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Outsourcing democracy promotion

Turkey, after seeing atrocities in Syria, joins a club of other regional, democratic powers like Brazil and Indonesia helping their neighbors.

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Brazil is another example of a regional power that has struggled to cement its democracy and build up its market economy, and now exhibits a progressive leadership in Latin America and beyond.

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Brazilian troops have been active in stabilizing Haiti. It supports the region’s antidrug efforts and free-trade alliances, as well as the global push on climate change. While it is too cozy with Cuba and Venezuela, it nonetheless has built up its democracy as a model for others.

Indonesia, too, after securing its democracy in 1999, has tried to influence Burma’s dictators and to quell disputes within Southeast Asia, such as a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia. In 2008, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set up a regional group called the Bali Democracy Forum to help build democratic institutions in Asia.

Nigeria continues to improve its large democracy with each election while using its military and strong oil-based economy to promote stability in Africa, especially West Africa. It is the backbone of the Economic Community of West African States, and was influential in resolving a recent postelection crisis in Ivory Coast. Nigeria’s leadership stands in contrast to the continent’s other democratic power, South Africa, which has largely avoided confronting authoritarian rulers.

For decades, the US has tried to find regional, democratic powers that can take over the burden of standing up to autocrats and aggression. As democracy has swept Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa since the 1980s, a few large countries, like Brazil and Indonesia, have emerged as key partners – although not always reliable allies.

With the Middle East making its own erratic transition to democracy, Turkey’s apparent turnaround on its foreign policy will provide a welcomed contribution to helping the region’s people finally find the freedoms they have long sought.


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