I just heard a fantastic presentation by Anne Marie Slaughter at the Carnegie Council before she heads off to Foggy Bottom, apparently to take the head of policy planning position at State Dept. She made a powerful case for a truer Wilsonianism during the Obama administration. Central to Wilsonianism in the 21st Century will be about creating progressive policies at home, “supporting democracy abroad,” and entering into pluralistic deliberation among our peers on big policy questions such as armed intervention.
George Packard, head of the US-Japan Foundation, asked what this approach would mean for U.S. policy toward North Korea and Burma. Slaughter said that starving people, such as the North Koreans or Burmese, does not necessarily help the people or hurt the regime. By contrast, engaging with these regimes, by sending aid for example, does not necessarily help the government or hurt the people. In other words, there is a good case for engagement with both.
Slaughter saw parallels with the story of China—call it a China model of understanding potential change in North Korea and Burma. In other words, it is not the case that the richer a country gets, the more it desires liberalism. We should not necessarily expect liberal democracies to spring up from economic growth and openness. But we do see, such as in China, that people demand a greater voice as they get richer. As the people demand more voice, they demand more accountability from their government and policies that are more equitable.