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The Problem with Democracy
Posted by: Dale Franks on Monday, January 02, 2006

McQ's earlier post, detailing some ofthe concerns about fledgling democracies, has prompted me to revisit that particular subject in greater detail.

"Democracies don't go to war against each other."

We've all heard this bromide so often that we uncritically accept it as true1. Upon thinking about it a second time, however, I'm beginning to think that the real conclusion on this adage should be the "Scottish verdict": Not proven.

Democracies have banded together against the threats posed by autocrats because such threats were more immediate. That may say a lot about the democracies' shared commitment against authoritarianism, but it may not tell us an awful lot about how democracies treat each other in the absence of compelling authoritarian threats.Certainly, in modern times, democracies have tended to be allies, rather than enemies. It is less certain, however, that the tendency of modern democracies to foreswear war against each other stems from some shared quality of democracy, except insofar as democracies are reluctant warriors as a general matter.

But, until recently, there simply weren't a lot of democracies to begin with. Prior to the First World War, the number of actual democratic states could be counted on one's fingers. Indeed, even today, the number of democracies is far smaller than the number of authoritarian regimes of various stripes.

In addition, until the breakup of the Soviet Union, modern Europe, where most of today's democracies are concentrated, has always operated under the threat of one or another authoritarian government attaining continental dominance. Indeed, the struggle between republican France and imperial Germany to become the dominant continental power in Europe lasted from the German Unification of 1870 until the end of the Second World War. In that struggle, France's traditional enemy, Britain, became a French ally against Germany. The authoritarian German state was a greater threat to Britain — which was, by the end of the 19th century, about as democratic a government as existed anywhere — than republican France. But not, it must be understood, because France was no longer a threat to Britain, but rather because Germany was a greater one.

In the post-World War II era, the number of democracies — in Europe, at least — increased drastically. At the same time, those democracies were forced to ally themselves against the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

It is true that democracies have tended not to war against each other in modern times, but, as we've seen, they had other fish to fry. Authoritarian regimes, who do not have to concern themselves with public audit, have tended to be prone to cause trouble. In consequence, democracies have banded together against the threats posed by autocrats because such threats were more immediate. That may say a lot about the democracies' shared commitment against authoritarianism, but it may not tell us an awful lot about how democracies treat each other in the absence of compelling authoritarian threats.

We do, however, have knowledge of a time and place where democracies rather regularly warred against each other. The democratic city-states, or poleis, of Greek Classical Antiquity were built on a foundation of civic militarism.

The free yeoman farmers, who also served as the hoplites of the Greek phalanx, voted on whether to go to war. They usually elected their military leaders. As often as not, those leaders faced rigorous civilian audit of their conduct of military campaigns when they returned to the polis and their former hoplite subordinates reverted to their prior status as civilian voters. In some cases even successful, victorious generals were put on trial for their lives due to their lack of attention to their men's welfare while on campaign.

Modern democracies may, perhaps, tend to be less inclined towards warfare when compared with authoritarian states. But it is not entirely certain that democracies cannot evolve into warlike states themselves.

Modern democracies may, perhaps, tend to be less inclined towards warfare when compared with authoritarian states, but it is not entirely certain that democracies cannot evolve into warlike states themselvesAs Classics professor Victor Davis Hanson writes in his book, Carnage and Cultures, "[T]he choice of military response to win or protect territory was a civic matter, an issue to be voted on by free landowning infantrymen themselves." Additionally, he reminds us, that republican Rome operated in a similar fashion. "[T]he republican legionaries themselves felt confident that they fought to preserve the traditions of their ancestors (mos maiorum) and in accordance with the constitutional decrees of an elected government."

Being a democracy seems to have done little to bar the development of Athens as an imperial power in classical Greece, just as it presented no particular obstacle in preventing republican Rome from doing likewise. Both states were democratic. In both states, the military leadership was elected or appointed by civilian leaders, and subjected to civilian audit of their conduct on a regular basis. Yet, they both became warlike and aggressive states.

The case of Athens is particularly instructive in this regard. While we tend to view Hellenic classical history from the Athenian viewpoint, and regard Athens as the foundational state of democratic self-governance—which, to a very great extent, she was—the classical Hellenic world viewed the Athenians very differently. The Peloponnesian War—the Word War II equivalent of the Classical world, which lasted for 27 years—was caused directly through the policy of prosperous, democratic Athens to become the dominant military and economic power of the Classical World. Athens, with her powerful navy, exercised a fairly despotic suzerainty over much of the Hellenic world, exacting tribute, and threatening recalcitrant city-states with her military power, all with the fervid support of the citizenry.

