Democratic nations are more stable and peaceful than other nations and contribute to the welfare and prosperity of their own people, as well as to all humanity. Democratic regimes bring hope and stability to their people, allow their citizens to peacefully make changes in underperforming governmental operations, and encourage their people to look forward to a better future. Existing regimes in many of the developing countries lack the desire or ability to provide awareness to their citizens of the advantages of democracy that would bring positive changes to their lives. These governments often have the concern that they will lose power and control over their countries which, in many cases, produces more extreme governments that can destabilize an entire country or region.
The U.S. is left with few options in its relationship with radical governments: (1) boycott these regimes, (2) attempt to change these regimes if they constitute a threat to U.S. national security, or (3) support the regime for lack of a better alternative.
History has proven that spreading democracy by toppling a ruling government by force and replacing it with another can be very costly in lives and resources and can have a negative effect on public opinion. Pressuring a ruling government by isolating it from the international community can backfire. Boycotting Iran, for instance, made this government grow stronger and more averse to democratic principles. The last option, supporting regimes for the lack of a better alternative, affects the credibility, respect and popularity amongst the people who live under these regimes. Additionally, this option promotes feelings of discontent within the U.S. because our government fails to follow its own principles when dealing with these regimes.
Democracy should be introduced like a new religion that must be cultivated and grown gradually in the hearts and minds of the populations of these radical foreign regimes. Then the ordinary citizen will be the protector of his newly founded “religion” and follow a course to further democratic development in his country. This should be a long-term strategy that, when coupled with other existing foreign policy programs, can show positive results in 5 – 10 years.
Enhancing human rights and dignity, while reducing corruption, are prerequisites for any developing nation to move forward toward democratization. There is no doubt that many of the ruling governments in developing countries would like to achieve these prerequisites without impacting their agenda for long-term government stability. However, in most cases governments of developing countries lack the ability to implement real democratic changes and/or to emphasize these changes as a priority on their agenda in a strategy to minimize the rising influence of fundamental and radical parties. Much of the daily interaction between the citizens of developing countries and their own government, combined with widespread experience with corruption, results in a huge sense of reticence and disappointment that negatively affects their human dignity and their rights. In developing countries citizens cannot protest the underperformed government because of their fear of persecution. Lack of human dignity and rights lead to disengagement and disaffection of the citizens from the political process and make the status quo acceptable. Citizens without hope only satisfied with pointing fingers at their government as the sole reason for their problems and their government’s inability to foster positive changes. Additionally, governments of developing countries benefit by allowing their citizens to believe that their problems result from the actions of western countries. This distracts developing country citizens from examining their own system and trying to identify the real reasons for their failure. Many dictatorial governments capitalize on the negative feelings of their citizens and manage to direct their citizen’ anger toward western countries and thus avoid accountability over their own lack of leadership. However, this ploy virtually provides a temporary solution, and there is always a grave danger that people will resort to revolutionary acts against their government, which in many cases results in great chaos and paves the way for extremist groups to take over, as was evident with the Palestinian Authority and the rise of the Hamas group.
Current Approach for Democratization
A direct campaign targeting the public of developing countries with the aim of spreading understanding of the democratic system is a current approach often employed by many western governments. Such campaigns are always under the scrutiny of ruling regimes, and poses great difficulty in spreading an understanding of the benefits of democracy to a larger audience. Such efforts also face a counter campaign designed to discredit the goals of introducing democracy and discrediting any local citizens working with those trying to spread an understanding of democracy. Therefore, this campaign is quite costly and produces little progress.
The foreign visitor program at New Mexico Tech has shown that almost all foreign nationals visiting the U.S. admire the benefits of democratic systems, ranging from effective balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government to the daily interactions between U.S. citizens and their official government agencies on the state and federal levels. However, recent studies in developing countries have shown that these people still do not accept external power to force democratic changes within their home countries.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has the mandate to help many of the developing countries world-wide through specific strategic objectives based on the country and the region of interest. For example, the USAID has its largest mission outside the U.S. in Egypt since the late seventies after the peace accord between Egypt and Israel. The USAID mission in Egypt spent billions of dollars in supporting major projects on infrastructure development (Water, sewer, communications, agriculture, etc) as well as considerably large projects in the environment, education and health care sectors. The activities of the USAID in Egypt have had major impact on the economic prosperity in Egypt as well as on its political stability. Currently, the USAID includes democratization in Egypt as one of its strategic objectives, which has failed to make such impact on the society because of some of the obstacles mentioned earlier.
Therefore a new and novel approach for fostering democratization should be considered and implemented in an effort to expedite and maximize the impact of USAID initiative in promoting democratization. The new approach should take into account and steer clear of the obstacle listed earlier and direct the growing potential and resources of the developing countries toward meeting the prerequisites for democratization such as enhancing human rights and minimizing corruptions through scientific and engineering solutions. The new approach for democratization should take into account the sustainability of the prerequisite democratization efforts after redirecting U.S. funds toward development of the necessary human capacity and trained workforce which can maintain the initiatives, secure in-country and other donors’ resources and thus keep continuous communications with U.S. firms and universities.
Novel Approach for Democratization
A novel approach for fostering democracy in developing countries may be implemented by empowering their citizens without alienating their governments. The new approach would help the citizens of developing countries to gain an understanding of the prerequisites of democratic change, such as improving human dignity and rights while minimizing the level of corruption. The ruling régimes in developing countries believe that there is no one democratic model applicable to all nations. The new approach for democratization should address this fact and be flexible enough to accommodate the variables related to level of education, awareness, religious, cultural, and economic prosperity of each country.