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One Man, One Vote, One Time?

June 6, 2005

Over the past two months, much of the euphoria over the supposed success of the Bush Doctrine has dissipated. Freedom may be "God's gift to humanity," as President Bush likes to say. In the Middle East, though, it just may not be the gift that keeps on giving.
In the wake of its spectacularly successful elections in January, Iraq took three months to form a government and is engulfed by an ever-bloodier insurgency. In Lebanon, despite the Syrian pull-out, political assassinations continue. And in Palestine, President Abbas has delayed elections, to the consternation of Hamas and an increasingly frustrated population.
The Bush administration may be about to learn the first lesson of democracy promotion: when given the opportunity to make choices, free people make choices you don't like. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah swept to victory in elections there and immediately portrayed their strong showing as a challenge to the United States which has labeled it a terrorist organization. Mahmoud Abbas faces the very real prospect of a Hamas victory in the Palestinian balloting, whenever that comes. In Iraq, the Jaafari government may move forward quickly with the trial of Saddam Hussein, against the preferences of the U.S. And in all likelihood, the U.S. will not ever see Iraq as a haven for American military bases in Middle East.
This is not to say that American policy is necessarily posed to produce a repeat of the Algerian disaster of the 1990's. Facing victory by the Islamist FIS in the elections, the military government in Algiers voided the results and started a decades long civil war. But while the Bush administration may not have created the conditions for "one man, one vote, one time," the lofty rhetoric of the White House means the U.S. will have to accept some unpleasant outcomes on the ground.
Back in 1993, neocon mouthpiece and Bush Doctrine devotee Charles Krauthammer wrote of President Mubarak's crackdown in Egypt:

Mubarak is no doubt asking us, "Do you support me in my war against the fundamentalists?" Our answer has to be: Given the alternative -- yes...Are we not violating the very tenets of democracy that are supposed to be the moral core of American foreign policy? No. Because democracy does not mean one man, one vote, one time...That is why it would be not just expedient but right to support undemocratic measures undertaken to avert a far more anti-democratic outcome. Democracy is not a suicide pact.

Krauthammer was almost certainly wrong then and he is definitely wrong now. The simple reason is because the policy of the Bush administration has left us no wiggle room. By Bush's tenets, we must accept the choices of newly democratic peoples around the world:

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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