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February 21 2020

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• Ambassador Tuttle Gives 2008 Churchill Lecture

Ambassador Tuttle Gives 2008 Churchill Lecture
March 17, 2008            by Mary Bailey

Photo of Amb. Tuttle by David Cavill The Churchill Lecture, an important event in the annual calendar of the English Speaking Union, was given this year by The Hon. Robert H. Tuttle, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Court of St James's (pictured) . This is the 90th anniversary of the ESU and, invited by the Lord Hunt of the ESU, Mr. Tuttle followed in a long line of distinguished speakers, including Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger, Senator George Mitchell, former Ambassador Admiral William Crowe and Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. One of the earliest speakers was Winston Churchill, who gave his name to the lectures. The aim of the ESU is to open up the prospects of achievement, through English, to as many people as possible.

The title of Ambassador Tuttle's speech was "Freedom's Fate – The Destiny of Democracy?" His speech was interesting and thought provoking; sufficient to say here that he spoke with great sincerity on the ideal of freedom as a flame within the human spirit, and of the nurturing of democracy. We have published the full speech below

After the speech, I was allowed, representing The American, to have a few words with the Ambassador before we all attended the reception in the lovely rooms of Guildhall. I asked him how he saw the role of an Ambassador in this century with absolutely no necessity to hide behind curtains as in the days of the first Elizabeth and so 'pass the news from abroad'. Mr. Tuttle felt that in these days news is so rapid that his role is not just to stay in London but with every opportunity to travel throughout the UK. He said that he had made 59 trips, which is quite something remembering his very full London diary. He took risks, talked to people made "the occasional mistake" (I rather doubt this; they are his words not mine!), delivered speeches, and saw parts of our land that many such representatives never see. This, he feels, is the modern ambassador's role, to represent his country to as many people as possible and he always encourages his people over here to see as much as they can.

I asked him if he thought it was easier for people to embrace democracy if they had enough to eat. He rather turned this around. There are far fewer starving people under democratic governments than any other regime. True, and Mr. Tuttle's point that power should be with the voting public was well taken

My final question was on his interest in modern art. Mr. Tuttle first visited the UK when he was nineteen, and even then he was admiring talent. His wife Maria shares his interest in modern and contemporary art. They have two daughters, one has an interest in an art gallery and the other is a shoe designer. He considers them both more creative than their parents! I tried to get a look at the Ambassador's shoes but he was too quick for me; in fact he is a very quick man.

We then joined the rest of the party and went down to the reception. The Guildhall is a wonderful setting for such an occasion. The Ambassador was smiling and I hope that meant he understood how very much we appreciated his presence. This was a really lovely evening.

The English–Speaking Union, 32nd Churchill Lecture
The Ambassador of The United States of America, The Hon. Robert H. Tuttle

17 March 2008 at Guildhall

An American statesman once said, "Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man . . . you choose them as your guide – and following them, you will reach your destiny."

I am not a seafaring man, but I would like to share two journeys with you:

The first was in late 1980. I joined my fellow electors at the airport in Los Angeles for our flight to the state capital in Sacramento, California. We arrived at the capital building and took our places in the elegant, hushed chamber.

Slowly, our names were called, and one by one, we raised our hands to cast our votes as part of the Electoral College, voting for the next President of the United States.

The American system is not exactly uncomplicated, as demonstrated by the current primaries, but I can tell you, in that moment, it was not the process that awed me – it was what the moment represented. I had never before felt so clearly the dream that is democracy.

The second journey was 20 years later and started with a flight to Lima, Peru. I was a board member for several years of the International Foundation for Election Systems, now known as I.F.E.S.

I.F.E.S's job, rather than monitoring elections, is to establish the election infrastructure – you might say they are the people who supply the purple ink.

As a board member, one responsibility was to observe the practical business of organizing elections.

Peru at the time was undergoing huge social and economic change, as well as being in the midst of a presidential election. Yet, it is not our delegation's meetings with officials or candidates that I remember.

My lasting recollection is of a fragile woman, perched in a barren classroom, in an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima.

She was counting ballots.

She told me that she felt fortunate to be directly involved in the election process. She said she knew her country was deeply troubled but believed that if everyone would do their part, there was at least the possibility of change. And with change, a chance that life could get better.

It was not about ballots. It was about hope.

