1.19.2006

Bush, Americans and Spreading Democracy

There was an article on the LA Times about President Bush's "Forward Strategy of Freedom" or the new American strategy of promoting democracy worldwide.

I will post it in addition to my comments:


Skepticism at Home Threatens Bush's Vision

· Americans like the idea of spreading democracy; they just don't believe it will work, polls show.

By Tyler Marshall, Times Staff Writer
Nearly a year after President Bush declared that America had to push the boundaries of democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere to assure the survival of its own freedom, his initiative has met with stiff resistance abroad.
Dictators can not embrace freedom or democracy, they can just fight them and their supporters.


But the real Achilles' heel of Bush's grand vision may lie in a lack of support at home.

A task that Bush has called "the concentrated work of generations" requires enough backing both in Congress and in the general population to carry the idea beyond Bush's own presidency, U.S. foreign policy specialists argue.

To succeed, Bush needs the kind of solid, unchallenged backing the nation gave over four decades to the strategy of containing the Soviet Union and its allies, said Steven A. Cook, a leading expert on democracy in the Middle East who directed a recent study for the New York city-based Council on Foreign Relations.

"There needs to be the same agreement on political change in the Middle East," Cook said. By most accounts, Bush has a long way to go.


Particularly, what President Bush and the supporters of this strategy need is that the Advance Democracy Act (The House bill HR 1133 and the Senate bill S 516) be passed by the Senate.

As I know, the American people support or do not object this bill.


Bush said last January in his second inaugural address that U.S. policy was "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture."

Opinion polls indicate Americans are not averse to Bush's idea. They just don't think it can work. Only one-third of Americans believe expanding democracy in the Middle East is a good idea that can succeed, according to a survey published in November by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington. The rest either consider it a bad idea or think it stands no chance of success.

"There's almost no evidence the public, even Bush's strongest supporters, have embraced or are enthusiastic about spreading democracy," said Andrew Kohut, Pew center executive director.

Kohut described public support among Americans for the idea as about the same today as it was a decade ago. It's not hard to understand why.

Those are understandable indicators. The American people, although they like the idea of spreading democracy, know a little about the Middle East, authoritarianism and the serious effects of the current situation in the Middle East on the American security and national interests. Considering that the American people did not experience ever the authoritarianism and tyranny.

Furthermore, the myth of isolationism constitutes a conventional belief to the public. That causes a public indifference to the international affairs due to the thought that America can solely maintain its prosperity and security with no concern for the world realities. This conception was fallen in 9/11 but it will need some time to the public to comprehend the new facts and their implications.

In this sense, President Bush's vision is advanced and progressive initiative, responds transparently and outright to 9/11 in a strategic pursuit to handle the U.S. security and the related structural instabilities in the Middle East and the world order's deficit in a sustainable way and to decades to come. Who think that solely tactical response can handle successfully the security issue is definitely shortsighted and do not realize the nature and scope of this issue.

President Bush has adopted this advanced strategy because he is a brave and devoted man and has insightful and enlightened position through depending on distinguished scholars like Professor Rice the Secretary of State who taught the political science and has the scholarship in the totalitarian Soviet Union.

Remember clearly that this opinion came from the Middle East.


In a world awash in anti-American sentiment, the administration's push to promote democracy abroad has brought new electoral influence to Islamist parties in the Middle East and to other groups elsewhere holding anti-U.S. views.

Did the world ever love its prime power or only-super power? I do not think so. However, the international relations of love are something would not interest me at all. The international power, I believe, has international responsibilities must undertake and international challenges must face and cope with, to get the world fallen in love with it, is not of them.

On the electoral influence, do we have in the Middle East free and fair elections? Did any of these elections take place without a pressure by the Bush administration? Do the peoples of the Middle East including Islamists need the anti-Americanism or their freedom?


Just as problematic for Bush are the hurdles at home. He has been so focused on halting the erosion of public support for the Iraq war that once-frequent promotion of democratic advances, including references to countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon and Egypt, have been omitted from his recent speeches.

And with Washington sharply divided on partisan lines, promotion of democracy remains closely associated with Bush personally in the public mind.

"When he goes, it will go," predicted a senior administration official who declined to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We haven't sold the policy as well as we should have."

Bush's initiative faces other hurdles, such as possible failure in Iraq and a growing public resistance to extending the United States' global commitments beyond Iraq.


It is also our responsibility, we the Middle East reformers, to communicate with the Americans to illuminate the importance of this policy and its prospects and achievements here in the Middle East.

