Date registered: Aug 2002
Vehicle: 190E, 400E, SLK350
Location: Chesapeak Bay
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Former House Speaker Newt Ginrich says that in its efforts to promote democracy, the Bush administration has failed to explain the full meaning of democracy, beyond free elections.
"The rule of law, independent judges, the right of free speech, the ability to fire those to whom you loan power, and private property -- unless you have all five of those in place, you don't have a viable democracy," Gingrich says.
Interestingly, nearly every country in the world refers to itself as a democracy, including Cuba, Iran and even North Korea, which is officially named the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In fact, only five countries in the world say they are not democratic. The overwhelming majority of nations hold some form of democratic elections.
Last year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told an audience in Cairo that for 60 years, "the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy" in the Middle East.
The speech appeared to be a kind of acknowledgement of past American sins. The United States did indeed sponsor some nasty regimes, and even a few coup d'etats. But retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich says that the aim of U.S. policy has not changed radically.
"U.S. foreign policy supports the spread of democracy to the extent -- and only to the extent -- that the spread of democracy is supportive of other U.S. interests," Bacevich says.
Those U.S. interests, he says, include trade agreements and strategic alliances, but also the very real desire for stability.
Former House Speaker Gingrich argues that spreading democracy helps the United States diffuse some of the negative feelings about America in the Muslim world.
"The anger that gets directed at us is actually anger diverted from dictatorships," Gingrich says. "Open societies under the rule of law, where people are prosperous, are less likely to have terrorism than places which have greater tension and much greater pressure."
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to make it work. There is no democracy template. But as Winston Churchill famously noted, democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the others that have been tried.
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