Freedom and democracy have been receiving so much press lately that – despite the fact I had decided my topic months ago, when I was honored to receive Lord Hunt's invitation – I hesitated. Then I thought of those two journeys, and decided that we should not allow the idea that freedom is somehow "in retreat" to gain any more ground.

It may be the right time to reassess our policies, or re–evaluate our programs, but it is always the right time to reaffirm our faith in freedom – and in democracy as the system that best reflects the potential of the human spirit.

We need to recognize freedom as an ideal but understand that it is not a star above, but a star within.

Freedom is not about perfect systems, or economics, or culture, but something deeper, something innate – something in our DNA.

I see that ideal of freedom as a flame inside the human spirit. A flame that can be sparked and kindled, but one that must also be tended and constantly nurtured in all democracies – even the most developed.

Freedom cannot be inflicted or enforced. Nor will it be denied.

I want to address a deeper question tonight – not only because it is relevant to Winston Churchill's concern with "Problems, Perils, Challenges and Opportunities" of the "English–Speaking Peoples" – but because I believe it is a question relevant to all people. It is the question of, "Freedom's Fate – and the Destiny of Democracy."

If freedom is innate – something within us – what is our role in democracy's destiny?

Our response to freedom as a basic human desire and our answers to three related questions will shape the future of democracy:

What are the drivers of democratic development, and what is the relationship between elections and democracy?

Is democratization the same as westernization or modernization, and what is the relationship between economic development and democracy?

And finally, what should we mean when we talk about the "promotion of democracy," and what is our policy response?

However, before I address these questions, I want to offer several observations:

First, democracy has never been easy. It remains difficult, even for those countries we call "developed" – like our two countries.

I find no reason to assume it has become a less complicated process in modern times. It is messy and can be volatile – even violent.

Second, it is not a linear process, and we must shift our thinking about places we have called "transitional," as well as our ideas about the "sequence" of democratic development.

If there are "retreats" or "reversals," to my mind that only proves that the process is complex, and not, as some assert – that democracy has been defeated. We should, instead, be preparing for the next phase of its development.

Finally, and above all, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is no sustainable alternative to democracy, although – and this is a crucial caveat – there may be countless variations on its themes.

Let us turn back to the questions: What are the drivers of democratic development? And what is the relationship between elections and democracy?

We could go back to the beginning – to Socrates and Aristotle – or Hobbes and Locke. But whatever the starting point, there are two basic strands running throughout the history of democratic thought and democratic action.

On the one hand "democracy" means the expression of individual freedom, or more literally, "rule by the people."

That approach is the foundation of electoral democracy. It is about the procedures by which people make their voices heard, the way leaders come to power – and, if the system is working properly, the way those leaders can be changed. It lets the people "throw the bums out."

The second strand has been the story of the people putting restraints on their rulers and claiming their rights within the system.

The tension between the governors and the governed has been constant, and it is this struggle that has created the structures we know as constitutional democracy. It is here that we find the victories for the rule of law and the achievement of the principle that rulers are not above those they rule.

On this ground has been won the separation of powers, the protection of property, and our freedoms of speech, assembly and religion, as well as free and fair elections. These structures go well beyond the "voice of the people." But they are required for the legitimate and transparent demonstration of that voice, whether it is through a bill of rights and a constitution, or tradition and precedent.

A literal "democracy–equals–elections" approach may provide an initial solution to tyranny, but it does not provide a solution to issues of ongoing social stability or the development of civil society.

This distinction between the strands of democratic history is important because I believe it is core to the question of Freedom's Fate. This distinction also brings me to the approach of various academics and many of those deeply involved in supporting the development of democracy.

Thanks primarily to the distinguished political scientist Samuel Huntington, as well as many others, we have all come to think of democracy developing in waves.

This approach has become so pervasive that to understand the recent fears for freedom's retreat one has to first understand at least the basics of what these "waves" entail.

According to Huntington's "three waves approach," the first wave of democracy was slow to develop – and lasted from 1828 to 1926.

But by about 1920, there were still only 30 countries that could be called democracies. But then, "wave theory" argues, democracy began to go into reverse.

This first reversal lasted basically through the end of World War II when, despite a hard–fought victory over fascism, democracy was at a low ebb. The number of democratic countries had been reduced to no more than about a dozen.

The second wave was from about 1943 to 1964. This growth was due to the return to normalcy for some states, but was also due to the huge increase in newly independent countries.

