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Thursday, October 04, 2007

U.S. Foreign Policy: Not Really About Democracy

This analysis of the situation in Burma (by one of my favorite political writers, Eric Black) notes that both humanitarian and democratic causes would be well-served by U.S. intervention. Additionally, many politicians and Americans believe that (and say that) American overseas intervention is on the principle of spreading democracy abroad:
The history of U.S. wars and covert interventions, and their relationship to democratization, plus the long-standing close alliances between Washington and some of the world's most repressive regimes do not lend much credibility to this nostrum.

...Pres. Bush spoke of the universal longing for democracy, of the benefits to the U.S. of the spread of democracy in areas of terrorist operations, and of the (historically fairly silly) claim that democracies don't start wars. (In the post-World War II era, the United States has started far more wars than any other nation.)
As much as the author is critical of current U.S. foreign policy priorities, he's not necessarily in favor of a military intervention in Burma.
The history of such U.S. invasions, proxy wars (and covert overthrows, don't forget those) includes too many instances of the United States overthrowing (or helping overthrow) democratic governments (in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Congo in 1960, and Chile in 1973, to name four of the best documented cases), then establishing long, close friendships with the dictators that replaced them.
Many of these cases came about during the Cold War, when U.S. intervention was defended on the basis of anti-communism. The parallels to Iraq (under the guise of anti-terrorism) are a little frightening.

Not to mention, the political grandstanding about "democracy" (after the uncovering of lies about WMD) have eroded people's belief in the U.S. as a benevolent democracy-spreader.

When the Pew Global Attitudes Project conducted 45,239 interviews in 47 nations this year, they asked respondents to choose between these statements:

  • The United States promotes democracy wherever it can or
  • The United States promotes democracy mostly where it serves its interests.
In 46 of the 47 nations the second answer was the majority or plurality winner...In 38 of the nations, fewer than 30 percent believes the U.S. favors democracy for all. In Britain, only nine percent, in Germany, four; in France, three.

Not even Americans drink the Kool-Aid.

Thirty percent of U.S. respondents agreed with the statement that the U.S. promotes democracy for everyone and for democracy's own sake; 63 percent said no, only when it serves the U.S. interests.


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