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U.S. Democratization Assistance.

With the end of the cold war, U.S. policymakers sought a number of rationales to justify continued engagement in the world and to promote American interests. Republicans and Democrats alike were attracted to a framework developed by the Reagan administration: the U.S. promotion of democracy. The Clinton administration went further than Reagan and Bush, announcing in 1993 that all U.S. foreign policy would be guided by the doctrine of "enlargement," aimed at expanding the community of democratic states.

Although this rhetoric indicated a shift in thinking from the former policy of containment (no longer necessary after the collapse of the Soviet Union), it was not backed up with significant policy initiatives designed to implement it. There were minor bureaucratic rearrangements such as the creation of the Center for Democracy and Governance at the Agency for International Development (AID) and the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. Clinton's attempt to create a position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Peacekeeping at the Department of Defense was thwarted by Congress, but a special Assistant for Democracy was named at the National Security Council (NSC).

Promoting democracy, the Clinton administration has argued, is valuable not only for its own sake but also because it enhances free trade and economic growth and promotes global security. As President Clinton said in his 1994 State of the Union address, "Democracies don't attack each other," and therefore "the best strategy to insure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere." However, academic Michael E. Brown and others contend that this "democratic peace theory" is based more on wishful thinking than empirical evidence.

Among policymakers, analysts, and the public there is a broad consensus supporting democracy promotion. The consensus, which builds on the U.S. national identity in global politics and the idealist tradition in foreign policy, has emerged with little critical examination of the objectives, methods, and impact of democratization programs. Since Woodrow Wilson, U.S. presidents have made a rhetorical commitment to democracy while supporting nondemocratic governments or forces if security or economic interests were at stake.

During the cold war, government democracy assistance programs were largely housed within the CIA and run covertly. Since the Reagan administration, a number of government agencies have begun democracy programs under the rubric of strengthening civil society. Although these programs are now overt and administered by a variety of agencies, the U.S. has continued the long-established model of funding--either directly or indirectly--foreign institutions such as the media, political parties, and trade unions.

Government agencies currently involved in the promotion of democracy include AID, the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and the departments of State, Justice, and Defense. Also involved are quasi-governmental organizations, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Asia Foundation, that rely almost exclusively on government funding. These democracy programs focus on the rule of law, the administration of justice, human rights, political processes including elections, civil society, government institutions, and civil-military relations. Though most of these government agencies target foreign institutions, USIA's public diplomacy efforts--which are here considered part of U.S. democracy assistance--target foreign individuals regarding U.S. policy and U.S. values, including democratic principles.

The amount of U.S. financial support for democracy assistance is difficult to assess over time because of numerous changes in the categorization of aid programs and accounting practices. Government figures have not consistently included economic assistance projects as part of democracy building funding. Similarly, the USIA is not always included. Recent figures from the State Department indicate spending of $580 million in 1998, with increases to $623 million and $709 million in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Nevertheless, these levels of democracy assistance have not reflected the Clinton administration's grand commitment to a policy of enlargement. When compared with the 1999 appropriations of $21.6 billion for International Affairs and $276.7 billion for the Department of Defense, the dollar amounts are extremely small.

Elizabeth Cohn is the Director of the International and Intercultural Studies Major at Goucher College.

Key Points

* U.S. democratization assistance is hard to evaluate because of a lack of clarity about what is considered democracy promotion.

* Historically, the U.S. commitment to promoting democracy has been more rhetorical than real.

* The objectives and impact of past U.S. political aid procedures skepticism about current democracy programs.

Elizabeth Cohn is the Director of the International and Intercultural Studies Major at Goucher College
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Article Details
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Author:Cohn, Elizabeth
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 30, 1999
Previous Article:Toward a New Foreign Policy.
Next Article:Problems With Current U.S. Policy.

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