Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 11, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

BUSH AND DEMOCRACY....Over at Tacitus, Democritus asks a question:

The administration's note of disapproval on the upcoming Taiwan referendum and subsequent trade agreements with China struck me as decidedly odd. I thought that for sure that issue would be a no-brainer, on pure ideology: we would be supporting the Taiwanese, a democracy that is standing in the shadow of the last megalithic communist nation....

With our current talks with China regarding Taiwan, if we are truly interested in bringing democracy to those who want it, then why haven't we been applying that standard across the board, and stand with those opposed to communist tyranny?

I'm intruding on Matt Yglesias' turf here, but assuming this question to be sincere, here's the answer: neither George Bush nor any other American president, with the possible and partial exception of Jimmy Carter, has ever been especially concerned with democracy in foreign countries. Yes, Bush talks about it a lot, but it's just talk. Let's roll the tape:

Taiwan? Deserving of little more than random bitch slaps if we feel like it might buy us some help from China over trade deficits and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia? Our finest friends in the world. Why, we fought a whole war so that we could remove our troops from their soil.

Pakistan? Their military dictatorship is a good thing as long as they help us out with the Taliban occasionally.

Uzbekistan? Why make trouble over boiling people to death as long as we're allowed to set up a military base or two?

I could go on, but you get the point.

Now, there's nothing necessarily wrong with these positions. I'm not a big league Saudi basher myself, China is a major power that needs to be dealt with realistically, and sometimes the fight on terror is going to make for strange bedfellows in central Asia. Still, it's pretty tiresome to hear conservatives endlessly extolling George Bush's commitment to democracy when it's clear from his actions that he has no such commitment at all, not even in Iraq.

As I've said before, I don't mind the speeches. They sound pretty and they might even do some good. Just don't take them seriously, OK?

Kevin Drum 4:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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