Sparta, which was essentially a conservative military dictatorship, only acted after being begged by other Greek poleis, many of which were democracies themselves, to help them throw off Athenian imperial domination. Sparta, was not keen to go to war against Athens, mainly because of concerns that a general war would weaken Sparta's rule over the Messenian Helots. In the end, though, Sparta was left with little choice but to go to war with, and eventually humble, an Athenian democracy that was, at the same time, an aggressive, imperialistic state.

In addition to the Hellenic world, the example of Republican Rome, and the generational struggle with Carthage that today we call the Punic Wars, might be even better. Thanks to Rome's eventual victory over Carthage, Carthage's form of government is not fully understood. But, as best as we can tell, it was a republican form of government not entirely dissimilar to Rome's. There was a Carthaginian senate, and just as the Romans elected two consuls every year, the Carthaginians elected a sofet (judge), or two sofetêm (judges)2, who held civil, but not military powers. While it is not known how these judges were chosen, either by the Carthaginian senate, or by popular assembly, Carthage did have elected legislators, town hall meetings and trade unions. Moreover, there was a system of both checks and balances, as well as a democratic audit of the performance of public officials.

In any event, both Rome and Carthage were far more democratically governed than any other societies in the world at that time, and they fought a series of wars from 264-146 BC, wich ended in the utter destruction of Carthage, and the extinction of the Carthaginian people. The First Punic War, by the way, was started by Rome, when they attacked the Carthaginian outpost at what is present-day Messina, in Sicily. So the Punic Wars are, as best as we can tell, a century-long total war between two democratically governed countries.

There is no guarantee that a modern democracy could not similarly be both democratic and aggressive.

For example, if a free, fair, and honest election were held in Palestine tomorrow, the chances are quite good that the resulting government would probably come from the more radical ranks of Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Brigades. It would be a perfectly democratic result, but such a democracy would be fairly threatening to their neighboring democrats in Israel.

While we tend to view Hellenic classical history from the Athenian viewpoint, and regard Athens as the foundational state of democratic self-governance — which, to a very great extent, she was — the classical Hellenic world viewed the Athenians very differentlyDemocracy is, of course a fine institution. If nothing else, it is a wonderful method for ascertaining what the people want, and selecting leaders to carry out the people's will. It is not, however, in and of itself, a particularly good way of ensuring that what people want is the right thing.

One musn't forget that in August of 1914, thousands of people thronged the streets to cheer for the forces marching off to war. I daresay that if a general referendum had been held in Germany that month on the question of whether to go to war against France and Britain, the German citizenry would've approved such a measure overwhelmingly. All that tells us is that going to war, at that particular moment, was democratically legitimate. It doesn't tell us if doing so was morally correct, or even, as the Germans learned, wise.

In the West, however, the concept of democracy is fetishized to an unreasonable extent. We have a tendency to elevate democracy into the sine qua non of political respectability; assuming that holding relatively free and fair elections not only assures the legitimacy of governments, but also assures that those governments will act in a responsible manner.
Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, are therefore prone to believe some rather unrealistic things about democracy. Chief among these is the idea that democracy in and of itself is inculcated with some virtue that makes the people more peaceful and reasonable. Such a view is entirely specious.

To hold such a belief is to forget that the Western practice of modern democracy is not a first principle from which constitutional governance was derived. Indeed, the truth is quite the reverse. The ideal of constitutional governance through the limitation of government power was developed in the West during a time when Western governments were uniformly authoritarian. Democracy was the result of this philosophical movement, rather than the cause of it.

The original idea of personal liberty and democracy comes to us from the Greek city-states of the 8th-5th centuries BC. The Greek concept of freedom (eleutheria) seems to have existed nowhere else in the world at the time, and indeed, not even in Greece prior to the 8th century BC. It encompassed the freedom of speech, and the freedom to own property. It posited that each individual was a moral actor responsible to his own conscience.

The advent of Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great, ended the Greek experiment in freedom in the 4th century BC. But the idea contained in the Greek concepts of freedom, democracy, and consensual government had already spread to Rome.

