"Democratic Imperialism":
Tibet, China, and the National Endowment for Democracy

by Michael Barker

Global Research, August 13, 2007


The National Endowment for Democracy: Revisiting the CIA Connection

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was established in 1984 with bipartisan support during President Reagan's administration to "foster the infrastructure of democracy - the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities" around the world. Considering Reagan's well documented misunderstanding of what constitutes democratic governance, it is fitting that Allen Weinstein, the NEDs first acting president, observed that in fact "A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA". So for example, it is not surprising that during the 1990 elections in Nicaragua it is has been estimated that "for every dollar of NED or AID funding there were several dollars of CIA funding".

By building upon the pioneering work of liberal philanthropists (like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations') - who have a long history of co-opting progressive social movements - it appears that the NED was envisaged by US foreign policy elites to be a more suitable way to provide strategic funding to nongovernmental organizations than via covert CIA funding. Indeed, the NED's 'new' emphasis on overt funding of geostrategically useful groups, as opposed to the covert funding, appears to have leant an aura of respect to the NED's work, and has enabled them, for the most part, to avoid much critical commentary in the mainstream media.

The seminal book exposing the NED's 'democratic' modus operandi, is William I. Robinson's (1996) Promoting Polyarchy, which as it's title suggests, lays out the argument that instead of promoting more participatory forms of democracy, the NED actually works to promote polyarchy. Robinson argues that the NED's active promotion of polyarchy or low-intensity democracy "is aimed not only at mitigating the social and political tensions produced by elite-based and undemocratic status quos, but also at suppressing popular and mass aspirations for more thoroughgoing democratisation of social life in the twenty-first century international order." His book furnishes detailed examples of how the NED has successfully imposed polyarchal arrangements on four countries, Chile, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Haiti; while similarly, Barker (2006) has illustrated the NED's anti-democratic involvement in facilitating and manipulating the 'colour revolutions' which recently swept across Eastern Europe. More recently, both Barker and Gerald Sussman (2006) have provided detailed examinations' of how the NED works to promote a low intensity public sphere (globally) through its selective funding of media organizations.[13] This article will now extend these three initial studies by critically examining the NED's support for Tibetan media projects from 1990 onwards.

National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

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