Promoting Democracy After the Cold War: U.S. Policy in the Philippines (Case Study #12)


February 12, 1991

This essay examines how the United States can or should respond to the request of promoting democracy in the post-Cold War world, using the case of the Philippines.

Factors that influence the nature, extent, and effectiveness of an American response include the historical American commitment to democratic government and a foreign policy that professes support for its promotion. Yet, as political scientists and others have long noted, there are both theoretical difficulties in exporting democracy and conflicting policy goals that often have led the United States to support non-democratic regimes.

Paradoxically, there may have been a greater chance of success during the Cold War, before the triumph of newly-democratic governments in many parts of the world. Now theoretical constraints loom larger, internal contradictions take on more importance, and the foreign policy direction and bureaucracy of the United States has become in itself a formidable barrier to an active American role in promoting democracy in the Philippines.

Perhaps this is for the best, as democratic reform is ultimately a matter only the Filipinos themselves can achieve. Yet it will disillusion many in both countries if the United States, as former colonial power and the birthplace of one of the world's most successful democracies, proves to be both unable and unwilling to work more effectively to help secure democracy for the people of the Philippines.

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