The historical malfunction of U.S. efforts to support democratisation in non-Western states;
It does not work.
An extensive list of preconditions for democracy falls into two categories: cultural institutions or values and economic development (Femia, 1972, p.1). Without these preconditions, democracy does not work, which is why democratic states should not promote democracy in overseas nations.
Core assumptions devised from international relations theory, liberalism, are the foundations of political ideology democracy. During the American French Revolution in the eighteenth century, democracy was born with the central principle of higher standards of social life, freedom and political self-determination (Kelsen, 1955, p1-2). Referring to the precondition for democracy, cultural institutions, if a state does not correlate with liberal core assumptions, then the pursuit for democracy is nil and void.
So, what exactly are liberalisms core assumptions? Firstly, liberalism is based on primary principles such as individualism, human rights, universality, freedom from authority, right to be treated equally under the protection of the law and duty to respect and treat others as "ethical subjects" the notion of a representative government (Doyle, p.206-207 & Fukuyama, 1992, p.42). In addition, liberal beliefs "emphasise the importance of state-society relations as shaped by domestic institutions (i.e. democratic peace), economic independence and the ideas about national, political, and socioeconomic public goods provision (Moravcsik, 1997, p.514)".
The USA as a democratic state is inherently liberal as it safeguards liberal core assumptions such as free and fair elections, the rule of law, protected liberties and acts in the individual's interest (however, this is widely argued by academics) (Meiser, 2018). Since 1898, the global superpower, has pursued international expansion intending to impose their democratic system in foreign nations lacking democratic prerequisites, often violently and with cultural hubris, disguised with the intentions of promoting peace (Adams,2021).
Professor of Political Theory, Joseph. V Femia conveyed that preconditions for democracy had been a 'major preoccupation of both politicians and academics since 1945' (1972). The knowledge that the implementation of democracy in foreign nations would fail unless they were a coherent state that maintained a rigid rule of law and sustained a functioning, independent and A-political bureaucracy including police, military, and public servants, has existed since the end of World War Two (Femia, 1972).
Disregarding empirical evidence and foreign policy advisors, the U.S. pursued The Vietnam War in 1960 and the Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which further cemented significant evidence to corroborate the deposition that there is no tangible evidence that the democratisation of foreign countries promotes peace and previous efforts to overturn dictators have resulted in disaster.
1955, only a decade after the end of World War 2, marked the beginning of The Vietnam War. The conflict endured for twenty years across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Historians, including Professor of Military History at The University of Sothern Missouri, Heather Stur, debate why the United States went to war with Vietnam. According to Professor Stur (2017), the motive for U.S. intervention in Vietnam remains a debate predominantly due to the inability to identify when the U.S. War began. Stur (2017) articulates, "rather than identifying one starting point, it is more accurate to understand U.S. intervention in Vietnam as a gradual process" which involved economic aid to help establish a non-communist nation in the south following the division of Vietnam by the Geneva Accords in 1950, political and military advisers, and troops on the ground. At the time, the American public and U.S. allies had begun to harbour trepidation on the state's ability to build a global democratic bulwark against communism because of the Cold War (Stur,2017).
According to Stur (2017), the threat of communism spreading throughout Southeast Asia in conjunction with the United States desire for credibility and global recognition were the ultimate factors that "motivated U.S. policymakers to commit advisors, money, materiel and troops to Vietnam (Stur)." In the 1960s, the question of whether America's war in Vietnam was a noble struggle against communist aggression, a tragic intervention in a civil conflict, or an imperialist counterrevolution to crush the movement of national liberation circulated the globe and to this day remains unresolved (Appy, 2018).
Despite a well-resourced intervention, the U.S. and its allies were unable to build a democratic state in Vietnam as the nation lacked necessary cultural and bureaucratic preconditions for democracy, thus resulting in the development of the radical belief that America's true enemy in Vietnam was national liberation and independence (Appy, 2018).
