The Financial Times has a critique of the Bush plan for Iraq and the recent speech by the President about democracy in the Middle East. I’d go so far as to say that Bush’s speech was a good one, acknowledging that it expressed ideas about the meaning of democracy that are important, if only the President meant what he said.
From the FT:
President George W. Bush made a rather better speech than usual last week, declaring his fervent commitment to building democracy around the world. There was less leaden lip-service to the defeat of America’s foes and rather more readiness to admit to mistakes in US policies in the past, especially in the Middle East.
It was a good speech for its audience – the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, a sort of democratic missionary society founded when Ronald Reagan was president. It sounded like a necessary speech, too, for worried American voters, unhappy at losing so many lives and spending so much money in Iraq.
It also revealed a lot about what is wrong with US foreign policy under this administration. For the problem is that Mr Bush’s global mission is likely to be greeted with hollow laughs abroad. It exposes US double standards. It suggests Mr Bush believes democracy can be imposed from the top down. And it reveals an alarmingly US-centred view of what form democracy should take, with too much emphasis on the market economy and too little on the rule of law and protection of human rights.
The trouble is that, internationally, US actions speak louder than words. Take last month’s elections in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a strategically situated oil-rich US ally on the shores of the Caspian, ruled for the past 10 years by Heydar Aliyev, the former Communist party leader. Thanks to careful “management”, the poll delivered an overwhelming victory for his son Ilham.
Democracy this was not. It was a blatant fix. International election observers described it variously as “a complete fraud” and “a sham”. Intimidation was rife, and ballot boxes were stuffed. Yet within two days Mr Aliyev Junior had been congratulated on his victory by Richard Armitage, the deputy US secretary of state.
Such glaring differences in word and action, especially with regards the Bush Administration’s willingness to finish what it started in Iraq now that it plans to repeat the disastrous Vietnamization strategy, which will only create a hotbed of anti-American and anti-Western activity, cannot go untested. Unbelievably, Ambassador Paul Bremer has started discussing how the U.S. may continue a presence in Iraq after June 2004 — by election time next year, Iraq could be a slaugtherhouse, but we are prepared to leave?
Taking the nonsense a step further, the President said yesterday that the U.S. would go to war again, alone, to extend “freedom.” If only this President would be willing to share the power he seized in Iraq with the United Nations instead of bragging that we can go it alone, his comments about democracy would not ring hollow.