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April 04, 2012

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It kinda depends on the details. If the US is working to "affect elections" and "subvert regimes" by pushing for the actual existence of elections and insisting that they be fee and fair, I'm going to have to disagree with Mr. Buchanan. Myanmar has suffered constant meddling in its internal affairs and subversion of its government by outsiders' continued support for 'tax cheat' and 'threat to peace' Aung San Suu Kyi. And I'm rather glad they've had to suffer that meddling.

Myanmar is a good counter example, heckblazer. Still, in a place like Russia or the Middle East, I wonder if stored up resentments make it a lot less self-evidently good than it seems.

The US seems to be not the only target at the moment. German NGOs also got shut down in the region recently without warning, e.g. the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. No raving lefties those.
The Arab Spring triggered a lot of (extra) paranoia in the ruling elites in the Gulf region it seems.

Past US history does give good reason to be wary of "democracy promotion" - Italian elections starting in 1948 immediately spring to mind as an example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_general_election,_1948#Superpower_influence

OTOH, authoritarian governments tend to label anything that threatens their power as "subversion". So like I said, the details always matter.

In the case of the UAE, an NDI official claims that their office was a regional hub that didn't run any local programs. The UAE office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation has also been closed. The government of the UAE hasn't yet given an explanation for either closure, though I'd hazard a guess based on the available facts that fears of "American subversion" in the Emirates is not the real concern.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/world/middleeast/uae-shuts-american-democracy-building-group.html

The Atlantic article linked to also mentioned the crackdown on NGOs in Egypt earlier this year. AFAIK the charges that they were operating without the required registration and that they improperly imported money are technically correct. However, it was functionally impossible to get the registration papers or to properly import foreign funds, and the NGOs in question just so happened to be training poll-watchers for the upcoming hotly-contested elections. Legitimate fear or convenient pretext? You can probably guess my opinion.

It's unfrotunate that there is oftgen so little congruence between what people claim to be doing and what their actual intentions are. It makes for cynicism. Wheneer Ihear and American say that our policy somwhere is to promote democracy I thik,"Yeah, right. Like we did in Iran, Greece, Guatemala,Chile,Iraq, VietNam..." Maybe at some point in time the effort to promote democracy will be real, but after years of deliberate lying, who can tell?

Laura,

If you haven't already, check out "A National Strategic Narrative" by Mr. Y. I imagine you'll find, as I do, that it promotes what you would agree is real democracy promotion. (And here's hoping we're not all just trees falling in the woods....)

I'm waiting for a President to say something like this: "Who runs Country X is a decision for the people of Country X. Now, I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence and say that the United States doesn't have a preference, but if you expect me to say anything about that, I want to remind you of a governor friend of mine who said to one of his political allies in a tough race, 'I'll come into your district and campaign for you or against you -- whichever you think would help.'"

'I'll come into your district and campaign for you or against you -- whichever you think would help.'"

Nice one.

Perfectly appropriate to the Green movement in Iran.

Given our history of regime change since WWII, I think a rational State would be wary of any US government involvement in politics within the State. Though I suppose they should be happy we are using an NGO and not the CIA.

I like this Slate illustration on Syria, and I can see why regime change is not necessarily seen as a sure route to freedom and prosperity.

Syrian political turmoil since 1949

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