Reporting from Ecuador: Gustavo Dominguez
The United States has devoted significant resources to two strategies abroad that have failed to succeed. One is intertwined through most headlines in the international news today, the promotion of Western style democracy. The second, while different in content, is similar in the imposition of a dominant ideology abroad that has proven ineffective, and is one that I have seen personally from my home country of Ecuador – the fight against drugs. I believe that both policies fail structurally in their strategic design.
Western style democracy is exactly what the United States has insisted should be encouraged in the Muslim world. But in that part of world, where Westerns do not understand well social and political behaviors, neither tolerance, gender equality, or freedoms are remotely encouraged. All of these values are fundamental requirements for the blooming of this especially fragile mechanism of Government. On the contrary, however, the strict and ancient religious concepts, as well as an anti-modernist vision in many countries have created a foundation that do not allow the roots of Western professed political and administrative systems to grow.
The introduction of democratic values and the strengthening of democratic institutions, led by the United States, is a policy that demands more than good intentions from America and other “Western ” countries.
The defense of democracy at all costs is among the leading schools of thought in international relations. The presumption lies that democratic governance will eliminate almost to extinction the possibility that two states with that political regime will go to war. Democratic governance, as the presumption stands, shall also facilitate dialogue and diplomacy to quell hostilities among otherwise would be warmongers. It is largely from this concept that the intention of universalization and the strengthening of democratic values around the world are structured. Unfortunately, this policy is destined to lose many battles.
The first strategy, seen by many as a try for imposition of American values, is weakened by the absence of recognition on the part of American strategists that the citizens of other countries are strangers to the historical processes achieved by the United States in the course of development of its democratic institutions. They fail to ignore the power of religion, tradition, and the almost genetic concept managed by the great masses of these regions where some argue that western freedoms are a synonym for debauchery. The correct strategy should aim to strengthen progressive Muslim grassroots movements, those more open to the changing realities of the globalized world. That is necessary to undermine the concept of imposition perceived by segments of the Muslim world, prior to encouraging changes that falsely insert unfulfilled promises with weak democratic values and aspirations.
The second strategy, the American anti-drug policy, relates more directly to my region of Latin America, America’s neighbor to the south. It is about time for American politicians to do a mea culpa, or admit fault and culpability, and understand that the problem can be solved through the application of a simple economic concept, the basis of capitalist thinking. It is an immense mistake to benefit from the fight against illegal drug supply from Latin America, instead of reinforcing programs of demand reduction inside the United States. Only a reduction in the demand side in the US will divert poor Ecuadorean farmers away from coca production, which brings in more money to support their families than traditional crops. With decreasing supplies, a decrease of demand will also hit the structure of illegal cartels south of the American border. Inexplicably, United States keeps looking for trouble away from home, while ignoring that it is more important to clean first its own house.
The two strategies, as the facts show, will lead only in the wrong direction. They will keep encouraging chaos and violence, and only, because good objectives have an erroneous approach.