Spreading democracy abroad?

Mike McLaughlin

After reading President Bush’s second inaugural address, I was forced to agree with an early sentiment from an NBC talking head who said this was the best speech that Woodrow Wilson ever gave.

The address did echo Wilson’s ideas of self-determination and furthering the spread of democracy throughout the world. While I was by no means happy with the president’s victory in November, I was proud to hear of this noble commitment to democracy.

Then, I remembered both his and the nation’s track record on this issue, and I realized this was just yet another cynical ploy.

If Bush was truly committed to the idea of a freer world, he would pressure the governments in Cairo, Riyadh and Islamabad to hold free elections in which all parties could participate. Of course, there is the fear that heavily fundamentalist parties could win the election and follow an anti-American track.

In the past, however, some pro-American authoritarian regimes have had a nasty habit of falling and allowing revolutionaries to get into power. These revolutionaries often tend to be much more violently anti-American than freely elected governments who are opposed to the United States. After all who in their right minds would trade Mossadegh for Ayatollah Khomeini?

Also, an attempt by the United States to forcefully support reformers in Iran would, in most likelihood, have the opposite effect, reinforcing support for the government now in power. To use a personal example, while I’m certainly not fond of Bush, I wouldn’t support an attempt by the Chinese to kick him out and would “rally” behind him.

Another hole in the theory that the president truly wants democracy for the entire world can be seen in Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez is a pain in the United States’ ass, going around showing solidarity with Fidel Castro and trying to nationalize that country’s oil fields. However, he was elected by the people of Venezuela, and if the United States is trying to spread democracy, they shouldn’t have given the green light to corporate interests trying to launch a coup as they did in April 2002.

I’m not surprised that such a call for democracy by Bush is nothing more than a bit of a showmanship because every president since the 1950s, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has either directly or indirectly undermined democracy in other countries while looking out for “our best interests.”

In all fairness, many of them probably truly believed they were acting for the good of the country. However, and I realize this is rather naive of me, I want Bush to tell us the true reasoning behind his actions instead of wrapping himself in platitudes of “freedom” and “liberty.” Then again, he probably realizes how the public would react if he came out and called for a push on Iran.

If there is anything this president does understand, it’s how to get what he wants, and if that involves being dishonest to the American people, well, that’s just par for the course.

Mike McLaughlin is a senior history major, secretary of the College Democrats and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].