Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve available in Paperback
Aid to promote democracy abroad has emerged as a major growth industry in recent years. Not only the United States but many other Western countries, international institutions, and private foundations today use aid to support democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Though extensive in scope, these activities remain little understood outside the realm of specialists. Debates among policymakers over democracy promotion oscillate between unhelpful poles of extreme skepticism and unrealistic boosterism, while the vast majority of citizens in aid-providing countries have little awareness of the democracy-building efforts their governments sponsor. Aiding Democracy Abroad is the first independent, comprehensive assessment of this important new field. Drawing on extensive field research and years of hands-on experience, Thomas Carothers examines democracy-aid programs relating to elections, political parties, governmental reform, rule of law, civil society, independent media, labor unions, decentralization, and other elements of what he describes as "the democracy template" that policymakers and aid officials apply around the world. Steering a careful path between the inflated claims of aid advocates and the exaggerated criticisms of their opponents, Carothers takes a hard look at what such programs achieve and how they can be improved.
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About the Author
Thomas Carothers is vice president for international politics and governance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and founder and director of the Endowment's Democracy and Rule of Law Project.
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A New Field
For generations, American leaders have emphasized the promotion of democracy abroad as a key element of America's international role. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that America was fighting World War I ''to make the world safe for democracy.'' In the 1920s and 1930s, U.S. politicians cast the various military interventions in the Caribbean and Central America as missions to establish democracy. In World War II, America fought against fascist tyrannies in the name of freedom. U.S. officials of the postwar period emphasized democracy promotion as they formulated a policy toward a vanquished Japan and Germany and then framed the emerging cold war as a struggle to preserve ''the Free World.'' In the early 1960s, President John Kennedy embraced the idea of a noble campaign to foster democracy in the developing world. Two decades later, President Ronald Reagan renewed the democracy theme by casting his ardent anti-Soviet policy as a democracy crusade. In the 1990s, Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton asserted that democracy promotion was a key organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy after the cold war.
Looking behind this long chain of impressive policy rhetoric, one sees a less consistent policy reality. Countervailing interests, both security-related and economic, have often outweighed or undermined a U.S. interest in democracy. Throughout the twentieth century, the United States has maintained friendly relations with dictatorships and intervened in other countries' internal affairs for purposes far removed from the promotion of democracy. Prodemocracy rhetoric has regularlyexceeded reality and has sometimes been used deliberately to obscure a contrary reality. Nevertheless, democracy promotion is an important part of America's international tradition, even if its application has often been inconsistent. American foreign policy of the past 100 years cannot be understood without serious attention to the democracy ideal. And the history of democracy around the globe during the same period is incomplete without sustained attention to the role of the United States on the world stage.
In the past twenty years, democracy promotion has been a particularly significant part of U.S. foreign policy. One reason has been the unfolding of ''the third wave'' of democratization in the world, the expansion of democracy that began in Southern Europe in the mid-1970s, spread to Latin America and parts of Asia in the 1980s, then accelerated dramatically from 1989 on with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the unexpected surge of democratic openings in sub-Saharan Africa, and further democratization in Asia. As dictatorships around the world have fallen and societies as diverse as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, and Malawi have attempted transitions to democracy, the U.S. government has frequently responded with support. Its democracy-related policies and programs have been prompted by the global movement toward democracy more than the reverse, despite what Americans involved in democracy promotion like to claim.
Another cause of the greater attention to democracy has been the ideological evolution of U.S. foreign policy since the late 1970s. Through its human rights policies, the Carter administration put the government in the habit of paying attention to the domestic behavior of other governments, beyond the limited cold war concern about leftist insurgencies and takeovers. The Carter team did not, however, highlight democracy per se, both because few countries in those years were engaged in democratic transitions and because Carter officials generally believed in political noninterventionism (distinguishing their human rights advocacy from efforts to produce particular political outcomes in other countries). President Reagan raised high the democracy banner, seeking a moral dimension for his heightened anti-Soviet approach. The actual role of democracy promotion in Reagan's foreign policy was uneven; it evolved substantially, from the early line of accepting anticommunist dictators as necessary allies to a limited but growing willingness to support democracy against tyrants of either the left or the right.
