U.S. diplomacy in tatters– and not from Wikileaks

Our country’s ability to influence events around the world is in tatters– and this was already the case before the latest round of Wikileaks started to dribble out to the public. Yesterday there were “elections” in Egypt and Haiti, two countries deep within the U.S. sphere of influence. Both elections were deeply flawed in terms of the most basic norms of democratic accountability and fairness. And both did much more to reveal and exacerbate the deep social and political crises in the countries in which they were held, than they did to resolve differences peacefully and to establish governments capable of providing real public security and other essential services to their citizens– outcomes which are, to be sure, among the basic benefits of a well-run democratic system.
After the end of the Cold War, remember, there was considerable crowing from many in the United States to the effect that the “victory” the U.S. had won in the Cold War was due to the superiority of the democratic American way of governing. The end of the Cold War would, we were told, inaugurate a new “Third Wave” of democratization all around the world. (And thus, the only sometimes spoken sub-theme had it, American power would be bolstered all around the world. For surely the citizens of all these new “democracies” would hanker only after the American way of life and American way of business?)
In Central and Eastern Europe, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact followed more or less that script. But in 2004-06, when Condoleezza Rice tried to extend the model to Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine, she got a rude shock. Citizens in those countries, given anything resembling a free vote, tended to support strongly anti-American candidates. After the relative victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliamentary election of 2005 and the outright victory that Hamas won in the Palestinian parliamentary election of early 2006, Washington’s support for the export of formal democracy to most of the Arab world stopped in its tracks and was, indeed, abruptly reversed. In Egypt, the presidential election of 2006 was held under restrictive rules that met no protest from Washington– as were the parliamentary elections held yesterday, which were a mockery of any idea of fairness. In Palestine, after the 2006 election, Washington abruptly joined with Israel and a faction from the losing Fateh party to combat and plot the overthrow of the democratically elected government.
In this context, it was interesting that in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. and the rest of the (U.S.-led) “international community” persisted with the idea that some form of formal democracy should continue to be pursued. In Iraq, Washington’s motivation seemed to be mainly to establishing something– anything!– that could be said to be a positive fruit of the decision to invade the country in 2003. In Afghanistan, Washington evidently felt it needed to conform to the pro-democracy philosophy of the NATO alliance whose military help it so sorely needed. Thus, anyway, we had the November 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan, which was a deeply flawed process. And then in March this year we had the parliamentary election in Iraq, which was procedurally far less flawed than the Afghan election– but which resulted in a tough political impasse that has left the country effectively without a government ever since.
Then yesterday, there were parliamentary elections in Egypt and presidential elections in Haiti. Both are countries in which U.S. influence has been both longlasting and deep. Haiti is a country now mired in multiple, extreme social and humanitarian crises– to which the wide spread of cholera has now been added. Former President Bill Clinton has been the UN’s “special envoy” for Haitian reconstruction ever since the earthquakes of January. But what has he achieved? What has the diplomacy of his wife, Hillary Clinton, and her boss, Pres. Obama, achieved for the people of Haiti?
Yes, there is a deep (and chronic) crisis of governance in Haiti. But it is not one that can be solved simply through holding an election. It is a crisis that most certainly was exacerbated by the policies Bill Clinton himself pursued toward the country back in 1994…
In Egypt, there is also a deep crisis of governance– though thankfully, until now, not one that has had the same dire human consequences as the crisis in Haiti.
But in both countries, the deep flaws in the way the elections have been conducted are a clear mark of the failure of U.S. diplomacy.
When elections held in countries where the U.S. is influential go “well” procedurally, Washington is the first to take the credit. On this occasion, in both Egypt and Haiti, Washington must bear considerable responsibility both for the flaws in these elections and for the deeper crises of governance that underlie them.
(The above short essay does not, of course, even start to note other areas– like Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy, international financial governance, Korea, etc– in which U.S. diplomacy also currently lies in tatters.)

6 thoughts on “U.S. diplomacy in tatters– and not from Wikileaks

  1. JohnH

    Not to mention US ‘democracy promotion’ efforts that seek to roll back democratic gains in Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, return these countries to the oligarchs that ruled before, and make them look more like Haiti and Egypt.
    Instead of democracy, the United States is really interested in the perks and privileges of Democracy(TM) Inc., the US brand image that has little to do with the product being sold abroad.

  2. bevin

    The “governance” situation in Haiti is very simple: the US (it goes without saying aided by its satraps) overthrew and exiled the elected President.
    Americans probably thought that they were being extremely decent by not killing Aristide, instead they kidnapped him and threw him out of the country.
    Everything now happening in Haiti, from the cholera to the gangsters to the farcical election is directly attributable to the original crime.
    What has Bill Clinton been doing? What has Obama been doing? Exactly what can be seen in Haiti: all the evil is their doing, because they had the power to restore the country to its own people.
    What is sick about the history of US interference with Haiti is that greed is a very small part of the motivation, racism and sheer sadism, the obsessive desire to punish and torture, a virulent madness more than two centuries old, is what US involvement in Haiti is about.

  3. Salah

    Those in Europe and the United States who cheer on these wars claim that they are issuing a wake-up call about the continued threat of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militants who claim the banner of Islam. However, what really keeps Islamophobes up at night is not the marginal and backwards-looking Islamic fundamentalists but rather the growing economic, political, and global influence of modern, mainstream Islam. Examples of Islam successfully grappling with modernity abound, from Turkey’s new foreign policy and Indonesia’s economic muscle to the Islamic political parties participating in elections in Lebanon, Morocco, and Jordan. Instead of providing reassurance, however, these trends only incite Islamophobes to intensify their battles to “save” Western civilization.

    As long as our unfinished wars still burn in the collective consciousness — and still rage in Kabul, Baghdad, Sana’a, and the Tribal Areas of Pakistan — Islamophobia will make its impact felt in our media, politics, and daily life. Only if we decisively end the millennial Crusades, the half-century Cold War, and the decade-long War on Terror (under whatever name) will we overcome the dangerous divide that has consumed so many lives, wasted so much wealth, and distorted our very understanding of our Western selves.

    John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies,

  4. Salah

    The most important what it called the top secret document leaked till today with hundreds of thousand of them Nothing telling us what about the TOP secrets of US /Israel relations?
    Let listen to this video and see what Israel or US /Israeli American do:

  5. brian

    US has NEVER been interested in democracy or the people of any country anywhere….check out this list of who the US really chums up to:
    ‘Many of the world’s most repressive dictators have been friends of America. Tyrants, torturers, killers, and sundry dictators and corrupt puppet-presidents have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to US interests. Traditional dictators seize control through force, while constitutional dictators hold office through voting fraud or severely restricted elections, and are frequently puppets and apologists for the military juntas which control the ballot boxes. In any case, none have been democratically elected by the majority of their people in fair and open elections’
    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/US_ThirdWorld/dictators.html

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