The Realities of Exporting Democracy: A Year After Bush Recast Foreign Policy, Progress Remains Mixed (Peter Baker, January 25, 2006, Washington Post)
In the year since Bush redefined U.S. foreign policy in his second inaugural address to make the spread of democracy the nation’s primary mission, the clarion-call language has resonated in the dungeons and desolate corners of the world. But soaring rhetoric has often clashed with geopolitical reality and competing U.S. priorities.
While the administration has enjoyed notable success in promoting liberty in some places, it has applied the speech’s principles inconsistently in others, according to analysts, activists, diplomats and officials. Beyond its focus on Iraq, Washington has stepped up pressure on repressive regimes in countries such as Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe — where the costs of a confrontation are minimal — while still gingerly dealing with China, Pakistan, Russia and other countries with strategic and trade significance.
In the Middle East, where the administration has centered its attention, it has promoted elections in the Palestinian territories such as today’s balloting for parliament, even as it directed money aimed at clandestinely preventing the radical Islamic group Hamas from winning. And although it has now suspended trade negotiations with Egypt, it did not publicly announce the move, nor has it cut the traditionally generous U.S. aid to Cairo.
“The glass is a quarter full, but we need more of it,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, a group that promotes democracy. “The administration deserves credit, but it’s just a start.”
In its annual survey ranking nations as free, partly free or not free, the group upgraded nine nations or territories in 2005 and downgraded four. Among those deemed freer were Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, where peaceful revolutions overthrew entrenched governments; Lebanon, where Syrian occupation troops were pressured to withdraw; and Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, where trailblazing elections were held. Overall, Freedom House concluded, “the past year was one of the most successful for freedom” since the survey began in 1972.
It took over two hundred years for us to liberalize Europe whereas it’s looking like it’ll take less than a decade to liberalize the Middle East. It’d be nice to get it done quicker, but you’d have to say the pace thus far is remarkable.