The end of the cold war gave rise to the appealing notion that the traditional tension in U.S. foreign policy between realpolitik security interests and Wilsonian moral interests was over. Both President Bush and President Clinton, along with their top foreign policy advisers, repeatedly declared that in the reconfigured world, promoting democracy serves not only moral interests but also practical ones, thereby bridging the longstanding realist-idealist divide. Democratic governments, they asserted, do not go to war with one another, produce refugees, or engage in terrorism. They make better trade partners, and further pragmatic U.S. interests in other ways as well. As Clinton declared in his second State of the Union address in 1995, ''Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere.'' The democracy rhetoric escalated across the decade, leading to sweeping, utopian declarations such as Clinton's prediction in his second inaugural address that, ''The world's greatest democracy will lead a whole world of democracies.''
High-flying rhetoric and the end of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry notwithstanding, security and economic interests still often point U.S. policy in a contrary direction. In more than a few countries, including Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Indonesia (before the fall of President Suharto in May 1998), Armenia, and Azerbaijan, the Bush and Clinton administrations downplayed democracy and pursued friendly relations with governments for the sake of interests ranging from oil and trade relations to regional security and stability. Democracy promotion remains at most one of several major U.S. foreign policy interests, sometimes complementary to but sometimes in competition with other, stronger interests.
Nevertheless, the promotion of democracy is playing an important role in U.S. foreign policy. In many countries, especially in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa but also in parts of Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East, the United States has attempted to support transitions away from authoritarianism. The foreign policy bureaucracy is gradually habituating itself to the concept. U.S. officials no longer automatically view democracy promotion as a marginal idea pushed only by a fervently pro-American right or a touchy-feely, do-gooder left. U.S. missions abroad now at least formally incorporate democracy promotion into their strategic plans and it is a major line item in the foreign affairs budget of the United States.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
When policy makers decide they are going to try to promote democracy in another country, they typically reach for various tools. The officials may use diplomatic measures, as either carrots or sticks: criticizing a government that is backtracking from democracy, praising a prodemocracy leader, granting or withdrawing high-level diplomatic contacts in response to positive or negative developments, and so on. Or they may apply economic tools, again as carrots or sticks: economic pressure, such as sanctions, on governments that crush democracy movements; or economic rewards, such as trade benefits or balance-of-payments support for governments taking steps toward democracy. In extreme circumstances, the United States may even employ military means to promote democracy, intervening to overthrow a dictatorship and install or re-install an elected governmentalthough U.S. military interventions that politicians justify on democratic grounds are usually motivated by other interests as well.
The most common and often most significant tool for promoting democracy is democracy aid: aid specifically designed to foster a democratic opening in a nondemocratic country or to further a democratic transition in a country that has experienced a democratic opening. Donors typically direct such aid at one or more institutions or political processes from what has become a relatively set list: elections, political parties, constitutions, judiciaries, police, legislatures, local government, militaries, nongovernmental civic advocacy groups, civic education organizations, trade unions, media organizations. Unlike the other tools of the trade, democracy assistance is neither a carrot nor a stick. It is not awarded for particular political behavior, nor is it meted out as punishment for democratic slippage (though people in recipient countries may sometimes view it as such).
Prior to the 1980s, the United States did not pursue democracy aid on a wide basis. In the past two decades, such aid has mushroomed, as part of the increased role of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. It started slowly in the 1980s then expanded sharply after 1989 with the quickening of the global democratic trend. By the mid-1990s, U.S. annual spending on such programs reached approximately $600 million and now exceeds $700 million. A host of U.S. government agencies are involved in this workprimarily the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Information Agency (USIAnow being merged into the Department of State), but also the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice, as well as several quasi-governmental organizations (government-funded, privately run), including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Asia Foundation, and the Eurasia Foundation.
These organizations in turn support several dozen American groups that implement most of the U.S. democracy programs in other countries. These groups fall into several categories: nonprofit organizations largely or wholly devoted to one or more areas of democracy promotionsuch as the International Foundation for Election Systems, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Carter Center, the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative, and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity; universities, research institutes, and policy institutes that sometimes take on democracy projects; and for-profit development consulting groups, usually Washington-based, that have added democracy work to their portfolio of development specialties, including Management Systems International, Checchi and Company Consulting, Development Associates, Chemonics International, Creative Associates International, and ARD. Some American private foundations also sponsor activities that bear directly on democratization abroad, especially relating to civil society development, though they operate separately from the world of official U.S. democracy aid.
