The Freedom Agenda

Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did)

James Traub

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Americans have been trying to shape democracy around the world for more than a century. It is the American mission, our distinctive form of evangelism. But when President Bush declared, in his second inaugural address, that “the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,” he elevated this cause—the “Freedom Agenda,” as he called it—to the central theme of American foreign policy. Yet the war in Iraq has proven the folly of seeking to impose American democracy by force. As we leave the Bush era behind, the question arises: What part of our efforts to spread democracy can we rescue from this failure?
 
The Freedom Agenda traces the history of America’s democratic evangelizing. James Traub, a journalist for The New York Times Magazine, describes the rise and fall of the Freedom Agenda during the Bush years, in part through interviews with key administration officials. He offers a richly detailed portrait of the administration’s largely failed efforts to bolster democratic forces abroad. In the end, Traub argues that democracy matters—for human rights, for reconciliation among ethnic and religious groups, for political stability and equitable development—but the United States must exercise caution in its efforts to spread it, matching its deeds to its words, both abroad and at home.

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Introduction

In his second inaugural address, in January 2005, President George W. Bush declared, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." This was the most succinct possible statement of the post-9/11 doctrine that came to be known as the Freedom Agenda. Of course it was an arguable proposition: Perhaps our liberty depended more on the success of something else in other lands—economic growth, the rule of law, simple justice. But all that was, in a sense, detail. For if the deeply repressive political cultures of Saudi Arabia

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Praise for The Freedom Agenda

Praise for The Freedom Agenda:

“A fascinating account of the progress, or lack of it, of liberty . . . James Traub has written a thoughtful and splendidly informed book on a vast subject that in the wrong hands can very easily become elusive, even boring . . . His book is very much in tune with the content and the tone of the new administration’s ideas, and it should be a valuable guidebook for those working on them.” —Brian Urquhart, The New York Review of Books

“…The most penetrating look yet at the historical and theoretical basis for democratization…”—Wesley K. Clark, Washington Monthly

“[A] spirited book…”—Foreign Affairs


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About the Author

James Traub

James Traub is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He has written four books, including The Devil’s Playground and The Best Intentions (FSG, 2006). He lives in New York City.

James Traub

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Freedom Agenda
Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did)
James Traub

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2009
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429941846
ISBN10: 1429941847
272 pages
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
October 2009
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312428570
ISBN10: 031242857X
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages
$18.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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