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Limited - 1 Dr Shepherd POLS 310-US Foreign Relations 22...

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1 Dr. Shepherd POLS 310-US Foreign Relations 22 February 2008 Power to the People? Niccolo Machiavelli once wrote that “the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation (Machiavelli 61-62).” While Machiavelli was writing about the behavior of princes in a kingdom, the principle of that statement can also be applied to the role of democracy in formation of United States foreign policy. While it may seem that as a free nation we ought to have a completely democratic foreign policy process, for reasons of practicality this cannot be so. Just as Machiavelli suggests, we must set aside some of our democratic ideals in order to preserve ourselves as a nation. In some aspects of foreign policy, the United States must limit democracy to an extent, for reasons relating to both security and efficiency. The idea of limiting democracy can be very dangerous, because it could become easy to increase the limits to a level where the society cannot be called a democracy anymore. For example, the idea of an ignorant public can be stretched to the level of vanguardship and censorship found in the former USSR. A lack of government accountability to its citizens in foreign affairs is also problematic, as illustrated most vividly by the Bay of Pigs intervention in 1961 (Jentleson 107). These examples, paired obviously with the very ideals on which the United States was founded, make it clear that we cannot abandon democratic involvement in the foreign policy process. Whenever there is talk of limiting democracy, there is also a fear of losing democracy. We must
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2 ensure that this fear never becomes a reality, and seek to protect democracy, even when necessity limits it. While there is strong reasoning for the limitation of democracy in the foreign policy process, we must never lose so many democratic ideals that the nation we are seeking to protect is no longer the America we knew. A general assumption about decision making is that those who are making the decisions have a sufficient amount of knowledge about their decision and the implications surrounding it. If this were not the case, then an education, especially a college education, would not seem so necessary for success in the United States today. If we have such an attitude toward everyday affairs, then how much more should we employ it towards something as critical to our nation as foreign affairs?
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