Safe for Democracy is a site and a podcast dedicated to shining a little light on the darker spots in the history of US foreign policy. The blog is right here, the show is right here, and the RSS feed is here. We’re also on iTunes. You can find our social media on the left and comments sections at the bottom. More about us below, but if you aren’t into that, head straight to the cast and start listening.
Listen to the latest episode, Vietnam VII: Dien Bien Phu
Anybody who was raised in the US knows the story. A grand experiment, a venture against all odds, a city upon a hill; a group of the most sainted Renaissance men in history and the infallible document they wrote; a century of growth, of conquered slavery; the next of terrible wars and a rise to global prominence and domestic bliss; the story of the Greatest Country in the World.
We get that story from birth. From well-meaning parents, from television and books and websites, from our friends and from our teachers. Drilled into us, hammered into us, never questioning what “Greatest” might mean or how to measure it.
If there’s any crack in that narrative, for Vietnam, say, it’s a minor one. There was something wrong in the world and somebody had to do something about it, so we did. We only went to war to make the world safe for democracy. And if things got messy, well, we did the best we could, but sometimes people don’t know how to be helped, and it’s a hard job being the world’s protector or policeman or referee. Whatever the outcome, we meant well and we worked towards good.
The story and the band-aids we spread over the cracks are incredibly, drastically false. For all the time since Wilson first mentioned making the world safe for democracy, for the last century and then some, American foreign policy—especially when clandestine or military—has been disastrous, damaging our own interests and playing out the petty ambitions of our leaders on the bodies and souls of millions beyond our shores.
With Safe for Democracy, we want to try to shed a little light on a few of the most egregious missteps in our hundred-year trainwreck, not because any of it’s secret—some of our blunders have huge bodies of literature—but because we as a culture are determined to forget the dark spots. It’s been a recipe for disaster after disaster, decade after decade.