Monday, May 02, 2005

The role of democracy in the NSS

In fact, if we're going to go over issue of intent and political credit, it's very much worthwhile rereading the September 2002 National Security Strategy statement for its passages about democracy and democratization. Recall that this document was widely represented (across the political spectrum) as the theoretical blueprint for the Iraq War, enunciating "the doctrine of preemption": the right and indeed obligation of the United States to use force to attack dangerous regimes before they develop into a strategic threat.

The word democracy appears 14 times in this document. The first and third time (p. 1, 4) it is mentioned as a universally accepted value, something that the U.S. intends to promote generally. Democracy, in short, is presented as categorically akin to motherhood and apple pie. Details of how we will do this promoting are left aside.

In terms of countries that are specifically called out as needing to become more democratic, the document refers on p. 4 and 30 to Russia and China. Presumably these references were not intended as threats to invade these countries. Rather, it's just a general encouragement, in line with traditional, Cold War-era American exhortations to its great power rivals.

"Democracy" then comes up again on pages 14-15, this time in relation to how resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute requires that the Palestinians become more democratic. The document also notes that the Israelis had better work toward a solution, or else the impasse will screw up their own democracy.

The remaining mentions (p. 8, 10, 25, 27) refer to the U.S. supporting the "infrastructure of democracy," specifically via the use of economic aid. In other words, promoting democracy is explicitly linked to foreign aid efforts. By contrast, the use of military force (which is the central thrust of the document as a whole) is discussed exclusively in relation to rolling back rogue states and intervening in failed states. In short, the notion that we will use military force to impose (or encourage) democratization appears nowhere in this document.

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