It may be just about the most inspiring sight imaginable: hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the main square of some capital city, demanding democratic self-rule. “They’re doing it in many different corners of the world,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week, “places as varied as Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and, on the other hand, Lebanon, and rumblings in other parts of the world as well. And so this is a hopeful time.”

It is a process in which the United States claims more than an observer’s role. The business of America, says President Bush, is spreading democracy. “The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them,” Bush said in his inaugural address this January. “Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side.”

Unless, of course, you’re Mexican. ~Harold Meyerson,The American Prospect

Mr. Meyerson’s credulous comments about the Ukraine aside, his criticism joins an increasing number of commentaries observing that the one part of the world where some kind of genuine democratic-cum-populist instinct is flourishing, Latin America, is the last place Washington wants it. This hesitancy might derive from some delayed reality-check, as Washington recognises that democracy may have adverse consequences for the national interest, but what it really shows is the fraudulence and hypocrisy of the democratist rhetoric. Mobs are useful when they topple hostile or indifferent rulers, and our government and media will invent charming stories about “people power” on their behalf–provided they are far, far away.

The closer one gets to the United States in the world, less enthusiasm one finds among American officials for expressions of popular sentiments, as popular sentiments invariably favour those forces and individuals our government loathes: Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and now Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City and leading opposition figure to George “Dobleve” Bush’s chum and fellow immigration enabler, Vicente Fox. One of the real lessons to be drawn from this is that Washington is perfectly capable of acknowleding that the internal politics of other countries is their own business. Another is that Washington seems to prefer stage-managed populist uprisings that empower oligarchs and former government figures–keep power within the established political class seems to be the guiding rule–while at the same time subverting the rule of law and binding the countries involved to fruitless military alliances. The goal in the future will be to instill the idea that another country’s politics should not have to be aligned with those of our ruling class to be left alone.