Wednesday, July 07, 2004


To Support Democracy, or Not to Support Democracy

I anticipate that Chris Young will be posting something relating to this interesting post from Josh Marshall relating to the bona fides of the Bush Administration (why is it that the US has "administrations", whereas everywhere else has "governments"? In the the US the latter seems to signify the permanent "state" as opposed to transient party "administrations". Anyway...) re democratization, and the Kerry campaign's response.

One of Noam Chomsky's great themes is that mainstream US foreign policy discourse takes place, from one extreme to the other, between those who laud the idealism and benevolence of US foreign policy and those who lament that this idealism and benevolence is excessive and/or naive.

Now, I happen to think that most of what Chomsky says is mostly true. (When I tell you that I've been broadly supportive of the last three US-led wars - Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo - you can probably tell that that doesn't say as much as it might first seem).And much of what has been happening in the world of late wouldn't exactly disabuse one of Chomskyite views. Look for example at this post of Chris' (and the comment on it) on how Kerry has appeared to respond to Bush's pseudo-Wilsonian idealism* by joining the Henry Kissenger school of realism that dismisses as naive any attempt to prioritise democracy-promotion over other "national interests".

Of course the proper response to Bush's ostensibly pro-democracy policy would be to expose (a la Marshall) the grubby reality, and offer a truly pro-democracy alternative. This is the only ethical choice (especially since the Kissenger approach in practice often entails not only a cynical indifference to, and complicity in, large-scale human rights abuses but also active opposition to democractic advances where they could threaten said "national interests") but also arguably the only sensible long-term security policy, since as Chris puts it: "The fact is that the Chomsky-Wolfowitz theory of Root Causes** is true: It really does seem to be the case that support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East is not, in the long run, good for anyone."

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has more.

*Chomsky would say that Wilson himself was only pseudo-Wilsonian.
**Now that happens to be really funny. In fact Chris is the funniest of the bloggers I regularly read (and I can rely on him to link to the best of Fafblog which is hilarious, albeit not one of my regulars). See: some people don't mind recognising really funny when they see really funny.

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