"The question used to be; might it be possible that we were on the wrong side in the Vietnamese war. We were not on the wrong side; we are the wrong side" (Ellsberg, 1974).
Consider defence analyst Daniel Ellsberg's political views, recorded in his 1974 book "Hearts and Minds", which argued the Vietnam conflict was a counterrevolution. Ellsberg's stance in conjunction with Professor Jessica Chapman's belief that "The Vietnam War was, at its core, a civil war greatly exacerbated by foreign intervention" (Chapman, 2006) challenges the ideology that democratic states should not support democratisation in other parts of the world in the interests of promoting peace.
Twenty-six years after the fall of Saigon, on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists highjacked four U.S. commercial aircraft. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre's twin towers in New York City and a third into the Pentagon in Virginia. Following the suicide attacks on the U.S., the Bush administration formed a war cabinet where the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, addressed state leaders, confirming the attacks were carried out by militant Islamic terrorist organisation al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden (Gregg, 2021). On August 16, 2021, just weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the globe following the Taliban's insurgency on U.S. backed government in Kabul, American troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan. History had arguably repeated itself; the U.S. suffered significant losses and a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, just as it did in Vietnam (Achcar, 2021).
An embarrassing defeat is not the only comparison between The Intervention of Afghanistan and The Vietnam War. According to Professor of U.S. Foreign Policy Gordon Adams, American hubris and official lying are repeated characteristics of U.S. foreign policy exercised in Afghanistan and Vietnam, leading to failed foreign interventions (Adams, 2021). For example, when U.S. involvement in Vietnam commenced, leaders assured the American public that the state had no prior association to the conflict arising in the state. However, the truth was revealed in 1971 when The New York Times and Washington Post published The Pentagon Papers, a study of the origins and development of the Vietnam War (Altschuler, 2009). The papers leaked by defence analysts Daniel Ellsberg rebutted U.S. claims of detachment into the origins of the Vietnam War. In 2001, American hubris remerged, disguised as 'the global war on terror' and Afghanistan was the perfect candidate to promote western democracy, despite the evidence from historical events proving the concept of promoting democracy in nations where there is no history of the concept is fraught (Adams, 2021).
When U.S. President Joe Biden announced the removal of American troops in Afghanistan, he stated, "Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralised democracy (Biden, 2021)".
However, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Bush administration's clearance to dispose of American military forces in Afghanistan came General Tommy Frank's war plan; Operation Enduring Freedom (Gregg, 2021).
"The first phase connected the U.S. Special Forces with CIA teams to clear the way for conventional troops. Then the United States mounted a massive air campaign to take out al Qaeda and Taliban targets and conducted humanitarian airdrops to deliver relief to the Afghan people. The third phase called for ground troops from both American and coalition partners to enter the country and work with Afghan forces to hunt down remaining Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Finally, the American troops would stabilise the country and help the Afghan people build a free society (Gregg, 2021)."
The initial operation divulged to the American public was to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan and cease al-Qaida training camps. However, the mission was exponentially more significant, with U.S. objectives clearly conveyed in Frank's devised war plan to create a modern democracy, society, and military in Afghanistan (Adams, 2021). As to why President Joe Biden lied in his national address, one can only assume it was to 'save face' of the American government in the wake of yet another military defeat in a war continuously condemned by the public, academics, and foreign policymakers.
After decades of consideration, through numerous failed conflicts, many scholars, policymakers, politicians, and members of the public attentive to international relations and global politics have formed a common belief that democratic states, such as the U.S., should not support the democratisation in other parts of the world. This doctrine has been established by the assessment of U.S. historical attempts to promote democracy in non-western cultures, resulting in death, debt, and catastrophe. Although international relations academics and democratic policymakers accurately record that stable democracies sustain better long-term economic growth records and better protect fundamental human rights, the use of military force to endorse the implementation of democracy in foreign cultures fails (Walt, 2016).
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