Promoting Democracy: A Lure to Kill Each Other but not Care for Burring
The following Op Ed does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the New York and New Jersey Business Journal or its agents.
When Mr. Biden was running for the election of President of the United States, he pledged a lofty and ambitious plan to convening a global summit for democracy in 2021 where "like-minded leaders could discuss ways to strengthen their own systems internally and protect them from threats like corruption, election security, disinformation and the authoritarian model that has gripped China and Russia and seeped into nations like Turkey and Brazil." Biden Promised that" the gathering would be intended to take a public stand against the authoritarian and populist tides that rose during the presidency of Donald J. Trump and threaten to swamp Western political values."
Now the summit seems to be convened on 10-11 May, but not by the White House, nor in the United States -- " the Mecca of Democracy". Instead, it is contracted to, and seems will be executed by a small and unknown organization "Democracy Alliances" in a remote and peripheral place in Europe: Copenhagen. If this is the Global Democracy Summit that pledged by Biden, many would feel very surprise as there is a huge gap between Biden's promised scale and the momentum of that Global Summit and a shabby and tacky reality. It constitutes a sharp contrast to the Nuclear Security Summit convened by President Obama in Washington D.C. in 2010, that President Biden wants to model on. The Nuclear Security Summit was attended by delegations from forty-seven governments including the United States, thirty-eight of which were represented by heads of state or government. The Summit was the largest gathering of heads of state called by a United States president since the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization. Delegations from the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the UN also attended. Now this Summit called by Biden seems have only another real President of Slovakia, Zuzana Caputova, plus a Pseudo-president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, signing up. The rest are the hand-picked street fighters from Belarus and Hong Kong. Its scale can't even be compared with the Anti - Corruption Forum in 1998 convened by the then Vice President Al Gore, which attracted around 1000 participants form 84 countries. This sharp and painful discrepancy manifested a big shrink of the influence of the United States. Also the theme of the summit is out of focus. It does not seem fit into the top political agenda of the world today which is more occupied by the Covid-19 vaccination and economic recovery. Gone are the old days of America's self-imposed moral superiority and its hubristic dominance of the global system. After millions and millions of people across the world witnessed a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on 6 January, and Trump's persistent effort to overturn the election results, they do not believe that the United States still has credibility to lecture other nations on democracy. The United States has become what its leaders so often criticized: a fragile democracy unable to prevent violence and bloodshed from marring the transition of power from one leader to the next. Such a scenario reminds people of the pictures of Boris Yeltsin on top of a tank in Moscow, the self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunis, and the street fights in Ukraine and Belarus.
Over the past decades, the United States poured billions and billions of dollars around the world to promote democracy. It was met, however, by a cruel reality: liberal democracies across the world have been in decline or in severe recession since 2006, according to various surveys done by Freedom House and Democracy Alliance. Not surprisingly, Biden's idea of a Democracy Summit caused a large anxiety about the country's role as a global leader of Democracy and Human Rights in the post-Trump era. Many political analysts are not sure whether the United States is still in a position to chart the course and impose it on others. It has bigger and deep rooted problems at home than an impulse to lecturing the world on democracy. Some others argued that the Biden Administration should instead hold a democracy summit at home- one focused on "injustice and inequality", including issues like voting rights and disinformation. The most important task for the United States is to rebuild norms and institutions at home.
By outsourcing the Summit to the Democracy Alliances, President Biden is transferring the powers of agenda setting and invitation list determining, as well as the United State's global leadership to Mr. Anders, Fogh Rasmussen, founder of the Democracy Alliances, better known as the former NATO Secretary General and former Prime Minister of Denmark. Rasmussen's accomplishments from his previous political career did not convince people that he is capable for such a moral authority and a global leadership. Rasmussen's achievement in promoting democracy and protecting Human Rights in the past, if any, was best remembered when in 2003, he got Denmark join in the only five countries to take part in the actual invasion of Iraq, in addition to the U.S., UK, Poland and Australia. Rasmussen was met with strong skeptics and criticism for his blind reliance on questionable intelligence with regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He faced considerable opposition, both in the parliament and in the general population, but he arrogantly rejected insistent demands for investigations into Denmark's involvement in the Iraq war. In 2004, Rasmussen was poured on red paint by a protester in the parliament, who yelled at him:" You have blood on your hands!" Ironically, now he is including " disinformation" as one of the issues in this forum. How can he explain " Saddam's WMD"? Isn't it disinformation that he used to fool the Danes?
