Paul Lachine

Democracy’s Drama in Terrorism’s Theater

Terrorists hope to create a climate of insecurity that will provoke liberal democracies to undercut themselves in terms of their own values. Preventing new terrorist attacks while understanding and avoiding the mistakes of the past will be essential if we are to preserve and support liberal democracy both at home and abroad.

CAMBRIDGE – President George W. Bush was famous for proclaiming democracy promotion as a central focus of American foreign policy. He was not alone in this rhetoric. Most US presidents since Woodrow Wilson have made similar statements.

So it was a striking departure when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress earlier this year about the “three D’s” of American foreign policy – defense, diplomacy, and development. The “D” of democracy was glaringly absent, suggesting a fundamental policy change by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush frequently referred to democracy’s benefits for security. They cited social-science research showing that democracies rarely go to war with each other. But, more carefully stated, what scholars have shown is that liberal democracies almost never go to war with each other. Indeed, it might be that a liberal constitutional culture is more important than the mere fact of competitive elections.

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