By David Rieff
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."

Democracy 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 religion.


AR The vision finds its apotheosis in Globorg.