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01/29/2006

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J.Thomas

Does the spread of democracy really contribute to international peace? Successive U. S. administrations have justified various policies intended to promote democracy not only by arguing that democracy is intrinsically good but by pointing to a wide range of research concluding that democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with one another. To promote democracy, the United States has provided economic assistance, political support, and technical advice to emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe, and it has attempted to remove undemocratic regimes through political pressure, economic sanctions, and military force. In Electing to Fight, Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder challenge the widely accepted basis of these policies by arguing that states in the early phases of transitions to democracy are more likely than other states to become involved in war.

Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative analysis, Mansfield and Snyder show that emerging democracies with weak political institutions are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of these countries attempt to rally support by invoking external threats and resorting to belligerent, nationalist rhetoric. Mansfield and Snyder point to this pattern in cases ranging from revolutionary France to contemporary Russia. Because the risk of a state's being involved in violent conflict is high until democracy is fully consolidated, Mansfield and Snyder argue, the best way to promote democracy is to begin by building the institutions that democracy requires ó such as the rule of law ó and only then encouraging mass political participation and elections. Readers will find this argument particularly relevant to prevailing concerns about the transitional government in Iraq. Electing to Fight also calls into question the wisdom of urging early elections elsewhere in the Islamic world and in China.

Corey

"I think we now see that I was correct to call you an anarchist and correct to note that you are the only one here imposing his norms onto others."

An imposition would only occur if someone actually believed me. :) Its prettly lame to take the "you are partisan and I am not" tack. I have never disavowed my ideological precommitments, you have.

You want to see ideological precommitment, look at the above post:

"the best way to promote democracy is to begin by building the institutions that democracy requires ó such as the rule of law ó and only then encouraging mass political participation and elections."

Democracy does NOT require the rule of law! Take, for example, communitarianism, or direct democracy, or anarcho-syndicalism... no rule of law, democratic decision making. Democracy and rule of law are not the same thing. (Recognize that sentence structure W?)

I'm not going to defend Chomsky against his reputation among people who think the New York Times is god's answer to every question. It would waste everyone's time.

To respond to someone else:
"Why do you support Hugo Chavez and the terrosist organization Hamas?"

I do not support Hamas as long as they remain a terrorist organization. Now they are elected, and if they stop being violent, I would conceed that they legitimately represent the palestinians. If Chavez or Hamas get a legitimate mandate, then they help determine the course of their people, even if that conflicts with American ideas or my ideas about the proper form of government.

I'm repeating myself now so I'll apologize for the verbosity and wish you all a good weekend.

W

COREY: Democracy does NOT require the rule of law! Take, for example ... anarcho-syndicalism...

I never said democracy required rule of law. I noted and you now admit that your conception of government was an anarchist one because it lacked any rule of law.

Since the original discussion concerned the stability of the Hamas-led government, rule of law is clearly relevant. You seemed to be arguing -- although perhaps you have again switched your position -- that direct democracy, in and of itself, can provide for a regime's stability without a Bill of Rights and without any fair and well-run institutions. I suppose in some trivial sense that is true, but totalitarinism by itself can provide the same benefits, and I doubt your normative conception of good government includes totalitarianism. I am also not so sure why you think that belligerent democracies are good and if you believe they are not then it was inconsistent for you to "prove" that democracy does not require rule of law: given that rule of law is sufficient to provide stability and tends to tamp down the extremism that leads to belligerence it would be consistent with your normative belief that Hamas should disarm. It pains me to point this out, but rejecting rule of law for you is irrational and renders your theory incoherent; and if you tactitly accept the value of rule of law, as your belief that Hamas should disarm suggests, then you are an anarchist who accepts rule of law, which is inconsistent. Either way, what you have presented thus far is nonsense.

COREY: I have never disavowed my ideological precommitments, you have.

You are attempting to imply that I have ideological commitments and that I disavowed them. That is untrue. I simply didn't make any ideological commitments and asked you to stop pretending that I had "specific normative ideas" without any evidence.

J.Thomas

Corey,
How would you know that those political scientists were committed to an outcome before they conducted their studies? There is no proof of that. Have you even read the book? And you truncated the sentence you quoted. The full context is here:

"Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative analysis, Mansfield and Snyder show that emerging democracies with weak political institutions are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of these countries attempt to rally support by invoking external threats and resorting to belligerent, nationalist rhetoric. Mansfield and Snyder point to this pattern in cases ranging from revolutionary France to contemporary Russia. Because the risk of a state's being involved in violent conflict is high until democracy is fully consolidated, Mansfield and Snyder argue, the best way to promote democracy is to begin by building the institutions that democracy requires ó such as the rule of law ó and only then encouraging mass political participation and elections."

Lanie Trumbull

I think it is fair to call someone partisan if she brings up Cindy Sheehan inexplicably.

J.S.

Democracy, Human Rights, And Peace: Lessons From Our Own History.

