Matt Yglesias embraces the hypocrisy of Biden’s democracy summit and calls for even more of it:
The fight for democracy is too important to conduct on ideological grounds alone; to win, the US will need an appropriate amount of realpolitik. America can say it cares about democracy – and actually take steps to protect and promote it – but the real focus should be competing with China, with all the compromises that will entail.
Both the “fight for democracy” and the “competition” with China are very poorly defined, and it isn’t clear how the US would “win” either one. What does “winning” look like? Does it mean having a democratically elected Chinese government by the end of the century? Does it mean simply bottling up Chinese influence as much as possible through an anti-Chinese “coalition of the willing”? To what end? I don’t think anyone knows the answers to any of these questions.
It is simply taken for granted that there must be a “competition” with China and that it will therefore involve the kinds of awful tradeoffs that the US made during the Cold War. That “competition” needs some sort of ideological significance attached to it so that it isn’t simply crude Machtpolitik, so we claim to be standing up for democracy. There is supposed to be tension between democracy promotion and “strategic competition,” but if we assume that the former is mostly window-dressing for the “real” contest there is no contradiction to be resolved. After all, the difference in our political systems is not the real reason why the US and China are now moving on a collision course, and that difference did not prevent our governments from cooperating earlier when they judged it to be useful.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.