Summit for Democracy? Some U.S. officials in Washington “roll their eyes over”

9:56 01.04.2023 •

The second Summit for Democracy brings together representatives from around 120 countries. It follows the first gathering of its sort in December 2021 and is a major plank in President Biden’s vision of “restoring” American leadership on the world stage, writes “The Washington Post”.

“As President Biden has said, we have to prove democracy still works and can improve people’s lives in tangible ways,” noted a State Department press release. “To do that, democracies have to come together — to rejuvenate and improve our open, rights-respecting societies from within; to stand together in defending against threats from autocracies; and to show we can address the most pressing crises of our time.”

But, in private, some U.S. officials and many foreign policy experts in Washington roll their eyes over the whole affair. Critics see the event as an inconsequential talk shop or an unwelcome showcase into the inconsistency of U.S. foreign policy on the world stage, as Washington goes to bat for human rights in some contexts and looks the other way in others.

Participation in the summit doesn’t necessarily come with any obligations, nor are there any genuine mechanisms to hold participant countries to certain commitments or standards surrounding their democracies.

Skeptics of the whole enterprise fear the United States is not fully invested in the effort and has halfheartedly and inconsistently “centered” human rights in its foreign policy. They point to myriad examples, from Biden’s mending of fences with the Saudi royal he once vowed to make a “pariah” to the United States’ tepid response to a de facto anti-democratic coup in Tunisia (to be sure, the North African nation was not invited to this week’s gathering), to its embrace of India — the world’s largest democracy and a desired ally in the confrontation with China but one dominated by a right-wing religious nationalist ruling party that, most recently, expelled India’s most prominent opposition leader from parliament.

The United States, out of principle, did not invite Turkey or Hungary to this week’s summit, a mark of how it views both countries’ democratic decline in recent years.

But then there’s the awkward case of Israel, long hailed by Washington as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, but which has been in global headlines for the crisis that sees it lurching down the Hungarian path. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now backtracks from a controversial effort to assert greater political control over Israel’s judiciary.

And policy wonks also bristle at the overtly ideological character of the project. “The summit for democracy is a bad idea that [won’t] go away,” tweeted Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Beyond the awkward ‘whom to invite’ issue, American democracy is hardly a model for others. Plus we need non-democracies to help us in the world, from sanctioning Russia to slowing climate change.”

Biden announced that $690 million will fund for his administration’s Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal. The money will be dispersed around the globe to help fight corruption, bolster free and independent media organizations and defend free and fair elections.


…It means that, under the guise of "support for fair elections," the United States will interfere with heaps of dollars in the electoral processes in those countries, where they intend to change the governments. That's what American ‘democracy’ is all about...


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