The Washington Post‘s Outlook section has a feature (5/15/11) about getting rid of certain concepts or products. Former ABC anchor Ted Koppel suggests dumping democracy: “The concept remains worthy, but the word is rapidly being exhausted of all residual value.”
Koppel’s point is that the Arab Spring uprisings might not produce wholly democratic outcomes: “The instant transfer of political power is intoxicating, but it should not be confused with democracy itself.” Then Koppel turns his attention to U.S. policy:
Truth be told, our government’s commitment to democracy in other countries is almost whimsically inconsistent: clearly greater in Libya than in Saudi Arabia, less in Bahrain than in Iran. We are constrained from actively promoting democracy in China by our enormous national interests there; but in Congo, where our interests are negligible and the outrages against democracy are constant, we do nothing. The misappropriation of the word is so great as to be silly.
That doesn’t sound inconsistent at all–and that’s assuming that the U.S. preference somewhere like Libya is democracy (a rather whimsical assumption). The U.S. position is to offer rhetorical support for democracy, and to do what we can to prevent it when it would conflict with elite interests. Someone who spent so much time fawning over Henry Kissinger should know this.