After World War II, the U.S. oversaw the establishment of democracies in the defeated Germany and Japan. However, it had no policy of promoting democracy in most other foreign countries. Indeed, for a long time after World War II, the U.S. government under both major parties supported non-democratic (often called illiberal) foreign governments that were run by authoritarians or dictators. In its anti-Communist fervor, the U.S. aligned with right-wing and stood against left-wing movements.
Beginning with the Carter administration and continuing thereafter, the U.S. shifted toward democracy promotion in foreign lands. Democracy promotion is now a firmly-established cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. This goal is the moral foundation of U.S. foreign policy planet-wide. Other goals, often also associated with democracy, such as security and prosperity, are myths, and they lack the moral gloss and appeal of democracy as now promulgated by American leaders to its captive domestic body politic.
Following the immoral rule that the end justifies the means, this policy of democracy promotion is in U.S. hands one of interfering in other nations, intervening militarily, conquering, killing, collateral killing, infrastructure destruction, subversion of standing governments, aid to dissident groups, overthrowing elected leaders, sanctions of all kinds, and training and arming selected rebels.
However, in the rhetoric of U.S. government leaders, “democracy” is the term that embraces the many values that make American hearts beat faster, that foster American hopes and dreams and that present the promise of better lives. For American leaders and Americans, democracy has come to represent freedom of speech, of association, and of religion. It means the capacity to vote. It means equality and equal opportunity. Democracy now has come to mean justice and human dignity. One need only read or hear a few speeches on the subject to verify these observations.
The U.S. government follows up on democracy promotion with destruction and a pronounced inability to replicate the construction of democracy in two countries that had been reduced to rubble: Germany and Japan. Indeed, in country after country it is U.S. policy (or at least its effect) to reduce the country to rubble, drive the standard of living sharply lower and create masses of displaced persons and refugees. This was the pre-condition to conquering Germany and Japan, and it now appears to be the sought after pre-condition in places like Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
There is nothing moral about this, but American leaders, living in a delusionary world of their own rhetoric, continue to insist that what they are doing has been successful and right. They say that they have saved or are saving the masses from dictators. The gulf between belief and reality has never been wider than in the present among American leaders.
Democracy promotion is a failed goal that has given rise to one policy failure after another, benefiting only the military-industrial-intelligence complex. It is more than apparent that the moral goal of enhancing freedom cannot be furthered by the U.S. government deploying its vast powers of finance and spending in the service of immoral means that destroy entire peoples, nations, countries and states for the purpose of promoting democracy.
This goal is futile in the theory of government, and it is futile in practice as employed by one government in an attempt to impose or create its version of government in other lands.
The futility in theory rests on a basic misunderstanding of government. No government of any kind, including democracy, is anything but a wild beast. Governments in control of states are all at heart ready to devour their peoples because the control and containment of them by the people is such a difficult proposition. Government of the people, by the people and for the people is never achieved in modern states and can’t be achieved because government powers are too great, even under constitutions, maybe especially under constitutions. Legalities often do not present bars to greater government power; they present loopholes to subvert and around which government power is augmented.
The notion in theory of extending democracy as if it were going to free peoples and save the world is fundamentally flawed. All it aims for is the replacement of one form of government by another, but they are all beasts. When the U.S. chooses immoral means to further its supposedly moral goal of promoting democracy (which is actually also an immoral goal), this verifies the beastly and totally immoral nature of government and of this democracy that is supposed to be the exemplar of democracy on the planet.
The U.S. government, if it wanted to choose a better goal and were capable of it, should support neither authoritarian nor democratic regimes. It should leave the matter of foreign government structures to the foreign peoples. It’s pointless to destroy a country and many of its people, all the while creating enemies and blowback, in order to replace one beast by another. This doesn’t create free speech, freedom of association, due process of law, freedom of religion, and all the rest. Pre-emptive or any other kinds of interventions intended to alter forms of government cannot accomplish this, because they merely substitute one form of government for another.
Moreover, who is to say that when America attempts to or succeeds in substituting a tiger for a lion that this is an improvement? How do American leaders know that they are improving some foreign situation? They don’t.
Why do American leaders think that their judgment is superior to the governmental outcomes that have evolved in other lands? There exist, as we have seen in Iraq and elsewhere, often hidden reasons why a state is authoritarian. Governments are generally not all-powerful. They are contained in various ways, even if imperfectly, and the caged beasts serve some ends, even if American leaders do not recognize, understand or acknowledge them. Promoting democracy? What kind of democracy? Who is to say that a revolution brought about by the residents of a country or brought about by the U.S. is going to result in a better government, one that is of the people, by the people and for the people? What happens when the “people” is actually several peoples or tribes or ethnic groups or religious groups that do not get along with one another? What happens when a power struggle to control a new government appears? What happens when new revolutionary forces emerge? What if secessionary movements appear or people demand new borders? What if new constitutions have provisions that are worse than the old ones?
In practice, the U.S. goal of promoting democracy is just as flawed as it is in theory. America’s leaders do not appreciate or understand the equilibrium of domestic interests that has produced a foreign government. They think that replacing a foreign government is like replacing a hard drive or a fan belt. Maybe it’s harder and requires more resources, but it is a job with well-defined parameters. They are completely wrong. In practice, every intervention is beset with immense confusion. One need only read the history of U.S. interventions in Haiti, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine and many other countries to see that confusion is the rule, not the exception.
The U.S. keeps failing over and over and over again with every intervention it attempts, in the sense that Americans are harmed and foreign nations are harmed. Only those who benefit from wars, fighting and confusion gain, and this includes some foreign interests, defense contractors, military personnel and many in government.
Democracy promotion remains the dominant moral rationale for U.S. interventions but it’s profoundly flawed. It would be far, far better if Americans openly recognized the inherent evil and flaws of all governments of any kind, including democracy, and then took this as a cue to limit this domestic government wherever possible. That would mean avoiding foreign interventions. That attitude is more in line with at least some strains of thought that were voiced closer to the creation of the U.S. government, even if history shows that the nation went in precisely the opposite direction.12:41 pm on October 1, 2015