Courtesy Reuters

Democracy Promotion

The Core of U.S. Foreign Policy

Paula J. Dobriansky

Thomas Carothers' article "Promoting Democracy and Fighting Terror" (January/February 2003) critiques the Bush administration's democracy promotion record and offers some broad recommendations on how best to integrate human rights causes into American foreign policy. The author's long-term involvement in democracy-related activities and his passion about this subject are commendable, but both his analysis and his policy prescriptions are unpersuasive.

Carothers alleges that, driven by imperatives related to the war on terrorism, the administration has come to cooperate with a number of authoritarian regimes and turned a blind eye to various antidemocratic practices carried out by these newfound allies. This claim is incorrect. The administration's September 2002 National Security Strategy, which lays out our post-September 11 strategic vision, prominently features democracy promotion. The strategy describes it as a core part of our overall national security doctrine and commits us to help other countries realize their full potential:

In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere.... America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.

It is also a matter of record that this administration, whenever it encounters evidence of serious human rights violations or antidemocratic practices in specific countries, has raised a voice of opposition to such violations and sought to address these problems. This is certainly the case with such countries as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as Russia, Uzbekistan, and China. In general, we do this irrespective of the identity of the offender and, when circumstances merit it, criticize even some of our close allies. We manifest our concerns through a variety of channels, including diplomatic dialogue, both public and private, and

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