July 30, 2007


Plugging the democracy gap (Anne-Marie Slaughter, July 30, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Critics of current American strategy make several valid points. First, democracy really cannot be promoted, but only supported. By its nature, democracy requires the people of a particular country to actively want to govern themselves. Where that drive exists, external support can help it grow and flourish, but it cannot be implanted, much less imposed from the outside.

Second, promoting elections around the world often seems to empower governments or parties that don't like the United States - Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the Sadrists in Iraq, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. How then does promoting democracy enhance the security of America and its allies?

The problem lies not in the strategy but in its execution. Democracy is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of securing individual liberty. To see the point, Americans would do well to look to America's own history. The framers of the Constitution wanted a republican government that would represent the people, but represent them in a way that protected against mob rule and maximized opportunities for careful deliberation in the best interests of the country as a whole. They insisted on a pluralist party system, a Bill of Rights limiting the power of the government, guarantees for free speech and a free press, checks and balances to promote transparent and accountable government and a strong rule of law enforced by an independent judiciary.

These rules and institutions are as essential to sustained government by the people as elections are. Without them, democracy would be nothing more than a recipe for tyranny of the majority or simply a stop on the road to renewed dictatorship.

If the point of the Republic was to secure individual liberty the Constitution would begin: "I, the person..." In fact, republican liberty is incompatible with such individualism, which is why the Constitution's stated ends are all social, rather than personal:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 30, 2007 11:48 AM

"First, democracy really cannot be promoted, but only supported. By its nature, democracy requires the people of a particular country to actively want to govern themselves. Where that drive exists, external support can help it grow and flourish, but it cannot be implanted, much less imposed from the outside."

I see. I wonder if Ms. Slaughter could inform me what exactly in Japan's history (I mean before we repeatedly incinerated its major cities and then dropped two atomic bombs) demonstrated anything that she claims is necessary for democracy to flourish? But luckily for her historical knowledge or insight are not job requirements for newspaper columnists, or for her leftist readers.

We know of ways to force a country to embrace democracy. What we're trying to do in Iraq is see if there's a new and nicer way. And Ms. Slaughter and her ilk aren't helping.

Posted by: b at July 30, 2007 12:18 PM

B is definitely on the right track. Let us run with it.

The way in which we promote democracy is to make the enemy want to change. We can do this without first crushing the enemy's idea in a Vernichtungskrieg, as was done to Germany and Japan.

Harken back to how we brought down THE FORMER SOVIET UNION. Now we never did get them to desire freedom and the rule of law. The con is good but it is not that good.

We first convicted them of the failure of their system. This took place largely through demonstration of overwhelming supremacy in warfighting capability: those gangsters understood little else. We let them know enough of our strategic capabilities, particularly in undersea and space warfare, to make them know that they had to reform to dream of being competitive. Restructuring would be needed before the jailhouse of nations could stand up to the United States. Openness must preceed restructuring, but with openness that jailhouse blew to pieces like the death Star in Star Wars.

Now let us shatter the spiritual jailhouse in the same way. Let them see how their atavistic barbarism has failed, fails, and shall ever fail. Let them tire of chaos, oppressed women, murdered Soccer fans, of being ruled by either Hitler wannabes and Elmer Gantry types. May they reach for restructuring, allow openness, and then may their walls fall.

And if that is not to be, if they are in the end too mad and too evil for reformation, then may we have the will and the hardness to execute the old Plan A.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 30, 2007 2:10 PM

No, what they're tired of is the underperformance of their economies as compared to ours and their lack of a say in how things got that way. They'll largely retain their social codes as they reform, as we have.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2007 3:09 PM

They're tired because their system fails and ours succeeds.

Posted by: erp at July 30, 2007 4:39 PM

Ah, but that's exactly the con. They are too egotistically deluded to consciously accept the cause of their failure, namely their surpassed institutions.

Thier economic failure comes not from luck, as Jared Diamond would say. It comes not from "Imperialism," as the Boxer-Leninists teach. It comes from their own civilizational incompetence, which is to say, from those very "social codes."

Those "social codes" are precisely what holds them back, just as the Communist political and economic systems were what had been holding back the FORMER SOVIET UNION.

Let us take a look at how author Max Boot describes this process in his War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History, 1500 to Today, 2006.

"In sum, to fight like Europeans, you had to become "European." [Emphasis in original] You had to adopt at least some of the dynamism, intellectual curiosity, rationalism and efficiency that hads defined the West since the advent of the gunpowder age.
This was a realization reached by Peter the Great, the leaders of th Meiji Restoration, Kemal Mustapha Ataturk, and all the other great Westernizers of modern times. They knew that to generate military power comparable to the West, they had to transform their societies, not just their armies. And they knew this would require a wrenching period of transition, when they would have to wread power from streltsy, samurai, jannessaries, bannermen and other powerful elites whose status as based on traditional ways of fighting.
Few if any of these reformers had any desire to introduce political liberalism. They wanted to borrow selectively. to use Western military methods to strengther their own countries against the West. But they often found that Western political idea wafted in along with Western military ideas. Thus in many cases, a modrnizing army became a tool of social change--or, depending on your perspective, of sedition. Two examlpes will suffice: The Ottoman Sultan was toppled by dissatisfied officers known as the Young Turks in 1908. Four years later, another military mutiny overthrew the emperor of China. In both cases, the process of military transformation led, against the rulers' will, to political transformation. As historian David Ralston notes, 'Rather than providing a defense against incursions from abroad, abocve all by the Europeans, the new-style army served as an agent. indeed, a veritable channel, for the penetration of European ways.'" Boot, op.cit., pp. 101-02

There is no cultural cafeteria, from which the other may select our way of war which remaining mired in his surpassed ways of thinking and living.

A hard teaching, to be sure, for it is of final victory that I write. Some will shrink from it, for they do not share my optimistic confidence in the humanity of the people of the Middle East. They take counsel of their fears that the people now imprisoned there are so abandoned as to be beyond reformation, that they must either be surrendered to or be utterly destroyed.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 30, 2007 9:32 PM

Dissatisfaction and revolution are not the same as nation building.

There was exactly one time in history when the leaders of a nation were also unselfish enough to create the American Constitution. It will never happen again.

Ask yourself this: if a nation were to transform itself, today, who would be unselfish enough to write and powerful enough to implement the U.S. Constitution? I am sure that you get my point.

India is doing well because of its British / Christian heritage. So is the U.S., Canada, Australia, etc. As we devolve and the Golden Rule becomes the Silver Rule (30 pieces of silver), democracy and its aging voters will slowly become a tyranny of whining, jealous people.

Only Christian revival ever brings back the Golden Rule, as it brought us Ronald Reagan and G.W. Bush. Let us pray that God continues to revive the United States and also China, India and Europe.

THAT is the hope we share, not the military, nor even the Constitution, which after all is only a piece of paper.

Posted by: Randall Voth at July 31, 2007 12:59 AM

Their institutions are secular dictatorships that they hate. That's why the leaders are terrified of elections.

Posted by: oj at July 31, 2007 6:07 AM

When everyone is rich (and fat) and there is nothing to fight for, all the silly stuff won't matter.

Posted by: Perry at July 31, 2007 11:57 PM