Monday, February 28, 2005

# Posted 3:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NY TIMES ENDORSES BUSH AGENDA, SAYS DEMOCRACY PROMOTION WORTH THE SACRIFICE: Sometimes, you just have to throw your preconceived notions in the garbage. Month after month, I criticize the Times for its lackluster commitment to spreading democracy across the globe. Yet now I am forced to confront a powerful editorial that concludes with this memorable phrase:
Promoting democracy is America's proper vocation, and not just in fair weather.
The editorial begins with the important observation that
The new year has started with democracy in retreat in several countries,
It then infuses its idealism with a measure of prudence by adding that
Washington cannot make the world safe for democracy, but it can surely make a more active contribution in each of these delicately balanced political battlegrounds.
At this point, some of you -- especially those with access to the print edition of the Times -- may be asking yourselves, "What is OxBlog smoking?" Does this wonderful editorial exist only in David Adesnik's twisted imagination?

Well, yes and no. The quotations above are from a real NYT editorial that ran on January 13, 1988. I came across it while reseaching the final chapter of my dissertation, which explores the Reagan Administration's response to the People Power revolution in the Philippines in 1986 and the second People Power revolution in South Korea in 1987. The editorial criticizes Reagan for failing to follow through on those democratic revolutions.

In the late 1980's, there was a tremendous enthusiasm across the political spectrum for promoting democracy across the globe. Then, as now, the Democrats were slow to embrace a doctrine first enunciated by Republicans, while Republicans were slow to get serious about living up to their President's ideals.

Actually, with regard the GOP, the situation now is a little different. In the 1980s, Capitol Hill Republicans such as Dick Lugar had to keep Reagan's feet to the fire. Today, it's the White House that has to put the pressure on Capitol Hill.
Getting back to the point, I think that the NYT editorial from back in '88 demonstrates both that democracy promotion is a strategy with true bi-partisan potential and that the current generation of editors at the NYT has sadly fallen away from the idealism of not all that long ago.

But I haven't lost faith. The more purple fingers there are in Iraq and across the Middle East, the closer we come to a democratic revolution on West 43rd Street.
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