Zakaria and Democracy ‘Tension’

In the new issue of Time (12/12/11), Fareed Zakaria writes in the first sentence of his column:

It is difficult to find a country on the planet that is more anti-American than Pakistan. In a Pew survey this year, only 12 percent of Pakistanis expressed a favorable view of the U.S.

It’s not that difficult. The same survey of seven countries found one of them, Turkey, with an even lower 10 percent favorable opinion of the U.S., and Jordan just a hair above at 13 percent.

More important is Zakaria’s conclusion:

There is a fundamental tension in U.S. policy toward Pakistan. We want a more democratic country, but we also want a government that can deliver cooperation on the ground. In practice, we always choose the latter, which means we cozy up to the military and overlook its destruction of democracy.

To be clear, he thinks siding with the military over democracy is a bad thing.

But he also thinks the United States “always” choose repression over democracy. This is notable, in that as of this summer he was writing that “all American presidents have supported and should support the spread of democracy.” As we pointed out then, this does not square with the record.

And in March 2007, Zakaria wrote critically of the Bush record of intervening in Latin American countries, which he saw as a break witha Reaganesque policy of democracy promotion:

American foreign policy toward Latin America had been on the right track for two decades. Ronald Reagan orchestrated an extraordinary turnaround, supporting human rights, democracy and free trade in several countries.

As FAIR noted, this was a remarkable whitewash of the Reagan record.

And then there was the time Zakaria attempted to argue that U.S. policy towards Haiti was one long attempt to promote democracy:

Consider, for example, Haiti, where the United States has attempted to foster democracy on and off for almost a century–with almost no success. Why? Surely Haitians yearn to be free. But there are aspects of its politics, economics and culture that have made it very difficult to establish liberal democracy.

As FAIR pointed out, this period included U.S. military occupation along with support for a coup against Haiti’s democratically elected government.

I suppose there’s a chance that Zakaria’s views towards U.S. power are becoming more critical. But if he’s really reaching this conclusion, why talk about the “tension” between supporting democracy and working against democracy? Maybe he’s just having trouble remembering which side of the argument he’s on.

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.