Indeed, between September 2002 and the introduction of the Advance Democracy Act on March 3, 2005 an evolution in thinking had not only occurred in the White House, but also on Capitol Hill.  The President’s argument at West Point and in the National Security Strategy of 2002-that the expansion of liberty was fundamental to American ideals and interests-became a viewpoint shared across the political aisle.  The hopes of securing the peace in Afghanistan and Iraq and the inspiration of an “Arab Spring” and the “Color Revolutions” combined with President Bush’s Second Inaugural speech to provide a vision of a free twenty-first century world empowered (in part) by the U.S.

In 2005 the Advance Democracy Act failed to pass the 109th Congress.  However, the 110th Congress folded it into Public Law 110-53 as Title XXI, the “Advance Democratic Values, Address Non-Democratic Countries, and Enhance Democracy Act of 2007” or the “ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007” which was signed by the president in August 2007.[13] The 2007 law closely mirrored the original version from 2005, and although it did not set up a new Office of Democratic Movements and Transitions, it does implement most of the other points adumbrated above, as well as the following:

  • Directs the Secretary of State to staff new “Democracy Liaison Officers” assigned to regional and multilateral organizations, combatant commands, and regional public diplomacy centers.
  • Directs the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor as well as Chiefs of Mission abroad to seek out, consult, support, and provide assistance to democratic actors in civil society as part of country-specific strategies for democracy promotion, including “issuing public condemnations of violations of … human rights, including violations of religious freedom, and visiting local landmarks and other local sites associated with nonviolent protest in support of democracy.”
  • Mandates that the Secretary of State provide training (e.g. Democracy Fellows) and recognition (awards, incentives) for Foreign Service officers engaged in democracy promotion.
  • Funds U.S. government and international democracy programs, such as $28 million for the UN Democracy Fund (2008-2009) and $3 million for Hungary’s International Center for Democratic Transition (2008-2010).

What is striking is that this fiscal authorization bill is unusual in its rich language of liberty and representative government.  At times the document reads like the president’s Freedom Agenda speeches, referencing the Declaration of Independence and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  For instance, early in the Advance Democracy Act a lengthy justification of democracy and democracy promotion is advocated:

“It is the policy of the United States to promote freedom and democracy in foreign countries as a fundamental component of the United States foreign policy … to affirm fundamental freedoms and international recognized human rights … to condemn offenses against those freedoms and rights as a fundamental component of United States foreign policy … to protect and promote such fundamental freedoms and rights, including the freedoms of association, of expression, of the press, and of religion, and the right to own private property; to commit to the long-term challenge of promoting universal democracy … to support … free, fair, and open elections, … to strengthen cooperation with other democratic countries…”

The language herein often sounds as if it were directly lifted from President Bush’s speeches, such as the following from Section 2102 of the Act: “The development of democracy constitutes a long-term challenge that goes through unique phases and paces in individual countries,” or “to use the instruments of United States influence to support, promote, and strengthen democratic principles, practices, and values.”  Likewise, the action items derive, or parallel, activities that President Bush called for two to four years ago.

In sum, the Freedom Agenda is simply not just presidential oratory, it is an integral part of the Bush Doctrine and the Administration’s “grand strategy” for U.S. foreign policy.  Moreover, the intellectual commitments of the Agenda found strong allies on Capitol Hill that implemented far-reaching changes in how the Department of State approaches issues of democracy, civil liberties, and human rights.  These changes were enshrined in law, buttressed with increased funding, and nurtured with Congressional oversight and annual reports. [1265]

Evaluating Success: the Freedom Agenda as Foreign Policy

We have argued that although President Bush’s Freedom Agenda fits clearly within trends in U.S. foreign policy that champion democracy, the Administration’s active commitment to this Agenda surpassed its predecessors by a significant margin.  Furthermore, we have reported on the activities of the White House, the Executive branch, and the Congress to advance representative government and individual liberty worldwide.

So, how has the Freedom Agenda fared as a foreign policy?  In other words, has the Freedom Agenda been successful?  This begs the question, what is the measure of success for foreign policy?  Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright says, “The purpose of foreign policy is to influence the policies and actions of other nations in a way that serves your interests and values. The tools available include everything from kind words to cruise missiles.”[14]  With this in mind, has the Bush Administration accomplished what it wanted?  Has it laid a foundation for future success of the Freedom Agenda?  To answer these questions, we will briefly look at the elements we can analyze to report on success or failure: the inputs, outputs, and outcomes of the Freedom Agenda.

One way to think about the success of any project is to begin with its goals, consider the inputs and outputs of the system, and then evaluate the outcome against the original objectives.  If we were designing a product, our goal would be to build and sell the product, our inputs would include human capital and materiel, the output would be the product, and a successful outcome would be the sale of said product.

First, the “inputs.”  U.S. presidents and other high officials have routinely called for greater democracy abroad, but provided little real stimulus toward that end.  Therefore, if President Bush was serious about the Freedom Agenda, then we should find more than words-we should find evidence of concrete activities, “inputs,” that were sown and cultivated over time into a harvest (outcome) of democracy and liberty.  Are there such inputs?

The Administration would certainly have said so.  Indeed, earlier in this paper we presented material from the White House’s “fact sheets” that detail numerous activities directly designed to promote freedom around the globe: presidential meetings with dissidents, speeches by the president and his proxies, the expansion of free trade agreements, work on Middle Eastern democracy such as MEPI and BMENA, increased funding for democracy programs, the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and support for democratic movements and transitions, especially in Eastern Europe, the Caucuses, and the greater Middle East.  Thus, the Administration meets the “input” test: certainly President Bush and his team took some specific, concrete actions to advance the Freedom Agenda.

However, inputs are not the ultimate measures of success.  A job, such as building a house or a car, is not successful based on its inputs (e.g. hours labored, money spent, number of people on the project), but rather in terms of the outputs and ultimate outcome.  Inputs are at best building blocks.  In other words, inputs must coalesce into meaningful outputs, or products, of the system.  Are there “outputs” of the Freedom Agenda?