The declining price of oil “will not achieve what our foreign policy and best efforts at democracy promotion could not” – democratization of autocratic petro-states like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. The axis of diesel has other options to sustain authoritarian rule, argues analyst William J. Dobson, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He puts his faith in the tried-and-tested approaches of the democracy assistance community:
The Bush administration may have given democracy promotion a bad name. But the mistake was in its methods, not its goals. There is no substitute for the heavy lifting of promoting civil society, press freedom, and the rule of law.
His views are echoed by foreign policy scholar Joseph S. Nye who cautions against over-reacting to the Bush administration’s shortcomings. “Democracy is not in retreat,” he insists, noting that Freedom House listed 86 free countries at the beginning of the Bush years, and an increase to 89 by the end of its term.
Nye distinguishes the end from the means, stressing the difference between assertive promotion and more gentle support of democratization:
Avoiding coercion, premature elections and hypocritical rhetoric should not preclude a patient policy that relies on economic assistance, behind-the-scenes diplomacy, and multilateral approaches to aid the development of civil society, the rule of law and well-managed elections.