Democracy, Realistically

Issue: Spring 2006

Is America's national interest served by the spread of democracy? Realist critics have repeatedly chastised the Bush Administration for its "utopianism", arguing that, in using American power to spread political liberty around the world, the president is at best wasting America's resources and at worst wooing disaster. These sentiments were clearly on display in the essay by Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson in the Fall 2005 issue of The National Interest and in the symposium that followed in the Winter issue. Many of the critics subscribe to the proposition that the promotion of democracy and the preservation of American power are contradictory goals; that the choice is either to embrace principle by promoting democracy (and paying a huge cost as a result) or to follow a self-interested policy and let other countries work out their domestic affairs with no guidance or interference from the United States.

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