The overwhelming priority for us is to ensure that whatever happens in Postrevolutia, our government should not be held responsible for the eventual outcomes but nonetheless can be seen to be giving full support to the democratic aspirations of those who have thrown off the shackles of dictatorship. This involves the careful process of managing domestic expectations about the sort of support that can be provided and the speed of any changes or transformation. There are three key lessons which have been learned in this regard through the experiences of transition and regime-change over the last couple of decades.
The first is the organizational one. Never intervene in terms of giving support for transitional regimes without operating within an international institutional framework. Any direct claims of government responsibility either for the state’s progress to democracy and peace, or for any more specific claims, such as improving women’s rights or employment or tackling corruption, will be seen as discrediting if there is no success in terms of these policy goals. In organizing through international cooperation, the responsibility for policy failure can be outsourced to the EU, the OSCE, the UN, NATO, the World Bank etc. and in this way blame can be placed on the lack of political will or commitment of our allies (principally the US or Britain). It is through the internationalizing of responsibility for the reconstruction of Postrevolutia that we can avoid any specific responsibility for negative outcomes.
The second key lesson learned from post-regime change reconstruction is that once step one (above) is in place it is important to flag how all the aid or support we provide is assisting in progress. No matter how small or insignificant our actual support is, we should make sure that we articulate its importance. We can do this through having a clear grasp of the complexity and interdependency of different aspects of reconstruction. Just supporting one NGO in doing fairly low-cost work, for example, in rebuilding a school, can be flagged as not merely as assisting in education, but also as re-skilling to contribute to economic recovery and more importantly in promoting the rights and access of women and girls and also in rebuilding or maintaining peaceful relations between different religions or ethnicities through teaching the values of tolerance and multi-culturalism. The beauty of the complexity and interdependency of different aspects of reconstruction is that whatever we contribute to can be said to assist in a whole range of ways, but if there is little or no progress we can say that although our particular contribution was excellent it was undermined by the lack of progress in other areas (specifically those where the British or Americans played a larger role – perhaps security).
The third lesson learned is the need to downplay expectations of change. We can do this by stressing that we have rejected the hubris of international liberalism. Especially after Iraq and Afghanistan, we have learnt that just because the people are free from dictatorship this does not mean they are ready for Western democracy. We should confidently assert that there are deeply ingrained cultural and social barriers to the spread of the market and democracy and that we need to expect that when people take government into their own hands things will be ‘muddy.’ We need to be prepared to offer support when asked but be aware that we cannot just impose our vision of the world elsewhere.