Within this array of government, quasi-government, and nongovernment organizations underwriting or implementing democracy programs are thus many people who work substantially on democracy promotion. A core of several hundred people in key positions in those organizations drive the field, but several thousand take part on a regular basis and constitute the newly emerged and still growing community of American democracy promoters.
The reach of such assistance is broad. In 1998 the United States carried out democracy programs in more than 100 countries, including most countries in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America, as well as many in Asia and the Middle East. The current wave of democracy aid is by no means the first for the United States, as readers will see in the next chapter. The democracy programs of the 1980s and 1990s, however, are by far the most systematic, sustained, and wide-reaching that America has undertaken.
The recent surge of democracy assistance is by no means exclusively or even principally a U.S. story. The relaxation of ideological tensions after the cold war, combined with the movement toward democracy in many regions, have put democracy on the global agenda in a much more far-reaching way than ever before. In the past ten years, aiding democracy has become an international cottage industry, with a remarkable range of actors entering the field. Almost every major country that gives foreign assistance now includes democracy programs in its aid portfolio. Numerous international or multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Council of Europe, sponsor democracy programs. Many Western political parties, labor unions, foundations, and other nongovernmental organizations are active. The international financial institutions have begun committing resources to promoting good governance, which, although theoretically distinct from democracy promotion, often substantially overlaps with it in practice.
LACK OF LEARNING
Although democracy aid has become a remarkably extensive field of activity, it remains understudied and poorly understood. Some of the more experienced people and organizations in the community of democracy promoters are gaining considerable expertise. They rarely distill their knowledge into written form, however, and when they do it is usually in informal internal memos. Some of the organizations involved carry out evaluations of their own work, but those reports rarely circulate outside the sponsoring organizations and, for reasons discussed at length later, rarely cut deep. Those in the business of dispensing democratic aid are much more inclined toward action than retrospective reflection. Bureaucratic imperatives reinforce this tendency, above all the pressure to keep moving from one project to the next. It should be said as well that many democracy promoters are temperamentally resistant to critical reflection. Missionary zeal pervades the field, bringing with it a disinclination for self-doubt and a reflexive belief in the value of the enterprise. On top of all this, democracy assistance, as with all types of foreign aid, is a competitive business. Democracy groups are not motivated to share their knowledge and best ideas with one another or to make public (or even to engage in) tough-minded reviews of their own performance. To the extent that they produce reports for external consumption, such publications are by necessity usually more public relations efforts than anything else.
Little systematic learning has been added to the field from outside the circle of practitioners. Academic specialistswhether in international relations, comparative politics, or development studieshave not devoted much attention to the subject. Political scientists have shown considerable interest in democratization, producing a large literature on democratic transitions, particularly relating to Southern and Eastern Europe and Latin America. They have shown relatively little interest, however, in democracy assistance. Often unaware how extensive democracy aid has become, scholars assume it is of minimal importance in the overall picture of any given democratic transition. To the extent they are aware of it, they tend to see it as a practical domain that poses few theoretical questions of the sort that motivate scholarly inquiry. Moreover, some American academics still automatically assume, as they learned to do during the cold war, that U.S. aid to promote democracy abroad is little more than a way of forcing the American system on other countries or sugarcoating self-interested interventions in the internal politics of weaker nations.
The media dip into the subject only occasionally, during high-profile elections in politically transitional countries, when they work alongside international election observers and focus on the role of the United States or the international community in the vote. The media are far less likely to examine other types of democracy assistance: it is hard to make much of a story out of a training program for parliamentary staff, technical assistance to municipal governments, or an exchange program for civic educators. The result is a distorted picture of democracy aid, one fostering the oft-repeated view that democracy promoters push elections at the expense of other elements of democratization. Every so often a journalist will suddenly discover that there <italic>is<roman> democracy aid beyond elections, and make a brief investigative foray, usually with the bold aim of ridiculing the whole endeavor as the work of nave fools. After an enthusiastic, superficial bout of bubble-bursting, the journalist moves on, leaving behind an angry, sputtering set of democracy promoters. Such episodes produce little insight and tend to make an already defensive and sometimes self-righteous community of assistance practitioners even warier of sharing information with the outside world or engaging in open debates about what they do.
