I liked Heather Hurlburt’s five rules of democracy promotion. Especially the first one:
It’s their democracy. So shut up, already. This Administration did considerable harm to democracy activists across the Middle East, as well as the folks who came out of the Orange and Rose Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia with governing responsibilities, by seeming to take too much credit. This makes the locals look like puppets (see under: Iraq) instead of folks who are expressing indigenous forms of an indigenous desire for universal freedoms. Yes, I want to see this Administration speak loudly and clearly about repression in Burma — but please, no more chest-thumping about what support we’re giving whom. People who are showing that much determination and courage deserve not to be miscast as our puppets.
Obviously, though, this is one of those instances where Bush has been screwing up without “making mistakes” as such. He treats those foreign democracy activists who he chooses not to ignore as puppets, because whether or not it’s actually the case that the activists in question or puppets, his only interest in them is as puppets. Bush doesn’t believe in foreigners holding elections that produce the wrong results (see Palestine) and doesn’t oppose coups when he thinks they might advance his policy agenda (see the pre-war hints that Turkey’s military might want to step in) nor does he oppose hanging out with petty, cruel dictators of theocratic states when they support his geopolitical aims (Saudi Arabia is the famous case here, but see also Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, etc.).
It’s true, of course, that when Bush sees a foreign state under the control of a regime he deems hostile, he approves of overthrowing it. And when the overthrowers are genuine democrats, he’s fine with that, but he’s also fine with sheltering the MEK or whatever else. Whether or not other people wind up looking like puppets or hundreds of thousands of deaths result (see, e.g., Iraq) isn’t really a serious consideration.