Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Zakaria: "The Limits of Democracy."

  1. #1
    Jets Insider VIP
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    29,953
    Post Thanks / Like

    Zakaria: "The Limits of Democracy."

    Jan 29, 2007

    The Limits of Democracy
    By Fareed Zakaria

    No president has attached his name more completely to the promotion of democracy than George W. Bush. He speaks of it with genuine passion and devoted virtually his entire second Inaugural to the subject. His administration talks constantly about its "freedom agenda" and interprets global events largely in such terms. Last summer, for example, as missiles, car bombs and IEDs exploded across Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq, Condoleezza Rice described the violence as the "birth pangs" of a new, democratic Middle East.

    So it is striking to read this year's annual survey of "freedom in the world," released last week by Freedom House, a nonprofit that is engaged in promoting democracy around the globe. The report points out that 2006 was a bad year for liberty, under attack from creeping authoritarianism in Venezuela and Russia, a coup in Thailand, massive corruption in Africa and a host of more subtle reversals.


    "The percentage of countries designated as free has failed to increase for nearly a decade and suggests that these trends may be contributing to a developing freedom stagnation," writes Freedom House director of research Arch Puddington in an essay released with the rankings.


    Puddington also calls attention to the "pushback" against democracy. Regimes across the world are closing down nongovernmental organizations, newspapers and other groups that advocate for human rights. And, I would add, what is most striking is that these efforts are not being met with enormous criticism. Democracy proponents are on the defensive in many places.


    What explains this paradox-of freedom's retreat, even with a U.S. administration vociferous in promoting democracy? Some part of the explanation lies in the global antipathy to the U.S. president. "We have all been hurt by the association with the Bush administration," Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the Egyptian activist, told me last month. "Bush's arrogance has turned people off the idea of democracy," says Larry Diamond, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy.


    But he goes on: "There's a lot more to it than that. We need to face up to the fact that in many developing countries democracy is not working very well." Diamond points to several countries where elections have been followed by governmental paralysis, corruption and ethnic warfare.


    The poster child for this decline has to be Nigeria, a country often lauded for its democracy. In fact, the place is in free fall-an oil-rich country with per capita GDP down to $390 (from $1,000 20 years ago), a ranking below Bangladesh on the United Nations Human Development Index, and with a third of the country having placed itself under Sharia. The new Freedom House survey rates Haiti higher now because it held elections last year. But does anyone believe that those polls will change the essential reality in Haiti-that it is a failed state?

    The basic problem confronting the developing world today is not an absence of democracy but an absence of governance. From Iraq to the Palestinian territories to Nigeria to Haiti, this is the cancer that is eating away at the lives of people across the globe, plunging countries into chaos, putting citizens' lives and livelihoods at risk. It is what American foreign policy should be focused on. But the president's freedom agenda sees the entire complex process of political and economic development through one simple lens, which produces bad analysis and bad outcomes.


    Consider Iraq. The administration has constantly argued that Iraq has witnessed amazing political progress over the last four years only to be undermined by violence. In fact, Iraq has seen its politics and institutions fall apart since the American invasion. Its state was dismantled, its economy disrupted, its social order overturned and its civic institutions and community corroded by sectarianism. Its three communities were never brought together to hammer out a basic deal on how they could live together. The only things that did take place in Iraq were elections (and the writing of a Constitution that is widely ignored). Those elections had wondrous aspects, but they also divided the country into three communities and hardened these splits. To describe the last four years as a period of political progress requires a strange definition of political development.


    The administration now rewards democracies with aid. But why not have a more meaningful measure? Why not reward countries when they protect human rights, reduce corruption and increase the quality of governance?

    "Our aid should be conditional on absolute standards," says Diamond.
    "The European Union has forced change on countries that want to join it by demanding real progress on tough issues."

    An administration that thinks of itself as tough has been almost romantic in its views of the world. There is good and evil out there. But there is also competence and incompetence, and that makes a crucial difference around the globe-in fact, even in the United States.

  2. #2
    Hall Of Fame
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    14,479
    Post Thanks / Like
    Very well written, well thought out article

  3. #3
    Jets Insider VIP
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    29,953
    Post Thanks / Like
    [QUOTE=doggin94it]Very well written, well thought out article[/QUOTE]
    Zakaria is by far my favorite political writer, one of my professors got me hooked when I was in school and I've read almost everything he's written since then. There might not be anyone in the world more knowledgable on modern international relations than Zakaria.

    If you haven't read "The Future of Freedom" yet doggin, I would highly recomend it, especially to you of all people. It ranks up there with any book pertaining to international theory and relations ever written.
    Last edited by RutgersJetFan; 02-02-2007 at 08:29 AM.

  4. #4
    All Pro
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    7,395
    Post Thanks / Like
    [I]The administration now rewards democracies with aid. But why not have a more meaningful measure? Why not reward countries when they protect human rights, reduce corruption and increase the quality of governance?

    "Our aid should be conditional on absolute standards," says Diamond.
    "The European Union has forced change on countries that want to join it by demanding real progress on tough issues." [/I]

    Sounds like Fareed is asking for th USA to have a fair foreign policy...

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Follow Us