I’d already clipped it for blogging, not because it was from the Truman Project, but because Spence made three key points that I hear rarely and agree with completely. I’d like to see these points made over and over louder and louder, until they become truisms. And I’m happy to align myself with someone who makes them.Now let’s go over them:
Americans are developing democracy promotion fatigue. In Iraq, we face the hard truth that democracy is more than the absence of dictatorship. American voters rarely have much tolerance for a policy requiring patience, struggle and disappointment. During the campaign, President Bush downplayed the hard work of democracy promotion, while John Kerry seemed to avoid the phrase altogether. Even the foreign aid community increasingly speaks of supporting “development” and “good government,” as “democracy” becomes a four-letter word.
These victories of democracy do not attract the same attention as last Sunday’s election results. But democracy does not happen only on election day; it is based on broader change that includes a free press, civil society and rule of law.
Americans are drawn to the idea that democracy is made with a dictator’s downfall or a free election four years later. But the way we imagine democracy as a series of Kodak moments must give way to the reality that democracy promotion is about slow and steady progress, with inevitable setbacks and struggles along the way.
What we are trying to do in the world is damn difficult, as all important things are. Sadly, killing people is easy. Freeing them is hard, because first and foremost we must create the conditions under which they can free themselves.
My biggest fear throughout this Iraq cycle is that we would not have the bottle for it, as the British say. That we would grow impatient, frustrated, repelled by the losses and damage to our own people and those we would hope to free.
It’s equally true in the Ukraine and elsewhere. We are settling in for a long project. It will occupy us and to some extent, our children. It’s worth it, though, because while freedom isn’t the natural condition of humanity – history is too full of counterexamples to believe that – it is the future of humanity.