At the Bangor Daily News, Gordon L. Weil suggests that the US fascination with “regime change” is misguided and counter-productive. He gives some examples; follow the link for more examples. (I think his summaries may be a little too summarized, but it is a newspaper column, not a history text.)
A look at countries where democracy has failed to take root after the overthrow of a dictatorship teaches some lessons.
Russia has no democratic history. But, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States and others countries took it for granted that it would install democratic institutions.
While Russia may have adopted the appearance of popular control of the government, it has become clear that the Russian people prefer an authoritarian rule allowing them some limited freedoms. A majority likes President Putin, largely because he is a throwback to paternalistic control under the czars.
Afghanistan sheltered Al Qaeda terrorists, which justified American military action to root them out. But the U.S. has engaged in its longest war ever to stamp out opposition and install democracy, so far without success.
The problem in this case is that Afghanistan has never really been a country. A collection of regions dominated by warlords, it, too, has no democratic traditions or even a truly national identity. The net result of 13 years of war may be no improvement over the U.S. staying for only 13 months and with more limited goals.
American governments of both parties have been comically wrong in understanding the culture, history, and politics of other nations and peoples. Our attempts to manipulate the future of others to suit our ends and preconceptions invariably ignore that the others might not agree with our interpretation of what’s good for them. Furthermore, they will likely instinctively resent our attempts to dictate and manipulate their political processes, however flawed their processes might be, especially when those attempts are accompanied by robotic death raining from the sky.
Our punditocracy and our governing classes of all parties, despite getting it wrong time after time, always seem surprised when they get it wrong yet one more time.