Is democracy really all that great? It seems that this semester at the Patterson School has brought to my attention many of the downsides of the U.S.’s chosen form of government. One of those is the problems created when politics begin to play a detrimental role in shaping foreign policy. As demonstrated in Friends and Foes, when power is in the hands of many, it can become very difficult to get the right thing accomplished.
One issue that comes to mind is the war in Iraq. It is not hard to imagine the U.S.’s political environment being the catalyst in the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Should politicians and the uninformed publics they represent be trusted with such a decision? Shouldn’t these decisions be free from the influence of politics? Will it be okay if troops are pulled out of Iraq because some politicians’ desire to be reelected?
The problem here is that the best part of democracy (the public’s ability to play a role in policy making) has become democracy’s weakness. The U.S. public cannot play a beneficial role in foreign policy formation when it has a demonstrated disinterest in countries and cultures other than its own. Certainly, the answer is not to have all the foreign policy making power concentrated in the hands of one person or a few people. The answer is not limited democracy, but educated democracy – if U.S. citizens are going to be a part of the foreign policy process, they ought to understand its basic concepts. Without getting into too many details, I believe this process starts with a reevaluation of curriculum taught in U.S. primary and secondary schools, and continues with broader and more informative press coverage (eg. Darfur instead of Tom Cruise).