But this is the criticism of a caricature. Democracy promotion — as embraced by the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute or Freedom House — is about human liberty protected by democratic institutions. Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls. And even marginally more favorable dictators can’t be propped up forever, as we’ve also recently witnessed. So it matters greatly whether America and other democracies can help pluralism survive and shape the emerging political order.
This is a priority for both humanitarian and strategic reasons. As William Inboden of the University of Texas notes, there is a robust correlation between religious persecution and national security threats. “Including World War II,” argues Inboden, “every major war the United States has fought over the past 70 years has been against an enemy that also severely violated religious freedom.” The reverse is equally true. “There is not a single nation in the world,” he says, “that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States.”
There are a number of possible explanations for this strong correlation. The most compelling is that religious freedom involves the full and final internalization of democratic values — the right to be a heretic or infidel. It requires the state to recognize the existence of binding loyalties that reach beyond the state’s official views.
Again, this is a problem about which I am not well read. I appreciate how Gerson offers a compelling rationale for America to remain an active force in the world.
Greg Sargeant, a columnist I don't often read, offers some thoughts on the politics of the Affordable Care Act I find interesting, and I largely agree with his advice that Democrats have to more convincingly embrace the troubled legislation rather than run from it. More interesting are the points he makes about the way in which legislation can regulate some of the market abuses of the industry. Makes me think of ACA as a New Deal for medical coverage. Eighty years ago, FDR's policies set the ground rules for a new economic reality, regulating an economic environment in which larger corporations had emerged from years of consolidation. How they fared was how the economy fared was how the common man fared. Regulations sometimes worked poorly (like the NRA) and sometimes well (like Glass-Steagall) to create a new, more fair landscape of rules. Perhaps that is what the upshot of Obamacare will be, a new playing field with more transparency of cost and benefits regarding health coverage.