But Rasmussen's political immaturity did not stop there. Just one year later, in September 2005, a major Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed a full page with 12 cartoons depicting various interpretations of Muhammad, set off what would come to be known as the Cartoon Crisis. However, Rasmussen's rejection to meeting with 11 ambassadors of Islamic countries to discuss the issue enraged many people who expected an apology from the newspaper and from him as the Prime Minister. Rasmussen was even criticized by 22 former Danish ambassadors which was unusual because diplomats are obliged to follow the government's political line. Rasmussen's incapability led to a drastic escalation of the crisis which was described as Denmark's worst international crisis since World War II.
What seemed to have caught Rasmussen off guard, however, was that none of the Western political leaders support his way of dealing with the situation. The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, called the publication of the cartoons 'offensive, thoughtless and disrespectful', while former U.S. President Bill Clinton, called the cartoons ' totally outrageous'. Many EU politicians and staff members also found Rasmussen's handling of the case problematic. As a result, he lost the chances of becoming either the Chairman of the EU Commission or the General Secretary of the EU's Ministerial Council.
His achievement on "promoting democracy" during his tenure as NATO Secretary General that made Rasmussen most proud of were probably his decision to send military helicopters to attack Libya which ruined the vitality practice of "lure people killing each other, but not caring for burring". So, what do we need such a democracy for?
According to Biden, the summit would be "to renew spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. It will bring together the world's democracies to strengthen the democratic institutions, honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda to address threats to our common values." "The event would feature civil society organizations that stand on the front lines in defense of democracy." Put it simply, this is a gathering of the Westerners to defend themselves against the fire that they set up over the past twenty years. The myrmidons, like Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Konger can join in, but "upon invitation only". Not surprised, there is an entire absence of those Middle East countries, namely, Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. They were ravaged by the Arab Spring and underwent full-scale upheavals, leading to the deposition of the former leaders and severe domestic fracturing and struggle. Yet they are denied the status and stature of the democratic label. These states happen to be those which were traditionally supported by the West. So what? Libya was attacked by the US-led NATO forces under Rasmussen, and Qaddafi was killed in the name of "saving the lives of civilians and those who were fighting for democracy against the autocratic ruler."
After ten years of transition guided by Western countries, democratic regimes in those Arab countries are far from meeting the aspirations of the local people; these include economic prosperity and human rights. In all those Arab countries where were swept through by the shockwave, more than 1.4 million people died. Libya, Syria and Yemen are the most miserable victim states of Arab Spring, and they have become hopeless. War, wreckages and refugee become their synonym and rivalry groups competing for controlling the countries whilst the economies have backslidden into bleak winter. There are around 14 million people in Syria, more than half of the total population, who are turned into refugees. Libya, once a wealthy country where many sub-Sahara Africans admired so much, has finally ushered into democracy and freedom imposed by NATO. In exchange, the country has become wreckage, with a collapsed economy. People who had no worries about food and clothing before, have now become refugees, either die at home or in Mediterranean - on their way to Europe. Tunis was deliberated as the real voices for democracy by the Western media. However, it has been trapped into deeper crisis in the aftermath of the Arab Spring; living standard is dropping like falling off a cliff, resulted in more demonstrations and strikes. But those in power remain intact. Democracy has come to Egypt together with terrorist attacks whilst foreign investors and people fled away. Political turmoil, economic stagnation, and social polarization have become part of the daily life.
These facts are telling us: The conflict between the United States, the Western countries on one hand and the Arab countries and Russia on the other, has nothing to do with the political system in these countries, whether they are democratic or not, but it has a lot to do with the geopolitical interests between them. Full democracy transition in Arab countries and Russia over the past thirty years are not recognized and accepted by Western Countries, they are excluded and denied the status and stature of the democratic label.
As Robert Daly, the Director of the Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, put it: the geopolitical strategy for the United States is to make sure that the United States dose not have a peer competitor for security…The proposition is, even if China were to change in some of the ways that proponents of Engagement Policy hoped for, or even though they thought it just as an experiment to adopt America's constitution and laws whole sale, we should still try to limit their growth merely because we shouldn't have a peer competitor. That is the proposition regardless of belief, regardless of people striving for human flourishing along the lines we have been prescribing for the world for decades. If they actually appear to be succeeding, regardless of belief, we must stop them even if it means pushing them back to poverty.