Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Color Revolution Score Card

One of the points I have been arguing for the last year about why the Bush Administration was so invested in the Saakashvili Administratiion in Georgia was because Georgia was one of the only remaining "success" stories for the freedom agenda. If we run down the list, we can see why this agenda is in real trouble.

Three "precursor" revolutions were the ouster of Meciar in Slovakia, the end to the PRI's 70-year monopoly on power in Mexico with the election of Fox, and the overthrow of Milosevic in Serbia.

All three pre-date the Bush Administration. Of the three, Slovakia is now in the EU (success), Mexico muddles along (but no restoration of the old system) and a fragile Serbian democracy survived even the assassination of the prime minister.

In more recent years--the 2003 "Rose Revolution" in Georgia kicked off the round. Followed by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, "purple fingers" in Iraq, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and the Kifaya wave in Egypt. (Should the elections in the Palestinian territories be included?) A color revolution was aborted in Moldova when the ruling communists saw the light about moving away from Moscow. A "Baku Revolution" never got off the ground in Azerbaijan because there was no desire to replace Ilham Aliyev, cast in the mold of an evolutionary reformer. (Meanwhile,there was a military coup in Thailand, and election results in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua were not to our liking).

Kyrgyzstan's revolution fizzled; the Cedar Revolution was inconclusive and led to Hizballah in the government; Iraq has been unable to stabilize itself; the U.S. has generally recreated its 1980s alignment with Sunni autocrats.

Ironically, despite the see-saws in Ukrainian politics--and the instability it creates--Ukraine held several fair and free elections where there has been a legitimate shift and transfer of power; so in terms of procedure, Ukraine demonstrates that it continues to move along the democratic path. The problem is that democracy doesn't always guarantee the "right results."

So, until now, Georgia was the best example--a democratic revolution that ensured a new pro-Western government succeeded an old pro-Western government. (This is the dilemma in Pakistan, by the way--no guarantees that greater democratization will do that). But a real mixed record for the Bush team.

FYI, I know that Tom Carothers has a different perspective on the Bush team and democracy promotion, and it is worth mentioning this as part of this debate.

The pundits and US media and the administration have all fallen into the typical US time trap of assuming major changes take a few months. Test of democracy is not from election to election but years. I would disagree with you saying Serbia is a success--we can evaluate whether Serbia is a success in 2015. All these new central European democracies are all under stress--who would see the twins in Poland as a sign of democratic maturity?
And Meciar's party is still powerful in Slovakia, so not like that is completely "misssion accomplished" either ...
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