Friday, November 28, 2003

Is this a Liberal or Conservative view?

Owen Harries in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Americans of all political persuasions believe profoundly that it is their right and duty - indeed their destiny - to promote freedom and democracy in the world.

"It is a noble and powerful impulse. But acting on it ... is a complicated and delicate business, and the dangers are many. Success requires that this impulse be balanced against, and where necessary, circumscribed by, other interests that the United States must necessarily pursue, more mundane ones like security, order and prosperity. For these represent not merely legitimate competing claims but the preconditions for a lasting extension of democracy.

"Success requires, too, an awareness of the intractability of a world that does not exist merely in order to satisfy American expectations. While determination and purposefulness are important ingredients in any effective policy, the attempt to force history in the direction of democracy by an exercise of will is likely to produce more unintended than intended consequences.

"The successful promotion of democracy calls for restraint and patience, a sense of limits and an appreciation of the wisdom of indirection, a profound understanding of the particularity of circumstances.

"As Thomas Carlyle once put it, 'I don't pretend to understand the universe - it's a great deal bigger than I am ... People ought to be modester.' "

Past failures are where the real lessons lie for democracy's new enforcers

Doesn't this sound like a Conservative argument? That for pragmatic reasons of "security, order and prosperity" the promotion of democracy may have to be "circumscribed". This is what Kissenger used to say, exactly the argument various US administrations used to justify supporting dictators.

But here it is being put forward as a liberal criticism of Bush!


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