From U.S. to you

By Cherry Agarwal


The American campaign to spread democracy around the world has backfired with rebel groups springing up in resistance

The American campaign to spread democracy around the world was aimed at encouraging regional governmental actors to pursue political reforms culminating in the establishment of democratic governments in those regions. This was the ideal philosophy the United States (U.S.) had aimed to follow to preserve the “Free World” post World War II. Yet the gap between this policy rhetoric and the reality has resulted in the U.S. failure in promoting democracy across the world.

This gap between policy decisions and reality stems from U.S.’ self interest in gaining economic, political or security leverage in the countries it has been trying to “democratize.” This was exemplified in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. did not invade Iraq to stabilise the region but to build its dominance, wrote Paul Krugman of The New York Times. And this self-serving US propaganda has in turn undermined U.S. interest in democracy and failed in its attempt to promote modern democracy in the truest sense of its spirit.

Another reason for failure of the U.S. initiatives has been its approach. Rather than strengthening regional leaders of various countries on the ground for self-governance, U.S. has attempted to dislodge and replace regimes like Bashar Al Assad’s in Syria, which has only fuelled conflict in the region. Its attempt to “export” ready-made democracy, using military intervention, without participation of the general populace has backfired as there has been no preparation to help the countries through such massive political transformation.

This was well summarised by Foreign Policy’s Stephen Malt who said, “There is no quick, cheap or military-based way to bring peace.” And such initiatives have only cost the U.S. more. It has further resulted in grassroots rebellion such as the formation of the Islamic State.

The U.S.’ misinterpretation of people’s desire for self determination as their want for democratic governance has also added to the superpower’s failure as a campaigner of democracy. “No people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live,” said Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America. Thus, false universal acceptability of US-promoted democratic governance at the end of the Cold War, in part, as much as U.S.’ blanket self-serving campaign to prop up democratic governances through undemocratic means has failed the United States in recent years.

Instead of using military presence to establish regimes and conducting artificial, unsustainable elections, the U.S. should focus on preparing the nations for transitions through aid: diplomatic and financial. Diplomatic aid can help nations develop their own Constitutions, create a robust legal system and build a capacity among its people to sustain and carry forward governance measures for lasting stability. And this could be through any means chosen by the general masses i.e. by exercising people’s right to self-determine. Re-addressing U.S.’ approach will not only bridge the gap between its policies and reality but also establish it as a diplomatic super power.

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