Thursday, March 30, 2006

Asking the Right Questions About Democracy Promotion

I've long been an advocate of erecting a "Chinese wall" between civil society efforts to help spread knowledge about democracy (including training, etc.) and government initiatives in foreign policy. Guy Dinmore's insightful piece in the Financial Times raises all of the right questions about current plans vis-a-vis Iran:


Some academics, activists and those involved in the growing US business of spreading freedom and democracy are alarmed that such semi-covert activities risk damaging the public and transparent work of other organisations, and will backfire inside Iran.

“The danger is that this is a move towards covert political warfare that will completely stymie the whole idea of democracy building. This kind of activity endangers nearly 20 years of democracy promotion,” commented Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a UK founding governor of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

“Getting crowds on the streets to overthrow regimes can backfire badly,” he said. He and other academics reject the notion that the east European experience can be applied to Iran.

There is concern in Europe too. Diplomats say the Bush administration’s request this year for $85m in pro-democracy funding – and its refusal to hold talks with Iran – will be seen as tantamount to a policy of “regime change”. They say this risks undermining efforts – continuing with a Berlin meeting of foreign ministers on Thursday – to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.


Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, has issued an impassioned plea to Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, to drop her funding plans.

The money would tarnish Iranian human rights organisations, turn them into businesses, stoke corruption and play into the hands of the security forces, she said, suggesting the US channel funds through international organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank.

The U.S. is going to tarnish the reputation of the Iranian democracy movement for the foreseeable future. Great.
Just finished reading John Owen's piece in your spring issue. I think he makes the right point--spreading democracy and advancing U.S. geopolitical interests can and should go hand in hand. If Iranians or anyone else think that the U.S. is engaged in democracy promotion for altruistic reasons, that is not our problem. And why shouldn't the U.S. try to remove a hostile government by peaceful means, if it can be done without risking larger concerns (and in the case of Iran, yes, we should recognize and adjust our strategy accordingly?)
I went to the link and was fascinated by ray takeyh's comments about dubai crawling with iranian intelligence. what are the chances iran could do what the soviets did during the 1920s and mount a version of the trust, create a fake opposition that then gets funds from the united states?
It sounds like the search for Chalabi all over again.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?