In an in-depth interview with The Daily Caller, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush backed away from his brother’s Wilsonian vision about America’s role in promulgating democracy and human rights around the world:
Former President George W. Bush famously made human rights and democracy promotion a cornerstone of his foreign policy. “[I]t is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world,” he declared in his second inaugural address.
Talking to TheDC, Jeb Bush seemed to place less emphasis on democracy promotion than his brother did and some of the other 2016 Republican presidential contenders, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have. While Bush said liberal democracy is “one of the values that we need to promote,” he added it is hardly the only, or even most important, one.
It has to be tempered with the realization that not every country is immediately going to become a little ‘d’ democratic country,” Bush said. “Iraq would be a good example of that I think.”
Taking a leaf out of the late American Interest board member Samuel Huntington’s book, Bush suggested that political development is a gradual process, and that a strong political order is required before democracy can flourish:
“I think ultimately security will lead towards democracy and having an engaged America will help make that so, but you cannot have democracy without security,” Bush said when asked if he could imagine considering America’s missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as successes if those countries don’t end up as liberal democracies.
Presidential primaries are usually long on posturing and short on common sense, but these well-considered comments from Mr. Bush are an exception. In order to foster a safe and democratic world, America should not be disengaged, but nor should she engage in a crusading idealism that pretends democracy can be exported without certain preconditions.