December 11, 2005


The Promise of Democratic Peace: Why Promoting Freedom Is the Only Realistic Path to Security (Condoleezza Rice, December 11, 2005, Washington Post)

President Bush outlined the vision for it in his second inaugural address: "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." This is admittedly a bold course of action, but it is consistent with the proud tradition of American foreign policy, especially such recent presidents as Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Most important: Like the ambitious policies of Truman and Reagan, our statecraft will succeed not simply because it is optimistic and idealistic but also because it is premised on sound strategic logic and a proper understanding of the new realities we face.

Our statecraft today recognizes that centuries of international practice and precedent have been overturned in the past 15 years. Consider one example: For the first time since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the prospect of violent conflict between great powers is becoming ever more unthinkable. Major states are increasingly competing in peace, not preparing for war. To advance this remarkable trend, the United States is transforming our partnerships with nations such as Japan and Russia, with the European Union, and especially with China and India. Together we are building a more lasting and durable form of global stability: a balance of power that favors freedom.

This unprecedented change has supported others. Since its creation more than 350 years ago, the modern state system has always rested on the concept of sovereignty. It was assumed that states were the primary international actors and that every state was able and willing to address the threats emerging from its territory. Today, however, we have seen that these assumptions no longer hold, and as a result the greatest threats to our security are defined more by the dynamics within weak and failing states than by the borders between strong and aggressive ones.

The phenomenon of weak and failing states is not new, but the danger they now pose is unparalleled. When people, goods and information traverse the globe as fast as they do today, transnational threats such as disease or terrorism can inflict damage comparable to the standing armies of nation-states. Absent responsible state authority, threats that would and should be contained within a country's borders can now melt into the world and wreak untold havoc. Weak and failing states serve as global pathways that facilitate the spread of pandemics, the movement of criminals and terrorists, and the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons.

Our experience of this new world leads us to conclude that the fundamental character of regimes matters more today than the international distribution of power. Insisting otherwise is imprudent and impractical. The goal of our statecraft is to help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.

Precisely the argument of our book: for its sovereignty to be recognized as legitimate a regime must be liberal democratic or we, as we always have, reserve the right to intervene on behalf of the liberty of its people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 11, 2005 9:20 AM

Your argument appeals to me on a visceral level, but I have to ask how it is different from the reasoning used to justify communist expansion post WWII.

I suppose you could say "because we are right". But that seems unsatisfying.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 1:18 PM

Beacause they were evil and we are not.

Their way of dealing with others was to kill them, enslave them, and to steal their possesions form them.

Our way is to trade with them. And otherwise for them to just leave us alone. We (mildly) wish for them to be free and prosperous, but have no desire to force our govenment upon them.

Posted by: ray at December 11, 2005 2:42 PM


You think we're wrong?

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 2:52 PM

OJ: No. I believe we are right. But, I do not know we are right. It doesn't make much difference in the end really, I think we need to act on our belief. I just wondered if you had any insight on the issue.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 4:09 PM


Yes, we know we're right.

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.
-Alfred North Whitehead

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 4:21 PM

As I said before, it doesn't really matter to me personally, as I am willing to advocate action based on belief. But I am curious as to why you think we know that we are right.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 4:32 PM

Because God has commanded that we organize our lives in accord with the dignity he granted to every one of us.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 4:36 PM

Great quote. It's an interesting way of re-phrasing the Hegelian dialectic. Lots to think about there.

I still don't see how it shows we know that universal liberal democracy is the End of History.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 4:41 PM

Not democracy as such, but representative government for sure. Not naked capitalism, but relatively free markets. Not Protestantism, but protestantism: the right to worship God in a variety of ways. What other way is there to organize society so that each individual is treated with the dignity and moral seriousness he deserves as a function of being Created?

Sure we can waste time wracking our brains to come up with something, but we already know we're right and we have for several centuries.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 4:47 PM

Not being sarcastic, but when did we know?

Posted by: jdkelly at December 11, 2005 4:55 PM

As Brits we had figured it all out by 1776, with the publication of Wealth of Nations. We understood represenytative government as early as Magna Carta and protestantism by the 16th century.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 4:59 PM


Great review of Kraynak(sp?). Again, lots to think about.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 5:00 PM

I pity the reader that tries to figure this place out without first having read Hegel.

Heck, I pity myself and I have read Hegel.

Posted by: Pepys at December 11, 2005 5:07 PM

Fukuyama treats of Hegel in End of History and Roger Kimball with both here:

The single most important fact to remember about Hegel is that he chose the wrong revolution. About Fukuyama that he failed to understand that without Judeo-Christianity the End would quickly destroy states.

Posted by: oj at December 11, 2005 5:16 PM

Actually, there are a lot more criticisms of Hegel out there, and most of them have nothing to do with Judeo-Christianity. Are you familiar with them?

Posted by: Grog at December 12, 2005 12:15 AM

I've read Hegel and Kojeve. What more is there?

BTW, why would you bother reading a critique of Hegel's dialectic that did not discuss Judeo-Christianity?

Posted by: Pepys at December 12, 2005 1:38 AM


The Kojeve stuff is total nonsense.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 7:13 AM


Since he gets the fundamental point wrong of course the rest of what follows will be mostly silly.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 7:18 AM


Kojeve is not total nonsense. In fact, it is slightly less confusing than Hegel.

Posted by: Pepys at December 12, 2005 12:17 PM

Interesting Article.

I agree that Kojeve was wrong. In fact, all three, Fukyama, Hegel and Kojeve, were wrong, albeit for different reasons. I just don't think Kojeve wrote nonsense.

Posted by: Pepys at December 12, 2005 3:11 PM

When your initial premises are wrong how do you avoid being nonsensical?

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 3:19 PM

Jabberwocky is non-sense.

Kojeve was simply wrong.

Posted by: Pepys at December 13, 2005 2:27 AM