I think that many think tanks, scholars and politicians from the two parties believe in the democratic peace and will embrace this policy. Furthermore, Bush's legacy, which is exceptional in the post-cold war period, would be a watershed in the U.S. and Middle East and a cornerstone to the post-9/11 policies and international order because of its realistic identification of the international problems and challenges and their solutions. Besides, does anybody believe that freedom march could be stopped?

The foundation of change in the Middle East has become a reality, and the geopolitics of the Middle East is progressively evolving. And the old regional system could not be backed up, the Arab dictators' system was breached and seriously damaged, so the freedom march proceeds there.


Despite all this, some moderate Republicans and Democrats in Congress are eager to embrace the core of Bush's view that greater political freedom enhances stability and thus reduces the potential dangers to the nation.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, last year introduced a bill that would make promoting democracy a fundamental component of U.S. foreign policy. The bill was passed by the House in August and is awaiting action by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where its chances are viewed as good."

On a bipartisan basis, there are enough of us in Congress to keep this idea going," Lantos said in an interview.

Lantos added, however, that expectations must be reduced.

"The use of the term 'democracy' must undergo a dramatic transformation in dealing with countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or many other countries in the world," he said. "No one who is rational would expect to see Jeffersonian democracy in the short run.

"When you define the goal in more realistic terms — less brutality, fewer killings, fewer gulags, a society that's somewhat more open and tolerant — that's not just a plausible long-term policy, but the only long-term policy for the United States."


It would be great to America and the world if the majority of democrats have the Rep. Lantos' experience and insight.


Still, Bush's ability to build a lasting consensus for his democracy initiative remains unclear. In the recent congressional fight over renewing the Patriot Act and a debate over electronic surveillance, Bush's political instincts have been more to push back than reach out.

"He needs to reach out more to Democrats to actively solicit and foster the kind of bipartisanship that we had in the Cold War," said Larry Diamond, an expert on democracy development at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who served as a senior advisor in the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. "If he tries to involve Democrats, gives them a sense of ownership with what we are doing on these kinds of policies, I think he'll have success."


When we are talking about the U.S. national security and its role, interests and responsibilities in the world, I suppose that normally concerns the both parties. And the "sense of ownership" could not be granted in democracies. The issue is, given that many democrats have pathological hatred for Bush, whom should be blamed for that?



Diamond and other specialists also believe Bush must do more to involve allies. Americans tend to be more supportive of U.S. involvement overseas when traditional partners are involved.

The European Union runs a parallel democracy promotion program for the Middle East, and many Europeans resent pressure to join the U.S.-sponsored counterpart.

"We're doing the same thing, working in the same areas, so don't ask us to use our checkbook twice," said a Washington-based European diplomat who declined to be identified by name or nationality because of the subject's sensitivity.

They are doing what? After ten years of the Barcelona Process, can this European diplomat tell us about their achievements concerning the Middle East political reform? Did they include a region in which the violence became a culture; more intense dictatorships; imprisoned and endangered liberals and reformers and destroyed civil society? Very far from a ten months of Bush, because the Europeans, we believe in the Middle East, are not sincere in this pursuit and do not have the required relevant means. Otherwise, they would join the American efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East, especially that the American administration is trying to create international institutions like the Forum for the Future, and to internationalize these efforts through introducing related initiatives at the UN, NATO and G8.


Tamara Wittes, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, faults Bush for trying to sell democracy more as a tool for moderating extremist behavior than for stabilizing nations.

The democratic system, by its very nature, is a stabilizing structure, embracing freedom, providing advanced political means for compromise and ruling in the state, and acknowledges and applies the peaceful means and isolates and punishes the extremists and political violence.

It is very useful for many to read a publication of the Department of State on the basics of democracy in addition to a careful read of President Bush's speeches. And to pay attention to the simple fact that the American people, at first, concerned for their security before stabilizing nations. The connection between these two is a responsibility of the real scholars and researchers to explain aside from propaganda and propagandists.


"By emphasizing the argument that this changes the way people think, that people won't want to blow up Americans, you could envision support for the democracy agenda collapsing in another terrorist attack," she said. "When you're talking about making a generational effort vulnerable to one attack, I don't think it can work."
Nonsense and irresponsible mixing between the security tactics and the generational strategy; has the Middle East become free and democratic?
Do the Germans and Japanese want to blow up Americans?

The terrorist activity and the associated totalitarian and authoritarian governments in the world are reasons for which we should support the democratic agenda all the way.

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