Bush and Democracy

BUSH AND DEMOCRACY….This is what I was talking about a couple of days ago:

While President Bush vows to transform Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, his administration has been scaling back funding for the main organizations trying to carry out his vision by building democratic institutions such as political parties and civil society groups….The shortfall threatens projects that teach Iraqis how to create and sustain political parties, think tanks, human rights groups, independent media outlets, trade unions and other elements of democratic society.

….”Money keeps getting transferred away to security training. Democracy’s one of the things that’s been transferred,” said Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s project on democracy and the rule of law. “Without that, all the other stuff looks like just background work.”

Is democracy promotion really something that George Bush cares deeply about? Let’s review the bidding.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush derided the very idea of nation building. Promoting democracy in foreign countries was simply not something he believed was a high priority for the United States.

Did 9/11 change fundamentally change George Bush’s worldview? The record says no. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bush barely even mentioned democracy promotion as a reason for war. In the 2003 State of the Union Address he devoted over a thousand words to Iraq and didn’t mention democracy once. Paul Wolfowitz specifically left out democracy promotion as a major goal of the war when he later recounted the administration’s internal decision making process for Sam Tannenhaus.

Nor did the invasion itself envision democracy in Iraq as its goal. Rather, the plan was to install some favored exiles as proconsuls and reduce our military presence to 30,000 troops almost immediately.

Later, when Ayatollah Ali Sistani insisted on elections, Bush resisted as long as he could, throwing up excuse after excuse until it became clear he had no choice. In the end, he punted the whole issue to United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who finally created a credible plan for Iraqi elections.

What’s more, in the surrounding regions, Bush has shown himself to be exactly the type of realist he supposedly derides. Hamas won elections in Palestine and he immediately tried to undermine them. Egypt held sham elections and got nothing more than a bit of mild tut tutting. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remain our closest allies.

And now this. A man who is supposedly passionate about democracy can’t rouse himself to bother funding it. Instead the money is going into security.

These decisions may or may not be defensible, but they are plainly not the decisions of a man dedicated to spreading democracy ? and the fact that he repeatedly says otherwise doesn’t change this. So once and for all, can we please stop hearing about democracy promotion as a central goal of the Bush administration? It’s just a slogan and nothing more.