Saturday, January 28, 2006

Picky Democracy?

The Bush Administration seems to have a problem. They speak a good game where desire for democracy is concerned, but when people actually choose and democracy “works”, our foreign policy and our desire for worldwide democracy seem to be in conflict. We perhaps should put away as fait accompli the US election results in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004, leaving them out of the discussion, but we are still left with a couple of other inconsistencies around the world that are troubling.

The first problematic situation took place in Venezuela in April, 2002. Let it be said up-front that the Bush Administration does not like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias. After a coup d’état overthrew Chávez Frias in Caracas, the US Government was the only western power that supported the illegal government that took control, dissolved the legislature and fired the members of the courts. Most other western nations condemned the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. It took a massive show of support from the poor of Venezuela to restore Chávez Frias to power and to restore democracy, contrary to US wishes. We may not like that the Venezuelan president is a friend of Fidel Castro, but what kind of democracy does Bush foreign policy promote if the US prefers a rogue government over a democratically elected one?

The most recent issue for our government is the surprising results in Palestine wherein Hamas has won majorities in the Palestinian Parliament. I am on record as a supporter of non-violent means of bringing about change. As such, I am concerned about the election of Hamas, given their having embraced violence and the overthrow of Israel. However, we have been harping on the establishment of democracy in the Arab world and now we have a democratically elected government in Palestine. By promoting democracy in the Middle East, the Bush administration has an obligation to work with the elected government of Palestine. We can condemn the use of violence, but we must encourage the promotion of democracy and having seen it work, we are obligated to nurture it by working with Hamas. It is my hope that the leaders of Hamas will renounce violence and work with the other legitimate governments of the world to achieve their goals.

As for US foreign policy, we should brace ourselves for the results of other democratic elections that we have promoted. We can set up the infrastructure for democratic elections, but we can not and should not expect to be able to control the results of elections.

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