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Promoting Democracy


Following World War 2, the United States backed the emergence of former enemies Germany and Japan as democracies. But in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, U-S policymakers often ignored the domestic policies of other allies as long as they supported the anti-soviet struggle.

Christian Tuschhoff (Too-Shoff), Political Science Professor at Emory University, says this policy is now being abandoned, and the Bush Administration is very much in favor of promoting democracy around the world.

"I believe it should and actually I am very glad that the Bush administration has made a priority of its policies and the state of the union address. Even though I believe it is not entirely new I mean the United States is engaged in promoting democracy in other countries at least since the end of World War II if you look at the example of Japan or Germany."

Four years ago, the Bush Administration expressed skepticism about promoting democracy around the world. That according to Eric Bjournlund (Be-yon-land), a lawyer who has designed and directed democratic development programs throughout the world for his organization Democracy International.

"I think we have definitely seen something of a shift in policy certainly at the rhetorical level it has been a significant shift. You remember this is the same George W. Bush who during the 2000 presidential campaign expressed a lot of skepticism about democracy promotion and said that he didn’t believe in nation building," he says. " For many years even though the United States has strongly supported democracy in Latin America and Eastern Europe and Russia, it has never really been a priority in foreign policy towards China and Egypt and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia," he adds. "So the Middle East has certainly been a place where the United States has not consistently supported democracy as a preemptive value even before recent times. President Bush has now announced a very significant difference at least an emphasis if not an actual policy towards the rest of the world in promotion of democracy and I think the jury is still out on whether that will have practical effect in places like Egypt and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia."

Elections in Iraq, Palestinians voting, Lebanon's pro-Syrian government collapsing, are signs of democracy is slowly taking root around the world. Professor Tuschhoff says the Bush Administration has a golden opportunity to take advantage of the situation.

"In democracy I would argue it would not come out of the barrel of a gun, but there are other options and the United States could for instance send armies of lawyers and judges to install systems of the rule of law in all countries that have not experience rule of law in the past that needs to be economic reconstruction. We need to show people how to run independent media organization and the like," he says. "But there are lots of things that can be done you know it really depends on how it is done and whether the United States wants to join other nations that have engaged in promoting what is called good governance."

As far as promoting democracy their is a renewed momentum. Democracy International's Eric Bjornlund says, not only the U.S. but other countries and international organizations should be part of the effort as well.

"You need to move beyond rhetoric and you need to move beyond just diplomacy it is certainly important to have international organizations and international leaders speaking on behalf of democracy, but it is also very important that foreign assistance and that actual activities happen that will encourage specific institutions to be created and encourage democratic values. Institutions like free elections and democratic legislature, civil society organizations and political parties free to operate so there are many things that international organizations, non-government organizations that are from around the world and within given countries can do to try and build institutions, create organizations, pass new laws and create new ways of doing politics and there’s renewed momentum in the world to making those things possible," he says. "There are many many specific things that can be done including by outsiders to encourage democratic transition throughout the world."

Note: Point of View is a weekly VOA radio segment that features leaders and experts debating different sides of an issue or topic. Click on the audio link above to listen to the full program.

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