These concepts were often eclipsed in practice during the reigns of the Caesars. Even then, however, the idea remained that a Roman citizen, like the citizen of the Greek polis before him, was due some rights and privileges that could not arbitrarily be taken away. The idea of constitutional government, with its limits to arbitrary state power, would never entirely go away in the West.

The first principle of government was not that it was consensual, but rather that it was limited and constitutionalThe spread of Christianity in Europe provided other important ideals to the development of Western political thought. Originally, these ideas were religious, rather than secular concepts.

First was the idea of the separation of church and state.

The New Testament makes it clear that the Christian Kingdom is not an earthly one, and separates the individual's religious responsibilities from his temporal ones, and making it clear that, except in cases where temporal and religious duties conflicted, the individual should fulfill both in good faith.

This idea was often more honored in the breach than the observance, of course, especially after the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, and recognized the Pope as the chief religious authority in the empire. But even this was a departure from the historical mode of church/state relations. In ancient societies, the King was also the supreme religious authority, being either divine, or at the very least, being the personal representative of the gods. But supreme religious and political authority would never again, in the West, be contained in the same person.

Even the Renaissance popes, who were constantly meddling in the struggles of European political succession, at least paid lip service to the idea of separation between the political and the religious spheres. To be sure, there was much hypocrisy practiced. For instance, after being convicted by the Church of heresy, the condemned would invariably be turned over to the state for punishment, since the punishment of such "crimes" was the business of the state, not the Church. Such a "wall of separation" between Church and state appears to us, of course, as more of a permeable membrane than a wall, but, hypocrisy aside, the concept of church/state separation was maintained intact throughout what was then known as "Christendom".

By the 18th century, separation of church and state came to mean more than simply dividing religious and political authority into separate institutions, but rather removing entirely the interference of religion into matters of state, and vice versa. Constitutional devices that separated the governance of the people from the governance of the Church were created even in states that, like Great Britain, maintained state churches.

Next, Christianity contained the concept of individual equality before God, and the freedom of conscience to do what one understood to be right. The New Testament is replete with exhortations for each person to work out his own salvation through a personal relationship with an accessible God. This was a truly revolutionary idea as well.

Individual equality before God became equality before the lawPreviously, access to God was strictly circumscribed. One had to go through a priestly representative, instead of having direct access to God. But with Christianity —and partcularly with Protestant Christianity — came the idea that all persons, irrespective of their station, would be judged on an individual basis, by a generally known and common standard.

This idea was quiescent throughout much of Church history, mainly by design of the Church's leadership. But, When Martin Luther used it as a central point in his arguments against papal abuses, this idea sparked the Protestant Reformation. After all, if one could have direct access to God, then why was a church hierarchy needed?

Individual equality before God became equality before the law. If men are equal before God, then, as Thomas Jefferson puts it, "the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." Equality before the law, therefore, was the logical consequence.

During the Enlightenment, the ideas mentioned above were crafted into the basis for the Western concept of limited constitutional governance. Individual liberty logically led to constitutional, limited government, since, if all men are free, the government must refrain from interfering with their lives, thoughts, or speech, except insofar as it is necessary to protect the freedoms of their fellow citizens. Individual equality required that government must be consensual. If there are no solons from whom the citizenry is obliged receive guidance, then the citizens themselves must decide upon the rule of their polity. Separation of church and state implied freedom of conscience, and the existence of a polity that refrains from exercising coercion in private moral matters.

The first principle of government, therefore, was not that it was consensual, but rather that it was limited and constitutional, and that it secured the rights and liberties of its citizens in a uniform and impartial manner. Once that was agreed upon, the development of democracy followed logically. The best form of limited constitutional government is a consensual one, and the best guarantee of constitutional limits to government power are the government's regular submission to civilian audit.

Western democracy, therefore, has a long intellectual heritage of important concepts that extend far beyond the simple proposition that people should be allowed to select their own government. It is this two millennia of philosophical inquiry into the nature of personal freedom, individual rights, and limited government that makes Western liberal democracy unique. Democracy is, therefore, the culmination of that heritage, not the cause of it. Indeed, the first modern democracy was created only after these ideas had begun to reach full expression in the political and philosophical climate of Enlightenment thought.

