Daniel Larison writes:
The silliest argument was the one made by war advocates who insisted that democratization would contribute to regional stability on the bizarre assumption that democracies are inherently more peaceful. That certainly hasn't happened, and I'm not referring just to the countries that went through "color" revolutions and U.S. wars of "liberation." Thailand, Kenya and Ivory Coast are among the countries in the last decade that have suffered tremendous upheaval as a result of tensions heightened and exaggerated by democratic politics. Another silly argument that war supporters made on a fairly regular basis was that a democratic Iraq would necessarily be relatively pro-Western. As it has turned out, Iraq has quite naturally come under increasing Iranian influence and has become more sympathetic to Iran than it ever was in the past. All things considered, that may not be such a bad outcome, but it flatly contradicts what most of the war supporters and democracy promoters said would happen. Fans of democracy promotion seem to have an unusually bad understanding of what democratization would actually mean in most other parts of the world, and so it is fortunate that we seem to have an administration that is suitably more wary of the idea...
The Iraq war doesn't necessarily discredit any and all democracy promotion, but it is a cautionary tale of how the government can invoke freedom and democracy to advance and sell completely appalling policies. (Mind you, it isn't just that Iraq hasn't become Switzerland, which was never going to happen, but that its political institutions haven't even risen to the level of Lebanon's.)
One danger of making democracy promotion an important priority of U.S. policy or even of official rhetoric is that it becomes an ideological slogan entirely detached from the substance of fostering a more liberal and participatory political order...Another danger is that this emphasis on democracy promotion conflates U.S. interests in a region with the aspirations of other peoples to govern themselves democratically when these two may not be complementary. Most enthusiasts for democracy promotion seem rarely to contemplate the possibility of such a conflict between the political goals of democrats in other countries and U.S. policies, and there usually seems to be a casual assumption that American interests and "values" advance in tandem.
Read the rest here.