JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: AGAINST DEMOCRACY. Last week, Shadi Hamid argued (here and here) that, to close the "vision gap" on foreign policy, progressives need to resist the realist temptation and reclaim democracy promotion from the neoconservatives. Today, Spencer Ackerman responds with a call to "uncouple human rights from democracy" and make promotion of the former the lodestar of liberal foreign policy:
I don't want to be too hard on Hamid. He wrote his essay in the service of a vital progressive (and American) pursuit: to chart a foreign-policy course that eschews the hegemonic and militaristic disasters of neoconservatism and the cynical and occasionally amoral impulses of realism. Unfortunately, his fetishization of democracy fails both America and liberalism. There is a better alternative for both liberal interests and the national interest: the promotion not of democracy, but of human rights.
What liberal democracy-promoters want to see in foreign closed societies is more precisely located in the advance of human rights: the protection of basic human dignity, freedom, and justice. Indeed, liberal democracy-promoters frequently criticize their neoconservative cousins for their lack of concern with the social protections of civil and legal rights. But it's time to uncouple human rights from democracy, and recognize that democracy has value only to the degree to which it safeguards human rights -- which is to say the degree to which democracy is liberal. Democracy in that respect is a fine and worthy thing, but the emphasis for the United States and for liberalism should be on the end, not the means.
Read the whole thing here.