Western democracy, therefore, has a long intellectual heritage of important concepts that extend far beyond the simple proposition that people should be allowed to select their own governmentWhile there may be many "democracies" in the sense that their governments were selected in relatively fair, open elections, there are still very few liberal democracies today. Democracy is, after all, merely a system of government. It was chosen in the West because it best fits the philosophical framework of limited, constitutional government. But it does not, in and of itself, produce such government merely by its use.

In the West, we often make a grave mistake in assuming that, because a government decides to hold elections, it is somehow legitimized. As a result, modern authoritarian governments now clothe themselves regularly in the trappings of democratic elections. They do not, however, implement the principles of impartial, limited, constitutional government that make democracy work as it does in the West.

By limiting the freedom of the press, they prevent the public from hearing news that may reveal unpleasant facts about their government's policies. By arbitrarily locking up their opponents, they prevent the creation of a credible opposition, and send a message to the populace that opposing the government may be a dangerous course of action. In such an atmosphere, how reliable are open elections in gauging the actual wishes of the people? And why are we surprised when the election results tend conform fairly closely to the government's wishes? Indeed, in an atmosphere of restricted information and political repression, how can the citizenry even make choices that reflect their best interests?

Democracy is only one piece of the puzzle, and hardly the most important one at that. The true key to liberalizing a society is a shared commitment to limited, constitutional, and consensual government that recognizes and protects the principles of individual liberty and equality before the law. Democracy may be an important part of such a commitment, but it is certainly not a substitute for it.

Indeed, without such a commitment, democracy is all to often merely a hollow sham.

This doesn't at all mean that democracy promotion is an unwise policy. It does mean, however, that promoting democracy alone may not go far enough. There are other, even more important principles, that should be part of the policy of democracy promotion.

UPDATE:

A commenter responds:
Good post, Dale. What a wonderful way of using history to dispel the fallacy that soley providing democracy in the Middle East is a sure fire way to install peace and stability.

Of course, those of us who know history could respond in two words…

Well, Duh.

Now try telling the rest of the cretins. Good luck with that. Any history lesson used to illuminate our trying times using the Peloponnesian War will most likely be cast aside as a useless tool and not applicable to modern times, much like the phalanx.
The implicit argument here is quite instructive: Since democracy is not a perfect solution to world stability, doing it is folly. Such an argument makes the perfect—which is unobtainable in the world of human affairs—the enemy of the good. One notes, after all, that, while democratic governance is not a perfect way to build peace and stability, its track record is certainly better than authoritarianism.

Democracy is not a panacea, but to jump from that realization into arguing that democracy promotion is a poor policy, is to implicitly argue that we should keep the bloody wogs under a good, dependable dictator. Is that really the argument the Left wants to make?

Democracy is not a panacea, but to jump from that realization into arguing that democracy promotion is a poor policy, is to implicitly argue that we should keep the bloody wogs under a good, dependable dictatorOr do they have some magical non-democratic, non-dictatorial, "third way" of human governance to which the rest of us are not privy?

And, really, arguing that democracy is not a better way to go is an odd argument for someone on the Left to make, considering that most of the 1970s and 1980s were spent arguing that our support for Latin American and African dictators was immoral, because we should be supporting democratic governments. It was precisely that attitude that, under Jimmy Carter, resulted in the downfall of the Shah, and his replacement by the Islamic Republic, which is still a problematic state, and the downfall of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, and the resulting decade's worth of struggle, strife, and death in Latin America. The left has killed entire forests of trees, writing about our immoral support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Since 2002, they've denuded additional forests writing about how immoral it was to overthrow his government, and that democracy in Iraq is doomed to fail.

So, if I was on the Left, I wouldn’t get too bloody smug about crowing over learning the lessons of history, considering that, just a few years ago, they were making arguments that are precisely opposed to those they are making now.

Because the lesson of history seems to be that, whatever the United States does under a Republican president is wrong. If we support dictators as allies in the Cold War, then that's wrong. If we support democratic movements over dictators in the War on Terror, then we're wrong, too.

No matter what the policy of the United States is under a Republican president, the Left is always quick to jump in with a criticism. But criticism is not a policy.

How precisely does the Left propose to fight the war on terror? What, exactly, do they propose our relationship with authoritarian governments should be? What should the attitude of the US government be with respect to democratic and human rights movements in authoritarian states? If democracy promotion is a policy of folly, then what is the alternative?

