U.S. Foreign Policy

Question: Should America export democracy?

Peter Beinart: I think American presidents have always believed – again, going back certainly to Wilson – by and large that America would be better off if other nations were Democratic. The . . . it’s an old idea, this idea that . . . that democracy is likely to lead to greater peace between nations. I think that’s relatively uncontroversial. The difficult questions become how you promote democracy, and what happens when the desire for democracy conflicts with other national interests you have that are important to American prosperity and security. I think what we’ve seen in Iraq is that . . . is that military force is a . . . is by and large too blunt an instrument to in and of itself bring about democracy. That that is not to say that . . . that . . . that . . . that military force cannot be an instrument in bringing about democracy; but it is very unlikely that you can make the promotion of democracy the central justification for military action. If we go to war because our security is threatened as we did against Germany and Japan in World War II, you can make . . . or in the Korean War, you can make a good argument that if we had had to go to war anyway . . . and certainly if we end our . . . end up occupying other countries, we should make what efforts we can to promote liberalism and democracy in other societies. But I think that . . . that . . . that going . . . that democracy alone cannot be a sufficient justification for war, and that it’s important to distinguish wars that are meant to stop genocides and massive human rights abuses – as, for instance, in Bosnia and Kosovo – and wars against static autocratic states that are . . . that are . . . that are meant to promote democracy. The former . . . the latter is much harder to gain public support for, and I think much harder to fulfill. It’s also . . . I think what we’ve learned is that democracy . . . As some people like to say now, democracy is more than elections. Or put differently, liberalism is more than democracy, which is to say that America is not simply a democracy. We are a liberal democracy, which means . . . which means that 51 percent of the American population, if they elect somebody, can’t do whatever they want to the other 49 percent. We have . . . we have limits on governmental power. We have certain rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights which are virtually impossible to overturn through democratic means. And that those things in an independent judiciary – rights to a free press, rights to assembly, protection of minority rights, rights that rule against discrimination – are fundamentally important if we want democracies to be the kind of . . . of societies that we tend to, when we use the short hand democracy, imagine that they are.

Recorded on: 9/12/07






We need to manage globalization more equitably.

Beyond Meat announces plan to sell ‘ground beef’ in stores. Shares skyrocket.

Beyond Beef sizzles and marbleizes just like real beef, Beyond Meat says.

Culture & Religion
  • Shares of Beyond Meat opened at around $200 on Tuesday morning, falling to nearly $170 by the afternoon.
  • Wall Street analysts remain wary of the stock, which has been on a massive hot streak since its IPO in May.
  • Beyond Meat faces competition from Impossible Foods and, as of this week, Tyson.
Keep reading Show less

7 most valuable college majors for the future

The most valuable college majors will prepare students for a world right out a science fiction novel.

Harvard University
Technology & Innovation
  • The future of work is going to require a range of skills learned that take into account cutting edge advancements in technology and science.
  • The most valuable college majors in the future will prepare students for new economies and areas of commerce.
  • Mathematics, engineering and science related educational majors will become an ubiqitous feature of the new job market.
Keep reading Show less

Here are the U.S. states with the highest prevalence of psychopaths

A recent study used data from the Big Five personality to estimate psychopathy prevalence in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.

Surprising Science
  • The study estimated psychopathy prevalence by looking at the prevalence of certain traits in the Big Five model of personality.
  • The District of Columbia had the highest prevalence of psychopathy, compared to other areas.
  • The authors cautioned that their measurements were indirect, and that psychopathy in general is difficult to define precisely.
Keep reading Show less