Critical Questions: Democracy Promotion in the Next Administration
December 7, 2007
Q1: Will the next administration abandon or at least diminish the role of democracy and democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy?
A1: The next administration will almost certainly undertake a substantial rhetorical shift, but not so much a substantive shift. Democracy promotion is not a Bush administration innovation. Democracy has been a core American value and policy principle since the founding fathers. It has been an ingredient of U.S. foreign policy at least since President Wilson. It has become increasingly central since President Carter who, notwithstanding opposition from more traditional voices, established the Bureau for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the Department of State, making human rights an official dimension of our foreign policy. In 1983, President Reagan and the Congress established and funded the National Endowment for Democracy to promote democracy globally. President Clinton expanded the mandate of the Bureau for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and renamed it the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has had an active democracy promotion program since 1990, but its antecedents reach back to the 1960s. So democracy promotion has been supported by each of the last six presidents, Democratic and Republican. Moreover, in their present positions, several of the candidates from both parties have supported foreign assistance in general and democracy in particular. Democracy promotion therefore will almost certainly continue to be a central part of our foreign policy and foreign assistance programs.