- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The president began his second term with an inaugural speech, emphasizing the importance of democracy promotion as the pivotal element of American foreign policy. At the time, many a pundit dismissed this as either extreme naivete or pure rhetoric, certain not to be followed by concrete policy steps. They were wrong. The president’s vision is clear and arguably more realistic for the post-September 11 world than the status quo strategies of his critics. Hence, advancing democracy is not necessarily a mere manifestation of the long-standing American Wilsonian idealism; it is an integral part of the administration’s realpolitik strategy for winning the war on terror.

In the long term, inducing more or less democratic governance, particularly in the Arab world, may be the most hopeful antidote to Islamist terrorism. In the short and middle terms, efforts at democratization may be at least as risky as the status quo policy of the last half-century. It must be admitted that the process of democratizing authoritarian semi-allies such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others, is fraught with danger — potentially of a strategic nature — for the United States. But given the utterly unacceptable effects of the status quo policies — the rise of insurgent, jihadist Islam — it is worth the risk to try the democracy path.

This bold and risky vision is being energetically translated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her team into concrete policy. The United States is speaking firmly to all countries, including some of our long-standing semi-allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as new sometimes partners in the war on terror like Uzbekistan, urging and pressing them to adopt democratic reforms. The administration is also seeking to enlist the assistance of our European allies and multilateral institutions to advance this global pro-democracy agenda.

The seriousness with which pro-democratic initiatives are being undertaken is manifested by a well-timed institutional change. Last week, Miss Rice announced a series of changes at the State Department, designed to institutionalize the administration’s democracy promotion strategy. They encompassed a spectrum of initiatives, ranging from designating Paula Dobriansky, heretofore the undersecretary of state for global affairs, to become the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, to creating a new deputy assistant secretary for democracy, to launching a comprehensive review of all of the ongoing U.S. democracy-promotion efforts. Miss Rice is to be commended for undertaking these ground-breaking reforms.

She also could not have chosen a better person to drive the administration’s democracy initiatives. Undersecretary Dobriansky is respected by both Republicans and Democrats who care about human-rights issues and has the confidence of the NGO community. Moreover, she has a unique combination of having spent years toiling, both in and out of government, on both traditional foreign-policy issues while also working on democracy and human-rights causes. As the president has acknowledged, democracy promotion is a necessary, but arduous task. Miss Rice’s recent actions take us another careful step down this dangerous road.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide