Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can

In This Review

Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can
By Michael McFaul
Rowman & Littlefield, 2009
304 pp. $27.95

Ever since the Bush administration's "freedom agenda" foundered, democracy promotion -- after a decade at the center of U.S. foreign policy -- has fallen on hard times. McFaul offers a spirited defense of democracy promotion as a necessary component of the United States' global strategy. He makes a compelling case that established democracies are unusually reliable partners and that when the United States has intervened to disrupt democratic change -- as it did in Iran in the 1953 coup -- its long-term security interests have suffered. The book acknowledges that democratization efforts in the Middle East have not produced more stable allies and that elections can bring anti-Western radicals to power, but McFaul counsels patience. His most important contribution is his sketch of a reformulated democracy-promotion agenda that would begin with the restoration of the "American example," which was tarnished by Abu Ghraib and the "war on terror": the United States should tone down its grandiose rhetoric, renounce the use of force as a tool of democracy promotion, and engage autocracies. In the end, the specific promotion policies may matter less than the ability of the United States to provide security and open markets, both of which have historically created the most favorable conditions for democratic advancement.

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