Teaching Transformational Diplomacy and Making “Democracy” a Good Word Again


john shattuck twn.jpgI just learned that John Shattuck, President and CEO of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, will be shifting from his current duties to assume the helm as president and rector of the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.
I find this interesting and important news because this university, established in large part through the support of George Soros, has been a powerhouse in training many people to become the clerks, and policy analysts, and political organizers and agitators, and bureaucrats of open societies in much of Eastern Europe. Soros and his philanthropic work and allies have played a vital role in the transformational development of illiberal regimes into more liberal ones. And where impunity and strongly consolidated, anti-democratic power preserved its interests in the former USSR, Soros’ CEU trained graduates are the most likely political rivals to abusive, undemocratic power.
Ever since George W. Bush launched a crusade to democratize much of the Middle East and other parts of the world by force, sometimes with sanctions and sometimes guns, I have struggled with the question of how to get “transformational diplomacy” right.
Condoleezza Rice in a January 2006 speech at Georgetown University admitted that America needed to “enhance [its] ability to work more effectively at the critical intersections of diplomacy, democracy promotion, economic reconstruction, and military security.”
Rice also said, concluding her remarks, that “America has come a long way and America stands as a symbol but also a reality for all of those who have a long way to go, that democracy is hard and democracy takes time, but democracy is always worth it.”
I think Soros and Rice would agree on her conclusion — but as to what democracy looks like and how to inspire and animate the spread of democracy and healthy, liberal civil society — there would be much dispute. My own feeling is that Soros has always understood “transformational diplomacy” and how to engineer a political ecosystem in which democratic process might take root more than most democracy promoters in the US government.
But now John Shattuck, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the Clinton administration, will be taking the helm of this educational institution — which has been a primary driver of the talent needed to transform political systems.
I had some contact with Shattuck in the 1990s when I worked in the US Senate on foreign policy — and was intrigued with his decision to leave the Kennedy Library Foundation and move to Hungary to run a university — and so called him.
Shattuck, who also teaches international relations at Tufts and who has been a Vice President at Harvard, asserted that we are at an exciting pivot point in the development of many transitional societies and have an opportunity to reintroduce what democracy really means — not just ballotocracy — but rather established rights of minorities, functioning courts, support of civil liberties and freedom of expression, and self determination. Shattuck thinks that the stress of a global financial crisis and the chastening of the old frameworks of power have presented a new opportunity to promote rule of law, genuine democracy, and economic progress in the developing world.
The Central European University has students from more than 100 countries and is a European/American hybrid institution that attempts to inculcate students with the tools used to achieve an open society — and to systematically prepare future change agents to understand what the real building blocks of democratic transition are. There are students not just from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus, but also North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
Parliament members, Justice Ministers, United Nations representatives, and countless number of civil society leaders in Eastern Europe were trained at CEU and have made a difference in their countries in ways far more rooted in their respective countries, and organically grounded, than the militarized model in nation building and democracy development that George W. Bush’s administration pushed.
John Shattuck told me that he planned to create an “international school of public policy” that would connect in an interdisciplinary way the work that CEU already has going in environmental studies, rule of law, and democracy — in order to generate more policy and political practitioners who could synthesize these different issues.
I asked him how he could make the “global justice” field less fuzzy, less idealistic, less utopian, and more results driven and results-rewarded or punished than it seemed to me to be.
Shattuck said that we needed a more sophisticated understanding of democratic development and of open society and needed to generate process templates that might work for those trying to challenge illiberal political regimes. But he said that there is “no blueprint” for open society. Every case is “country and society specific.”
Shattuck said that the means by which a democratic system or state emerges will be different in each case — but that there are many lessons that can be learned in these cases by organically rooted political actors, activists, bureaucrats, academics, the media, and so on. But what is clear, Shattuck said, is that “democratic values cannot be imposed from above.”
I think the world needs talent production shops like the one at CEU that Shattuck will take over next year (his start date is August 1, 2009) and not depend only on the exclusive elite clubs on the world’s upper crust Ivy League institutions.
We need many more people around the world who can think in disciplined and realistic ways about social and political change and who can implement an open society strategy from a position of strength and competence.
This is the only thing that will help show that the kind of force driven democracy promotion we have seen during the Bush administration is weak, ineffective, and undermines the not only democracy promotion abroad but our own democratic institutions at home.
Given Caroline Kennedy’s friendship with Barack Obama and her association with Shattuck at a presidential library built around her father’s ideas, Kennedy is in a good position to help Obama understand the difference between the falsehood of democracy pursued through force and democratic practice built on training a generation of people who can actually operate and help to instigate genuine democratic transition.
This is part of what we need to make “democracy” a good word again.
— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “Teaching Transformational Diplomacy and Making “Democracy” a Good Word Again

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  3. ... says:

    the usa is a plutocracy, not a democracy..


