Democracy and Foreign Policy
Josh Marshall advances the thesis that “democratization as a moral or strategic goal simply doesn’t figure into the White House’s plans.” He does so via a recitation of evidence that, in fact, the administration has failed to overthrow 189 non-democratic states and has allied with some pretty sorry characters in order to prosecute the war on terrorists. (A position with which Marshall may have some particular quibbles but largely concedes is the correct policy in general.)
Remember, the key here is the advancement of democracy not only as a good thing, a humanitarian gesture, a form of state-imposed meta-philanthropy, but as a way of advancing American national security. But for that to mean anything one would have to point to cases where we, or in this case, the administration made short-term geopolitical sacrifices to advance our longterm interest in democratization.
The problem with this argument is that, as far as I can recall, the Administration has never claimed that advancing democracy per se was the overarching goal of its foreign policy. Further, the fact that they haven’t intentionally undermined their short term war aims in order to do so doesn’t address the thesis which, if I remember correctly, was “democratization as a moral or strategic goal simply doesn’t figure into the White House’s plans.”
To the extent that there is a universal law of international relations, it is that democratic states don’t go to war against one another. Further, Western-style democracy–with freedom of worship and expression as cornerstones–is antithetical to Wahhabist Islamism, which requires absolute conformity to fundamentalist sharia. Virtually all foreign policy experts agree that democratization (again, as opposed to merely “one man, one vote, one time”) in the Middle East would be a very good thing. The debate is over how one should get there, whether getting there is possible at all, and so forth.
Bush and the neoconservatives clearly have a vision of the world that involves the spread of Western values. I share the goal but am much more skeptical of its achievability. Certainly, however, it’s difficult to argue that it’s not a “moral or strategic goal” of the administration. The mere fact that other goals–say, the prevention of a catastrophic attack on American cities–take precedence doesn’t make it untrue.