Spreading Democracy

While adjusting to the ever-present threat of terrorism, the
United States is slowly waking to the idea that some things are
simply beyond its control. Democracy has kept things running fairly
smoothly at home, but outside the white picket fence that surrounds
its borders, America faces a league of nations that is increasingly
unwilling to accept its hegemonic worldview.

America’s assumption that countries can and should be remade in
its image is one that ignores the complexities and pitfalls
inherent in such a radical shift. A state cannot practice effective
democracy without consensus, for example, as citizens in countries
such as Sri Lanka, Czechoslovakia, and Northern Ireland can attest.
In fact, often times a people’s mandate in countries riddled with
social and economic strife can lead to systematic dysfunction,
corruption, even fascism.

It’s also difficult to separate the interests of a ‘liberating’
state from its supposedly altruistic motives. Many Americans wax
poetic about Iraqi freedom and the spread of democracy, but many
other despotic regimes thrive because they lack strategic or
economic interest. The limitations of America’s democracy are not
lost on those on the receiving end of its foreign policy
initiatives either; the decision to invade Iraq was made not by the
American electorate, after all, but by a small cabal of the wealthy
and powerful. And, speaking of Iraq, it’s difficult to champion
democracy as a harbinger of peace when you’re dropping bombs on
those you profess to be liberating.
Brendan Themes

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