Monday, August 20, 2007

Bush's "Push for Global Democracy"

1. According to the Post, it's failing.

2. In reality, it never quite existed. Look:

When Jimmy Carter tried to put human rights and democracy at the core of our foreign policy, he was derided by conservatives. When Reagan and Bush '43 pretended to do so, they were praised by conservatives.

How can we tell that Carter was serious but Bush and Reagan weren't? Because Carter was willing to do things that weren't primarily aimed at improving things for America. He took improving human rights as an end in itself, and thought it worth pursuing even when it wasn't in our interest. When Clinton went into Yugoslavia for purely humanitarian reasons, he was vilified by the GOP.

Democracy was clearly a secondary consideration for Bush. He wanted to go into Iraq (we still don't know exactly why), and the excuses came and went. First it was links to al Qaeda...when that was shown to be false, it was WMDs...when that was shown to be false, it was spreading democracy.

Reagan, I believe, actually cared about spreading democracy, but only when it was in our strategic interest. Now, this may have been because he put our strategic interest first--which seems immoral, but may not have been. In fact, he might have reasoned like this: the U.S. is the only thing stopping the Soviet Union; ergo we have to make sure that the U.S. survives; ergo we may have to do some morally sub-optimal things in order to insure that survival, in order to make the world a better place in the long run.

So it's possible that Reagan had truly moral goals in mind in the long-run...but I'm not convinced.

For Bush, on the other hand, the goal of democracy is an afterthought. There are lots of places around the globe that we could have pushed for democracy with far greater success--IF advancing democracy had been the real goal, then we'd have gone after the low-hanging fruit.

Furthermore, the goal of spreading democracy should be secondary to the more general goal of advancing human rights.


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