Sunday, October 24, 2004

Love Jonathan Chait, Hate the LA Times

I love Jonathan Chait. Of all the authors I've read (including my beloved Daniel Drezner, who, despite his brilliance, is a little too libertarian for my tastes), he's the one I've found myself agreeing with most often. The man writes beautifully, and his article "The 9/10 President" (subscription only) should be required reading for anyone voting in this election. I hate the LA Times because all of their articles require registration, and it annoys me. I finally gave in and registered, because I wanted to read this article on US democratization policies, helpfully linked to by Matthew Yglesias. And just to be even more aggrevating, the best part of the article was the paragraph Matthew summerized, so I didn't even really NEED to register at all. Grrr.

Well, here's the money quote.
Bush and his supporters act as if anti-Americanism is simply the necessary and worthwhile price we pay for our principled advocacy of freedom everywhere. The truth is that anti-Americanism has prevented us from consistently advocating democracy throughout the world. And the inconstancy of our belief in democracy — which the citizens of pro-American dictatorships everywhere have noticed and exploited — makes anti-Americanism all the worse. There may be a way out of this dilemma, but preaching the universality of democracy and practicing otherwise is surely not it.

The problem with this is that even when the US does make bona fide efforts to promote democracy, we are viewed with mistrust because of our miserable track record on the subject. Do we really care if Iraq becomes a Democracy, or do we just want whatever government will give us oil access? I'm not such a partisan as to think that Bush doesn't care whether or not Iraq is a democracy or not. But his actions around the world have delegitimized the US' credibilty when we say we "support democracy." Do we support it in Russia? How about Uzbekistan? China? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? And when we stumble upon a democracy that we dislike, do we support it or undermine it? Why don't you ask a Venezualan and see how they answer that question.

I've argued on numerous occassions that democratization represents our best, perhaps only hope to winning the war in Iraq and, more broadly, the war on terror. The fact is that currently, western political values don't present a viable political alternative muslim extremism (or illiberal nationalism in general) because the rest of the world only sees the side of the US that is willing to bargain with dictators, shortchange the interests of the global periphery, and sanction the oppression of millions of people around the world. Can they blamed when they naturally assume the worst about the US even when we really do have the best of intentions? It's a vicious cycle that we need to break out of.

No comments: