US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion: From Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama

US Foreign Policy and Democracy Promotion: From Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama

by Michael Cox, Timothy J. Lynch, Nicolas Bouchet
     
 

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The promotion of democracy by the United States became highly controversial during the presidency of George W. Bush. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were widely perceived as failed attempts at enforced democratization, sufficient that Barack Obama has felt compelled to downplay the rhetoric of democracy and freedom in his foreign-policy. This, in turn, has led to

Overview

The promotion of democracy by the United States became highly controversial during the presidency of George W. Bush. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were widely perceived as failed attempts at enforced democratization, sufficient that Barack Obama has felt compelled to downplay the rhetoric of democracy and freedom in his foreign-policy. This, in turn, has led to accusations that he is substituting an American tradition of long-standing with a calculating pragmatism. Obama’s America ‘engages’ with China, Russia and Iran for reasons of national interest rather than confront them for their poor human rights records and democratic shortcomings.

The essays in this book test whether a democracy promotion tradition exists, or ever existed, in US foreign policy, and how far Obama and his predecessors conformed to or repudiated it. For more than a century at least, American presidents have been driven by deep historical and ideological forces to conceive US foreign policy in part through the lens of democracy promotion. Successive administrations have perceived the US national interest through this ‘democracy impulse,’ which explains their different efforts to export the American political model.

This book offers a collection of concise case studies, written by leading academic experts, that debate how far democratic aspirations have been realized in actual foreign policies. They evaluate whether or not these efforts were successful in promoting democratization abroad. They clash over whether democracy promotion is an appropriate goal of US foreign policy and whether America has gained anything from it.

Each chapter will be themed around the following questions:

  • How and to what extent was president X influenced by the democracy tradition?
  • What were the main ways and instances in which this influence was translated in grand strategy and actual foreign policy?
  • What were the outcomes and consequences, positive and/or negative?
  • And what was the legacy in terms of democracy promotion?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

US Foreign Policy And Democracy Promotion revises our understanding of the origins of this great American preoccupation--think Teddy Roosevelt, not Woodrow Wilson--and recasts conventional wisdom on figures like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. It's an indispensable addition to the literature on democracy promotion.

James Traub, author of The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008

For the past century, democracy promotion has been an important aspect of American foreign policy. This excellent volume shows how specific presidents from Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have wrestled with this often hotly contested issue. It will be a vital edition for anyone interested in American foreign policy.

Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University and author of The Future of Power.

An extremely refreshing perspective on a subject of long-standing concern… American democracy promotion strategies. With a dazzling array of leading scholars from across the disciplines…. this volume does something that so many others have failed to: place at the centre of its analysis of US foreign policy the holder of the world's most powerful office: the President of the United States….. strongly recommended.

Professor Inderjeet Parmar, Chair, British International Studies Association and City University London

A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject of U.S. democracy promotion, but I am aware of no other study that tackles it as Cox, Bouchet and Lynch have done here: by deploying a top notch posse of scholars to examine the phenomenon from the perspective of every American president from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama. Framed brilliantly by Tony Smith’s sweeping theoretical and historical introduction, the subsequent chapters yield many novel insights, from TR’s surprising contributions to American democracy promotion to Obama’s curious ambivalence. This excellent collection proves how much can be learned about an important phenomenon simply by examining how leaders have grappled with it in a variety of challenging contexts.

William C. Wohlforth, Daniel Webster Professor of Government, Dartmouth College, USA.

Democracy promotion as an instrument of US foreign policy is a topic which has generated a prolific literature. But this collection is unique. First because it takes the subject from its historical roots and covers a huge period of time starting with Theodore Roosevelt and finishing with Barack Obama. Secondly, because it insists on something which is quite rare in the whole literature: the practicalities of democracy promotion and not simply its discourse. Democracy promotion on the ground is at the core of this original endeavour. The result is impressive. It gives a very illuminating interpretation on the continuity of us foreign policy in this domain and confirm the persistent obstacles it faces in spite of some non negligible achievements, when US interests and values match local expectations.  A must read book for students and scholars interested in us foreign policy and more generally on the interaction between values and interests, between principles drawn in Washington and stubborn realities on the ground.

Zaki Laïdi, Director of Research, Sciences PO, France.

This is an impressive and valuable book. Instead of the usual polemics about the United States as paragon or hypocrite, this book provides solid analysis of the scope and limits of U.S. democracy promotion. It does so with both historical sweep and contemporary focus, and lines of argument significant for both the scholarly and policy communities. And it holds together well, much more effectively integrated than edited volumes often are. 

Bruce W. Jentleson, Duke University, USA.

A comprehensive and critical assessment of the complex relationship between American foreign policy and the promotion of democracy around the world. These prominent contributors examine the role of U.S. presidents in promoting democracy, as well as conceptual and institutional questions. A must reading for students, scholars, and policymakers interested in understanding the making of American foreign in the last seven decades and the role of the liberal idea in advancing world order.

Fawaz A. Gerges, Professor of International Relations and director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and author of "Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment?".

This edited volume offered some interesting insights into US foreign policy that are not often addressed, especially comparatively.

Joype P.Kaufman, Whittier College, USA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780415679794
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
05/24/2013
Series:
Routledge Studies in US Foreign Policy Series
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Michael E. Cox is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he is Co-Director of LSE IDEAS. He is co-editor of the London School of Economics CWSC journal, Cold War History.

Timothy J. Lynch is Lecturer in American Politics at the University of Melbourne (from1/1/11).

Nicolas Bouchet is a PhD Candidate at the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.

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