As much as Western governments wanted Georgia, even before the 2003 Rose Revolution, to be the poster child for democracy in the post-Soviet region, reality fell short. Georgia under Eduard Shevardnadze, who led Georgia from 1993 to 2003, raised U.S. and European expectations and, with them, proportionately large sums of money to make them come true. But as Mitchell describes, although Georgia in that era was freer than most of its neighbors, it also slid into the ditch of corruption and economic incompetence. Eventually, Shevardnadze "tried to steal one too many elections." The "accidental revolution" this fathered, although genuinely popular, was scarcely democratic. Those who led it, for all their indisputable success in fighting corruption, salvaging a badly decayed infrastructure, and rallying public support, have attended far more to strengthening and modernizing the state than building democracy -- priorities Washington has mostly excused. So, Mitchell argues, in its democracy-promotion efforts, the United States should be more critical of its perceived democratic allies, less focused on single benchmarks such as elections, and more attuned to the many elements needed to create an engaged citizenry.
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