This Troy Senik column is Peters-esque in its unintentional self-parody. Amid the growing consensus that the Bush administration had no consistent or effective “freedom agenda,” and that the phrase was more propagandistic window dressing than policy agenda, Senik rises up to declare it a rousing success because a majority of Iraqis do not yet hate the form of government we destroyed their country to install. As I have said before, the cries of vindication and triumph from democratists seem unusually premature given their own complaints about Russia’s political development. Six years after the collapse of the USSR, most democratists who today lament Russia’s populist authoritarianism would probably have been cheering the success of liberal democracy in Russia. As they say, then some other stuff happened. For all of the ideological certainty that democratists possess that one type of regime is suitable for all places and all times, the desperate search for evidence that democratization in the last decade has led to anything other than a castastrophic mess reveals an incredibly insecure “school of thought.”
What few episodes of supposedly successful democracy promotion did occur during the Bush years have either resulted in empowered Islamist militias (Lebanon and Gaza), they have stalled and devolved into quasi-authoriarianism (Georgia) or failed from the beginning (the “Tulip Revolution”). Despite the important observation that the “surge” has failed on Mr. Bush’s own terms, Senik insists that it was “one of the boldest and most successful gambits in the history of presidential decision-making.” Sometimes I have wondered how detached from reality one must be to remain a steadfast Bush loyalist after so much failure, but rarely have I had the chance to see the distilled essence of such loyalism expressed with such perfect obliviousness about the realities of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy legacy.