U.S. Promotion of Democracy in the Post-Cold War Era

  • September 15, 2015
  • Mr. Stewart C. Eales

George Washington asserted that the American people had been entrusted with the preservation of “the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government.” The character of that “preservation” has evolved and expanded as the nation’s power and reach have grown; reaching new heights when the collapse of the Soviet Union gave American Presidents the mandate to pursue a “new world order” built on a democratic foundation. This paper begins with a contextual analysis of democracy--what was promoted, why it was promoted, and how it was promoted--and provides an allegorical description of democracy promotion as torch bearing, shield bearing, and standard bearing. It then examines how Presidents George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama promoted democracy. It offers four broad recommendations for democracy promotion: demonstrate that liberal democratic values are a litmus test for policy decisions, clarify the role of military power in the promotion of democracy, reassert American Exceptionalism, and distinguish between the promotion of liberal values and the nurturing of democratic institutions.