Is Democracy Against Autocracy the New Cold War? | Editorial columns
“He might be an SOB, but he’s our SOB.”
So said President Franklin D. Roosevelt of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, and how very American. For, from its earliest days, America came to an understanding with the autocrats when the national interest demanded it.
George Washington danced a jig in 1778 when he learned that our diplomats had made an alliance with the King of France Louis XVI. The alliance, he knew, would be essential to an American victory.
In April 1917, the United States went to war “to make the world safe for democracy” in collusion with four of the world’s greatest empires: the British, French, Russian and Japanese. All four annexed new colonial lands and peoples from the decisive victory of democracy we won.
During World War II, we provided massive military aid to Joseph Stalin’s USSR, who used it to crush, conquer and communalize half of Europe.
Antonio Salazar, dictator of Portugal, was a founding member of NATO. During the Cold War, we allied ourselves with autocrats Syngman Rhee from South Korea, Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines, the Shah from Iran and General Augusto Pinochet from Chile. NATO’s second largest army is under the autocratic regime of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Our main allies in the Arab world are Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew a democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and the various kings, princes, sultans and emirs along the Persian Gulf. Yet President Joe Biden defined the global struggle as between democracy and autocracy and said: “Democracy will prevail and must prevail.
“We agree with this strategic vision,” echoed the Washington Post.
But is this an accurate description of the great power rivalry today?
If the autocratic-democratic divide is the dividing line, which side are Erdogan, Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on?
Are we really in an ideological war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia today, as we were during the Cold War with Stalin’s USSR?
We have quarrels with Putin over Crimea and Donbass, and he wants to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO. But where is the evidence that Putin seeks to transform our democratic form of government into an autocracy?
Putin’s objections to us concern our policies, not our democracy.
In the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev boasted that American grandchildren would live under communism. When did Putin proclaim such a great ideological goal of the Kremlin?
Does our quarrel with China have an ideological character?
China is a growing economic and military powerhouse, with feuds with most of its neighbors.
He has trade problems with Australia; a border dispute with India in the Himalayas; and differences with Vietnam, the Philippines and four other nations on the ownership of islets in the South China Sea. China also claims Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands occupied by Japan.
But with the exception of Taiwan and Hong Kong, which it claims as sovereign Chinese territory, Beijing has not pressured any nation to adopt a political system similar to that of the Communist Party of China.
It coexists with communist Vietnam, autocratic Myanmar, theocratic Afghanistan, and democratic India, Australia and Japan. Beijing’s quarrel with us is not that America is “a democracy.” China’s objections are that we block its ambitions and support the South Asian and Southeast Asian nations that thwart its strategic goals.
The quarrel is not ideological, but political and strategic.
Why, then, make it a war of systems? Where is the evidence that Beijing is trying to communitize its neighbors, or change their political systems to conform to its own?
However, there is ample evidence to show that the United States is actively seeking to overthrow Putin’s power in Russia.
Although Putin’s Kremlin is accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, even if this is true, how would it compare to American interference in internal affairs today? from Russia?
Are Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe objective and neutral in their coverage in Russia? Are the numerous non-governmental organizations and the National Endowment for Democracy taking a hands-off approach to Russian domestic politics?
What has the Kremlin done to advance Donald Trump’s political ambitions compared to what our diplomatic and government institutions and quasi-government agencies appear to be doing to undermine Putin and advance Alexei Navalny’s candidacy?
If American democracy is at an ideological war with Russia, who is on the offensive here? Who wants to change the political system?
“The American national interest and the promotion of democracy, or at least political stability, abroad are not so easy to separate,” writes the Washington Post.
But where did America get the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations to change them to conform to our own?
If our goal is to democratize Russia and China, i.e. to change their political systems to conform more closely to our democratic system, doesn’t that amount to a declaration of ideological war on our part? ?
Isn’t this the essence of ideological warfare?
And who, then, is the aggressor in this new ideological war?