The “Freedom Agenda”

Alright, I'll start out by being fair.  The real-world of politics forces politicians to be hypocrites all the time.  You just cannot choose the context and other political leaders you will have to work with.  George Bush clearly believes we need to do more to promote democracy throughout the world.  That said, the first two paragraphs of this story in today's Post do present a pretty disturbing picture of presidential hypocrisy:

“President Bush launched an initiative this month to combat
international kleptocracy, the sort of high-level corruption by foreign
officials that he called “a grave and corrosive abuse of power” that
“threatens our national interest and violates our values.” The plan, he
said, would be “a critical component of our freedom agenda.”

weeks later, the White House is making arrangements to host the leader
of Kazakhstan, an autocrat who runs a nation that is anything but free
and who has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of
$78 million in bribes from an American businessman. Not only will
President Nursultan Nazarbayev visit the White House, people involved
say, but he also will travel to the Bush family compound in Maine.”

Sure, its good to promote democracy, but in the real world we often have to work with unsavory characters and regimes (i.e., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and many, many others) to advance the national interest.  There's nothing wrong with this contradiction.  The problem, I would argue, comes from the fact that Bush's rhetoric about democracy does not seem to reflect at all actual U.S. policies towards other nations. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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