Democracy is Bad for US Foreign Policy

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by ajtr, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    New York Times: "Democracy is Bad for US Foreign Policy"


    by Stephen Gowans

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    Here’s New York Times reporter Mark Landler on Washington’s reaction to the popular uprising in Egypt against the anti-liberal democratic, human rights-abusing Hosni Mubarak, a “staunch ally.”

    Washington is “proceeding gingerly, balancing the democratic aspirations of young Arabs with cold-eyed strategic and commercial interests.”

    In other words, democracy and human rights are fine, but not when strategic and commercial interests are at stake.

    Landler goes on to say that Washington’s cold-eyed commitment to realpolitik and profits “sometimes involves supporting autocratic and unpopular governments — which has turned many of those young people against the United States.”

    Well, there’s nothing amiss in Landler’s observation except his downplaying of the frequency with which Washington supports autocratic and unpopular governments – often rather than sometimes.

    In Landler’s account of strategic thinking in Washington, it’s all right to support an “upheaval in Tunisia, a peripheral player in the region,” but a “wave of upheaval could uproot valuable allies.” And profits and strategic position demand the possibility be blocked.

    After all, the “Egyptian government is a crucial ally to Washington.” And so arrests without charge, including of nearly 500 bloggers, will continue, with Washington maintaining a principled non-interference in Egyptian affairs.

    Washington will also continue to tolerate the repressive national emergency law, as it has done since 1981. The law provides the legal cover Washington’s “staunch ally” needs to “arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court.” Because this is done in the service of safeguarding US strategic and commercial interests, Mubarak gets US military aid, diplomatic support, and an easy ride in the US media.

    Compare that to US treatment of Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe. Even if all the allegations against him were true – and they’re not — the government in Harare wouldn’t come close to matching Mubarak’s disdain for the democratic and human rights values Washington claims to hold dear.

    And yet Zimbabwe is deemed by the US president to be a grave threat to US foreign policy, its president denounced as a strongman and dictator, and its people subjected to economic warfare in the form of financial sanctions, while Mubarak is hailed as a staunch ally who must be supported against the democratic aspirations of the Arab street.

    The key to this duplicity is that Mubarak has sold out Egypt to US profit and strategic interests, while Mugabe has sought to rectify the historical iniquities of colonialism. Clearly, from Washington’s perspective, Mugabe is serving the wrong interests. Indigenous farmers don’t count. Western investors do.

    One wonders where overthrow specialist Peter Ackerman and his stable of nonviolent warrior academic advisors come down on this — on the side of the democratic aspirations of young Arabs or reconciled to the cold-eyed strategic and commercial interests of US corporations and wealthy individuals?

    The question, however, may be beside the point. What matters is not whether Ackerman’s janissary Lester Kurtz wants to spout Gandhian bromides to angry Egyptian youths, but whether there’s money to organize and boost the revolutionary energy of the street and how much is being poured into a repressive apparatus to shut it down.
    Andrew Albertson and Stephen McInerney (Don’t give up on Egypt,” Foreignpolicy.com, June 2009) have the answer.

    The Obama administration has drastically scaled back its financial support for Egyptian activists fighting for political reform. US democracy and governance funding was slashed by 60 percent. From 2004 to 2009, the US spent less than $250M on democracy programs, but $7.8 billion on aid to the Egyptian military.

    But even this imbalance overstates the meager support Washington has offered pro-democracy forces. Given Mubarak’s status as a paladin of US commercial and strategic interests, much of Washington’s democracy program spending has probably been allocated to programs that act as a safety valve to divert anger and frustration into safe, non-threatening avenues. Money available to facilitate a real challenge to Mubarak is likely either meager or nonexistent.

    With the US establishment vexed by cold-eyed concerns about the need to safeguard imperialist interests against pro-democratic uprisings, champion of nonviolent democracy activism Stephen Zunes can give up whatever dreams he may have had about helping to organize an Egyptian color revolution. When it comes to real democracy, and freedom that counts, the funding cupboard is bare. Color revolutions are for cold-eyed promoters of US strategic and commercial interests, not upheavals against US-backed compradors.