  4. TonyForesta says:

    Democracy by definition is a system government wherein the authority of the government is derived from the consent of the governed. Democracy is not a government wherein the authority of the government is derived from the consent of the predator class, and the wanton profiteers in the predator that profiteer wantonly from warmaking, and marauding other peoples resources, or oppressing the socalled governed!
    Realists, intellectuals, academics, and progressive must – MUST – demand a real definition of what exactly is or means democracy.
    For eight fiendish years the principles, and the very work of democracy has been ruthlessly mangled, dismembered and reengineerered to conform to to preconcieved dictactes of a fascist regime that in reality is anti-democracy. For years now I have been begging socalled realists and the glitteratti of the blogshpere and the notable pundacracy to define demacracy. The answers is alway numbnoneness, silence, or the ridiculous rain of personal insults to dismiss or disparage the question, and the questioner.
    We are either a nation and a people that lives by, honors, abides, and promotes the rule of law, – or we are not.
    In a world where there are no laws, and no principles, – there are no laws and no principles for anyone biaatches!
    Defining democracy and restoring the rule of law is job one. In this process there is accountability and no one (NO ONE) is above or beyond the law.
    Defining democracy is a critical step to restoring America’s standing as the leader of the free world. Failure here will result in our certain, inevitable, and well justified demise and doom.
    American tax payers fork over $500bn a year to the defense apparatus, (the military industrial complex) and another $65bn in blackworld enterprizes. Do you people actually expect me to believe that the world hypersuperior military and intelligence apparatus must restort the perverted practices of the middle ages to obtain actionable intelligence.
    Anyone who succumbs to this perverted and sick thinking in thwarting the threats to America is living in the dark ages. This is part of the sick and deluded propaganda and systemic disinformation bruted by the pathological liars and wanton profiteers in the bushgov.
    America is, or should be beyond torture as government policy. If not, we are no different than the evildoers we are supposedly working to defeat. If there is no difference between America’s policies and al Quaida’s for example – then we are no different – and in fact we have shapeshifted into the exact same fiendish despicable, perverted, and pernicous conduct of our enemies.
    America is either a nation of laws and principles, or we are the same as the lawless evildoers we are supposedly combatting.
    “Anyone who would comprise liberty for security, deserves neither liberty, nor security.”
    We either live by, honor, and abide or own laws, and our Constitution, or we are no different than our enemies.


  5. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    As for the Middle East, the US sponsored project of transformatioanl diplomacy , both in form and substance reflects the American strategic doctrine- defending America’s interests in the region- thereby playing the chessboard game of “totalitarian diplomacy’ in the Middle east.


  6. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    In my above-mentioned post, some typographical errors have been made.It has to be read as”Wilsonian-transformational diplomacy”.


  7. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The American project of Wilsonisn-transformatioanl diplomacy may have been possibly an expedient developement regarding American clout in New Europe (the eastern Europe), particularly the Nato’s eastward expansion, has been the end- result of this diplomacy.
    Yet this project of “transformational diplomacy” seems to have been completely failed in the Middle East.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hamas. Gaza.
    Aristede. Haiti.
    Ahmadinejad. Iran.
    Those must be “bad word” democracies, eh?


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    About an hour ago I went out and split an oak log that was in a rick of oak I cut and gathered on a job site last week. There was an old large black oak, killed by insects, that had partially collapsed, and the customer was not opposed to me cutting it up for personal firewood.
    Anyway, splitting the piece with my mall, I exposed a grub, a matriarch of the horde of insects that were able to bring the mighty oak down. Hideous, about four inches long. A translucent beige and brown, segmented, with a head structure fit for the pages of a Stephen King novel.
    Looking out my window, I am often awed by the beauty of the oaks. It is macabre and tragic that a creature as loathsome as this grub can bring down such a majestic and beautiful tree.
    394-5. You don’t say.


  10. JohnH says:

    “What democracy looks like and how to inspire and animate the spread of democracy and healthy, liberal civil society — there would be much dispute.” Americans think their government is a good model of democracy. Opinion polls of Venezuelans show that thye think their government is very democratic, too. But Americans think that Venezuela is virtually a dictatorship. And Iraqi’s parliamentary staff think that America is a failed model of democracy.
    So how do you explain these vastly different perceptions of democracy? Answer: it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
    As a result, it’s best to let democracy grow organically. And it’s best to keep “democracy promotion” organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy as far from the action as possible. Such “democracy promotion” organizations have as their sole purpose to promote the election of governments friendly to American business interests. Are they democratic? Not if their primary allegiance is to America and not to their own people.
    If democracy is to ever reign supreme, it will be over the stinking corpses of the great powers.
    So, Steve, which is more important, democracy or the realization of America’s strategic interests? The two are incompatible.


  11. samuel burke says:

    platitudes platitudes….make democracy a good word in america
    again steve…..speak truth to the power that has cowered your
    congress into knaves and cowards….394-5…in favor of the gaza
    genocide is an unacceptable and unatural response unless there
    is an unseen power…at work in your constitutional
    democracy…every knows what the hell it is…it just takes balls to
    call a spade a spade in america.
    the parties in washington are overated anyways….dogs are
    better friends than people.
    strive to be truthful to the brotherhood of man and not to the
    politically powerful.
    dogs are more truthful than humans.


  12. Rowdy Yates says:

    Just a small issue here, but you refer to “…open societies in much of Eastern Europe…” How do you define “Eastern Europe”? I suspect you are using the old Cold War definition, and I believe a better term might be the older “Central Europe”. I will leave it to others to decide where “central” becomes “east” (or “west” for that matter). Just sayin’.
    Oh, as a side note, what do you make of Laura Rozen’s article in The Cable regarding Obama’s meeting at Woodrow Wilson?


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Why is Condileeza Rice being included in a commentary about making “Democracy” a “good word” again? Condileeza Rice is a war criminal, complicit in over one million unnecessary deaths.
    Further, she has time and again been proven to be a liar, has ignored a Congressional subpoena, and was recently declared a perjurer by a Congressional committee.


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