The war in Iraq may have turned Americans off from the idea of spreading democracy around the world, but don't write off the freedom agenda just yet. Both presidential candidates have shown some interest in promoting democratic values and there are plenty of others making the case.
James Traub, a New York Times Magazine contributor, released a book called The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did). Speaking at the Brookings Institution this week, Traub said he is worried that Americans don't believe any more in a value-driven foreign policy.
He fears "a Renaissance of Realism," but argues that won't help when it comes to dealing with some of the foreign policy challenges, such as Pakistan.
"There is there is no solution there, except for making the democracy of Pakistan deeper and more extensive," Traub says.
The presidential candidates may not talk about these issues much on the campaign trail, but John McCain is a longtime chairman of the International Republican Institute, an organization that works in countries around the world to promote democracy.
Several of Barack Obama's advisors are on the board of the sister organization, the National Democratic Institute. That organization's chairperson, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, says the next U.S. President "is going to have to give democracy back its good name."
Asked whether the U.S. government should be stressing democracy in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — countries that the U.S. needs in pursuing other foreign policy challenges, Albright says it bothers her when these issues aren't raised.
"You can do both in a well done diplomatic effort," she says.
The next U.S. president is likely to shift the emphasis of democracy promotion, perhaps spending more on rule of law or women's empowerment programs, according to J. Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
From 2004 to 2007, Carpenter was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and worked on programs to support civil society groups in the Middle East. He believes that a McCain administration would continue such programs and, if Obama is elected, Carpenter hopes the next administration will not just end the programs because they were "Bush inventions," but rather look for ways to reinvent, rename and reinvigorate them.