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Democracy Recedes as a Global Ideal | Social Issue Essay, Article, Paragraph for Class 12, Graduation and Competitive Examination.

Democracy Recedes as a Global Ideal

Scheme of the Essay

Exposition: America considers herself morally obliged to export its political way of life.

Rising Action: But now this moral obligation is receding in the thinking of Americans.


(1) Americans have started doubting that every country would be better off if it had democracy.

(2) Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronal Reagan tried democracy to check communism.

(3) Though President Clinton created the National Security Council and a committee to consolidate financing for promoting democracy yet they are less sanguine about democracy.

(4) There are signs of democracy but not democracy.


Elections in the different countries show that they have mimicked democracy and not the real one.

Throughout the world’s longest experiment with democratic government, America has always thought of itself as morally obliged to export its way of life. What the White Man’s Burden was to Kipling’s generation of Englishmen, the promotion of democracy has been to four generations of Americans foreign policy equivalent of apple pie. Ever since Woodrow Wilson vowed to make the world safe for democracy, most Presidents have rhetorically endorsed this goal.

But now, less than a decade after democracy’s greatest leap forward, the idea that America must promote it everywhere has lost some of its charm. Funds for encouraging elections overseas are drying up as the Clinton Administration struggles simply to secure peace in Bosnia, the Middle East and elsewhere. In part, this reflects the reluctance of Americans to send their dollars abroad. But it also hints at a deeper change – a new- sense that Americans doubt that every country in the world would be better off if only it had more democracy.

Of course, Washington’s actions have often been inconsistent with its lofty words. Some American actions ignored democracy altogether and simply made a corner of the world safe for United Fruit. And when, during the Cold War, Presidents from John F Kennedy to Ronald Reagan proselytised for democracy, they did so primarily to stop Communism.

Later, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the global triumph of democracy seemed for a while not only inevitable, but a laudable end in itself, a development that would, incidentally, enhance American national economic and security interests.

But is this true? A debate is now raging. To some extent, recent administrations have had little choice but to embrace efforts to advance democracy abroad. Surprised by the democratic wave from Chile to South Africa after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Bush Administration went so far as to suggest that promoting democracy was a goal of its war to liberate Kuwait (which never was, and isn’t now, democratic). Not to be outdone, President Clinton in 1993 created new posts in the State Department and National Security Council for the purpose of spreading democracy, and set up a committee to consolidate financing for such activities. He also proposed a 60 per cent increase in funds for the National Endowment for Democracy, the foundation Congress created in the Reagan years to pay for fostering elections overseas, among other things.

Recently, however, supporters of such pro-democracy programmes have found themselves lobbying to preserve the Endowment’s $ 725 million that the Administration estimates that it has spent on democracy-related programmes in the year fiscal 1995.

It seems unlikely that Congress will abandon direct promotion of democracy altogether. But many policy makers and private analysts now say they are less sanguine about democracy’s prospects, more sober about the difficulty of promoting it and more sceptical about whether its triumph in several strategic countries would enhance American interests.

Mr. Clinton, too, has gradually de-emphasised the goal he once championed, says Thomas Carothers, a former state department lawyer and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “With the single exception of Haiti,” Mr. Carothers recently wrote in The Washington Quarterly, “Clinton has not, as compared to Bush, substantially increased the U. S. emphasis on democracy promotion in any country or region.” Mr. Carothers, incidentally, thinks this is a sensible step toward realism.

What explains this unease? First, the democratic trend that seemed inevitable after Communism’s fall has slowed, and in several regions has been reversed. Consider Yugoslavia, where elections meant only the end of the pluralism and tolerance that Americans take for granted as essentials of democracy. Or Poland and the Czech Republic, where voters disenchanted with slipshod administrations have elected former Communists to run their countries better. Or Russia, where the rise of ethnic, religious, and nationalist passions has led Washington to back Boris Yeltsin, the best of a bad lot of would-be czars through election.

Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of the bi-monthly, Foreign Affairs, argues that while there are more signs of “democratization” especially elections there are fewer democracies. “Serbia held elections, reasonably fair elections, Mr. Zakaria writes in an essay. “And the Serbs chose Milosevic, a xenophobic dictator.” In this argument, elections are just one attribute of democracy; effective democracy implies a system in which elections help a society govern itself fairly and well. Mr. Zakaria argues that America might do better by promoting civic values like free speech, separation of church and state and property rights.

All too often, such elections have produced not “democracy” as Americans understand it, but what Ken Jowitt, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, calls “Potemkin” or “mimic democracies” with few of the civic virtues found in the handful of “liberal-capitalist-democratic” states. Ironically, he says, efforts to promote democracy may have weakened the power of state. And now, as a result, democracy is not nearly as important as stability.


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