spreading democracy around the world at the rhetorical heart of American foreign policy. No one should doubt that he and his surviving senior advisers believe in what they call the “forward strategy of freedom,” even if they’ve had to talk themselves into it. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush himself are latecomers to the idea; in earlier incarnations, they sounded a lot more like Henry Kissinger than like Woodrow Wilson. By now, though, it’s clear that, however clumsy and selective the execution, Bush wants democratization to be his legacy. So when his critics, here and abroad, claim that his rhetoric merely provides cynical cover for an American power grab, they misjudge his sincerity and tend to sound like defenders of the status quo. And when the Administration tries to wring every last sweet drop of partisan gain from its foreign policy (sincerity is not the same thing as honesty), critics are driven to conclude that “democracy” is just another word for “neoconservatism.”

This is not a good position for the opposition to be in, either morally or politically. The best role for critics in the President’s second term will be not to scoff at the idea of spreading freedom but to take it seriously—to hold him to his own talk. The hard question isn’t whether America should try to enlarge the democratic order but how. It’s a question that the Administration seems to have thought about very little, yet it makes a big difference.

To read the rest, click here.

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One Response to Democracy Building

  1. Dr Bruce Moon says:

    Sometimes, the point of a comment isn’t what is gleaned from the first reading. This article represents such an example.

    The article alludes to democracy building, and uses the example of the Ukraine as an example. But on a second reading, it points to the tragedy that is US ‘democracy’.

    As most readily recognise, the US has an open electoral system, but that system is a stage managed event for the wealthy minority. More than 60% of US citizens don’t vote. The oft cited reasons they don’t vote is that they don’t have any perceived connection with the process of governance.

    Given this, some 30-40% of citizens have decided that US ‘democracy’ is the embedding of unadulterated capitalism. And, the recent inculcation of the philosophical/ideological position of Market Liberalism (in the US it’s called Neo-Conservatism) has not only reinforced the progressive demise of Liberty, Equity & Egalitarianism in the legislative arena, it has also paved the way for CONSUMPTION as the national icon.

    For the US, and unfortunately also increasingly for its little starlet states, a Social Democratic style of ‘democracy’ is anathema (we can’t allow the dirty unwashed to partake in the decision-making of governance, can we?).

    I suggest George Packer mixed his metaphors. He conflated the rhetoric of ‘democracy’ as used by US administrators, with the actuality of ‘democracy’ as inculcated under Social Democracy – a European concept.

    Importantly, this mix-up points to a growing dilemma; will the US and the EU grow apart sufficiently for there to eventually be aggression between them?

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