Washington wanted democracy, but got a bloated NGO sector instead
“America is back,” declared Joe Biden earlier this year. And with it, a resurrected liberal internationalism that has lain dormant for the past four years. Biden’s cabinet, packed with officials who supported the Iraq invasion, the Libya intervention, and expressed remorse over Washington’s failure to play a bigger role in Syria, now wants America to reclaim the mantle of global leader.
The President has said that he wants to convene a global democracy summit as part of the administration’s push to promote democratic values abroad (though his Secretary of State has insisted that this will not be done through “costly military interventions”) and approach authoritarian regimes “from a position of strength, not weakness“. All of which suggests that the new President will be taking a more active role on the world stage than his predecessor.
Whether the Biden administration has learnt from the Blob’s past mistakes will be put to the test in Afghanistan, where the deadline to withdraw US soldiers from the region is fast approaching. Troops have been stationed in the region for nearly 20 years, and Washington’s failure to get out is a case study in the failures of exporting democracy and, by extension, liberal values abroad. Instead, what has happened, according to a new report in Foreign Affairs, is that liberal values have ‘become a business’ in Afghanistan generating fat contracts for NGOs:
In turn, this business created an artificial — and parallel — civil society:
Now, Washington now finds itself trapped in peace talks:
The lesson to draw? That the death of liberalism ends not with a bang, but with a bloated NGO sector.