Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2012


By the beginning of the Obama Administration, democracy promotion had become a rather tarnished idea, and understandably so. Like Islam or Christianity, much blood has been shed beneath its banner. It may be true that democracies don’t go to war with one another, but they certainly go to war, and their wars kill people just as dead as the wars undertaken by illiberal regimes. Anyone on the political left can tell the story: During the Cold War, the United States fought endless proxy wars and engaged in a great deal of overt and covert mischief, all in the name of democracy. During the Bush Administration, the idea of democracy promotion became tightly and inexorably bound up with regime change and the carnage of the Iraq War. Because it came to us in a package that included bloodshed, occupation, torture, and indefinite detentions, Bush’s “Freedom Agenda” left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Publication Citation

Democracy, Winter 2012, at 18-25