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Thailand and the Bush Democracy Promotion Fraud

September 21, 2006

This week's coup in Thailand highlighted once again the yawning chasm between rhetoric and reality when it comes to President Bush's clarion call for the global expansion of democracy. The tanks rolled in Bangkok at virtually the same moment the President lectured the United Nations about people "from Beirut to Baghdad" making "the choice for freedom." Yet the White House was silent regarding the overthrow of the democratically elected if corrupt Thaksin government.
It's hardly the first time the global community heard crickets chirping from the Bush White House as democratic regimes were swept away on its watch.
Bush policy has been and continues to be at odds with the lofty rhetoric of democracy promotion. The American confrontation with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez stems in large part from Bush administration support for the 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power. Chavez may well be a thug and friend of Castro, but he was democratically elected, prompting 19 OAS member states to denounce the coup. But in Washington, press spokesman Ari Fleischer blamed Chavez for his overthrow and signaled tacit White House support. Following the collapse of the coup, Condi Rice could only mutter, "I hope that Hugo Chavez takes the message that his people sent him that his own policies are not working for the Venezuelan people." It is no wonder Senator Chris Dodd protested the Bush policy in Venezuela, worrying that "to stand silent while the illegal ouster of a government is occurring is deeply troubling and will have profound implications for hemispheric democracy."
American policy towards Venezuela is not the only example of the Bush team undermining democratically chosen if distasteful governments. In 2003, the United States stood by as chaos swept Haiti, ultimately forcing President Aristide from power. A popularly elected if corrupt offical, whose election was made possible by the Clinton intervention in the mid-90's, was pushed aside by the Bush team.
Turning the other cheek as democratically selected governments tumble and autocratic allies flourish gives lie to President Bush's oft-repeated admonition that:

"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."

Democracy expansion for President Bush is a cynical political tactic and a selective one at that. As I wrote in "The Myth of the Bush Doctrine:"

President Bush, the man who as a candidate called for a "humble" America face to the world, backed into freedom as his calling. With Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, his supposed 9/11 link, his Al Qaeda partnership and all other rationales for the Iraq conflict refuted, democracy promotion was left as the ex post facto causus belli. We did not invade Iraq to promote democracy; we promote democracy because we invaded Iraq.

This week's events in Bangkok offer just one more example of the sham that is democracy promotion as a tenet of American foreign policy under George W. Bush. As I concluded in March of 2005:

The short and happy life of the Bush Doctrine, then, is one of political expediency, intellectual dishonesty, and strategic confusion. The United States will punish states providing safe haven to terrorists, except in those countries like Lebanon where we don't. The U.S. will act preemptively against gathering threats from rogue states possessing weapons of mass destruction, especially if they don't in fact have them, as in Iraq, but not when they shortly will, as in Iran and North Korea. And the U.S. will not merely protect free, democratic states as it has it the past. America will spread democracy around the globe, and end tyranny in our world, unless the world includes China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and a host of others.

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

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