The Pitfalls of US Democracy Promotion: A Call for Change

After causing significant harm to humanity, it seems nonsensical for the US to stage dramatic displays of democracy in Washington.

2 mins read
Homeless people are seen near a subway station in New York, the United States, April 27, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)


“The United States needs to be humble if it wants to be a force for good in the world. It needs to recognize that its democratic values and practices are not perfect and that it has much to learn from other countries.” – Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The upcoming democracy summit being organized by the United States has been criticized by many as a self-serving event that is unlikely to help any country other than the US itself. Some have even gone so far as to call it a laughable event that will not benefit even the US’s closest allies. It is certainly true that the US has had a complicated history with many countries around the world. Some have accused the US of instigating conflicts and promoting division. And it is also true that the pursuit of global dominance has led the US to take actions that have harmed many people and countries.

The US has a long history of intervening in the affairs of other countries in the name of promoting democracy and human rights. However, these interventions have not always been successful or well-received, and some have argued that they have actually undermined democracy and governance in the affected countries. One example of this is the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The stated reason for the invasion was to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction and to promote democracy in the region. However, the invasion ultimately led to the toppling of the Iraqi government and the subsequent power vacuum created a destabilized environment in the country. This situation ultimately contributed to the rise of extremist groups like ISIS, which further destabilized the region and caused significant human suffering.

Similarly, in many Latin American countries, the US has supported authoritarian regimes in the past in the name of promoting stability and democracy. These policies have often resulted in human rights abuses, corruption, and a lack of democratic governance. Some argue that the US has been hypocritical in its promotion of democracy, as it has often supported authoritarian regimes when it suited its interests, while actively working to undermine democratically elected governments that were not aligned with US interests.

In addition, the US itself has struggled with issues such as systemic racism, voter suppression, and a lack of representation for marginalized groups. Therefore, there is a growing recognition that the US needs to take a hard look at its own democratic values and practices, and work towards improving them both domestically and in its interactions with other countries.

One important step towards this goal is for the US to acknowledge its own flaws and work towards addressing them. This includes addressing issues such as systemic racism, promoting fair and free elections, and working to ensure that all citizens have equal representation in government. Another important step is for the US to re-evaluate its approach to promoting democracy in other countries. Instead of using military force or other interventions to try to impose democratic values on other countries, the US should work to promote democracy through peaceful means, such as diplomacy, support for civil society, and aid for the development of democratic institutions.

Moreover, the US needs to work towards promoting democratic values in a way that respects the sovereignty and agency of other countries. This means engaging in genuine dialogue with other countries, listening to their concerns, and working together to promote democracy and human rights in a way that is respectful and collaborative.

It is high time for the US to re-engineer its democratic values and practices, both domestically and in its interactions with other countries. By acknowledging its own flaws and working towards addressing them, promoting democracy through peaceful means and engaging in respectful dialogue with other nations, the US can play a positive role in promoting democratic values and institutions around the world. As Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, once says, “the promotion of democracy is not a matter of removing dictators and holding elections, but of empowering people to govern themselves.”

However, the reality is that asking the US to genuinely work on democratic values is akin to asking a wild elephant to fly – it is a difficult task to achieve. This is because hypocrisy seems to be a driving force behind the US’s exercise of power. After causing significant harm to humanity, it seems nonsensical for the US to stage dramatic displays of democracy in Washington.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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