For democracy when it’s convenient

Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post gets to the heart of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy about promoting democractic change worldwide.

He notes the extenuating circumstances for Bush’s kid-gloves treatment of authoritarian regimes in Thailand, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Then he adds:

…there were strong arguments for maintaining good relations with all of these autocrats. But that’s the point; there will always be countervailing arguments. If you think democracy is just a secondary, wouldn’t-it-be-nice objective– if you don’t think raw national interest is served by spreading freedom abroad– liberty will always rank below some other, legitimate priority.

I agree with Hiatt that for all of Bush’s soaring rhetoric, he sees democracy mainly as a club to wield over unfriendly or uncooperative regimes. It’s not that the people living under these regimes don’t deserve demoracy– of course they do. But are those whose rulers currently please us any less deserving?