Int’l protesters need US to help

U.S. inaction on international democratic protests is hypocritical.

by Jacob Swede

Abraham Lincoln once said, âÄúThose who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.âÄù AmericaâÄôs failure to assist burgeoning democracies damns their peoples to tyranny and sounds the death knell of the foundersâÄô ideals. Kyrgyz pro-democracy riots have cost at least 74 lives and left 400 injured. In Thailand, the deadliest popular uprising in nearly two decades is far more than a historical footnote; it is a herald for change. The innocuously named âÄúTwitter revolutionâÄù in Iran informed the world for three months that Iran is ready for elections unfettered by the iron fist of autocracy. All the while America stands idly by out of fear from stymied efforts at democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. This hesitancy is innately flawed. It not only tersely ignores the steady, though imperfect, democratic progress in Afghanistan and Iraq, but at its heart the argument assumes that all such missions entail the same results. Different conditions, however, ensure dissimilar results. This American trepidation has highlighted one conclusion: The United States has an incoherent foreign policy. For America to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of democracy while it ignores the active sacrifice of other oppressed people is hypocritical. According to the National Priorities Project, $704 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq alone. If even a tenth of that were allocated in nonmilitary assistance to democratic movements elsewhere, the United States could fundamentally reshape the worldâÄôs political landscape. A strong base in economic, diplomatic and humanitarian aid for grassroots movements as a substitute for military coercion aimed at states would undermine the legitimacy of autocrats and lend power to the people. This combination of âÄúsoftâÄù economic, diplomatic and humanitarian assistance and âÄúhardâÄù military support is known as âÄúsmart power.âÄù In every unfolding international scenario the United States foolishly omits at least one component of smart power. KyrgyzstanâÄôs status as a conduit to Central Asia makes it a perfect example of the potential for smart power. Although the United States annually allocates $150 million to Kyrgyzstan in economic, humanitarian and military assistance, $63 million is expressly connected to the U.S. Manas Air Base used for the war in Afghanistan. The danger of the United States losing this conduit to the Middle East and Central Asia because of inaction is palpable, but the situation in Kyrgyzstan also represents an opportunity. The Kyrgyz people are expressing their national will; truly committing resources to democratic movements instead of making down payments on military bases to illegitimate tyrants is a smart first step. If the United States takes its commitment to liberty seriously, we will inevitably be forced to intervene militarily. Whether unilaterally or as a member of a military coalition, supporting democratic movements under tyrannical regimes will require more than soft support. Admittedly, in the past, U.S. fervor for premature intervention has resulted in the institution of new oppressive regimes, most notably Saddam Hussein. But trusting the fermentation of democracy ought to be an extended process. Each democracy bolstered in turn produces more opportunities to spread democracy. This domino theory no longer describes the theoretical Cold War communist disaster but will determine an un-free peoplesâÄô choice to express their will. Failure to assist those who crave democracy resigns the lives of millions to tyranny and betrays the core principles upon which America was founded. Jacob Swede welcomes comments at [email protected]