Should the USA Export Democracy?

“America as the savior of the world”

These words of President Woodrow Wilson were spoken to an audience in Portland, Oregon, 1919, referencing the USA’s role in the establishment of the League of Nations after the end of World War One, “the war to end wars.”

Declaration of War

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a Declaration of War against Germany in order that the world “be made safe for democracy.” Four days later, Congress voted to declare war… By the time the war ended a year and a half later, an entire generation was decimated—France alone lost half its men between the ages of twenty and thirty-two. The maimed bodies of millions of European men who survived bore mute testimony to the war’s savagery. (Source)

The Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919

After four years of warfare, the conflict ended in Versailles in 1919. It was “peace” for one side, but a “diktat” for the other side. The treaty contained the germ of the causes of a second world war 20 years later.

The negotiations had been difficult. A peace conference had met in Paris since 18 January to prepare the treaty. The Allies alone took part in the debates. But they were not in agreement. France wanted to remove the German danger definitively and bring Germany to its knees. Great Britain, in contrast, wanted to let Germany keep its rank. The United States looked forward to a world pacified with the Society of Nations. Italy wanted the territories promised to it in 1915. The treaty was finally submitted to Germany on 7 May. All Germany’s counter-proposals were rejected and it refused to sign the treaty. On 17 June, the Allies gave it 5 days to decide. Germany finally accepted this “diktat.”

Germany lost 68,000 km² of its territory, including Alsace and Lorraine annexed in 1870, and 8 million inhabitants. Part of eastern Prussia was dismantled to the benefit of Poland which gained access to the sea via the “Danzig corridor”. Germany had to pay 20 billion gold marks in reparation to France. It lost most of its mineral resources and agricultural production. Its colonies were confiscated and its military power was annihilated. Humiliated, Germany aspired for revenge. A new war, which the Allies thought they were avoiding, was soon to be prepared. (Source)

Now, slightly more than 100 years later, the USA is still trying make, or at least encourage, the world to be “democratic,” while not explicitly advocating that it be “safe for democracy,” as President Wilson enunciated.

The US Department of State has the job of encouraging the spread of democracy. Immediately below are excerpts from the official sites of the department, all accessible at http://www.state.gov/.

Department Mission Statement

“Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” –From the FY 2013 Agency Financial Report, released December 2013

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally. With these goals in mind, the United States seeks to: Promote democracy as a means to achieve security, stability, and prosperity for the entire world;

  • Assist newly formed democracies in implementing democratic principles;
  • Assist democracy advocates around the world to establish vibrant democracies in their own countries; and
  • Identify and denounce regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in elections that are free, fair, and transparent.

Goals

  • To elevate the role of civil society in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
  • To support emerging democracies as they work to complete successful transitions.
  • To engage multilateral organizations that advance democracy and civil society.
  • To promote the independence of civil society globally.

— (End excerpts from the US Department of State web pages) —

I infer that the USA initiated the formation of the international “Community of Democracies” to further the mission and goals of the US State Department. Here is about this organization:

Community of Democracies: Mission

The Mission Statement of the Community of Democracies is built upon the democratic values agreed in the Warsaw Declaration (of 2000). The Community seeks to support democratic transition and consolidation worldwide and help bridge the gap between principles of democracy and universal human rights and their practice by assisting societies in the development and strengthening of democratic institutions and values, identifying, alerting and responding to threats to democracy so as to assist states to remain on the path to democracy, supporting and defending civil society in all countries, advancing broad-based participation in democratic governance, and giving a voice to those working peacefully for democracy in all countries. (Source).

Countries not included in the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies:

Here are France’s objections, reported by the Associated Press,  June 28, 2000:

WARSAW, Poland – Upsetting the celebratory mood at a global democracy conference, France excluded itself from a newly formed “community of democracies” Tuesday after skewering other Western powers for evangelizing.

France stunned the other 107 participants by refusing to join them in endorsing a declaration setting universal standards by which mature and developing countries alike can measure their progress – an effort to consolidate the dramatic gains democracy made in the 20th century.

The dispute was largely philosophical and centered on French criticism that the conference was a prod to get non-democratic nations to adopt democracy – a policy French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday said usually backfires. He cited ineffective sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq.

“The bottom line is that in Western countries the thinking is that democracy is like religion and that all you have to do is convert people,” Vedrine told reporters in Warsaw on Monday…

France said it didn’t back the document because it amounts “to a diplomatic pledge for the democratic states to act as a group.” In particular, France objected to general agreement at the conference to convene a caucus of democratic states, possibly at the next meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in the fall.

Such a caucus creates a new bloc, in effect replicating the Cold War divisions by excluding nations who have not yet achieved democracy, said the French ambassador to Poland, Benoit d’Aboville… (Source–has disappeared from the Internet)


Questions for myself and the reader

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Political Correctness…

… and the “Cult of Personality”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1918 – 2008

The phrase “politically correct,” or “PC,” was first publicly used by a British Ministry of Information official during the First World War. It later appeared in Mao Zedung’s “Little Red Book” in the early 1960s and was adopted, originally tongue-in-cheek, by the radical left in the USA. In Marxist–Leninist and Trotskyist vocabulary, “correct” was the common term denoting the “appropriate party line” and the ideologically “correct line.” [Source]

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his novel Cancer Ward  gives  us an example of ‘political correctness’ in Soviet Russia via the character, Rusanov, about whom more, below.

