Robert Kaplan points out the error in the Bush Administration’s thinking in an article titled We Can’t Force Democracy.
For the average person who just wants to walk the streets without being brutalized or blown up by criminal gangs, a despotic state that can protect him is more moral and far more useful than a democratic one that cannot.
Globalization and other dynamic forces will continue to rid the world of dictatorships. Political change is nothing we need to force upon people; it’s something that will happen anyway. What we have to work toward — for which peoples with historical experiences different from ours will be grateful — is not democracy but normality. Stabilizing newly democratic regimes, and easing the development path of undemocratic ones, should be the goal for our military and diplomatic establishments. The more cautious we are in a world already in the throes of tumultuous upheaval, the more we’ll achieve.
I’m not sure I trust the sentiment totally, considering what America sometimes construes as “help”, but it beats the Bush “Doctrine”.