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Friday Jul 28, 2006

Dragging Democracy Through The Mud

Back in February, LiberalOasis offered that: "Perhaps the worst part of the Bush legacy will be the stain he has put upon the good name of democracy."

That stain is getting harder and harder to come out.

Syria Comment delivered the damning analysis earlier this week:

Democracy, the American export, has been further discredited in the eyes of Middle Easterners.

The US promised Lebanon's new anti-Syrian democratic coalition that it would be protected and backed by Washington in its struggle with Damascus. This turns out to have been a false promise.

Democracy led to weakness and division in the Lebanese government.

Washington and Israel lost patience with the Lebanese government after little more than a year and chose to punish it for not showing the characteristics of a powerful dictatorship that can destroy opposition groups.

Washington has turned against its own democratic experiment. The lesson is that Washington cannot be trusted [and] is not sincere about democracy...

We could have strengthened democracy in Lebanon by giving the new Prime Minister a tangible success, such as orchestrating an Israeli withdrawal of Shebaa Farms months ago.

We could have strengthened democracy in Palestine by giving the elected Hamas officials incentives to follow through on their hints of recognizing Israel.

Instead in both cases, we allowed militants to seize the upper hand and make elected leaders look weak.

This was not done out of ignorance or incompetence, but out of insincerity.

If democracy did mean something to the Bushies, they would have ensured that peoples who expiremented with free elections got something out of their civic engagement besides a slap in the face.

But talking up democracy while undermining it may not only damage democracy's reputation abroad.

It appears to be ruining it at home as well.

The NY Times poll released yesterday, finding a "strong isolationist streak" among Americans, based on the finding that 59% believe the U.S. should not "take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts."

Such cynical and pessimistic sentiment is more than understandable, after witnessing the results of Dubya's disastrous neocon foreign policy.

But if that pessimism deepens, it will be harder to revamp our foreign policy into a productive one that promotes credible democracy, as opposed to the Bush brand of phony democracy.

As is put forth in [SELF-PROMOTION ALERT] the soon-to-be published "Wait! Don't Move To Canada!", we should not be chasing a public opinion spike in isolationism by crudely offering an opposite of Bush rhetoric.

We should not argue that Bush's failing was a policy of promoting democracy, but a policy of promoting Democracy Hypocrisy.

Which has further fueled global resentment, instability and violence.

And we should argue that a liberal foreign policy that promotes "credible democracy" -- which cannot be imposed at the point of a gun -- will restore our moral authority and increase our influence without suppressing other nations, harming the global economy or stoking terrorism.

The more the GOP drags democracy through the mud, the more courage it's going to take for us to champion it.

Because there will likely be no short-term political gain to be had by making democracy promotion a main pillar of our foreign polcy.

But you don't articulate a foreign policy vision to win the election immediately in front of you.

You do it to build trust and establish credibility on national security over the long run.

Posted by Bill Scher on Jul 28, 2006 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Foreign Policy
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