I want to look at the fundamental premise that bringing democracy to the Middle East will decrease the terrorist threat to America.

On paper, the idea appears to have some merit. If we suppose that much of the anger in the Arab world is an outgrowth of the repressive authoritarian regimes that restrict freedom and have denied material progress to much of the Middle East then democracy and open societies might be the antidote. Of course, much of the anger (at least directed to the U.S.) is also due to a conflation of factors having to do with real and/or perceived historical actions by the U.S. against the interests of many Arab nations (e.g. the CIAís overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran, our support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s ñ as well as supplying him with chemical weapons used on Iranians ñ , our support for the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) as well as our continued support of Israel and our perceived bias against the Palestinians.

Again putting aside the morality or wisdom of bringing democracy by military force to the Middle East, I want to delve into something even more fundamental: whether democracy is necessarily conducive to human rights and a more peaceful society. And there is no better place to start than with our own history.

Paradoxically, the American democratic experiment, with its commitment to individual liberty, began in the late 18th century when the slave trade was at its peak. Since Africans were not considered fully human it was easy for our founders to deny liberty to millions of blacks. In addition, women were given few rights in our new democratic experiment and brutal suppression and extermination of the Native Americans continued almost unabated throughout much of the 19th century. It is clear from these events that democracy, at least in its infancy and by earlier historical standards, can coexist alongside some of the worldís greatest atrocities.

Many argue (rightly to some extent) that it is problematic to judge people hundreds of years ago with the same moral lens that we have today. The fact that our republic was founded by people who were themselves slave owners for much of their lives, or who didnít believe women should have the right to vote, does not diminish their astounding political accomplishments. But it does cast doubt on the premise that democracy in and of itself is necessarily consistent with human rights and peaceful societies.

In fact, the American subjugation of blacks continued in many parts of our nation for almost 200 years. My own parents grew up in America at a time when the South was segregated and blacks were routinely brutally murdered for nothing more than looking at a white person the wrong way or trying to exercise their democratic rights (even though the intensity of lynching decrease in the early to mid 20th century). In many parts of our great democratic nation domestic terrorist organizations with a worldview just as hideous as the Islamofascists (i.e. the KKK) reined for decade after decade, and the murder statistics donít do justice to the intense suffering and fear these groups (and individuals) inflicted on millions of our own fellow American citizens. While all of these facts are common knowledge to most Americans, it is truly astounding to recognize that our democratic system based on liberty and freedom not only tolerated such psychopathic behavior for almost two centuries, but that many in our political establishment condoned it. As I have mentioned before, Democratic support in the South for Jim Crow and institutionalized brutality is a titanic shame that will always stain the Democratic Party.

But more importantly, our history puts firmly to rest any notion that democracy automatically leads to the promotion of human rights and peace, at least within the short-term. Sadly, majorities in democracies can easily use their power to oppress minorities and continue doing so for very long periods of time. We even see this practice continue today in America with the oppression of gays that is being institutionalized around the country (I am referring to the bans on not only gay marriage but even civil unions which have characterized most of the anti-gay legislation around the country).

It is clear that human rights, while no doubt easier to achieve in democratic societies, require much more than open societies and the right to vote.

As to the supposition that democratic nations do not incite wars of aggression this too is historically inaccurate. Hitler and the Nazis had widespread popular support in Germany and in addition to the imperialistic wars and conquests led by the democratic nations of Europe, Americaís involvement in the Spanish-American War was also based on imperialistic motives. The Vietnam War was initiated based on false pretenses in the Gulf of Tonkin, and we overthrew the democratically-elected in Guatemala in the 1950s.

My point is not to insinuate the democracy is an unworthy goal (it is) or to excessively criticize the history of U.S. foreign policy, but to dispel the notion that somehow bringing democracy to the Middle East will greatly reduce the terrorist threat. By simply looking at our own history (as well as other historical examples), it is clear that democracies in the Middle East could easily thrive in conjunction with strongly anti-U.S. policies, terrorists, and all sorts of homegrown forms of oppression (the Iranian and Palestinian elections support this). And my guess is that bringing democracy by force to such a volatile region might very well magnify the chaotic and unpredictable forces that are unleashed when people experience greater individual freedom after centuries of abuse (e.g. there are lots of scores to settle).

In summary, there is little support for the core assumption underlying Bushís primary foreign policy objective that bringing democracy to Iraq will decrease the threat of terrorism. Supporting democratic movements is a noble goal, but unless it is coupled with the promotion of human rights, economic integration, and international cooperation it is unlikely to translate into the establishment of peaceful and friendly allies that respect human rights. Bushís policy has emphasized the democracy angle largely at the expense of these other dimensions and this is a recipe for disaster.

J.S.