The lack of much formal accumulation of knowledge about democracy aid has negative consequences in the practitioner community. One is insufficient cross-learning about promoting democracy among different regions or among different sectors in recipient countries. Another is the dispiriting tendency toward constant reinventing of the wheel in aid organizations as personnel shift into and out of positions, particularly in groups working in the field for the first time. People often seem to believe that merely being a citizen of a democratic country qualifies them splendidly to promote democracy anywhere else. Utilizing their own limited instincts and ideas about how democracy is supposed to work, they generate programs with little help from any body of learning other than occasional reports containing lists of anodyne lessons learned ranging from ''Be sensitive to the local environment'' to ''Democracy is not achieved overnight.''
The scarcity of systematic study also has detrimental effects on the position of democracy aid within the world of foreign policy and international affairs. It increases the tendency to judge democracy aid according to preformed assumptions and prejudices rather than on the basis of reality. The most basic questions about the field, such as, ''Does it work?'' and ''Do we know what we're doing?'' are left unanswered for most observers. Public discussions about democracy aid remain stuck in unhelpful extremes, with the aid programs portrayed either as heroic endeavors critical to the future of democracy or as a cascade of boondoggles that primarily benefit self-interested aid givers and consultants. Neither side in such debates learns much from the other, and the more useful, accurate middle ground is left underdeveloped.
This book is a response to the lack of systematic study of democracy assistance. Ten years after 1989the starting point for much recent democracy workit is a natural time for taking stock. I attempt in this book to draw together the essential elements of and questions about democracy aid to help define this emergent field as a field. There are obvious limitations in any attempted overview of such diverse activities.
Tracing the evolution and analyzing the effects of the thousands of U.S.-sponsored democracy aid projects in dozens of countries around the world during the past two decades is impossible. No one category of democracy aid can be fully discussed here. No one recipient country can receive definitive treatment. I do aim to establish an analytic framework for understanding the field and to set out at least basic lines of analysis for all the major elements of the framework.
As I make clear throughout the book, I believe that the shortcomings of democracy aid are many and serious. Nonetheless, I also believe if one takes the broader view, many democracy promoters are learning as they go along. The positive trend is not dramatic, steady, or rapid, yet it is real. One of my main purposes in writing this book is to capture the main elements of this learning curve to further its consolidation and advance.
The chapters of the book track my analytic framework for the field. Chapter 2 traces the history of U.S. democracy assistance from the 1960s through the 1990s, focusing on the evolution of such aid, its place within overall U.S. foreign policy, and the question of whether the efforts of the 1990s are a repeat of those of the 1960s. Chapter 3, an interlude for skeptics, directly addresses the core doubts that such persons usually have about democracy aid. Chapter 4 introduces the four country case studies, on Guatemala, Nepal, Zambia, and Romania, that are developed throughout the book.
Chapter 5 examines the all-important question of strategy, identifying the models of democracy and democratization that structure U.S. democracy aid programs as well as recent attempts to develop more nuanced approaches. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 analyze the main types of democracy assistance, for each looking at its specific forms, the principal challenges in making it effective, and how it is evolving over time. Chapter 6 covers elections aid and political party work. Chapter 7 takes up programs directed at state institutions, including constitutions, judiciaries, legislatures, local government, and militaries. Chapter 8 explores aid to civil society, with particular attention to advocacy-oriented nongovernmental organizations, civic education, independent media, and trade unions.
Chapter 9 reviews how democracy aid is implemented on the ground; it includes a critique of the standard project method and a look at the trend toward more locally sensitive methods. Chapter 10 considers the question of evaluation, offering a critique of existing methods and suggesting some better ways of proceeding. Chapter 11 assesses the effects of democracy aid. Chapter 12 sums up the learning curve to date, points out how it should be broadened, and presents its implications for U.S. policy.
