Friday, January 11, 2008

From Democracy Promotion To Evolutionary Reform?

It seems that during the president's visit to the Middle East the focus of the "freedom agenda" is shifting--away from "promoting democracy"--defined as U.S. pressure to bring about substantial institutional change--to "evolutionary reform"--having existing regimes make changes at a slower, measured pace.

Prior to the visit NSA Hadley had said, in response to a question about whether the U.S. was pulling back on its support for democracy, that there has been some progress, just not as fast as the U.S. would like. He then noted,

"They have taken some steps -- we said from the beginning that this was going to go at the pace that reflected the history and culture of the countries, and would take a form that reflected the history and culture of the countries; it could not be imposed. That said, we would obviously like and have liked a little bit greater progress."

It is also interesting to note that the president now makes the case that he never believed we would have "Jeffersonian" democracies springing up in the Middle East--a choice of phrasing that is significant because many of those who were critical from the beginning pointed out this was a utopian goal.

So what sort of democracy, then? "Sovereign democracies" in the Middle East? Interestingly enough, one of the first usages of that term appears to be not Putin but Canadian prime minister Mulroney, to defend Canada's right to take different policy choices than its southern neighbor. Greater accountability, some taking into account of popular wishes? We find the Putin regime deficient in terms of Russian democracy--would it be an improvement for Middle East democracy?

Just some thoughts.

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