Whatever the impetus, a large number of states were stumbling their way towards electoral democracy – if not a fully–formed democratic system.

Unfortunately, the tide turned again, and throughout the 1960's and 70's, many countries that had begun the process were thwarted by economics and political/ideological turmoil. All of which brings us to our focus – the third wave of democracy.

The third wave began in the mid–1970's, but reached its peak in the late 1980's and early nineties.

We all know where we were at the time of the great symbolic moment in 1989, when the Berlin Wall finally came down, but fewer people remember the earlier transitions of Portugal, Spain and Greece, and the gradual spread of democratic change in Latin America.

By the mid–1980's, approximately two out of every five states were democratic. By the mid–1990's, as country after country that had once been under Soviet control seized the moment, about three out of every five states had turned this corner.

Amazingly, almost 90 democracies were born during this period!

It seems clear now that this latest wave – and I call it the latest rather than the final wave – was more than just another democratic "spring."

Since 1974, the number of democracies in the world has quadrupled. In the space of twenty years – from 1974 to 1994 – democracy supplanted dictatorship as the form of government used in a majority of the world's countries.

It has spread not only to affluent or stable states, but to places that we once thought of as "inhospitable" to democracy. It has been a transformation of the global system as we know it. And on the basis of this evidence, I am confident that history will show that the rest of the world gradually followed suit.

Democracy as a wave is a helpful analogy for the rather obvious reason that waves ebb and flow.

Electoral democracy is a starting point. It is an opening for the people to find a voice and to begin to create more accountable structures. But, as the periodic reversals of these waves testify, electoral democracy is not a stable, let alone a final, resting place for any state.

Elections are like a shield under which we must continue to assemble the other blocks of a foundation for a firm civil society.

This brings me to my second question, which also occupies the minds of theorists, economists and politicians:

Is democratization the same as westernization or modernization – and what is the relationship between economic development and democracy?

These three waves have demonstrated that countries of all persuasions can, and have, become democracies. But I believe it is imperative, certainly in the times in which we live, that we ask ourselves the practical – and moral – question of whether there is any sense in which "The West" is forcing "The Rest" to adopt a system of government, and form of social interaction, that is foreign to their own cultural identity.

This is a complex issue, and to untangle it requires an appreciation of how our terminology has become part of the tangle.

Some have proposed the idea that democratization is almost a sub–set, or by–product, of other social processes – such as modernization.

Seymour Lipset, a well–known sociologist, set out what he thought were the social, political and economic requisites of democracy. They were based almost entirely on the society's level of economic development.

The argument – looking at countries that had already become democracies – was that, levels of income, education, and the size of the middle class, were the determining factors for future democratic development.

It makes sense on many levels. It is easy to understand why increasing levels of education bring an increasing desire in people to influence and interact with those who govern them.

You can see why a powerful middle class has an interest in features of democracy such as political moderation, a desire for freedom of activity, and transparent governance. However, these were taken, in the policy sense, to be prerequisites, and that to develop as a democracy, a country had to develop economically first.

The West, so the argument goes, was the most economically developed, and thus logically, it seemed to follow that other norms and traditions of the West were also directly connected to the democratizing impulse.

Unfortunately, this binary thinking left much of the Muslim and Asian world facing the stark choice – Western–style economic development, or remaining out in the un–democratic cold.

There was little room for the idea that non–Western cultures could establish institutions that reflected their traditions, but at the same time move toward a more open and democratic system of government.

It is here that I want to raise the recent report by the respected NGO, Freedom House – if only to take issue with those commentators who have interpreted this report as saying freedom is "in retreat."

I will not repeat their findings in detail, but in a nutshell, for the second year in a row, their country–by–country audit has found reasons for concern in terms of the progress of democracy. Beyond numbers, they point to a change within countries, and the fact that many of the countries of the "third wave," or the newly democratized countries, are experiencing setbacks.

There may be elections, but they are far from free and fair. There may be political parties, but there is also intimidation and suspect practices. The separation of powers and limitation of terms has been abused, and legitimacy and accountability are in decline as the rulers ignore the ruled.

I take no issue with the report. We should value its consistency as a baseline that we can all look to and judge ourselves against. My point is that, in addition to an electoral analysis, we must look deeper. To understand Freedom's Fate – we must also look to people's vision of themselves.

