“Freedom Agenda, Take Two”

At The New Republic, Michael Signer touches on the need to reassess, not abandon the “freedom agenda.” The failure of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy should not mean that America abandon “freedom as a touchstone of our national security strategy.” Signer argues that instead of focusing on structural elements of democracy, such as elections, the U.S. should “make the cultivation of constitutionalism a primary goal of a post-Bush foreign policy.” In outlining a strategy for promoting constitutionalism he addresses three issues:

  1. U.S. representatives abroad should share the American experience of constitutionalism and “directly advocate for the pursuit of political freedom, the free exchange of ideas between citizens, and the tolerance of dissent while they personally embrace a range of opinion and belief.”
  2. The U.S. should accept that constitutionalism, based on culture and a set of beliefs, will differ from place to place. “We will need to view other nations and groups not primarily as calcified categories that operate in an unchanging, preset manner, but as groups of individuals, invested with the ability to control their own destiny.”
  3. The U.S. must recognize that “a demagogue’s best weapon is a hated, external force, and that we can too easily play into his hands…We must decouple democracy and military interventionism, removing democracy as a pawn in regime change.”

Signer notes, “[i]f we want the world’s nations – and the people who live in them – to desire democracy, we must not inspire them to resent and fulminate against history’s greatest democracy.”