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Reckless endangerment

Biden administration should finally let go of the disastrous 'democratic peace theory' practiced by his predecessors


The Joe Biden administration has proposed to convene a global summit for democracy. However, the new United States president is ignoring an important fact: over the past more than three decades, the "alliance of democracy" that is based on the "democratic peace theory" has been heavily eroded.

The "democratic peace theory", which came into being at the end of the Cold War, argues that democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies, and seek to solve conflicts of interest in peaceful ways. The US has been advocating the "democratic peace theory", claiming that only if all countries become democracies can the world enjoy perpetual safety. As a result, countries backed by the US have frequently intervened in the domestic affairs of other nations, fostering pro-US forces there.

Under the pretext of "humanitarian intervention", the Bill Clinton administration sent troops to Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo. Following the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, the George W.Bush administration pushed its neo-conservative strategy of exporting democracy as an anti-terrorism measure. It promoted democratic reform in the Middle East, instigated a color revolution in Central Asia, and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to help bring them "democracy".

After Barrack Obama assumed the presidency, the US supported and propelled the "Arab Spring" which extended the influence of American-style democracy in the entire Middle East. As the National Security Strategy released by the Donald Trump administration put it, "a world that supports and reflects American values makes America more secure and prosperous".

Nevertheless, the "democratic peace theory" has turned out to be a threat, rather than a contributor, to global peace and stability. From Iraq to Kosovo, from Libya to Syria, US interventions have left nothing but a trail of war-scarred lands, poverty and misery. The US has sought to coerce governments that have refused to carry out "democratic reform" by imposing sanctions, nurturing "pro-democracy "forces, and instigating color revolutions. It has toppled governments by military means in countries where "democratic reform" did not go smoothly. Many of these interventions resulted in hunger, poverty, chaos, even bloodshed, with the hope for peace fading into darkness. Ever since the Cold War ended, the US has launched nearly 100 overseas military interventions, including 27 large-scale operations, and taken multiple military actions bypassing the UN Security Council.

Former US president Jimmy Carter called the US "the most warlike nation in the history of the world". According to an Iraq War survey published by Lancet in 2006, the invasion by US-led coalitions forces caused an estimated 654,965 deaths directly or indirectly as a result of increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure and poor healthcare.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung on March 18, 2017, US political scientist Francis Fukuyama acknowledged that "the end of history is postponed", and "the trend has been going in the other direction".

The "democratic peace theory" can no longer offer cover to the US failure. The US entered the phase of monopoly capitalism. It mistook its success for a virtue, and violence for power. Trump assumed office at a time when multiple mistakes committed by the US overlapped and deteriorated. The four years of his administration exhausted the reputation and national image of the US that had been built over more than a century, leaving a deeply divisive society, and creating endless troubles and chaos overseas.

The country's decayed "democracy" has turned into populism, leading to the rise of Trump cultism and repeated failures in promoting peaceful evolutions in other countries. The failure to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic once again proves that the US needs to carefully review its "democratic peace" rhetoric.

The "democratic peace theory" has actually accelerated the US' decoupling from the international community, pushing it further away in the wrong direction.

The refusal of most of the US' European allies to participate in the Iraq War, French President Emmanuel Macron's remark about the "brain death of NATO", Trump's charging US allies for protection and his administration's failure to rally its allies around its anti-China campaign are all evidence that the longtime allies of the US are no longer willing to blindly follow it. They do not want to see the world divided into opposing camps and are calling for multilateralism in the global order.

The US has made another misjudgment--it wrongly regards China, which is a major contributor to the peace and stability of East Asia and an engine of world economic growth, as an opponent instead of a partner. By trying to rally an "alliance of democracy", Biden has shown that he is not able to break away from this outdated power game mindset.

The history of East Asia since the end of the Cold War proves that development is the true solution to problems facing the world, and a way to restore and maintain peace. The Biden administration should keep pace with the times, rise to the domestic and global challenges it faces by promoting development, and join the greater cause of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

The author is a special commentator with China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The author contributed this article to China Watch. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.