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Bush's Love For "Democracy"

Robert Kagan used to think that Bush was a guy who really wanted to promote democracy but just kept fucking it up, but now that he sees the president's nonchalance about Vladimir Putin he's not so sure. Gee, whoda thunk it? But of course it's not just Russia -- Bush doesn't care about democracy in China, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, or seemingly any place under the sun except for Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Iran a quartet of Middle Eastern nations whose power he has ideological or realpolitik objections to. I have no particular reason to doubt that in Bush's subjective understanding of himself and his policies, this is a democracy-promotion strategy (i.e., he doesn't sit in the Oval Office going "heh heh heh I will convince people I love democracy when really I hate it!") but it simply isn't one. It's a cake-and-eat-it-too kind of delusion that's morally wrong, that serves to undermine bona fide democracy-promotion efforts, and that's contributing to America's strategic problems.

Anyways, I'm going to say some not-so-nice things about John Judis' The Folly of Empire in a little while, but it's an excellent historical rundown of the history of failure this kind of approach has had in US foreign policy. As Judis says, the trouble isn't that people are lying it's that there's a process (as in Marx's theory of ideology) where people come to sincerely believe in the high-minded normative justifications for behavior that is, in fact, quite cynical and self-interested. It gives you what's really the worst of both words because you wind up genuinely surprised when the Filipinos (or Mexicans or Cubans or Vietnamese or Iraqis) don't welcome you as liberators, leaving you confused about what to do next.

September 15, 2004 | Permalink

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