    Global Research Articles by Stephen Gowans
     
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  3. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    American two faced approach to democracy is known to all for a long time. Just when Tunisia fell, people in washington got worried if this would have a ripple effect in the entire middle east. Their fears have come true. Saudi arabia is now the only big nation that is still Ok... If this reaches that country, US is going to have a tough time. Actually I quite don't know if such a thing would be good for the world at large in saudi arabia. the present set up is wahabi aligned to the US which can maintain some control. If they fall we may have wahabis who just don't listen to anyone we have a major problem.
     
  4. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Yank treachery is well known to everyone except naive, deluded and ignorant people.
     
  5. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    You and Mister Che Guevara have a really simplistic view of politics. It is not just the US who coddled up to Hosni Mubarak over the last 30 years - it is every country in the world including India. Each and every single one of these countries knew that Messrs. Mubarak and Company were not exactly angels or choir boys.

    The fact of the matter is that there isnt a single freaking democracy in any Arab or even most Muslim countries. Given the tribal Arab background, the only ones that could hold these countries together are strongmen like Mubarak and Saddam Hussein, etc. Arab society was not ready for western style democracy 50 years ago. The best they could hope for was a benevolent dictator or king.

    Today its a different world. They are more educated and ready for democratic change. If the US or India decides that they wont deal with corrupt dictators and regimes - then you might as well shut-down every single embassy in every single Middle-East country.
    Maybe if you live in that romantic "Che" era that might be an option, but not if you live in the real world.

    In politics you do the best with the cards you have been dealt with.

    Heck...is Mubarak really any worse than the Chinese CCP ??
     
  6. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Good take on the issue. Hard to disagree with what you said!
     
  7. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Then dont pretend to be preachers of freedom and democracy and i'll call it fair play. And dont bring India into it....we deal with every govt and dont interfere in the internal matters of any country unlike you who "get rid" of people who would work for there own country rather than do your bidding.

    Arab world wasn't ready ? thats right when you helped bury any semblance of democracy there was among the people and favoured dictators,monarchs etc. Because your govt knew if there was democracy in the middle east 50 years ago then they would be tilted towards the ussr so that couldn't be allowed.
     
  8. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Its a myth that it western support and backing,financial,political and military,that sustains these regimes and that they would topple like nine pins if west were to withdraw support,the Egyptian dictator and other despots in the regions exist and thrive because of sociopolitical factors which are distinctly inherent to thee societies,international support from west or the soviet union in the day gone by,are merely enabling factors,which have assisted these regimes to remain in power.

    Abdel Nasser was no western lackey,but still remains the most iconic figure in contemporary Egyptian history.Arab societies are not the only social groups that were,and still are enamored by a system,where the political expression and legitimacy is beholden to a strong leadership instead of institutions,while other societies transferred their political loyalty to collective leadership expressed through various political institutions,Arab societies have been slow catching up to the idea.

    Arab world needs to institutionalize leadership where such leadership can seek legitimacy from the various political expression in vogue among the masses,where change in personnel does not have to be accompanied by traumatic political and social upheavals.

    America or west or for that matter any other country need not be unduly be worried if these institutions take on a an Islamic expression,because Islam is the basis for much of the sociopolitical expression of these people and its only legitimate that Islam provides the necessary framework from where people can freely express their sovereign will.

    The clerical theocracy in Iran is the best example of the illconsequence when the natural political expression of the people and their national culture is interrupted and subverted.
     
  9. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    Why cant the US promote democracy and freedom even to allies that are dictatorships. Whats wrong about getting friendly regimes like the Egyptian government to change their ways and open up.

    I dont see anything hypocritical about it. The US is a totally free country where anybody can do anything they want as long as they dont break the law. As for Speech - you can say anything you want even if it is anti US.

    If the US was not a free and democratic country and went around the world preaching democracy - then that would be hypocritical.

