Time for the US to end democracy promotion flim-flams
Democracy promotion has long been one of the U.S. government’s favorite foreign charades. The Trump administration’s proposal to slash funding for democratic evangelism is being denounced as if it were the dawn of a new Dark Age. But this is a welcome step to draining a noxious swath of the Washington swamp.
Nineteenth century humorist Josh Billings quipped, “A fanatic is someonewho does what the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the matter.” Similarly, the U.S. government intervenes to rig elections in case foreign voters don’t know the facts of the matter. The U.S. has interfered — usually covertly — in more than 80 foreign elections since World War Two to boost its preferred candidates.
Former CIA chief James Woolsey was asked last month on Fox News whether the U.S. government was continuing to meddle and “mess around in other people’s elections?” Woolsey replied with a smile and said: “Only for a very good cause. In the interests of democracy.” Obviously, democracy is ill-served if any U.S.-preferred candidate lose.
Nowadays, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is the flagship for U.S. political meddling abroad, and Trump proposes to slash its budget by 60 percent, from $170 million to $67 million. When Congress created the agency in 1983, it prohibited NED and its grantees from directly aiding foreign political candidates. But that law restrains NED as effectively as the Fourth Amendment’s restriction on warrantless searches leashes the National Security Agency.
NED has been caught interfering in elections in France, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and many other nations. NED’s operatives helped spark bloody coup attempts in Venezuela and Haiti; their efforts also helped topple the elected government in the Ukraine in 2014 and ignite the ongoing civil war.
The CIA and NED tag-teamed to worsen the biggest U.S. foreign policy catastrophe of this century. After the CIA covertly bankrolled pro-U.S. factions for the Iraqi parliament elections in 2005, NED President Carl Gershman hailed the result as “one of the great events in the history of democracy.” But the animosity fanned by that rigged election helped spur a catastrophic civil war in Iraq which vastly increased the death toll for American soldiers.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt noted that during the Vietnam War, the U.S. government’s “policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy but chiefly if not exclusively destined for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress.” Similarly, NED exists to provide deniability to American politicians for their foreign meddling.