It is important to know the period in which the action of Cancer Ward takes place. Here are the leaders of the USSR, in date order (note the hiatus between the dates in red):

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, 26 Oct 1917 – 21 Jan 1924
Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, 3 Apr 1922 – 5 Mar 1953
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, 7 Sep 1953 – 14 Oct 1964
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, 14 Oct 1964 – 10 Nov 1982
Yuriy Vladimirovich Andropov, 12 Nov 1982 – 9 Feb 1984
Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko, 13 Feb 1984 – 10 Mar 1985
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, 11 Mar 1985 – 24 Aug 1991

Nikita Khrushchev

After Stalin died there was a political struggle among several pretenders to Stalin’s throne between March and September, 1953. Stalin had held the top post in several functions and, after his death, there was a dispersion of these duties to several people so no one could claim to be Stalin’s sole heir, until Khrushchev finally gained the support necessary.

Khrushchev began a gradual change in the legacy of Stalin and, suddenly, in a 1956 speech “On the Personality Cult and its Consequences” to the closed session of the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party, he denounced Stalin’s dictatorial rule and cult of personality. He also attacked the crimes committed by Stalin’s closest associates.

This speech destroyed the legitimacy of Khrushchev’s remaining Stalinist rivals, solidifying his domestic power. He began to ease many restrictions, and freed millions of political prisoners from the “Gulag”–penal labor camps spread across the Soviet Union. (Read Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago).

This “thaw” in the political, cultural and economic life of the Soviet Union included some openness and contact with other nations and new social and economic policies, helping living standards to rise and promoting a higher level of economic growth. Censorship was also relaxed. Some subtle criticism of Soviet society was tolerated, and artists were allowed to produce some works that didn’t have government-approved political content–but there were still limits an artist or writer could not go beyond without reprisal.

The novel Cancer Ward is set in a hospital in Soviet Uzbekistan in 1955, before and during the period when the changes to Stalin’s policies and apparatus were culminating. One of the patients in the cancer ward was Pavel Nikolayevich Rusanov, as mentioned above. While in the hospital he learns from a newspaper, and from his visiting wife and daughter, that the Soviet regime is changing: prisoners are being released from the Gulag, having been officially “rehabilitated.”

One of these prisoners, Rusanov fears, is a man, a former friend and compatriot, whom he falsely denounced to achieve some advantage in the factory where they both worked. Here are some excerpts to show the disorientation and fear the new rules of political correctness engendered in him:

Now times had changed, things were bewildering, unhealthy, the finest civic actions of earlier days were now shameful. Would he now have to fear for his own skin?

[Rusanov mentally reviewing the past] The nature of Rusanov’s work had been…that of personnel records administrator. It was a job that went by different names…but the substance of it was always the same. Only ignoramuses and uninformed outsiders were unaware what subtle, meticulous work it was, what talent it required. It was a form of poetry not yet mastered by the poets themselves. As every man goes through life he fills in a number of forms for the record, each containing a number of questions. A man’s answer to a question on one form becomes a little thread, permanently connecting him to the local centre of personnel records administration. There are thus hundreds of little threads radiating from from every man, millions of threads in all…They are not visible, they are not material, but every man is constantly aware of their existence. The point is that a so-called completely clean record was almost unattainable, an ideal, like absolute truth. Something negative or suspicious can always be noted down against any man alive. Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find out what it is.

…The poetic side of [Rusanov’s] work lay in holding a man in the hollow of [his] hand without even starting to pile on the pressure.

[Later, Rusanov talking with his daughter, Alla, a well-placed writer who has recently visited Moscow and who is visiting him in the hospital] ‘Listen,’ her father said quietly, do you remember. I asked you to find something out? That strange expression–you come across it sometimes in speeches or articles–“the cult of personality”–are those words an allusion to…?’ [He means Stalin]

‘I’m afraid they are, Father…I’m afraid they are. At the Writers’ Congress, for example, the phrase was used several times. And the trouble is, nobody explains what it means, though everyone puts on a face as if they understand.’

‘But it’s pure blasphemy! How dare they, eh?’

[Alla] ‘…Generally speaking, you have to be flexible, you have to be responsive to the demand of the times. This may annoy you Father, but whether we like it or not we have to attune ourselves to each new period as it comes! I saw a lot in Moscow. I spent quite a lot of time in literary circles–do you imagine it’s easy for writers to readjust their attitudes over the last two years? Ve-ry complicated! But what an experienced crowd they are! What tact! You can learn a lot from them!’

I hope this is enough to elicit your interest in the book, and to provide some food for thought about the potential power of presidential ‘executive orders’ and extraordinarily wealthy news and social media owners to shape and change our lives.

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