Democratic advantage in multipolar world
Suggestions that the incoming U.S. administration might abandon a Freedom Agenda that “overpromised and underperformed” may be unnecessarily alarmist. But the Washington Post cautions that while welcoming more humility, caution and realism in foreign policy, “abandoning the promotion and support of democracy as core American goals would be a terrible mistake.”
Mr. Bush was right to see freedom as integral to all other foreign policy objectives. The stifling of democratic alternatives in Arab countries fuels terrorism. China’s succor of dictators in Africa impedes healthy development in poor countries. Democracies are more likely, over time, to cooperate honestly with each other on global challenges such as climate change and disease control. And the United States can regain and retain the stature to lead in the world, on any issue, only if it is using its power on behalf of universal ideals.
“Defining a credible, effective, globally accepted approach to promoting democracy is a vitally important objective for the next administration,” writes Suzanne Nossel, chief of operations for Human Rights Watch. Democracies often need to engage authoritarian regimes, including autocratic allies. But analysis of democratic transitions suggests that “the driving force in each case came from local movements”, so the United States must continue to “educate, empower, and equip-through money, training, technology, and expert advice-local human rights advocates to press for reform rather than expecting that its own leverage will be sufficient.”
“The notion that democracies in general, and America in particular, are at a disadvantage in the rough-and-tumble world of geopolitics must be jettisoned,” argues A. Wess Mitchell of the Center for European Policy Analysis. The new administration will also be well-placed to take advantage of an increasingly multipolar world that more closely resembles the U.S.’s own political pluralism since the tools and concepts required – tending to the base (foreign allies); negotiating trade-offs; balancing powers – are deeply rooted in American democracy.