Opinion: Despite US rhetoric, democracy rings hollow

Author: Ansari Institute

Mahan Mirza

In an opinion piece for The Hill, Executive Director Mahan Mirza critiques US rhetoric about democracy and calls for a sustainable foreign policy that addresses today’s big challenges.

Mirza notes that US President Joe Biden has said history is at an inflection point, and the future depends on a choice between democracy or autocracy. But Mirza agrees with political commentator Fareed Zakaria that framing the issue in this way is “neither accurate nor helpful as a guide for US foreign policy.”

Democracy, Mirza argues, is not a cure-all: Democratic countries around the world—including the United States—have at times allied with autocracies, trafficked weapons, engaged in conflicts beyond their borders, waged bloody proxy wars, and been responsible for outsized carbon emissions.

“Spreading democracy abroad can never be a credible project when it is so transparently manipulative, even as the societies that evangelize democracy abroad backslide at home,” he writes.

In order to more effectively make the case against autocracy, Mirza says, democracies should ensure they pursue worthy goals that address real needs, rather than simply labeling themselves “democratic”—a description that can sometimes ring hollow.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Mirza writes. “If democracy is going to be destiny, it needs to get its act together. If the democratic project is really that good, its proponents should just focus on doing the right things—addressing the climate crisis, advancing equity and inclusion at home, privileging diplomacy over militancy abroad and investing in global cooperation for sustainable development. History will take care of itself.”

Read the Op-Ed