In the Ukraine, Democracy Promotion Done Right

Promoting democracy in authoritarian regimes is now a central goal of US foreign policy. Yet Iraq, the test case, is not going well. Which is not a reason to abandon hope – democracy can be nurtured in even the most difficult places. First in Georgia, and now the Ukraine, Europe is demonstrating democracy promotion done right. “This young century will be liberty’s century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world.” – US President George W. Bush Something quite unusual happened when, following the November 2003 uprising known as the “Rose Revolution,” Georgia’s new president ascended the steps of parliament to deliver his inaugural address. He raised the European flag, twelve stars on a blue field, above his country’s parliament, declaring, “This, too, is the Georgian flag.” It is a rare thing indeed when a liberated country raises any flag but its own. But this was not the first time that European ideals had inspired a movement for democracy. Nor would it be the last. In the mid-1990s, Slovakia was drifting towards authoritarianism. President Vladimir Meciar had allied with the quasi-fascist Slovak National Party and passed laws weakening the power of parliament and the constitutional court. He then turned the secret service on opponents in the media, labor unions, and local government. The European Union (EU) responded by announcing that Slovakia was the only one of the ten Eastern European applicants that was failing to meet the political criteria to join the union. With their European dream slipping away, Slovakia’s divided opposition rallied together. The 70 percent of Slovaks that favored EU membership lent genuine popular support....

Turkey Looks West, and Up

“For the Turk, freedom is life,” declared Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founding father, in 1920. But he clearly had something in mind quite different from the democratic and market freedoms frequently praised by US President George W. Bush. For Ataturk, in the name of freedom, set about building a country in which the military had ultimate political authority and the economy was state-dominated. Indeed, Turkey became the first country to follow the USSR in adopting economic central planning. And not without reason. Because the freedom Ataturk had in mind was, specifically, freedom from foreign influence. The economy was state-dominated so it could never be foreign-dominated. The military was made strong to protect Turkey from the powerful European nation-states that had greedily dismembered the country’s geographic predecessor, the Ottoman Empire. And Ataturk was spectacularly successful, in a sense. Turkey indeed became strong and relatively stable. But – especially in economics – the country’s navel-gazing was a burden. The state-led, inward-looking economy became a politicized economy. A small, well-connected elite built immense business conglomerates straddling unrelated industries, thanks to favorable regulation and government-allocated capital. Ataturk’s great Business Bank was redubbed the “Bank of Politicians” for its cronyist lending, and the Turkish government itself came to be known as devlet baba, the “father state,” for its economic micromanagement. Over time, political overspending and interference caused Turkey’s economy to stagnate and then implode, surviving only with larger and larger bailouts from Western allies – reaching $7.5 billion in 2000, then $15 billion in 2001. A despairing Turkish pundit wrote, “it is evident [Turkish] politics in general has been reduced to a game of...