The Paradox of Democracy Promotion in Serbia
"A searching, and at times unsettling examination of a critical case of international democracy support, with important lessons for practitioners, policy experts, and activists."—Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"A thoughtful analysis of the events in Serbia during 1991-2012 with an emphasis on the role played by foreign democracy promoters."—Lincoln Mitchell, Columbia University
"Presenting original research and balanced analysis, Engineering Revolution offers a useful corrective to the dominant celebratory views of democracy promotion."—Eric Gordy, University College London
The nonviolent overthrow of Balkan dictator Slobodan Milošević in October 2000 is celebrated as democracy promotion at its best. This perceived political success has been used to justify an industry tasked with "exporting" democracy to countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Tunisia, and Egypt. Yet the true extent of the West's involvement in Milošević's overthrow remained unclear until now. Engineering Revolution uses declassified CIA documents and personal interviews with diplomats, aid providers, and policymakers, as well as thousands of pages of internal NGO documents, to explore what proponents consider one of the greatest successes of the democracy promotion enterprise.
Through its in-depth examination of the two decades that preceded and followed Milošević's unseating, as well as its critical look at foreign assistance targeting Serbia's troubled political party landscape, Engineering Revolution upends the conventional wisdom on the effectiveness of democracy promotion in Serbia. Marlene Spoerri demonstrates that democracy took root in Serbia in spite of, not because of, Western intervention—in fact, foreign intervention often hurt rather than helped Serbia's tenuous transition to democracy. As Western governments recalibrate their agendas in the wake of the Arab Spring, this timely book offers important lessons for the democracy promotion community as it sets its sights on the Middle East, former Soviet Union, and beyond.
Marlene Spoerri is United Nations Officer at Independent Diplomat in New York City.