    During the Cold-war, I agree that they were strange relationships sometimes where the US supported ruthless right-wing dictators in lieu of local democratic leftist forces. Even American admit that they made some bad mistakes during the Cold-War. The Russians did the exact same thing.

    But the Cold-War is long gone, and you dont live in the past.
     
  10. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    @mattster

    US provides $1.5Billion to $2Billion in annual aid to Mubarak regime most of it security aid. India has mainly trade relations. There is a huge difference in what US does in helping propping the Mubarak regime and what India does. Infact India hardly does anything that would help in propping the regime. The point is that the US finds it easier to deal with a dictator that can deliver rather than argue and bargain with a democratic regime. One of the reason why India was considered a pariah until recently and why US aligned dictators from PAkistan to Algeria get a free pass. Similarly the US has a love-hate relationship with France.

    And its a fact that the first political ideology that swept the world was populist secular Arab nationalism. From Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt to Abdul Salam Arif in Iraq and popular democracy led by Mossadeq in Iran or Sukarno in Indonesia.

    But most of them wanted to be independant and where seen by the US as pro-USSR. That's when military coups were engineered some aligned with Islamists to counter socialist democratic regimes and install dictators in place. The earliest and most brazen attempt of which was Iran in 1953. When the opressive regimes of such dictators were overthrown, it naturally resulted in the coming to power of anti-American regimes as we saw the Ayatollas coming to power in Iran in 1979. If the CIA had not meddled in Iran in the first place, you would have the first democracy in the Middle East in place.

    US will have to eventually change its policy, but it will be difficult to go either way. US has spent considerable cpaital in supporting the present regimes and if democracy takes foot, it will again have to take into account public opinion and not just rely on local dictators.

    Numerous public opinion surveys done in the ME have alwasy shown high desire of democracy and that is the only way that would result in stable regimes in the long run.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
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  11. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    Completely agree with your assessment of the Arab world.

    It is not a coincidence that virtually every single Arab and Muslim country is ruled by a dictatorship. You cant put the blame for this on any of the usual suspects like - corruption, poverty, illiteracy, poor governance, etc. India has all those problems, but still has a functioning albeit somewhat flawed democracy. I think its a function of their tribal Arab culture combined with its Islamic roots.

    The only real democracy in the Middle-east is Israel. Turkey may get there soon.

    I think that the world learned a real lesson from the Iranian example where the Mullahs are now hated as much as the Shah once was.
    So I dont think it will be as easy for an Islamist faction to hijack this Egyptian revolution like it did in Iran.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  12. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    Ejazr - the US provides the aid to Egypt as the part of a deal it made with Egypt during the peace process between Egypt and Israel. They provide both countries with significant aid. Without Egypt there would be no ME peace.

    It was provided as an incentive to keep the peace.
     
  13. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    India continues to not merely prop up,but extensively support the absolute monarchy in Bhutan,India for decades supported the Maldivian dictator Abdul Gayoom and in the 80's even sent our military to help him overcome a coup(plotted by Elam militia),for decades we propped up the the Nepal monarchy and their absolutist Rana regime.India did all this for precisely the same reasons what others did at various other places,for the supreme national interest.Nations will continue to support friendly govt's irrespective their political representation or legitimacy until political change,borne by internal stimuli,becoming too overwhelming to reasonably sustain this support for the incumbent regime.
     
  14. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Did I talk about indians being supporters of democracy? I was talking about american two faced approach. A war in iraq which first started with WMD excuse and then turned into a democracy thing. Calls to iran to imbibe democracy when iran is more democratic than other mid east powers. All this while it worked with dictators in other countries. It is a fact that authoritarian regimes presents the US better option to work with than democracy. but then why preach democracy in one country and support a dictator in its neighboring countries? Do not tom tom democracy everywhere. At the end of it all, national interests matter most to all countries.
     
