Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bolivian Elections and the U.S. Response

Russell Crandall, who recently departed the National Security Council to return to teaching, has this advice about the U.S. course of action in Latin America in the just-released Winter 2005/06 issue of The National Interest:

Alarmist headlines notwithstanding, Latin America is not on the verge of violent, anti-American revolutions nor has the United States abandoned its backyard. To be sure, leftist leaders at times will keep a healthy distance from certain U.S. policies, but we should not interpret that as a wholesale rejection of market-led economic policies, democracy or general interaction with Washington.

For its part, the United States can help Latin America consolidate its democracy and promote socio-economic development by recognizing that we don’t have all the solutions nor are we able to determine outcomes in the region—for better or for worse. But the United States must play a significant supporting role as the region continues to consolidate different degrees of democratic and economic practices. Trade, technical assistance and military training are some of the critical areas where Washington should continue to act as a partner. It is in our national interest to see that democracy flourishes in Latin America under both right-wing and left-wing governments. A strong democratic foundation is necessary if equitable and lasting socio-economic development is finally to thrive.

The problem with the democracy promoters in Washington is they assume that a good process produces a desirable outcome, and so they concentrate on process questions. Same can be said of what has happened in Iraq--a sectarian government that will be dominated by Shia Islamists. Process matters, but so does shaping outcomes.
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