Gullible Superpower: U.S. Support for Bogus Foreign Democratic Movements

Gullible Superpower: U.S. Support for Bogus Foreign Democratic Movements

by Ted Galen Carpenter


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Unlike recent policymakers and opinion-shapers, the first few generations of American leaders made a sharp distinction between the legitimate interests of the republic and foreign causes that purported to seek the overthrow of tyrannical rule and establish democratic systems based on respect for fundamental rights. No one made that distinction more emphatically than Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. In a celebrated Fourth of July address, Adams implicitly rebuked growing calls for Washington to support republican independence movements in places ranging from Greece to Latin America. The United States, Adams noted, had abstained from interference in the concerns of other nations, even when a conflict “has been for principles to which she clings.” He stressed the imperative reasons for such a stance. “She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”That is precisely what has occurred in recent decades. Over the last forty years, there is a distressing history of foreign insurgent groups being able to manipulate U.S. policymakers and opinion leaders into supporting their cause. Frequently, that support goes far beyond rhetorical endorsements to include financial and even military assistance to highly questionable individuals, organizations, and movements. Sometimes those efforts have even entangled the U.S. military in bloody, unnecessary, and morally dubious wars, as in Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. These crusades have caused a stain on America’s honor and frequently produced tragedies in the countries where Washington interfered. Gullible Superpower examines the most prominent cases in which well-meaning Americans have supported such misguided policies. This book underscores the need for future U.S. leaders to adopt a policy of skepticism and restraint toward foreign movements that purport to embrace democracy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944424923
Publisher: Cato Institute
Publication date: 02/19/2019
Pages: 300
Sales rank: 741,472
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Ted Galen Carpenter is senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author or editor of 18 books on international affairs.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Betraying a Wise Tradition of Caution and Skepticism Chapter 1: The Nicaraguan Contras: The “Moral Equal of America’s Founders”? Chapter 2: The Afghan Mujahidin: Holy Warriors, Not Freedom Fighters. Chapter 3: Jonas Savimbi: The Reagan Doctrine’s Greatest Embarrassment. Chapter 4: Washington Empowers the Ruthless Kosovo Liberation Army. Chapter 5: Color Revolutions Produce Bleak Outcomes. Chapter 6: The Iraqi National Congress Cons Washington into War. Chapter 7: More Suspect Freedom Fighters: Iran’s MEK. Chapter 8: The Obama Administration’s Humanitarian Crusade in Libya Chapter 9: Washington Backs Ukraine’s Murky Maidan Revolution. Chapter 10: Into the Syrian Maelstrom and another Vain Search for Freedom Fighters. Conclusion: Needed: A New Policy of Skepticism and Restraint.

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