An American Tradition
In their Fall 2005 essay, Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson savagely attacked the foreign policy of President George W. Bush for aggressively pursuing "the end of tyranny"--effectively to the exclusion of all other concerns.
They accepted the declaration of the president that the "United States has no right, no desire and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else." But they declared that "the conclusion is inescapable that [the Bush Administration's] actions belie its words." To the extent that Bush doesn't have the American military at the throat of every undemocratic regime in the world, it is merely "the tentative and inconsistent application of a bad policy." These authors likened George W. Bush, in his universalist zeal, to Danton and Robespierre!
In fact, the administration has made no effort to destabilize more than a couple of authoritarian regimes. What the current president is doing is a good deal less worrisome than the John F. Kennedy promise to "bear any burden" for liberty. President Kennedy didn't really mean it either, of course. But that pledge, or at least the spirit that inspired it, played some role in the ill-considered and faultily executed Vietnam commitment.
It is a well-practiced technique of American foreign policy formulation--and not just since the much-maligned Woodrow Wilson--to clothe initiatives in idealistic motives and goals when self-interest, as in all other countries, is the key to American foreign policymaking. Traditionally, the exigencies of domestic politics require such an effort if the president is not to lose support for his policy, as Wilson, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson eventually did, as war presidents, despite their attempts to sell sincerely idealistic goals.