My focus throughout is democracy aid funded by the U.S. government, with only occasional commentary on the work of other donor countries, international organizations, and private foundations. I give particular though not exclusive attention to the programs sponsored by USAID, because it is by far the largest source of such aid. My emphasis on U.S. efforts reflects the fact that the bulk of my experience lies in this realm. Although this is a limitation, I do not believe it is a fatal impediment to an overview of the whole field, given that the United States moved into democracy assistance earlier than most other actors and has been the largest single democracy donor. Moreover, I believe that much of my analysis is applicable or at least directly relevant to democracy assistance generally, whatever its source. Certain distinctive features do mark U.S. aidnotably the projection of certain America-specific ideas about democracy and the political baggage that inevitably accompanies Americans doing political work abroad. At root, however, most forms of Western democracy assistance, whether from Sweden, Spain, Australia, the Organization of American States, Canada, the United Nations, the European Union, or the United States, are not all that different from each other, despite what non-U.S. actors often like to think. In fact, comparing democracy programs sponsored by varied governments and international institutions, what is most striking is not their differences but their similarities.
CASE STUDIES AND OTHER SOURCES
In writing this book I have drawn heavily from two sources. The first is my personal experience as a practitioner and analyst of democracy assistance since the mid-1980s. My first exposure to the field came in 1986 -1987 when I was detailed from the legal adviser's office of the State Department to a newly created office for democracy programs in the Latin American bureau of USAID. Late in the decade, after leaving the government, I carried out extensive research on the policy process surrounding democracy aid and wrote a book on U.S. democracy promotion in Latin America during the Reagan years. I broadened my involvement in democracy programs through diverse consulting assignments in the first half of the 1990s for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Foundation for Election Systems, in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 1993 I established the Democracy Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., for the purpose of studying democracy assistance. Through the Democracy Project I have carried out field research on numerous aid efforts, organized many study groups and seminars with practitioners and scholars on different aspects of the subject, worked as a consultant on democracy aid projects in different regions for several U.S. and international institutions, and written numerous articles on the subject. I draw on all these experiences here, especially my observation of projects in the field and countless formal and informal conversations with both aid practitioners and aid recipients over the years.
A second, more specific source is a set of four studies of U.S. democracy assistance that I designed and carried out from 1996 to 1998. For each of the four case studieson Guatemala, Nepal, Zambia, and RomaniaI first gathered extensive information in Washington through documents and interviews on all publicly funded U.S. democracy aid programs in the country from the late 1980s on. I then traveled at least twice to each country to interview people who had participated in, observed, or were otherwise knowledgeable about the U.S. democracy aid efforts. For the case studies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, I was assisted by three American researchers, each of whom is a specialist in democratization in his or her region of specialization and is knowledgeable about democracy aid. These research partnersMichael Shifter for Latin America, Marina Ottaway for Africa, and Stephen Golub for Asiatraveled with me on the field visits and carried out further field research on their own. In the case of Romania, I incorporate some of the findings from extensive research on U.S. democracy assistance that I did in 1994 and 1995 for a book of mine published in 1996 on U.S. democracy aid to Eastern Europe, focused on Romania. I updated that research with additional visits to Romania in 1997 and 1998.
In carrying out the field research, my research partners and I strove to understand not only the substance and effects of the U.S. and other democracy aid programs in each of the four countries but also how democracy aid looks from the recipient end. We followed the evaluation guidelines that I set out in chapter 10. We made a point of talking not just to people who received the assistance, for example, but to others who were not included in the aid programs but were knowledgeable about the sectors in question. We took a highly qualitative approach, asking in an open-ended fashion about the effects of programs rather than quizzing interviewees on whether the programs reached particular preset goals. We tried to make clear that we were interested in what was being learned on all sides, whether or not the story involved mistakes or misadventures.
Given the large number of countries in which U.S. democracy promoters operate, no small group of cases can be perfectly representative of the field. Nevertheless, Guatemala, Nepal, Zambia, and Romania provide some useful representativity. They are on four different continents. Each has been host to a set of U.S. democracy aid programs that are fairly typical of the programs that the United States has recently sponsored in that region. Their democratic transitions (or attempted transitions) were part of the democratic wave of the 1980s and 1990s. Each has ended up in the large, gray middle zone of so many transitions of that period, having neither moved rapidly and painlessly to democracy nor fallen back into outright authoritarianism. They are not the exceptional cases that have attracted the lion's share of international attentionsuch as South Africa, Poland, Russia, Chile, El Salvador, or the Philippines. They are instead part of the less visible but much larger group of transitional countries that had their moment in the news briefly during their initial democratic opening but have since grappled with democratization out of the limelight, aided by low-profile but nonetheless often substantial U.S. and other Western democracy programs.
