Advancing democracy the antidote to populist wave – Condoleezza Rice


Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is alarmed by the political wave of rising populism, nativism, protectionism and isolationism, calling them “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,”  Global Politico reports.

She wrote her new book – Democracy: Stories From the Long Road to Freedom – to help Americans “to understand the great sweep of America’s involvement in democratic transitions, the promotion of democracy, trying to help us understand it from the context of our own democracy and the very long road that it took us to get to a stable democracy,” she tells Politico’s Susan Glasser.

There is a misconception that advancing democracy is about forcible regime change, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. “But democracy promotion is usually not that dramatic,” Rice says:

It usually comes rather out of circumstances like the way that we helped Colombia to take back its country from almost failed state status through democratic security, as [Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe called it, support for that through Plan Colombia that had started with President Clinton and with President Bush and continued under President Obama, bipartisan over a long period of time. It means helping Kenya to get through a bad election into a place where they can accept the consequences of the next election. It means trying to help the Ukrainians deal with the most difficult circumstances: A neighbor that is constantly trying to dismember it as it’s trying to find its own way to both identity and to liberty.


“There is no more thrilling moment,” Rice writes, “than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic.”

Institutions matter

To temper that chaos, we have institutions, and Rice is nothing if not an institutionalist, notes the Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada:

Democracies endure when they strike a balance between central and regional authority; between civilian and military leadership; between the state and civil society; and, of course, among the legislative, judicial and executive arms of government… Rice mixes realism and idealism [in] a book that gazes at the stars with its feet shackled to the ground.

“In functioning democracies,” Rice writes, “institutions are invested with protecting that equilibrium.”

Governmental efforts to advance democracy “are buttressed by effective and efficient organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy ….that provide bipartisan expertise to democracy advocates around the world,” including its core institutes – the Solidarity Center, the Center for International Private Enterprise, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, Rice writes.

“And we have a host of additional non‑governmental organizations that pitch in to monitor elections and educate human rights advocates, parliamentarians, journalists, and others who defend freedom in their countries. These efforts help to sustain advocates for religious and political freedom in countries still ruled by tyrants,” she adds.

The book “is Rice’s attempt to hammer home the idea of democracy promotion as a key goal for American foreign policy,” notes foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Mead.

And former Deputy National Security Adviser in the George W. Bush administration, Elliott Abrams, also extols the virtues of democracy promotion, The Hill notes. Abrams is critical of those who view “democracy as a luxury the United States cannot afford when faced with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State.”

“But Islamic extremism is an idea, and while it cannot be defeated without arms, it cannot be defeated by arms alone. A better idea, democracy, is a formidable and necessary weapon,” Abrams adds.

Rice worries that the advance of nationalism could upend the international order that has sought to spread freedom, the Post’s Lozada adds.

“Democracy has gained adherents in the context of this global order,” she writes. “Can it continue to do so if America and others withdraw from the responsibilities of the system they created? What will happen to those who still seek liberty in a world told to go its own way? What becomes of those still living in tyranny if we cease to tell others that democracy is a superior form of government and that its tenets are universal?”



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