Saturday, January 29, 2005

Promoting Democracy

No Right Turn relies on a false dichotomy for his argument against Bush's democracy promotion policies.

On the one hand he posits the ideal, non-Bush, approach as represented by recent events in Ukraine. On the other is "America's present ham-fisted efforts" as represented by Iraq.

For a start, the Bush administration was actually involved in what happened in Ukraine. The soft power of US diplomacy was used in conjunction with the influence of Western Europe. Indeed, the nutcase Right and Left were complaining that this was yet another instance of US and British imperialism.

Secondly, and this seems ridiculous to have to point out, Ukraine and Iraq were different.

Prior to the recent elections in Ukraine the situation there was one of an authoritarian government confronted by an opposition movement that could organise in relative freedom and safety. In this instance the soft power of Western diplomacy was appropriate for the encouragement of groups striving for liberal democracy.

Iraq, on the other hand, was ruled by a ruthless dictatorship which allowed no opposition, maintaining power through fear and violence. There was no democratic opposition movement for the West to pin its hopes on. In this case diplomacy was not going to work. It had not worked for the 12 years after the 1st Gulf War.

Encouraging democracy presents many challenges. One is to tailor the available tools to particular situations. Ideally, what we saw occur with Ukraine should be the model for dealing with Cuba (and in this case I disagree with US policies). Iran lies somewhere on the authoritarian spectrum between the old Iraq and Ukraine so a mixture of carrot and stick will be required. Then there is the brutal regime of North Korea and no one has answer there.

The Bush administration is currently involved in a multilateral peace keeping mission in Haiti with Canadian, French and Brazilian troops, under the auspices of the UN. A small contingent of US troops was used to prepare the way for an African peace keeping force in Liberia. US diplomacy brought India and Pakistan back from the brink of nuclear war.

These facts contradict NRT's "America's present ham-fisted efforts" assertion.

There is no one right way as NRT is suggesting and, no matter what one's position on the Iraq war, Bush should be given credit for those instances where US involvement has had progressive results.


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