I have argued that fostering democracy abroad was part of the foreign policy of the three presidents who preceded Barack Obama. The latter two justified this by the democratic peace. For Clinton, it was one of three major goals. For G.W. Bush, the democratic peace comprised his overall foreign policy.
The democratic peace—democracies do not or virtually never make war on each other and is inherently a method of nonviolence—has been mentioned favorably by top leaders, such as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Clinton’s former National Security Advisor W. Anthony Lake, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The leaders of ASEAN signed a democratic peace oriented pact in October 2003, about which its spokesman M.C. Abad stated, “The introduction of the notion of democratic peace sets the standard of political norm[s] in the region. It means that member states subscribe to the notion that democratic processes promote regional security.”
That promoting a democratic peace was the center of G.W. Bush’s foreign policy is clear from his speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment For Democracy. In it he proclaimed a Forward Strategy of Freedom. Although focused on the Middle East, it was general in tone, “As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.” Specifically, “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.”