The National Interest, October 2012
Edited by Andy Ross
Democracy promotion is a radical project of social and political
transformation. Its adherents see their work to transition states from a
totalitarian or authoritarian social order to a liberal and democratic one
as hastening the inevitable. They are convinced that resistance is futile.
The American project from its founding has been marked by a mystical
sense of mission, a belief in the redemptive role of the United States in
global affairs, the fulfillment of a moral duty. The George W. Bush
administration used the democracy agenda to justify its Iraq invasion and
its Global War On Terror. The perception that the United States was not the
paragon of the democratic norms it preached undermined the entire project.
American agencies still promote democracy. In 2011, the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) allocated $17 billion to "expand and
sustain the ranks of prosperous, stable and democratic states by promoting
effective, accountable, democratic governance; respect for human rights;
sustainable, broad-based economic growth; and well-being."
promotion after the cold war focused largely on transition initiatives. In
tyrannies such as Communist China or Putin's Russia, democracy transition
was viewed as regime change. This September, Russia ordered USAID to halt
all its operations and programs in the Russian Federation. The U.S. State
Department reaction was a case study in hypocrisy and delusion.
Hubris fueled the idea that we were all witnessing the birth of a world in
which practically everyone on the planet would live under the same political
and economic system. Democracy became a faith. The comparison between
democracy promoters and Christian missionaries of old lies in their
confidence that their system is the answer. The missionaries saw
Christianity as offering the truth. Democracy building is like a secular
AR The vision finds its apotheosis in