Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Thomas Friedman worries that the war against terrorism may threaten democracy in Indonesia. Thatcher talked about this possibility soon after 9/11. With Musharraf delaying elections in Pakistan, that becomes another country where democracy is held back possibly by US intervention.

I don't know how true or damning these charges really are. Friedman admits that US financial support for Indonesia has not dropped, and it seems the only intervention is to encourage Indonesia's army to help root out terrorism. In Pakistan, Musharraf may never have intended to allow a return to democracy no matter how the US acts.

Even if the US can't be blamed for hampering democracy, I still feel that US foreign policy must promote democracy rather than simply be neutral. While democracy is not sufficient to stifle all forms of terrorism, increased (and increasingly succesful) democracy worldwide would probably limit attacks on the US by foreign terrorists. If this is the US long-term goal, then US policy needs to support democracy first, then fight terrorism directly. Thankfully, Friedman may be wrong about whether the US government is aware of this: "We believe it is in our national interest to support Pakistan's efforts to develop into a more stable, economically sound, and better-educated society. We have a strong interest in Pakistan's elections in October and in the restoration of democracy within a constitutional framework as another way to foster stability." (US State Department).

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