DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION.

DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION. Spencer Ackerman calls the Bush "freedom agenda" a "fiasco." Michael Rubin has his doubts, asking "isn�t it terrorism and militias, rather than democracy, which are the problems in Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon?" He plugs this op-ed by Stephen Cook that urges us not to �Blame Democracy Promotion" and works through the typical sleight-of-hand of redefining "democracy" to mean something like "growing strength of pro-Western liberal political groups" (argument stolen from Praktike on an earlier Cook article). Rubin concludes, "It�s one thing to be anti-Bush, but when did it become �progressive� to celebrate White House silence on the crushing of dissent in Egypt, Tunisia, and the failure to even support organized labor in Iran?"

I'd be fascinated to see an example of an anti-Bush person celebrating Bush's silence on the crushing of dissent in Tunisia. My guess would be that the bulk of liberals have said nothing whatsoever about Tunisia because Tunisia is an obscure and unimportant country. Rubin links to an old article about Egypt, but does he want to see Hosni Mubarak permit more dissent like this:

After an Israeli strike last Sunday collapsed a Qana building, killing 29 civilians, most of them children, Egyptians took to the streets of downtown Cairo in a protest that demonstrated the trajectory of emotion. �Long live your struggle, Lebanon,� the crowds chanted. �Oh Beloved Hezbollah, strike, strike Tel Aviv,� they chanted.

�Down, down with Mubarak,� they chanted, referring to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

To me, the issue is neither that democracy-promotion is a good idea nor that it's a bad one. The problem is with the view that democracy-promotion is a substitute for common sense. The neoconservative right's combination of gung-ho democracy advocacy and utter contempt for actual Arab public opinion is bizarre. Bush has been a bit less contemptuous and a bit less gung-ho than some in his corner would like, but fundamentally his policies are failing because they're mired in the same basic contradiction as Rubin's preferences.

--Matthew Yglesias

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