It is a striking thing to behold contemporary neocons rhetorical infaturation with democracy, as the president who reintroduced this sort of nonsense into high foreign policy discussions as a matter of national policy, Jimmy Carter, is the one whom they greatly loathe above all other recent presidents. After all, he succeeded in making a peace deal between Egypt and Israel, which contradicts everything neocons believe about Israel’s relations with its neighbours, and he happened to preside over the total collapse of Cold War Middle Eastern policy with his insipid endorsement of popular movements around the world. Certainly, Mr. Carter’s response to the Islamic Revolution in Iran was uninspiring, and the rest of his presidential career wasn’t any better, but we should not forget that Mr. Carter’s public turn towards democracy as the theoretical guiding principle of American foreign policy began the process of detaching real American interests from ideological preferences, and identifying American policy with the latter at expense of the former.
The lack of realism, the irresponsible rhetoric and the idolatry of democracy are the same in both the neocons and Carter (even if the neocons are being rather cynical about it all), and the neocons possess Carter’s own clumsiness in foreign affairs combined with a very un-Carter-like belligerence. It is indeed a great and wicked move from serving as a democratic example to the world to becoming the Timur of the democratic revolution, but the same foolish adoration for a mere system of government has been a constant, growing cancer in American government.
Evidently, it will only grow with time, until it consumes all American security interests and destroys all useful allies because they fail to match the party’s political line. For the sake of real American interests, this absurd devotion to the idea of democracy in foreign policy–which has generally meant little more than upheaval, violence and the deaths of Americans in futile wars–must be scrapped forever. In general, the less ideology we have in our foreign policy, the better it will be for our own system of government and the rest of the world.
Carter’s merely stating this policy and withdrawing support from those allies that did not live up to the democratic standard, such as the Shah in Iran, resulted in the collapse of the anchor of American policy in the region. To deny publicly and forcefully the legitimacy of all non-democratic regimes and effectively call for their elimination is a stab in the back to every allied state that does not go through the rigamarole of elections to keep its elite in power.
Metternich and Bismarck, perhaps the two greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century, represent the sort of foreign policy the United States should follow. War may well be needed as an instrument of policy, but both of them knew full well that there had to be definite limits to those wars and that their states could not long tolerate conflict. Their successors, who forgot everything they taught, ended up destroying their states and ruining their peoples. As Americans, we have the luxury and the blessing to be free of the maneuvering of powers that European statesmen were forced to address, and we should embrace it for all it is worth.
As Metternich might say, “Democracy is simply a rhetorical expression.” It is the promise of the demagogue, who has no intent of serving those who support him, and the trap of the foolish crowd. It is not a worthy idea, and certainly not worth forcing the redistribution of power around the world.