Report and Retort: Carothers Responds to Smith

Report and Retort: Carothers Responds to Smith

Carothers responds to Smith's claim that he underestimated the role of democracy promotion in Bush Foreign Policy.

In the July/August issue of TNI, several authors examined themes and questions raised in Paul Saunders's essay, "Learning to Appreciate France", which appeared in the March/April 2007 issue of The National Interest.Tony Smith offered his response here.Thomas Carothers responds to Smith here.

Professor Smith takes President Bush's rhetoric more seriously than I do. The President's many statements of commitment to advancing global democracy do indeed embody diverse elements of liberal internationalism. Yet looking at U.S. policies on the ground rather than in the air-whether in China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan or many other key places-I cannot agree that democracy promotion has been "the central priority" for the Bush Administration around the world.

Regarding Iraq, I suspect that people will still be arguing for many years about why the United States ousted Saddam Hussein and to what degree a concern with creating democracy in Iraq drove the intervention. The arguments will continue because the motivations were mixed and different members of the Bush team had different outlooks. I believe that the desire to strike another blow (after Afghanistan) to show American strength and a genuine concern over WMD were primary factors. I do not view Vice President Cheney or former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, key proponents of the invasion, as practitioners of liberal internationalism.

I certainly did not intend my essay to offer "reassurances that all is in order." In contrast, I warned that "the Bush approach to democracy promotion . . . has soured people all around the globe . . . on the very legitimacy and value of U.S. democracy promotion." Professor Smith incorrectly blames USAID and NED for the discrediting, when in fact it is precisely the quieter, assistance side of U.S. democracy promotion that still commands some respect among people struggling for democracy. The next administration will have a chance to get democracy promotion back on track, but the task will require commitment from the top in deeds, not just words.

Thomas Carothers is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is Confronting the Weakest Link: Aiding Political Parties in New Democracies (2006).