(Kiana) #1

Larry Diamond

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some. Twelve years into the democratic
slump, not only does it show no signs o”
ending, but it is gathering steam.
A quarter century ago, the spread o”
democracy seemed assured, and a major
goal o” U.S. foreign policy was to
hasten its advance—called “democratic
enlargement” in the 1990s and “democ-
racy promotion” in the Ãrst decade o”
this century. What went wrong? In
short, democracy lost its leading propo-
nent. Disastrous U.S. interventions in the
Middle East soured Americans on the
idea o” democracy promotion, and a
combination o• fears about democratic
decline in their own country and
economic problems encouraged them to
turn inward. Today, the United States
is in the midst o” a broader retreat from
global leadership, one that is ceding space
to authoritarian powers such as China,
which is surging to superpower status,
and Russia, which is reviving its military
might and geopolitical ambitions.
Ultimately, the decline o” democracy
will be reversed only i” the United States
again takes up the mantle o” democracy
promotion. To do so, it will have to
compete much more vigorously against
China and Russia to spread democratic
ideas and values and counter authoritar-
ian ones. But before that can happen, it
has to repair its own broken democracy.

A temporary dip in the remarkable pace
o” global democratization was inevi-
table. During the latter part o” the third
wave, democracy spread to many
countries in Africa, Asia, and eastern
Europe that lacked the classic favorable
conditions for freedom: a developed
economy, high levels o” education, a
large middle class, entrepreneurs in the

private sector, a benign regional neigh-
borhood, and prior experience with
democracy. But the democratic recession
has been much deeper and more pro-
tracted than a simple bend in the curve.
Something is fundamentally dierent
about the world today.
The Iraq war was the initial turning
point. Once it turned out that Saddam
Hussein did not, in fact, possess
weapons o” mass destruction, the Bush
administration’s “freedom agenda”
became the only way to justify the war
retrospectively. Whatever support for
the intervention that had existed among
the American public melted away as
Iraq descended into violence and chaos.
I” this was democracy promotion, most
Americans wanted no part o” it.
A series o” other high-proÃle shocks
reinforced the American public’s wari-
ness. Elsewhere in the Middle East,
President George W. Bush’s vow to stand
behind people who stood up for free-
dom rang hollow. In Egypt, for example,
the administration did nothing as its
ally, President Hosni Mubarak, intensi-
Ãed political repression during and after
the contested 2005 elections. In January
2006, the Palestinian Authority held
democratic elections, partially in response
to pressure from the United States,
that resulted in an unexpected victory
for the militant group Hamas. And then,
during Barack Obama’s presidency, the
so-called Arab Spring came and went,
leaving behind only one democracy, in
Tunisia, and a slew o” reversals, crack-
downs, and state implosions in the rest
o” the Middle East.
As a result o” these blunders and
setbacks, Americans lost enthusiasm for
democracy promotion. In September
2001, 29 percent o” Americans surveyed
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