In an article in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes her concerns about United States foreign policy in the 2020s.
“Historically,” she says, “our republic’s claim on the global imagination has been inseparable from its identity — however imperfectly embodied — as a champion of human freedom. That remains a universal aspiration today.”
“The more disturbing events of the 21st century,” Secretary Albright adds, “for all their complications, have dented, but not destroyed what remains of that unique foreign policy asset… The United States still has immense resources it can deploy for purposes that serve both its immediate needs and enduring ideals.
“Our message,” Ms. Albright says, “must be that open government is the remedy for, not the breeding ground, of crooked self-serving regimes.
“Consider that one of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s favorite tactics is to accuse opponents of corruption, arrest them in front of government cameras, and then prosecute them in puppet courts.
“The most compelling answer to this brand of deception is the truth. Real democrats, such as Presidents Zuzana Carputova of Slovakia and Maia Sandu of Moldova, are showing that free institutions can purge graft through honest investigations, judicial reforms, and incentives to reduce bribery at every level.
“After too many years of handwringing, the time is right for democratic forces to regain the initiative. Democracy is fragile, but it’s also resilient. In every region, a new generation is coming. It is smart, outspoken, and fearless.
“Worldwide, people are demanding more, while authoritarian leaders are tiring and running out of answers. The Biden administration has before it an opportunity it must seize. Although tattered and torn, freedom’s flag is ready to rise.”
A rapidly-approaching chance to advance that goal
In early December, President Biden has plans to convene a virtual group of more than a hundred representative world leaders for what’s termed The First Ever Summit for Democracy.
According to internationally-known foreign policy experts Richard Fontaine and Jared Cohen, 2021 is the 15th consecutive year that Freedom House has reported a decline in democracy worldwide.
Scholars Fontaine and Cohen note: “There are plenty of skeptics heading into yet another proposed summit. Those living in democratic countries are welcome to voice those doubts, thanks to the freedoms of the press protected by many of the participants.
“But the Biden administration has an opportunity to prove the naysayers are wrong. The summit can be a launchpad for an ambitious and enduring effort to strengthen democracy around the world. If it can do so, perhaps that initial invite list of 100 and some countries will grow in years to come.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More