Last weekend, during a GOP debate in Iowa, George Stephanopoulos noted that Bush's alleged democracy-spreading foreign policy hasn't exactly worked out well: "There have been free elections in Gaza; they elected Hamas. There have been free elections in Lebanon; they empowered Hezbollah. There have been free elections in Iran; they elected President Ahmadinejad." Asked about the track record, former Gov. Mike Huckabee responded, "Sometimes when you get what you want, you don't want what you get."
With that background in mind, Hassan Fattah has a terrific report
on how the U.S. government can promote elections, champion democracy, and stand behind like-minded international allies, but our support doesn't always translate well.
Lebanon's political spin masters have been trying in recent days to explain the results of last Sunday's pivotal by-election, which saw a relatively unknown candidate from the opposition narrowly beat a former president, Amin Gemayel.
There has been talk of the Christian vote and the Armenian vote, of history and betrayal, as each side sought to claim victory. There is one explanation, however, that has become common wisdom in the region: Mr. Gemayel's doom seems to have been sealed by his support from the Bush administration and the implied agendas behind its backing.
"It's the kiss of death," said Turki al-Rasheed, a Saudi reformer who watched last Sunday's elections closely. "The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win."
The paradox of American policy in the Middle East -- promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West -- is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose.
Throughout the post-WWII era, foreign leaders used to promote
their bonds with the United States as a sign of strength and credibility. We were a beacon of hope that countries were anxious to be associated with. Not anymore.
In reality, Bush's democracy talk has always been more about rhetorical games
than actual policy anyway, but so long as the administration continues to call for more elections, it can continue to expect discouraging results.
Digby added a compelling approach
to what has to happen moving forward, starting in 2009.