I offer two examples: India and Afghanistan.

India seemed to have fallen short of every democratic "pre–requisite."

Once a desperately poor country, India was deeply divided by language, religion and caste. Largely rural and illiterate, it did not seem to meet any of the accepted criteria for democratic development.

However, apart from a period that lasted from June 1975 until March '77, India has sustained not only the frame of democracy, but more importantly, the spirit of democracy.

India's democracy is not perfect, but it would appear that while diversity has been a threat to India's democratic survival, it has also been its salvation.

There were no Protestant notions supporting Indian democracy, but traditions of Buddhist and Hindu toleration and moderation. India has learned – sometimes the hard way – that only democracy can cope with such difference, be it ethnic, linguistic or religious.

The story of Afghanistan is clearly very different. I offer it as an example because, while Freedom House quite rightly points out it has lost ground by some criteria, there are signs of hope.

Before 2001, only 8 percent of Afghans had access to healthcare. Today that figure is 82 percent.

Today, Afghanistan has its first elected legislature since 1969. There are 85 women serving in that body, and the country has its first female provincial governor. And alongside these more western structures, there is a traditional body known as the Loya Jirga or "grand assembly," which is an ancient form of citizen participation.

But most important from the point of view of the future, is the fact that school attendance has risen from nine hundred thousand to five million. In 2001, almost no women had the benefit of education; today, over a third of those five million students are female.

That is a whole generation who will come through the door of education into a world of new ideas and different perspectives – and it will change them profoundly as they discover and develop their full potential.

Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan national, author of The Kite Runner, and Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, identified those signs of hope when he cited a survey conducted in 2006 for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Committee.

The survey was conducted in 29 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, and despite the conditions, and all of the upheaval and conflict, it found that 80 percent of the people felt optimistic about the future.

If that sounds overly optimistic, I offer you another survey completed in 32 provinces by The Asia Foundation in the same year:

Their conclusions were similar, with over half defining democracy as freedom, a third defining it as peace, and a full two–thirds believing that an Islamic nation could be democratic without becoming westernized.

You still might argue that while those numbers are impressive in that context, it is hardly globally significant – and you might be right.

But these are not isolated facts from a remote part of the world. They are signs of an undeniable trend.

The World Values Survey has been conducted by an international group of social scientists since 1981. They have a global advisory board, but they also have local teams around the world, in some of the most prestigious universities and polling organizations.

Undertaken across eighty diverse countries about every ten years, this survey puts the following statement – in almost Churchillian terms – to those they interview:

"Democracy has its problems, but it is better than any other form of government."

The results have been startling. Across all regions, 80 percent on average – 80 percent – have said they agreed. The percentage was slightly higher in western countries, but that cannot take away from the stunning fact that across Latin America, the former Soviet Union, and yes, right across the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of people opted for democracy as the best form of government.

Think of all those places we have left to one side, because they "aren't ready" – all those people we do not see, but who clearly look to us – but more to democracy – as the form of government to which they aspire.

I understand and appreciate the system used by Freedom House, and it is important to chart the progress of countries along a democratic path.

But if freedom is a desire innate in people, surely we should also take that yearning into account – whatever their stage of economic development or cultural outlook.

Which leads me directly to my third question: What should we mean when we talk about the "promotion of democracy," and what is our policy response?

Some here may wince, if slightly, when an American talks about the "promotion of democracy," but I put it to you, that the phrase has been maligned, or at least misunderstood.

Clearly, over the course of this "Third Wave," it has been taken too literally by some, too broadly by others, and often used as a "one–size–fits–all" policy approach.

But we all learn from experience.

One of the main lessons we have learned is that the analogy of waves is correct – the development of democracy is a fluid process. It moves forward and retreats, only to move forward, and – we hope – with support, further the next time.

I offer by way of example of this learning process, the difference of approach taken by the United States and the European Union to the promotion of democracy. The European Union became heavily involved, for obvious reasons, in the development of institutions and infrastructure within the former Soviet satellites who wanted to join the EU.

Becoming part of a large trading block was a huge incentive for reform – but these countries faced enormous challenges.

The EU came to this conundrum from a very specific state–oriented, national infrastructure perspective, but the fact that the Union now has 27 members – with more hoping to join – is testament to the skill and ability of those involved.

