NED advocates its goal as strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. The author argues that providing education on conflict issues is more important than promoting democracy and political and social changes in the name of using democracy as a means. NED is funded by the U.S. Congress with bi-partisan support thus it serves the U.S. national strategy and interest. However, when the U.S. Government which adopts 'regime change' as a quick method to resolve a conflict, unavoidably, NED activities often become a prelude of military action of 'regime change' which doesn’t work as shown by political scientists with history to prove.
"The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,200 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries. Since its founding in 1983, NED has remained on the leading edge of democratic struggles everywhere, while evolving into a multifaceted institution that is a hub of activities, resources and intellectual exchanges for activists, practitioners and scholars of democracy the world over." The above description of NED is fairly accurate about its projects and activities but it failed to clarify a genuine 'goal' question, especially where NED had no entry point to make any impact, for example in North Korea (NK).
"Strengthening of democratic institutions around the world" cannot be a goal without first defining and understanding the purpose of each institution, an ideology question. There is a distinction between providing education on democracy as a means or method for making decisions and selecting leaders, such as illustrating available technological tools for voting, their benefits and pitfalls and pre-conditions of democracy versus promoting political and social changes in the name of democracy. "Working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries" cannot be a genuine goal for NED since each country is free to define its own goals in terms of ideology, culture and philosophy. NED may educate the people about using the democratic procedure to make decisions and select leaders but cannot dictate what are the right decisions or right leaders for the states and their people. When NED does that, many NED activities and projects are more viewed as intervention programs contributing to turning societies into turmoil and chaos through other companion method such as 'regime change' and/or ‘revolution’ or ‘agitation’, instead of being viewed as promoting harmonious and prosperous societies through education on the issues.
As a national interest, the U.S. has a policy of against communism and spreading democracy as if it was an ideology. After WW II, the U.S. has become a superpower; as a strategy, she continues to pursue global primacy by taking on the responsibility of preventing nuclear weapon proliferation, rooting out terrorism and upholding human rights. NED is funded by the U.S. Congress with bi-partisan support thus it serves the U.S. national strategy and interest. However, the U.S. Government with bi-partisan support has adopted 'regime change' as a quick method to eliminate an unfriendly or threatening leader in another country to solve a conflict with her and her allies. Thus unavoidably, NED activities often become a prelude of military action of 'regime change' providing information on the targeted and preferred leader in the country NED has an operation in.
Regime change has a long history with some successes even though political scientists have shown that the leaders installed by regime change have 65% chance being violently removed within five years and 40% of the regime changed states have civil war within ten years. Clearly, regime change is not a force for stability. Let's now review the history related to regime change:
1. President Woodrow Wilson (D) overthrew leaders of Mexico (1914), Dominican Republic (1914, 1916), and Haiti (1915).
2. WW I, the U.S. and her allies demanded German Militarists leaving power.
3. Post WW II, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt (D) and Harry Truman (D), established regimes in West Germany and Japan and also attempted on Korea.
4. President John F Kennedy (D), ordered coup against Ngo Dinh Diem, S. Vietnam (1963)
5. William Howard Taft (R), sent marine to oust leaders of Nicaragua and Honduras (1907)
6. Dwight David Eisenhower (R) ordered CIA to depose Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran (1953), Sukarno of Indonesia (1965) and Lumumba of Congo (1960)
7. Richard Nixon (R) ordered CIA to prevent Salvador Allende to take elected office in Chile (1973)
8. Ronald Reagan (R) invaded Grenada (1983) and covert against Nicaragua (1984)
9. George H W Bush (R) brought down Manuel Noriega in Panama (1989)
10. George W Bush (R neoconservative) and Barack Obama (D liberal internationalist) both shared the same goals maintaining US primacy with the latter adding human rights goal in conducting regime change policies in Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran)
The article, Regime Change Doesn't Work, by Alexander B. Downes, Boston Review, 9-1-2011 gave more details on the above history and an excellent analysis on why the U.S. is practicing regime change. He attributes the US leaders' actions to their belief that regime change is a quick fix to a conflict (they personalize the conflict) and they can get bi-partisan and domestic support with ability to ‘manufacturing consents’. The US leaders face few hurdles to initiate military action abroad; they can be elusive about its cost and can easily get away from accountability. In my opinion, personalizing a conflict or threat by an evil leader is a naive view of the problem and removing the evil leader by regime change is definitely contradictory to the slogan of promoting democracy. It is more important to educate the people about the conflict and threat issue than to force a regime change upon the state whether in the name of democracy or not. History shows that only a few cases of regime change worked in the states where democracy previously existed or where they had favorable preconditions of democracy as pointed out by Downes: high income, homogeneous population and strong bureaucratic and constitutional rule. I would add that these preconditions are highly dependent on the educational level of the people.
I agree with Downes that regime change doesn’t work; in fact it is a cause for instability. Downes cited the Philippines as an example that regime change was not applied to Fernando Marcos when he was a corrupt dictator. Marcos eventually submitted to an election loss (1985). Luckily, with no regime change, the Philippine government had progressed under stability although still having corruption issues. The newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte won the election with a landslide as a tough-on-crime candidate irritating human rights watchdogs by his ‘extrajudicial’ killings of drug dealers. His war on drug and courage to say no to the U.S. may be annoying but it should not be grounds for the U.S. to contemplate a regime change. Same argument applies to NK, even though she is pursuing nuclear weapon development posing a threat to its neighbors and the U.S. NED has no entry point into North Korea, thus any thought of imposing a regime change in NK runs the risk of entering an unexpected situation with possibility of creating a prolonged chaos in Korean Peninsula and a potential nuclear war. Therefore, China is wise to urge the U.S. and Russia to engage a six-party dialogue to deal with the NK nuclear threat issue. Hopefully, with gentle efforts educating the North Korean people that nuclear weapon development is not beneficial to themselves, NK will eventually abandon its nuclear weapon program. In today's communication environment, such educational effort has a better chance to produce favorable results than externally forced regime change.