11 July 2009

Dumbing Down Democracy

Much has been made in the blogosphere of President Obama's apparently contradictory positions on 'meddling' in other countries' affairs. On the one hand, he took a definite and hard position on the outer of the Honduran President Zelaya (who had tried to illegally extend his term, and for whom a legitimate arrest warrant was made out) and feels secure in directing Israel to cease all settlement building, including expansion relative to populations growth. On the other hand, other than threatening tougher sanctions should Iran fail to halt its nuclear program, and asking for a halt to the violence, Obama is unwilling to employ the harder side of diplomacy with regards to Iran.

The real problem to my mind is that President Obama, in his rush to disavow all things Bush and avoid falling into the trap of democratizing the world, is failing to support a genuine yearning for freedom. Thursday's issue of the Wall Street Journal labeled Obama's willingness to abdicate the discussion on Iran that 'dumbing down of democracy.'
'When the people of Iran filled the streets of their country demanding a fair election, the U.S. clutched for a week. Uncertain of whether U.S. interests lay with the nuke-building ayatollahs or the democracy-seeking population, the Obama team essentially mumbled sweet nothings through the first days of the most extraordinary world event in this young presidency's term. That moment of hesitation, when a genuine and strategically useful democratic moment needed support, could prove costly. When the Group of Eight nations tried to shape a response to the Iranian government's repression, Russia knew what to say about Iran. "No one is willing to condemn the election process," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "because it's an exercise in democracy." Behold the official dumbing down of democracy. ... Dmitry Peskov was defining democracy in a way that could hardly be more different than the system of political pluralism developed over the past 300 years in the West. He couldn't have been clearer: We are changing the rules. Get over it. n this light, President Obama's performance in Moscow was disconcerting, to put it mildly. In Mr. Obama's worldview, political systems apparently don't compete. They simply . . . are. "America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country," he said, "nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country." Mr. Obama's political equivalence, conventional wisdom now among many Western sophisticates, is wrong and dangerous. Unless the West, led by the U.S. under this president, offers active push-back against the Russian definition of democracy, their version inexorably will back out ours.'
Whether we are nation that supports the growth of freedom and democracy in other countries or not, is a question that goes to the heart of nation and should not be decided by knee-jerk opposition to Bush or neo-cons or some other straw man. Supporting freedom doesn't require the use of 'hard power,' but it does require firmness of purpose and acting without fear of being accused of meddling or of being Bush.

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