Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Promoting Democracy the Wrong Way

I agree here fully with Mr. Polkuote. I don't think anyone is anti-democracy, and praising the State of the Union for that one aspect serves to do exactly what the speech writers hoped to do by making it such a focal point of the speech: deftly change the discussion from one about means to one about ends. If Bush can paint the opponents of the way in which he has "promoted democracy" as anti-democracy (the same way he skillfully painted those who want to draw down our troops' role in Iraq as "isolationists"), he can obscure the debate entirely, as it appears he has in Mr. Fellow's mind.

Promoting democracy by invading a, granted, thoroughly undemocratic country without international backing or legitimate cause (that raises it above the bar of "Saddam's an autocrat" -- sure, and what makes him so special among the dangerous autocrats of the world?) is not the way liberal internationalists would probably have had it. Severely weakening (or negating) our troops' ability to fight for democracy and freedom (and, lest we forget, the world's safety, which two powers may soon threaten far more than Saddam ever did) elsewhere in the world was an incredibly irresponsible way to do it.

I'm equally offended by high praise of Bush's support of democracy (even as he conducts parts of his job in the second-oldest modern democracy by executive fiat -- see: wiretapping). Let's not give in to Bush's "amazing" speech writers by letting them set the terms of the debate.

I would, Mr. Polkuote, warn you against falling prey to another Bush modus operendi: oversimplifying the debate. As I'm sure Mr. Fellow would remind you, Heritage Foundation conservatives were among the most vocal critics of Clinton's pro-democracy ventures into Kosovo and Somalia. Bush was playing to them when he said he was anti-nation-building during the 2000 campaign. Many of them were opponents, though often quiet ones, of Bush's misadventure into Iraq during the run-up to war in 2002 and '03. This debate can't be boiled down right versus left. There are sizable camps in both parties that have called for and are now calling for different things (though none of them would likely call for the downfall of democracy). In fact, those who have advocated the spread of democracy through American military force have often come from the left side of the political spectrum (think Wilson and Roosevelt).

Regardless, spreading democracy is an obvious good. It's the way Bush did it with which everyone has a problem.


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