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Democracies can't be forced

AS Americans, our inclination is always to do something - anything - to alleviate human suffering....

But as we are learning in the post-cold-war world, what we can do is limited by a variety of factors - not the least of which are the desires of those who live in the nations in crisis.

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Those who support active United States or Western intervention in hot spots like Haiti, Rwanda, and Bosnia argue that we have a moral obligation to go in and make things right.

But, as our recent experience in Somalia should have shown us, absent any grass-roots desire for change or progress on the part of the people in a region, we cannot build nations from scratch.

Haiti and Rwanda have no recent tradition of political stability or effective governance. Without a trained bureaucracy, without an educated middle class, it will be darned tough to create a democracy out of thin air.

And in Bosnia, hundreds of years of ethnic fighting were halted temporarily by imposition of an iron-fisted totalitarian regime....

Look at those once-destitute nations that have flourished since World War II. South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore. None of them had their sucessful economies and/or political structures created for them....

So, what do we do about the suffering in Haiti, Rwanda, and Bosnia?

It may very well be that the best we can do in such situations is provide humanitarian aid - feed the hungry, care for the wounded and sick, clothe the cold....

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But it is becoming increasingly clear that what we cannot do is impose success, no matter how defined, from the outside.

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