"Spreading democracy" aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989.As David Aaronovitch argues in the next day's Observer
When Bush orated that, 'America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies', I could feel sceptical, but I preferred it - both emotionally and intellectually - to the idea that, somehow, what happens far away is either none of our business, or that anything we might choose to do about it would make things worse.
An illustration of the nature of the choice was afforded by a characteristically lucid article in yesterday's Guardian from the historian Eric Hobsbawm. He dismissed the notion that democracy was applicable everywhere 'in a standardised (western) form', that it could succeed everywhere, or that it could 'bring peace, rather than sow disorder'. The conditions for democracy, he wrote, were rare. Then came the historian's judgment. Spreading democracy 'aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989'. Far better, it was implied, not to do it.
This is a dismal prospect. Where once socialism could be spread, now not even democracy either can or should be. But would it really have been better, as Eric half implies, had the Habsburg Empire survived the First World War, or had the Ukraine continued to be part of a Russian hegemony after 1989? What are we supposed to do with such an analysis?
In a world of poverty and tyranny is it right to sit back and take a conservative approach of doing nothing for fear of doing wrong? As the Man said "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."