When you have the answers to these questions, then you'll have the beginnings of a policy. Until then, all you've got is a list of complaints.
____________________
1I hasten to add that McQ did not repeat this bromide.
2 Roman writers, on the other hand, refered to them as "kings" (reges), but we must, I think, assume the Carthaginians had a better grasp of the position of their own public officials than did the Romans.
 
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I’m tickled to death that I provided the impetus for you to revisit an old bromide, but I want to ensure it is understood that I didn’t repeat it. Note the qualifier:
The point of wanting more democracies is they are much less likely to prey on their own people or the rest of the world.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Your post was an inspiration. Not a source of criticism.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
The point of wanting more democracies is they are much less likely to prey on their own people or the rest of the world.
Of course, that’s literally true. By adding in the phrase, "their own people" you’ve pretty much immunized yourself from criticism. The Athenians, as rapaciaous as they were, didn’t prey on other Athenians.

It’s "the rest of the world" bit that’s problematic.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Good post, Dale.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Your post was an inspiration. Not a source of criticism.

Didn’t take it as a criticism, simply wanted to clarify that I don’t particularly support the old bromide either.

It’s "the rest of the world" bit that’s problematic.

No argument. Just less likely than othere systems.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Good post, Dale. What a wonderful way of using history to dispel the fallacy that soley providing democracy in the Middle East is a sure fire way to install peace and stability.

Of course, those of us who know history could respond in two words…

Well, Duh.

Now try telling the rest of the cretins. Good luck with that. Any history lesson used to illuminate our trying times using the Peloponnesian War will most likely be cast aside as a useless tool and not applicable to modern times, much like the phalanx.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I was actually going to say this earlier,but I backed off. In reading the discourse here though I think perhaps now is the time:

While not precisely true, I think it’s important to remember the context that the President made that comment in. I take his point to be that the likelihood of Iraq being further trouble to the west following a democracy being set up in Iraq seems so small as to be nonexistent. (always assuming the democracy survives, of course)

Further, Not only would they be less inclined to start problems with us, it seems to me likely that they would be less inclined to start a war with their neighboring countries in the region. (Of course, I should say in fairness, that those chances seem more less offset by the increased hechances of other countries in the region started a war with them... Iran, for example.)
And, really, arguing that democracy is not a better way to go is an odd argument for someone on the Left to make, considering that most of the 1970s and 1980s were spent arguing that our support for Latin American and African dictators was immoral, because we should be supporting democratic governments.
It’s only an odd argument, if you take at face value the claims that real democracy was the goal there. If, on the other hand, you consider it more likely that the goal was a government that would make Che Guevara proud, that disparity makes far more sense.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
And of course a response from Dale I was responding to appears to have gone missing....
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
It’s been promoted into the post itself, as an update.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Ah; That makes sense.
Made me think I was putting it in the wrong place at first...

(Chuckle)

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
A well reasoned article about the application of democracy and how free expression and stability are neccessary ingrediants. Well done.

The update then infers that even though the argument may be correct the Left has no right to make it because the Left has been wrong in the past?
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
The update then infers that even though the argument may be correct the Left has no right to make it because the Left has been wrong in the past?
Incorrect.

First, I infer nothing. I directly state that the Democrats have no policy, other than opposing whatever policy the current Republican president espouses. Moreover, I don’t grant that the left’s criticism of democracy promotion may be correct. Again, I directly state that, while democracy is not a perfect solution, and we can’t expect it to be, relying on authoritarian governments is an even worse choice. Indeed, the whole point of the original post wasn’t that democracy promotion is wrong, but that merely promoting democracy isn’t enough. My point is that here are other things that must be promoted in addition to democracy.

How you have managed to construe what I wrote into "inferences" that directly contradict it is utterly mystifying to me.

Moreover, I note that, while the Left has been an avid critic of democracy promotion, they have, at the same time, criticized the president for not promoting democracy more in Saudi Arabia.

