A second-term democracy agenda
The Washington Post
by David J. Kramer and Arch Puddington
As he develops his second-term foreign policy agenda, President Obama should include a prudently implemented strategy to expand freedom’s reach to those parts of the globe where fear and repression prevail. By embracing support for freedom, the president would advance American interests and burnish his legacy as a leader who achieved major change for the United States and the world.
To date, the president has been uneven on the exercise of U.S. power to promote democratic change. Obama spoke eloquently at the State Department and at the United Nations last year about the vital role democracy plays in a peaceful world. After the Arab movements began, he recognized that the embrace of democracy by Arab societies is essential to the development of peace and prosperity in the region. During the 2012 campaign, Obama repeatedly declared his commitment to the cause of global freedom.
On the other hand, Obama’s conviction that he could find ways to forge productive, “win-win” relations with enemies of freedom led to the “reset” initiative with Russia that included playing down the rampant violation of democratic standards and human rights under Vladimir Putin and ignoring the pleas of Iran’s beleaguered Green Movement in 2009. Obama administration officials seemed to believe, at least initially, that the burden of pressuring authoritarian regimes to change should not be shouldered entirely by the United States, and they looked to regional powers such as Brazil or South Africa to take on human rights and democracy challenges. Shifting the burden has not worked. We have learned, rather, that if the United States does not take the lead in pressuring repressive powers, the job won’t get done.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.