This bipartisan consensus is all the more striking because it is increasingly out of step with the majority of the American people. A poll conducted by the Washington think tank Third Way in March found that respondents favored protecting the security of the United States and its allies over promoting freedom and democracy in the world by a margin of 3 to 1. More recently, in a poll of Republicans by the Republican consultant Tony Fabrizio, only 16 percent of respondents supported basing U.S. foreign policy on spreading democracy, a dismal result for the Bush doctrine. On the Democratic side, the liberal blogger Ezra Klein recently pronounced himself “fed up with values,” calling instead for a foreign policy based on competence and consequences. Klein was sounding a familiar theme in the blogosphere: the idea that because the Bush administration has justified the Iraq war in the name of liberty and democracy, the values themselves are to blame. ~Anne-Marie Slaughter

I’ve seen some pretty big rhetorical leaps, but this one is astonishing.  As I understood him, Klein declared himself “fed up with values” in the context of criticising foreign policy that is abstract, vague in its ends and indifferent to means and oblivious to the realm of the possible.  Klein never “blames” the “values” here–he blames those who invoke liberty and democracy (whether sincerely or not) as supports for reckless and aimless foreign policy projects.  To the extent that “values” rhetoric provides justification to horrible foreign policy thinking, it shields bad policies from the appropriate level of scrutiny and critical attention they might otherwise receive.  Stripped of its region-transforming happy talk about the March of Freedom, administration policy in the Near East makes little or no sense and this would be much more clear to all if the entire debate were not cluttered with idealistic prattle that all people are destined to be free. 

What Slaughter describes as a “familiar theme in the blogosphere” is not familiar here at all.  Few bloggers “blame the values,” since many do not think the administration is committed to those “values” and others think they are so incompetent that they could not successfully advance them no matter what they tried.  Most critics of democratism, the spreading of democracy and the fomenting of global revolution are not themselves hostile to democracy as such (not that democracy can be called a “value” in any case) and do not necessarily blame democracy for the misfortunes in Iraq.  They may pin some blame on the elections, especially the way the elections were organised along sectarian and ethnic lines, but they would hasten to point out that elections are not by themselves enough to make a proper liberal democracy in the sense that most people mean it in this country.  There are those critics who think that administration talk of democratisation has always been two-faced and cynical (this is tempting, but incorrect), while they believe that they, the critics, are the defenders of democratic principles against the administration.  There are others who are quite fond of democracy, but who find the forcible export of it to be a misguided, impractical or counterproductive way to encourage this form of government abroad.  There are a few, including myself, who believe that genuine democratisation itself would be undesirable, and that it is doubly foolish to promote something that we should not want to see happen anyway–but then we were not exactly pro-democratic enthusiasts before the war, either.  There is virtually no one who used to think liberty and democracy were wonderful and who now think they are madness because George Bush used them in his talking points.  If you generally favour liberal revolutions and popular government, your problem with the “freedom agenda” is not that it has been promoting democracy, but that the administration believed launching a full-scale war was the wisest way to achieve this end. 

Despite this considerably wrong, misleading statement about bloggers, Slaughter has remarked on something that will be familiar to readers of Eunomia: the interventionist, democratist consensus is alive and well in both parties and dominates the top tiers of both presidential fields.  Most Americans do not want this nonsense, but like good democratists the elite of the two parties will continue to impose such policies on our country and on the world in defiance of what the majority of citizens actually desires.