Policy Coherence and Incoherence: The Domestic Politics of American Democracy Promotion

This paper argues that it is difficult to understand the effects of American democracy promotion abroad without examining the bureaucratic context from which the policy emerges at home. Which actors within the U.S. government are involved in promoting political and economic change abroad? What strategies and conceptual models guide them? What tools and resources do they bring to bear? How does the interaction of American bureaucratic politics affect the impact of American democracy promotion? Articulating this mix of goals, strategies, and resources helps explain incoherent patterns of outcomes on the ground.

This paper explore these questions by reference to the U.S. government's most ambitious democracy promotion efforts of the past decade: the effort to rebuild its former Soviet enemies into a democratic allies in the 1990s. Yet the patterns of American bureaucratic politics are not unique to this democracy promotion effort. While American democracy promotion has changed in tone and substance under the watch of George W. Bush, American domestic politics has powerfully shaped American democracy promotion in similar ways in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.