W

While I agree with much of J.S. post, I disagree that the absence of gay marriage laws and the preservation of pre-existing marriage laws is proof of widespread oppression of gays. I also disagree with his description of Bush's foreign policy. I think that part of Bush's foreign policy -- at least now -- involves both the creation of home-grown Constitutions (with Bills of Rights) and the creation of fair and well-run institutions that provide avenues for political participation that would otherwise be diverted into unrpoductive violence. That seems to be the plan both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, I certainly agree with J.S.'s broader point that democracy itself cannot provide for stability in the meaningful sense: a peaceful foreign policy, a stable middle class, an educated citizenry, the absence of sectarian or ethnic strife or a national identity or conception of citizenship, etc. Any regime can provide "stability" in the trivial sense -- the Third Reich annihilated Jews with an efficient constancy for years. I would reiterate, though, that a Constitution and a middle-class are insufficient without taking account of the role of institutions in the rule of law.

albatross

How could anyone be shocked by Hamas winning an election in Palestine? I think a lot of people are blinded by the sort of pious statements of faith in democracy that people proclaim mainly to make themselves feel good.

Why did Hamas win? Here's a wild-eyed theory: They won mainly because the Palestinian people do, in fact, really hate Israel. They want Israel wiped off the map. They have some pretty strong historical reasons for hating Israel, but regardless of justifications, they clearly do. Electing Hamas is the Palestinian people expressing their desires. Just like electing officials who promised to keep blacks "in their place" was a genunie expression of white voters' preferences in the South for many years.

Outside of (to my mind) really silly expressions of faith in the inherent goodness of democracy, I don't see any reason at all to think that democratic regimes in the Arab world are going to generally be at peace with Israel. If you had an election in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, or Jordan, would the people want to take a hostile line toward Israel or a more friendly one? How about other Islamic countries, like Egypt, Iran, or Pakistan?

For similar reasons, democratic regimes in these countries won't be pro-US. (I seem to recall that Osama Bin Laden had a much higher approval rating in polls in many of these countries that George Bush, though I don't know how valid those results really were.)

If democracy prevents terrorism, then it's kind-of hard to figure out the origin of internal terrorists within the US, which we've dealt with from time to time. (The KKK would properly qualify some of the time, the OK city bombers, the violent fringe of the pro-life movement, some of the Black Panthers, some early 20th century anarchists, etc.) And other democratic countries have had serious terrorist problems--for example, in Ireland, Germany, and France.

Pretending we can fix the root causes of terrorism by somehow imposing democracy on the Arab and Muslim world at gunpoint is absolutely nuts. It's amazing how many otherwise smart people fall for this idea.

Wes

... Hamas ... won mainly because the Palestinian people do, in fact, really hate Israel. They want Israel wiped off the map.Neither of those statements is very precise.The phrase "wiping Israel off the map" could mean Israel changing its name and adopting policies of complete ethnic neutrality or it could mean rounding up everyone in Israel and sending them to death camps.Similarly, a lot of people "hate the USA" but that could mean anything from disapproving of the Bush administration's foreign policy to disliking the North American climate.If I had to guess, I would say that Palestinians feel a profound sense of injustice at the hands of the Israeli government both on an individual level and on a cultural level.The problem of individual injustice could be solved quite easily by Israel changing it's name and adopting policies of complete ethnic neutrality (including granting the Palestinians full citizenship).The problem of cultural injustice is much more difficult. We live in a time of tremendous change in which all the traditional cultures of the world are being rapidly discarded. Although the Palestinians may blame Israel for the destruction of their culture, the reality is that all cultures are being destroyed by the larger forces of technology and population growth.Regardless of whether Israel grants the Palestinians their own "state" consisting of a few disconnected parcels of land 10-20 miles in diameter enclosed within Israel's "security" barrier, the most the Palestinians, or any other culture, can hope for in the long term is that some tattered fragments of their culture willl be preserved in the form of some chains of ethnic restaurants and a couple museums and theme parks.Actually, their best hope is probably to take a hint from the American Indians and go in for some casinos. They might have to bend their religion a bit but the traditional religions of the world are on their way out anyway.

Anonymous

What about a comment on the dannish caricatures...?

Juan Carlos Giron

Unlike some, I certainly believe that the Palestinians have more to hope for than the propogating of a succesful line of casinos.
Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires for both sides to compromise and to, as Alan Dershowitz says, "Place pragmatism over ideology." Unfortunately, as the years drag on, it seems that neither side is willing to compromise enought to appease the other.
As strenuous a task as the peace negotiations have been, the election of Hamas will certainly serve to further complicate the issue. Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar said in a recent debate that Hamas will in no way negotiate with Israel on any level; Hamas then recently changed their stance to make provisions for a "hudna".
The use of this word is of particular interest as a "hudna" is a phrase that generally indicates a period of tranquility while waring sides gather arms.
Perhaps Hamas' victory will force a more moderate stance. However, it may be rather quixotic to believe that Hamas, with their credo to destroy Israel, will ever be content to simply co-exist with an Israeli state no matter what compromises are offers.
The Hamas landslide may very well turn out to be one of the most dynamic events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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