Beyond Bombs and Ballots

Military misadventures in Iraq should not discredit democracy promotion.

Issue: Mar-Apr 2007

A CENTRAL component of American foreign policy since the First World War is now under attack. In popular American perception, democracy promotion has become linked to the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush Administration, most notably the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars are now frequently cited to caricature all democracy assistance as "bombs and ballots" initiatives that depend excessively on military action and elections.

Critics of democracy promotion have emerged primarily from the left wing of the Democratic Party and the centrist or realist wing of the Republican Party. Even some neoconservatives and moderate Democrats have joined the chorus, calling for a reduced emphasis on democracy promotion and a return to a more realist, if not isolationist, foreign policy.

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