David Kramer and Arch Puddington are displeased that Americans don’t care about democracy promotion:
In the United States, the reluctance to provide that leadership represents a rare case of bipartisan agreement. Obama has made clear his desire to focus on domestic concerns; the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has fixated on reductions in spending; libertarians are hostile to the idea of American leadership; and even the Republican Party’s leaders now seem ambivalent about America’s world role.
If there is “rare” bipartisan agreement about this, what is even more remarkable about it is that the relative lack of interest in democracy promotion in Washington now reflects the opinion of an overwhelming majority of Americans. Democracy promotion is an extremely low priority for most Americans. According to the Chicago Council’s 2012 survey, 21% of Democrats, 11% of Republicans, and 10% of independents consider bringing democratic governments to other countries a “very important” goal for U.S. foreign policy. Rank-and-file Republicans don’t share the democratist preocccupations of their party leaders, and even among Democrats democracy promotion is the least important goal on this list.
This does not necessarily reflect Americans’ views about “American leadership” or “America’s world role.” These figures suggest that the lack of strong interest in democracy promotion includes people all across the political spectrum and cuts across all categories of foreign policy thinking. Considering how harmful and disastrous the “freedom agenda” was for the countries involved and how irrelevant it was for U.S. interests, it isn’t hard to understand why there is so little enthusiasm for this. The problem for advocates of democracy promotion here is that they insist on linking it closely to “American leadership” in the world, so that the public’s broad, justifiable skepticism of democracy promotion then applies to the exercise of this “leadership” in its entirety. If meddling in other countries, destabilizing their governments and the surrounding regions, and helping to install majoritarian and illiberal political movements is what comes of “American leadership,” Americans may reasonably conclude that such “leadership” isn’t very desirable.
P.S. Urging the revival of a “freedom agenda” would be less risible if the people advocating it could acknowledge that the earlier “freedom agenda” was a huge, costly failure that gave invaluable political cover to several semi-authoritarian governments that the U.S. was supporting.