  15. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

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    next time when obama lectures us to raise voice against Myanmar we can quote them ''..............'' oh i forgot they didnt raise their voice at all....!!

    moral...::national security/interest has no alternatives....
     
  16. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Indonesia, Malaysia, the Indian sub-continent, Turkey and partially even Iran are democratic countries in some shape or form. This is where 70-75% of the Muslim population lives. The Arab world comprises about 19% of the global muslim population and ironically are a minority if you look at the global muslim population. Democracy is what the local population wants, and just as dictators in East Asia and South America had to make way, so would be the case with the Arab world, that is inevitable. So there is no contradiction with Islam and democracy and there is support for it infact. Arabs WANT democracy, but the dictators are not giving.

    The dictatorships themselves are mostly secular dictatorships and anti-religion unlike the India/US secularism, hence the dictatorships are not stable as they go against the ethos of an eventual democratic system and pro-freedom of religion regimes. One of the reason why Islamists were usually pro-democracy movements after the socialists and communists movements had been ruthlessly annihilated in the cold war period. Ofcourse pre and post 9/11 even they have been curtailed and even banned in most countries.

    Lets not forget that democracy in itself is very recent. Infact, it was only the turn of the last century that many east asian countries like S. Korea, Indonesia, Phillipines actually turned democratic and the same with S. America. Even European systems are only between 100-200 year old and some as recent as a few decades.

    Nehru has the foresight to keep the Army in check to prevent a coup taking over. Some may say that the Indian Army would never have done it, but with Armies taking over the country from Morocco to the Philippines usually supported by CIA and the British MI, there was a real possibility given the deep links with the British. It is because of the strong leadership of Nehru and Indira that India survived a coup free period in a very polarized world during the Cold War by not really taking sides.
     
  17. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    @Ejazr

    I was born and raised in Malaysia from parents who came from Kerala. I was a Malaysian citizen until I voluntarily gave it up in 1999. I left Malaysia for the US when I was 25, and have been back visiting friends many times. Still have many friends and relatives there.

    So I am also very familiar with the whole South-East Asian region and its history.

    Let me enlighten you and DFI readers a bit on Malaysia and Indonesia.
    This is not intended as a rebuttal to your post - I am just sharing my own long years of experience and (some of it personal) about these countries.

    Lets start with Indonesia - definitely the worst case scenario. For 60 years Indonesia have been ruled by 2 military dictators - Sukarno and Suharto and their families. Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world - population wise. Yes they had elections but elections does not necessaily mean there is democracy.

    From the period of 1950s - 2000 , Indonesia is probably one of the most corrupt countries in the entire planet.
    Being Indian, DFI readers may think that its hard to find more corruption than India - but believe me, Indonesia is probably the most corrupt nation in the world outside of handful of basket case African states.

    Indonesia has tremendous natural resources. Timber, petroleum, minerals, etc. Yet the people are completely improverished. Both Suharto and Sukarno had large families. At one time it was estimated by the Far Eastern Economic Review Magazine that Suharto and his 8 or 9 adult kids owned of had hidden interests in about 40% of the entire nations wealth. I wont bother you with the details - you can google it. But let me say that the estimates you see online are probably only 50% of what he really stole from the country.

    Suharto and his family and a very small group of Indonesian elites comprising some generals and some Chinese tycoons owned 98% of the countries wealth. Suharto placed each one of his kids in various business sectors like Lumber, tobacco, petroluem, airlines, etc so that he had a virtual extortion machine in every sector of the economy. Before him there was Sukarnoe and he was no better.

    All this while, the Indonesian people were we driven to such desperate poverty that they started flooding Singapore and Malaysia to do the most underpaid hardest physical jobs they could find. The jobs that no Malaysian or Singaporean would ever take.

