We’re face-to-face again with our love-hate relationship with democratic principles. While politicians, pundits and everyday citizens love to extol the value of participatory governance in the United States and around the world, our foreign policy has focused on American ‘interests’ rather than democratic principles. It’s not surprising this week that Egyptian President Mubarak’s administration is under siege…after decades of democratic neglect and dictatorial power. If Tunisia is followed by Egypt in governmental disruption, the old 60s-era ‘domino theory’ of successive governmental takeovers will be a reality…not to Communism as feared then, but to a wide variety of interest groups including Islamic opportunists. It’s too late to be ahead of this trend, friends…but it’s not too late to understand our own values more clearly, so we can reshape our foreign policy in the future…if we actually believe in the democratic principles we espouse.
Everything you read in a blog is over-simplified to a point…but I believe this dilemma between democratic principles and American interests boils down to long-term versus short-term goals. It would be nice to find consistent policy options that serve both long-term and short-term needs, but it’s obviously not as easy as we might hope. Let’s face it…it’s sad and self-defeating, but, in American politics as in American business, short-term needs almost always win over long-term goals. We put up with petty despots in many countries to serve our immediate needs…and never quite get around to balancing off the needs of their people. American interests, of course, are urgent and important…and they take precedence over the long-term needs and human rights of people in other countries. When you’re still the ‘big dog’ in the world…with more economic, military and political power than any other nation…your priorities are the highest! But…in this equation, democratic principles suffer…deeply and often. (more…)