I have not written up each case study as a separate chapter. I introduce the cases in chapter 4, and present some concluding thoughts about each in chapter 11. In between I have woven material from the cases into the other chapters, both directly, as examples intended to illuminate specific points, and indirectly, as learning that helped shape my overall analysis. This method makes it difficult to go into great detail or tell a complete story with the cases, but it spares readers a book dominated by long, detailed studies of countries in which few people have an all-consuming interest.
AVOIDING ROSY ASSUMPTIONS
I have discovered over the years that if you take democracy assistance seriously as a subject for analysis and writing, some people automatically suspect you of harboring rosy assumptions, in particular two: first, that democracy is advancing steadily around the world and clearly works well for all countries, regardless of their political background or economic condition; and second, that the grandiose official rhetoric about the central place of democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy is really true. In fact, however, neither of these assumptions informs my outlook or this book.
With regard to the state of democracy in the world, it is true that significant advances have been achieved in some parts of the world in the past twenty years. Most East European countries have made substantial democratic progress since 1989 and appear headed toward political and economic integration with Western Europe. In Latin America, the institutional performance of many democratic governments remains weak, but democracy has shown greater staying power than many analysts predicted when the region returned to elected, constitutional governments in the 1980s. Several East Asian countries, notably South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Thailand, are making serious efforts at democratizing, and in much of the region the notion that democracy is an unnatural Western implant has faded. At least a handful of sub-Saharan African states have managed to keep basically on track with democratic transitions begun in the early 1990s. More broadly, all around the developing world and former communist countries, the concepts of political pluralism, governmental accountability, and the right of people to choose their own leaders are discussed and considered much more widely than in the past.
At the same time, the much-heralded global democratic trend has fallen short of expectations. In the mid-1990s, significant retrenchment and backsliding from initially promising democratic transitions began to occur. Many of the former Soviet republics are now dominated by semiauthoritarian or outright authoritarian leaders. Russia remains a democracy in form but threatens to go badly astray politically if the socioeconomic situation fails to improve. In Africa, a distressingly large number of countries attempting transition have lapsed into civil war, coups d'etat, or resurgent strongman rule. The liberalizing trend that made itself felt in the Arab world in the second half of the 1980s has come to little. South Asia has stopped moving forward on democratization. In many parts of the world, disillusionment about democracy has replaced the infectious enthusiasm of ten years back as citizens watch fledgling elected governments wallow in corruption, incompetence, and instability. Democracy continues its post-cold war reign as the only political ideology with broad international legitimacy. Nonetheless, it has become painfully clear that many countries face a tremendous struggle to make democracy work. It is all too common for countries attempting political transitions to achieve the forms but not the substance of democracy.
The analysis here rests on this mixed review of the state of democracy in the world. Democracy aid was relatively easy to sell and often easy to implement when the political winds were at its back in the first half of the 1990s. Today, with democratic setbacks and failures more frequent, democracy aid faces a harder road, forcing democracy's promoters to try to sharpen their skills. I chart their learning curve.
As for the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy, I take as a starting point a similarly mixed picture: although its role has expanded since the mid-1980s, it remains at most one of several main U.S. interests, sometimes compatible with and sometime contrary to economic or security interests. When contrary, it is usually overridden. This semi-realist approach to democracy promotion has been adopted by both the Republicans and Democrats and is unlikely to change anytime soon.
My aim here is not to lament this state of affairs or to issue a clarion call for a vigorous new embrace of the Wilsonian ideal as the twenty-first century dawns. I do believe that American policy makers should give greater emphasis to democracy promotion and that it should play a major though not necessarily dominant role in U.S. foreign policy. I have learned from living in Washington, however, that even the most eloquent calls for bold new directions in U.S. policy, foreign or domestic, often go unheeded. My approach instead is to try to help foster understanding and more effective use of one of the central tools of democracy promotion. As knowledge and use of new policy tools improve, new policy directions become possible. Working upward from method to principle is not how Americans usually approach foreign policy, especially when it comes to democracy promotion or other issues suffused with high principle. It is necessary in this domain, however, given the continuing gap between expectations and accomplishments and the substantial body of experience that now exists.