Democracy, Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, Government, Natan Sharansky, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, State Department
The Washington Post notes that the president’s failure to gain control of the federal bureaucracy has paralysed the implementation of his intended policies, and left him in the frustrated role of outsider critic of the government he theoretically heads.
By the time he arrived in Prague in June for a democracy conference, President Bush was frustrated. He had committed his presidency to working toward the goal of “ending tyranny in our world,” yet the march of freedom seemed stalled. Just as aggravating was the sense that his own government was not committed to his vision.
As he sat down with opposition leaders from authoritarian societies around the world, he gave voice to his exasperation. “You’re not the only dissident,” Bush told Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a leader in the resistance to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “I too am a dissident in Washington…”
In his speech that day, Bush vowed to order U.S. ambassadors in unfree nations to meet with dissidents and boasted that he had created a fund to help embattled human rights defenders. But the State Department did not send out the cable directing ambassadors to sit down with dissidents until two months later. And to this day, not a nickel has been transferred to the fund he touted.
Two and a half years after Bush pledged in his second inaugural address to spread democracy around the world, the grand project has bogged down in a bureaucratic and geopolitical morass, in the view of many activists, officials and even White House aides. Many in his administration never bought into the idea, and some undermined it…
“It’s our policy,” the official said.
“What do you mean?” the bureaucrat asked.
“Read the president’s speech,” the official said.
“Policy is not what the president says in speeches,” the bureaucrat replied. “Policy is what emerges from interagency meetings.” …
Still, after an invigorating start in 2005, progress has been harder to find. Among those worried about the project is (Natan) Sharansky, whose book (The Case For Democracy) so inspired Bush. “I give him an A for bringing the idea and maybe a C for implementation,” said Sharansky, now chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Israel. “There is a gap between what he says and what the State Department does,” and he is not consistent enough.
The challenge Bush faced, Sharansky added, was to bring Washington together behind his goal.
“It didn’t happen,” he said. “And that’s the real tragedy.”