Promoting democracy has been a key part of the United States foreign policy prescription for more than forty years. After the defeat of the fascist regimes during the second world war and the fall of the Soviet Union after the cold war, the United States government latched on to the idea of democratization because it became widely accepted that this is how our national security is best protected. This new ideology is very different when compared to what Secretary of State John Quincy Adams stated in 1821: “Where the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be.
But she does not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. ” The United States has not always forcefully campaigned change, but led by example in order to try to inspire the world (Hook 2008, 383-7). While this type of approach to international relations may not fit our current time period, it is beginning to look as if our current policy approach is fading into history as well. Here is the issue at hand: should promoting democracy abroad be a top United States priority?
Argumentatively, no, it should not. Democratic nations are said to be less prone to making war, more economically stable, and more peaceful internally. This premise comes from what is known as the “democracy-peace theory. ” Unfortunately, this theory is not completely sound. Democracies are just as likely to participate in warfare, especially if they are a newly democratized state. Studies show that within the first ten years of being established, new democracies are likely to engage in conflict with other democratic states as well as with authoritarian states (Bin. 2007).
America began its road towards democracy while fighting for its freedom in the Revolutionary War. A short distance down the time line, the northern and southern parts of the country were divided in a civil war, proving that even America had a rough start in the beginning. Transitioning over to democracy is not easy; actually, it is quite dangerous. The expectations of citizens living in a country undergoing the transformation may not be met as quickly as they would like, thus creating doubt in the new government’s ability to create positive changes. The end result is a rebellion against democracy (Bennett 2010, 43-60).
Once the democracy has failed, leaving behind a country with no direction in sight, there is room for other institutions to seize control by preying on the sentiment of the citizens. Nazi Germany after the Weimar Republic and militaristic Japan after the Taisho democracy are a few examples that led to devastating outcomes (Bin. 2007). In these instances, democracy was tried, failed, and then another political institution took over, causing chaos, and causing the rest of the world to spend large amounts of money rebuilding and mending a broken country. Keep in mind that the United States has already built up a 12. trillion dollar deficit, which has increased $3. 87 billion dollars daily since September 28, 2007. To put that into perspective, if that number is divided by the entire population of the United States, that leaves about $40,000 dollars that every United States citizen shares in debt (U. S. National Debt Clock). I do not think that the United States has money to spare on risky foreign policies. Democracy is typically believed to enhance relationships between nations and make cooperation with them easier. We need to take into consideration that even though we preach that beneficial outcomes are more likely to arise, what if they do not?
Suppose that we do everything correctly in establishing the necessary components for a democracy to be successful: create honest leaders, promote better education, establish a better economy, establish the rule of law, and instill the concepts that our Bill of Rights have established for our own country, it is possible that we could still end up with a country that is unfriendly to the United States and the rest of the world. For example, the democracy in Palestine that the United States accepted for many years elected a terrorist group by the name of Hamas in 2006 to be their leader.
This group has an intense hatred for Israel, one of our closest allies. Now we have the pleasure of dealing with a democratically elected terroristic leadership that will be nearly impossible to work with. Democracy obviously did not consider our national interest in this case (Rosenbaum. 2007). Another good example of how democracy does not always serve America’s best interest is the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. It is questioned whether or not Venezuela is a democracy but the fact is, the Venezuelan people continue to elect Chavez as their leader. This makes them a democracy (Jordan 2007).
Even though this country is a democracy, relationships with them are not satisfactory due to Chavez’s defiance in spawning relationships with American enemies such as Cuba, Iran, and Libya (About. com). Regardless of the democratic state of these two countries, they have bred unfavorable situations for the United States, proving that democracy is not always the cure for the disease. If democracy is not guaranteed to produce countries that we can cooperate with and if we are unable to accept when a democracy is not in our favor, then why continue to pour valuable resources into promoting this policy?
This question is worth consideration in a world that is beginning to view international relations with the United States as a joke. The United States has developed a hypocritical image in promoting democracy. In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an organization that the United States worked through to advocate democracy in previous communist states, to witness the presidential election.
Members of the organization were stunned when witnessing minorities being asked to provide two forms of identification when only one was needed and African Americans being intimidated by Republican lawyers at the polls. Representatives from Belarus, one of the least democratic countries in Europe, took this opportunity to justify their own corruption by pointing out the United States lack of democracy and respect for human rights (Parry. 2005). If we desire to see change in the rest of the world, then we must lead by example and take our own advice domestically.