The United States, given its history and experience, tends to look to grass–roots and civic organizations, educational exchanges, and political training programs. Democracy, to Americans, often has a "do–it–yourself" ring to it.

People argue about the "right way," when it seems to me that – like democracy itself – there is no "one" way, but many ways to create social pluralism and space for public reasoning.

Democracy's house is like an architect's plan. There is a basic structure, and even rules for stability and security. But the addition of different features, or rooms, by one culture or another, does not destroy the plan. Far from it; it is the process by which it becomes a home for future generations.

Adaptation is the way democracy becomes imbued with the culture and traditions of a country, rather than an "add–on" that can be washed away with the changing tide.

If we are to apply the analogy of waves, we need international institutions that are more flexible and responsive to conditions on the ground. We need to develop tools that empower people and encourage ideas that feed not only economic development, but also the human spirit.

The good news is – I believe policymakers are now moving in this direction. We are all now better equipped and more able to recognize the strengths of different approaches and to see them as complementary, rather than in competition or opposition.

At home in the United States, we are beginning to open the way for more diversity of approach.

Secretary of Defense Gates has emphasized the need for "soft power" and for more open communication and support for more exchanges and mutual education. In practical terms, the United States has introduced the most far–reaching reforms to our foreign–aid policy since the 1960's, through "The Millennium Challenge Account," created in 2004 with 7.5 billion dollars.

The "MCA," as it is called, is designed to channel a significant increase in development funding to low and lower–middle–income countries.

The difference is: rather than tell countries what to do – foreign governments can request American funds on the basis of three criteria – ruling justly, investing in people, and promoting economic freedom. In other words, countries come to the United States and effectively bid for aid – they are not coerced or forced, but they are encouraged and incentivized to build more stable and open societies – in their own way.

As Secretary Rice said, "We must treat developing countries not as objects of our policy, but as equal partners in a shared endeavor of dignity."

One of the most exciting initiatives is the President's Civilian Reserve Corps, which aims to involve American citizens around the world, based on their own skills and expertise. This Corps would be able to summon the skills of hundreds of civilian experts, not only across the federal government, but from thousands of private volunteers: doctors and lawyers – engineers and agricultural experts – police officers and public administrators.

The Corps could be used not only in times of conflict, but also in times of peace, to strengthen weak and fragile states.

Overall, this President has doubled funding for the support of democracy and human rights since 2001. This amounts to the largest international development effort since the MarshallPlan.

Yet, despite the size of budget and amount of human effort, this will not change the world. It is a start – and it is based on what we know about the human desire for freedom and the real development of democracy.

If democracy comes in waves, we know that there will be a surge towards the shore; equally there will be an inevitable retreat.

More importantly, we know that even as each wave crashes, the next wave is out there – perhaps miles out – but it is there, and it is gathering pace and strength.

I suggested earlier that the third wave is not the final wave, but only the latest.

I like to think that the next wave, the one out there now, will have two characteristics:

One, that there might be a wave of renewal across mature democracies, where we have seen our own "reversals" and "retreats" in recent times.

The second would be a wave of democracy across the Islamic world, so that all those who struggle today might be rewarded with the freedom they – and all people – deserve.

Elections are important, because they stabilize democracy, but they are not the drivers of democracy. Infrastructure is useful, because it builds confidence and consolidates constitutional democracy, but it is not the spirit of democracy.

Freedom is not born in institutions of state, but in the hearts of people. The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, recently gave a speech he called "The Democratic Imperative." In that speech he said,

"I am unapologetic about a mission to help democracy spread through the world – and by this, I mean not just more elections, but the rule of law, and economic freedoms, which are the basis of liberal democracy. And while we must deploy different tools in different situations, flexibility of means must be combined with consistency in our goals."

I wholeheartedly agree.

What we have called the "promotion of democracy" in the past has been refined and modified, because we continually strive to learn and to improve.

We may change our policy and our approach, but that should not change our intention to kindle the flame of freedom where we see its spark or stop us from nurturing and supporting that flame where we see its glow.

Six months before Winston Churchill's death, his daughter, now Lady Soames, wrote him a letter. In that letter, she said, "In addition to all the feelings a daughter has for a generous father, I owe you what every Englishman, woman and child does – liberty itself."

Surely, the biggest "peril" to the "English–Speaking Peoples" is a world in which millions are not free.

Our "challenge" is how we best help those millions realize their dreams – and bring liberty to all.

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