By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the world have failed: Hunter

September 11, 2021 - 16:9

TEHRAN - Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, says that the U.S. efforts to promote democracy and respect for human rights in many parts of the world have failed.

“In foreign policy, as with everything else in life, total success is impossible. The United States is no exception to this rule. Certainly, its efforts to promote democracy and respect for human rights in many parts of the world have failed,” Hunter tells the Tehran Times.

 “The main reason has been because, in some parts of the world, these concepts have not yet established deep roots in local cultures,'' she adds.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered a widespread declassification of information collected during the U.S. investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks following growing pressure to do so from family members of the victims.

The order lays out specific timelines over the next six months for the release of the documents, with some set to be released as early as next week’s 20th anniversary of the terror attacks. Information should only remain classified if its release would pose a clear national security risk, and shouldn't remain classified “in order to conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error or to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.”
Some critics are doubtful the White House involvement in the process may put the U.S.-Saudi ties at risk. 

“It is not clear how much of the files regarding possible Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks would be declassified,” Hunter remarks.

Here the question is raised to what extent America is ready to sacrifice its cozy ties with Saudi Arabia to appease the family members of the September 11 victims who have long sought U.S. government documents related to whether Saudi Arabia aided or financed any of the 19 people associated with al-Qaeda who carried out the devastating attack.

Hunter adds, “A hostile Saudi Arabia could cause difficulties for the U.S. in the region. Thus, the U.S. will try to balance the need to respond to peoples' concerns and the need to maintain good relations with Riyadh.” 

Following is the text of the interview:   

Q:  How do you see the impact of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on Biden's popularity and status in America? Some polls show a decline in Biden's popularity. Some fellow Democrats also slam the modality of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A: Most Americans agree with President Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Reservations relate to the process of this withdrawal, which was characterized by some problems.
Some Americans, especially members of the military who served in Afghanistan, feel betrayed and feel their sacrifices had been useless. But the U.S. is currently facing other challenges, such as fires, hurricanes, and floods. The Covid pandemic is also still not completely over. I believe that most Americans' views of President Biden would be determined by how he handles these challenges rather than the issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan. Of course, if the Taliban were to sponsor terrorist acts against the U.S., attitudes might change.

Q: To what extent does the American public care about foreign policy? For example, escalation over Iran's nuclear program?

A: The U.S. public is concerned about issues of war and peace and the activities of those countries that in one form or another challenge U.S. security and economic interests. In this context, China's rise is of special concern. The American public does not want Iran armed with nuclear weapons and it also does not want another war. They would prefer a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear dossier.

Q: Biden orders declassification review of documents related to Sept. 11 attacks in response to calls from the victims for revealing secret evidence. Can it help Biden restore public confidence? How far may the U.S. administration go in telling the truth in this regard?

A: It is not clear how much of the files regarding possible Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks would be declassified. The U.S. still needs to be on good terms with Riyadh because of its interests in the Middle East (West Asia). A hostile Saudi Arabia could cause difficulties for the U.S. in the region. Thus, the U.S. will try to balance the need to respond to peoples' concerns and the need to maintain good relations with Riyadh.

 "The struggle for rights is an unending process and other people should not wait for any great power to assume responsibility for their safeguard."


Q: The U.S. administration is used to blame its foes for human rights violations while turning a blind eye to what Saudi Arabia and its other allies commit. How do you read this behavior?

A: All states face dilemmas in balancing their interests and their values and ideals. The U.S. is no exception. Often, the U.S. has had to disregard some of its universal values in order to safeguard security and other interests.   
Saudi Arabia has been helpful to the U.S. in the context of the Middle East (West Asia). Therefore, Washington has not been as harsh on Riyadh regarding its human rights violations and the lack of democracy as on those countries that have challenged its interests and have pursued anti-American policies. Other countries also face such dilemmas. For example, most Muslim states that have good relations with China have ignored Beijing's persecution of its Muslim Uighur population, because they have not wanted to antagonize China.

Q: Successive U.S. administrations have failed to create a balance between interests and fundamental values. At least in foreign policy, it seems a complete failure. What is your take?

A: In foreign policy, as with everything else in life, total success is impossible. The United States is no exception to this rule. Certainly, its efforts to promote democracy and respect for human rights in many parts of the world have failed. The main reason has been because, in some parts of the world, these concepts have not yet established deep roots in local cultures.
 But in other places, such as Eastern Europe, U.S. efforts, together with those of the EU, have had more success in establishing functioning democracies and respect for human rights. However, the struggle for rights is an unending process and other people should not wait for any great power, U.S., or any other power, to assume responsibility for their safeguard.
 

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