Sunday, June 26, 2005

Who Are Americans to Think That Freedom Is Theirs to Spread?

This is an article by Michael Ignatieff that is worth reading. I would post the entire article, but it is rather lengthy. I would encourage anyone who reads this post to click on my link, read the entire article, and then comment, as it is a good discussion piece. It is a rather gloomy, yet hopeful article. The theme:
the paradox of Jefferson's dream: American liberty as a moral universal seems less and less recognizable to the very democracies once inspired by that dream
An excerpt:
The fact that many foreigners do not happen to buy into the American version of promoting democracy may not be much of a surprise. What is significant is how many American liberals don't share the vision, either. On this issue, there has been a huge reversal of roles in American politics. Once upon a time, liberal Democrats were the custodians of the Jeffersonian message that American democracy should be exported to the world, and conservative Republicans were its realist opponents. Beginning in the late 1940's, as the political commentator Peter Beinart has rediscovered, liberals like Eleanor Roosevelt, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Adlai Stevenson realized that liberals would have to reinvent themselves. This was partly a matter of principle -- they detested Soviet tyranny -- and partly a matter of pragmatism. They wanted to avoid being tarred as fellow travelers, the fate that had met Franklin Roosevelt's former running mate, the radical reformer Henry Wallace. The liberals who founded Americans for Democratic Action refounded liberalism as an anti-Communist internationalism, dedicated to defending freedom and democracy abroad from Communist threat. The missionary Jeffersonianism in this reinvention worried many people -- for example, George Kennan, the diplomat and foreign-policy analyst who argued that containment of the Communist menace was all that prudent politics could accomplish.

The leading Republicans of the 1950's -- Robert Taft, for example -- were isolationist realists, doubtful that America should impose its way on the world. Eisenhower, that wise old veteran of European carnage, was in that vein, too: prudent, risk-avoiding, letting the Soviets walk into Hungary because he thought war was simply out of the question, too horrible to contemplate. In the 1960's and 70's, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger remained in the realist mode. Since stability mattered more to them than freedom, they propped up the shah of Iran, despite his odious secret police, and helped to depose Salvador Allende in Chile. Kissinger's guiding star was not Jefferson but Bismarck. Kissinger contended that people who wanted freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe were lamentable sentimentalists, unable to look at the map and accommodate themselves to the eternal reality of Soviet power.

It was Reagan who began the realignment of American politics, making the Republicans into internationalist Jeffersonians with his speech in London at the Palace of Westminster in 1982, which led to the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy and the emergence of democracy promotion as a central goal of United States foreign policy. At the time, many conservative realists argued for detente, risk avoidance and placation of the Soviet bear. Faced with the Republican embrace of Jeffersonian ambitions for America abroad, liberals chose retreat or scorn. Bill Clinton -- who took reluctant risks to defend freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo -- partly arrested this retreat, yet since his administration, the withdrawal of American liberalism from the defense and promotion of freedom overseas has been startling. The Michael Moore-style left conquered the Democratic Party's heart; now the view was that America's only guiding interest overseas was furthering the interests of Halliburton and Exxon. The relentless emphasis on the hidden role of oil makes the promotion of democracy seem like a devious cover or lame excuse. The unseen cost of this pseudo-Marxist realism is that it disconnected the Democratic Party from the patriotic idealism of the very electorate it sought to persuade.
God! Some on the left despise Michael Moore! He is an idiot! Anyway, I find this analysis interesting, because it presupposes that the Bush admin is anything like the Reagan admin. Bush is not Reagan incarnate. (Check out CATO's "Bush is no Reagan.") What Ignatieff fails to realize is that many liberals DO share the vision, but they don't believe that bombs are the way to go about doing it. And since Ignatieff seems to use "liberals" and "democrats" interchangeably, I will do the same. Clinton propagated the Jeffersonian ideal. Yes, he "reluctantly" ordered military action in Bosnia and Kosovo, but he didn't "reluctantly" pursue peace and democracy in Palestine/Israel. He didn't "reluctantly" pursue peace and democracy in Northern Ireland. He has a world vision of democracy. Unfortunately, there were some on the right whose only goal was to destroy him, as he was getting in the way of total Republican dominance. These people have no respect for democracy. All they care about is power. It is no wonder that liberals today distrust the gops. They are not the party of Jefferson; they are the party of Nixon, the party of cheaters and power hungry, corrupt warmongerers who use "democracy" in the same way they used WMDs in the finally famous Downing Street Memo. Do they have so little faith in the American people that they have to lie to us to justify what has been termed "democracy promotion?" If this is the case, they need to do a little work on American democracy first, and if it is not the case, then those who say these people just want access to oil are right. With the connections these people have to energy companies, I think the latter is more probable.

Of course, Ignatieff is not talking about the common folk, you know, the ones who benefit from democracy. He is talking about the academic and policy elites who think what they do is in the common folk's best interest. John Kerry was a failure because he, like the rest of the Democratic elitist dinosaurs, didn't have a clear vision for anything, unlike the neocons, who have the next two hundred years already planned out. The neocons do not hold Jeffersonian ideals. They do maintain that democracy is good for the US because it is stable and it makes us more secure. That is self-interest, and that, my fellow democrats (small "d") is NOT a Jeffersonian ideal.

There are many remaining Clintonites hanging around, people who believe that peace is a universal, democratic value. They'll be back soon. We're waking up from our slumber, and when we are ready, the gops aren't going to know what hit them, because we are the party of Jefferson, and we would like to give him some peace so he doesn't have to roll around in his grave anymore.

A last interesting yet WRONG aspect of this article is Ignatieff's discussion of "American values." What are "American values?" Last time I checked, only 51% of the country voted for Bush. Can't be that we all hold the same values. Some of us actually LIKE freedom, peace, and civil liberties like free speech.

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