In 2009, 1. 75 billion dollars of the foreign affairs budget was specifically for promoting democracy, which included funds for voter and civic education abroad. While this was a positive for those countries, a portion of that money should have been used to fund programs such as these in our own education system. According to a report done in 2000 by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, students at fifty-five of the top colleges in the United States managed to earn their degree without ever taking a course in American history.
Our elementary educational system is also significantly frail in teaching world history, geography, and languages other than English (Johnson. 2003). The National Assessment of Educational Progress for civics most recently discovered that in grades four, eight, and twelve, only about 21% of students had proficient civic knowledge. Funding was increased to the Center for Civic Education, but in 2005, President Bush proposed a request that all funding for the CCE be reduced in light of the funds going to the war in Iraq and other programs overseas (Quirk. 2008).
We are prepared to fund programs such as the CCE in other countries but are reluctant to do it for our own future leaders of democracy. The United States also funds programs abroad encouraging citizens to participate in their government democratically by voting. Unfortunately, when compared to other countries that we actively campaign this message to, the United States ranks twenty out of twenty-one in voter turnout (Quirk. 2008). We are obviously paying too much money and attention to the rest of the world in regards to education and democratic participation because as everyone else continues to rise, we slowly decline.
If we forget about our own citizens while focusing on others, what will happen to our own democracy? In conclusion, instead of making democracy promotion a top priority of our foreign policy, the United States should put democracy as an issue that needs attention domestically. If there are internal problems within our own country that are visible by foreign nations, the United States will never make progress in promoting democratic “American-style” values.
Once the United States has tended to its own weak areas domestically and attempted to improve them, only then will our image as a world leader begin to take positive form again, and only then will it become easier for us to promote our values. We cannot lead by example if we are setting a bad example and we cannot clean up the world if we have not washed our own hands. Annotated Bibliography About. com: US Foreign Policy. The Relationship of the United States with Venezuela. http://usforeignpolicy. about. com/od/countryprof4/p/usvenezuela. htm.
This website provided straight forward information about the relationship status of the United States and Venezuela. It provided brief information on why and how this relationship was created and what sort of path that the Venezuelan president is taking. I believe that the purpose of this website is for basic questions of research but not for in depth research. It did provide other links that were relevant to the topic, but I think that a website such as Wikipedia. com would be more reliable and have more detailed information. I was able to find this website through Google with the search terms being United States relationship with Venezuela.
Bennett, Andrew, George Shambaugh. 2010. Taking Sides: Clashing Views in American Foreign Policy. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. This book contains issues that are typically controversial in American Foreign Policy. The authors provide an introduction to each issue, both sides of the argument, and closing remarks on the argument. This book was the starting point of my paper because it is where my topic originated. The introduction to the issue actually contained more useful information for me to get started with rather than the actual argument itself.
This edition of this book was published in 2010, which makes it a very reliable source. The authors specifically include a note to students explaining that these arguments are not one-sided and that the purpose of this book is to better educate people on these views and to encourage involvement. This book was a required reading for the course that this paper is intended for. Bin, Yu. 2007. Making Democracy Safe for the World. Foreign Policy In Focus, (November 8), http://www. fpif. org/articles/making_democracy_safe_for_the_world (accessed February 15, 2010). This article was right on target with why democracy is not perfect.
It explains how the “democracy-peace theory” failed to consider the other side of the spectrum when preaching that democratic states are less likely to participate in warfare. The author makes sure to point out that democracy is not negatively correlated with warfare, but that nations transforming to democracy are vulnerable. I think it is good that the article gave examples of democratic tries that failed, resulting in the taking over by an authoritarian regime because it helped to prove a new democracy’s vulnerability and that we should learn from the mistakes of history.
This article was done 3 years ago, which is still recent, and right in the middle of the changing tides in President Bush’s foreign policy popularity. This article was on a website called Foreign Policy In Focus, and I found this website through a required reading for my American Foreign Policy class. I used the key word “democracy” to find this article. Hook, Steven W. 2008. U. S. Foreign Policy: The Paradox of World Power. 2nd ed. Washington DC: CQ Press. This book’s purpose is to provide information on American foreign policy from the past to the present.
