Zakaria: All U.S. Presidents Support Democracy (Except When They Don’t)

In the Washington Post (7/7/11), Fareed Zakaria tries to defend Barack Obama against the criticism that he needs a more consistent foreign policy. He writes:

All American presidents have supported and should support the spread of democracy. The real question is: Should that support involve active measures to topple undemocratic regimes, especially military force?

Since this is an important part of his argument, it is worth noting that “all American presidents” have no such passion for the spread of democracy. There is a fairly rich history of U.S. foreign policy taking “active measures” to support undemocratic regimes. It is unclear why Zakaria’s “real question” should be based around the opposite notion.

Interestingly, Zakaria’s rebuttal to the idea that the White House should have “a consistent policy toward the Arab Spring” is at odds with his assurances about U.S. support for democracy. Zakaria points out that the U.S. has not stood very strongly on the side of democratic stirrings in many of the countries under discussion, chalking it up to the usual difference between U.S. “interests” and “values” in places like Saudi Arabia, where the former are far more important than the latter.

There is, of course, a consistency in U.S. policy– it involves standing by dictators who are aligned with U.S. interests, and moving against those who do not, especially when there is oil involved.

Which is another way of saying that it’s a good week to have Noam Chomsky on CounterSpin. Listen here.

Of some of the Arab countries under examination–U.S.-friendly regimes without substantial oil reserves–Chomsky said:

There is a game plan which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it…. When there’s a favored dictator, and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible–full support, as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him–say, maybe the army turns against him, the business class turns against him– then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.