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Friday, September 9, 2016

Is the United States Giving Up on Supporting Democracy Abroad?

 Is the United States Giving Up on Supporting Democracy Abroad?

Thomas Carothers
Summary:  In recent years, serious skepticism about democracy promotion has gripped Washington. The old U.S. habit of making do with authoritarian allies for the sake of stability or security is making itself felt once again.
When the goal of fostering and strengthening democracy abroad became a significant element of U.S. foreign policy in the 1980s, an informal network of enthusiastic democracy practitioners, activists, and scholars emerged within the foreign policy community. Over time, their numbers expanded to encompass diplomats, aid practitioners, members of Congress, and others. While still a minority within the larger circle of U.S. policymakers, this community has become a substantial and persistent voice urging that the promotion of democracy assume a central role in America’s global engagement and criticizing U.S. actions abroad that compromise democratic values.
In the 1990s, as democracy advanced around the world, democracy promotion got a hearing at the high table of U.S. foreign policy. Many mainstream policymakers embraced the idea of democratic enlargement as a core policy goal. In practice, of course, their lofty declarations of a U.S. commitment to democracy promotion outstripped the reality. Although Washington no longer needed to support dictators for the sake of anti-communism, various security and economic interests — from trade with China to the Arab-Israeli peace process — kept the United States in bed with quite a few autocratic strongmen. Moreover, behind their pro-democratic words, most mainstream policymakers did not share the faith of the democracy community in the ability of the United States to shape the political direction of other countries.

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