    To make matters worse - the Indonesian government was not happy to just loot the country of its resources. I remember being shocked when I was working at Petronas in Malaysia when an indonesian oil barge crewman told me that he had to pay the indonesian government an equivalent of $200 malaysian each time he goes back after working overseas for more than a year to get a permit to leave the country again. $200 was like their whole wages for 1 month.
    They looted their poor citizens each time they came back after spending years working abroad like slaves to spend a month or 2 with their families

    Today in big cities in Malaysia - there are thousands and thousands of indonesian maids working like slaves for peanuts but its still better than being penniless at home. Many have also gone to the Middle-East to slave there.

    So much for democracy in Indonesia - I would argue that the even the dictatorship of countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria are far better than a bullshit democracy like indonesia.



    As for Malaysia - Yes its a democracy but one that has institutionalized racism to the point where race and religion permeates every aspect of your existence - every single day.
    it is a country with tremendous potential that has increasing failed to live up to that potential.
    If you are a non-Muslim and Non-bumiputera; then you are 2nd class citizens in Malaysia.

    That is not to say that every Muslim in Malaysia feels that way - there are many Muslims and non-Muslims who believe in equal rights for everybody. Affirmative action in Malaysia is based on only one criteria - that you are a Malay Muslim. An poor Indian Hindu girl who graduated with 8 distinctions in her high graduation exam out of 9 subjects taken had to beg for a place in medicine at a local university before it took a minister to intervene on her behalf. If a Malay from a wealthy family were to get 8 distinctions - they would be automatically given a full scholarship to the best universities in the UK or US.

    There is not enough space in this column to write about racial discrimination in Malaysia. Suffice to say that Malaysia is the only country in the world where the affirmative action is purely race based for the majority, and not for the minority.

    Malaysia is held as a model for many Muslim countries - they have done well in some areas but increasingly it is becoming a joke. Corruption is increasing to crazy levels and religious extremism is slowly rising. Unemployment and under employment is very high. While Indians and Chinese have to be in the top 20% of the graduating class to get a varsity place - the Malays who barely even pass can still get into a university. They have created hundreds of thousands of "bumiputera" university graduates who are un-employable. Nobody in the private sector wants to hire them, and there arent enough government jobs for all of them.

    The ruling UMNO headed BN coalition is a totally corrupt crony party. The opposition PKR party is also a divided mess.
    It easy to be fooled by the nice high-rise buildings in KL when you visit Malaysia, but Malaysia is a country that is slowly running out of time. Its offshore petroleum will run out in another 10-15 years.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
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  18. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Nice post mattster. It gives new perspectives/views on these countries of which I never had any inkling about whats going on in there. Thanks.
     
  19. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    No question about it - if any Islamic groups take over power in Egypt. Then the Egyptian Coptic Christian minority will be totally screwed and they will start fleeing Egypt in large numbers.
     
  20. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Great post, Matt... very knowledgable... thanks.
     
  21. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    @mattster

    That is exactly what I am trying to explain here.

    Indonesia was a democracy when it emerged under Sukarno, Just like Iran was a democarcy when it emerged under Mossadeg. But soon in the Cold War politics, military dictators like the Shah in Iran and Suharto in Indonesia were supported and had an Iron fist rule for most of the latter part of the century.

    Did that have anything to do with religion really? Or more with local and internaional super power politics.

    Then finally in 1999 Indonesia returned to true democracy under pressure from people power. Dictatorships are inherently corrupt, so is it any surprise that Indonesia was NOT corrupt under a dictatorship?

    Its only after that Indonesia has started going on a part of economic reform. Change doesn't happen in a single decade or even two. Otherwise India until the 90s was wallowing in poverty. Indians were migrating in millions to the Gulf, US, UK and other countries. Democracy was not the problem here again.

    The point I am making is that linking lack of democracy in the Arab world to religion does not hold when the majority of the Muslim world population lives under democratic rule and whats more survey after survey show that Arabs want democracy and are not opposed to it.

    That holds no matter how much economic development a country has. A democratic system has inherent checks and balances that is suppose to right itself in the long term. With Malay Indians having an electoral impact and being part of the ruling coalition this is bound to happen. And democracy is a process, its not like as soon as you have democracy everything will be perfect.
     

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