TWQ: Democracy: the Case for Opportunistic Idealism - Winter 2009
January 1, 2009
George W. Bush’s second inaugural address on January 20, 2005 was clearly written with the history books in mind. In ringing terms, the president proclaimed, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” The pro-democracy rhetoric of the Bush era, however, already looks hubristic, and even somewhat hypocritical, as a new president prepares to take office in the United States. The sweeping universalism of the language employed by Bush was always vulnerable to qualification, when principle encountered local realities. Certainly in some of the United States’ closest democratic allies, such as India, Israel, and the United Kingdom, there is an increasingly open skepticism about the idea of placing democracy promotion at the heart of foreign policy.
The inconsistencies in the foreign policy of the Bush administration have ensured that this skepticism has now entered the domestic debate in the United States as well, making the very idea of democracy promotion overseas controversial. So should a new administration ditch the entire policy? Or are there other, better, ways of pursuing the same goal?