Hook divides the book into chapters that are focused on the different components of foreign policy and in one chapter, there is a section that is dedicated to democracy promotion as a part of the foreign policy prescription. This section was helpful in comparing past approaches to this issue to current approaches to this issue in detail. I would use this book again as a reference if necessary when doing another paper in regards to foreign policy. I was able to use this book as a source because it was part of the required reading that was listed for my American Foreign Policy course. Johnson, Loch K. , Kiki Caruson. 2003.
The Seven Sins of American Foreign Policy. PS Online, (January), http://www. aspanet. org. This article was assigned as a reading assignment in my American Foreign Policy course. The authors go into detail when explaining the seven wrongs that America commits in regards to foreign policy. They name ignorance, lack of empathy, isolationism, unilateralism, precipitate military action, presidential imperialism, and arrogance as the seven sins of United States foreign policy approach. The article provides examples of how each sin has been committed in order to show what needs to be changed and improved in foreign policy.
The information on ignorance was particularly useful to me when explaining how education has declined in importance in the United States. Due to the detailed examples that are provided by the author, this article seems to be a reliable source. Jordan, James. 2007. Venezuela: Democracy or dictatorship. Green Left Weekly, (November 29), http://www. greenleft. org. au/2007/734/38002 (accessed February 18, 2010). This article, which was in question and answer form, was done by James Jordan, who is the emergency response coordinator for the US-based Venezuela Solidarity Network.
He provides answers to questions in regards to Venezuela’s form of government and to what direct path that Hugo Chavez is taking their nation. I used this article to determine that Venezuela was technically a democracy in light of their continuous elections in favor of Chavez. The article comes from an online newspaper called Green Left Weekly, which is radical newspaper in Australia concerned with global issues such as the environment, human rights, and global peace. I found this article through Ask. com by asking if Venezuela was a democracy or not. Parry, Nat. 2005. U. S. Elections Undermine America in Eastern Europe.
Foreign Policy In Focus, (September 30), http://www. fpif. org/articles/us_elections_undermine_america_in_eastern_europe (accessed February 10, 2010). This article shows the United States’ somewhat hypocritical image to the rest of the world in regards to democracy promotion. The author gives the 2004 presidential election as the example and describes what representatives of other nations witnessed as they observed the election. The author emphasizes that if America wants to be taken seriously when exporting American-style values, then America needs to practice these values.
It is also emphasized that the 2004 election had a great deal of influence on the world’s perception of the United States. This article did a good job in helping me to produce my final points of my paper. It was written in 2005 but given how close in time that it was written to the 2004 election, I believe that this article is reliable and is useful in pointing out work that needs to be done domestically as well as foreign. Quirk, Patrick W. 2008. Democracy Promotion Doublespeak. Foreign Policy In Focus, (April 4), http://www. fpif. org/reports/democracy_promotion_doublespeak (accessed February 10, 2010).
This article points out hypocritical practices of the United States especially in regards to education and democratic participation. It discusses how the United States funds many programs to improve these areas in other countries but is reluctant to fund programs in these areas for its own citizens, demonstrating that our own democracy could use some attention as well. The article provides statistics in voter turnout between the United States and other nations and also gives an example of how President Bush failed to recognize that the United States had areas to work on domestically.
The author makes many good arguments in this article that most people probably do not think to consider. I also found this article on Foreign Policy In Focus. That website looks to be a great source of information on current and past events. Rosenbaum, Jason. 2007. Is Democracy Really In America’s Interests? (August 7), http://www. theseminal. com/2007/08/02/is-democracy-the-worlds-savior/ (accessed February 9, 2010). This article discusses how democracy promotion could lead to adverse effects in regards to the interests of the United States.
The author points out that even if the United States did a superb job of promoting democracy, it could still produce governments that did not favor the United States. He emphasizes that before the United States continues with its current foreign policy approach to democracy, we need to consider whether it is worth the resources if the outcomes are not more likely to be in our favor almost 100% of the time. I found this article through Google. com by searching for the cons of democracy promotion. U. S. National Debt Clock. http://www. brillig. om/debt_clock/ (accessed February 18, 2010). On this website I was able to find the exact amount of the United States national deficit. The amount was even divided by the number of people living in the United States to show just how much each person has weighing on their shoulders due to irresponsible spending by the federal government. The site goes on to say that the national debt increases everyday by more than 3 billion dollars. This website is not a government website so its reliability is hard to judge, but by looking at the detail, the information seems valid.