That’s not even incorrect. It’s too incoherent to even classify.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
The implicit argument here is quite instructive: Since democracy is not a perfect solution to world stability, doing it is folly.
The only implicitness here is in your head. It is pardonable if you failed to read my comment closely. I stated, “What a wonderful way of using history to dispel the fallacy that solely providing democracy in the Middle East is a sure fire way to install peace and stability.” And nowhere was mentioned anything about installing democracy as being folly.
We’re there now, so what else is there to install? A klerostocracy? A Xerocracy? No? Of course we’re going to set up a democracy. The problem with the now favored reasoning for invading Iraq, to set up a democracy, is NOT the reason we went in there. No matter how hard you wish it be. The President’s famous sixteen words were not, “Hey guys, let’s invade Iraq so we can set up a democracy to make the world better.”, were they?
Democracy is not a panacea, but to jump from that realization into arguing that democracy promotion is a poor policy, is to implicitly argue that we should keep the bloody wogs under a good, dependable dictator. Is that really the argument the Left wants to make?
So, thinking the invasion was a bad idea puts one in league with the political Left? Someone inform Pat Buchanan. And I know of no credible authority that suggests democracy promotion is poor policy, only those who believe that invading Iraq to promote democracy was poor policy.
One notes, after all, that, while democratic governance is not a perfect way to build peace and stability, its track record is certainly better than authoritarianism.
I’m thinking of those two words again.
So, if I was on the Left, I wouldn’t get too bloody smug about crowing over learning the lessons of history,…
There’s your perceived implicitness again. I’m not smug, and I’m certainly not crowing. I’m angry and concerned. And you speak of history as though you own it. Cherry-picking facts to prove your partisan point that Democrats don’t like Republicans. I’m thinking of those two words again.

The lessons of history would school us in believing that invading Iraq to set up a democracy alone would be folly. However, the American people were not led to believe that we were going in to set up a democracy alone. We were led to believe that we were under imminent threat, and that setting up a democracy would be as casual as picking up a pizza while we were out.
If by some miracle the Iraqis etch out a democratic government. And by some miracle that democracy isn’t ransacked by foreign influence. And by some miracle, that frail independent democracy survives to see puberty. What are the odds that this government would cooperate with American interests? It is also not only possible that this government will turn against us, I believe it’s probable.
What are the odds?

Hell, we sometimes can’t even get Western democracies to cooperate with American interests.

Because the lesson of history seems to be that, whatever the United States does under a Republican president is wrong.
Ummm. Someone set that strawman on fire.

When you have the answers to these questions, then you’ll have the beginnings of a policy. Until then, all you’ve got is a list of complaints.
And this one’s my favorite. It’s that old bullshit, “at least we’re doing something”. And that is exactly what it is. Bullshit.
And if what we are doing is wrong, then yeah, I’ll complain about it all day.
But hey, we’re there. What else can we do but to set up a democracy and pray for the best.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
The President’s famous sixteen words were not, “Hey guys, let’s invade Iraq so we can set up a democracy to make the world better.”, were they?
Uh, well, actually, they were. Democracy promotion is, in fact, one of the reasons we went to war in Iraq. I know it’s an inconvenient reality that takes some of the shine off your, "it was all about the WMD’s argument,", but, hey, reality is like that.
So, thinking the invasion was a bad idea puts one in league with the political Left? Someone inform Pat Buchanan.
I wasn’t talking about the invasion there, was I? Go on read it again: "Democracy is not a panacea, but to jump from that realization into arguing that democracy promotion is a poor policy, is to implicitly argue that we should keep the bloody wogs under a good, dependable dictator. Is that really the argument the Left wants to make?"

So your point would be...

Oh, and speaking of cherry-picking, physician,heal thyself.
And this one’s my favorite. It’s that old bullshit, “at least we’re doing something”. And that is exactly what it is. Bullshit.
Huh. You still didn’t answer any of the questions though. Unsurprisingly.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, what makes tyou think this post is about the invasion of Iraq at all? I didn’t even mention Iraq, except in two sentences in one paragraph, as an exemplar, by the way, of something else.

The trees are the forest. Really.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
So, thinking the invasion was a bad idea puts one in league with the political Left? Someone inform Pat Buchanan.
Trust me; he’s been so informed... repeatedly.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
You know when you have to go back to ancient Greek city states to disprove a theory, its stretching. Let me know when a modern state goes to war over a hot woman or a personal vendetta. The modern democratic state is far, far removed from these regimes where only a handful of people could vote in any case. I’d consider them oligarchies and not democracies. The same goes for Republican Rome.

If I recall my PoliSci correctly, the Kantian argument runs that democracies are used to internal compromise and thus conflicts between democracies are very rare because the populace/leadership of each side will end up being willing to negotiate with each other. They also tend to support international laws and the international system in general.

For modern examples of democracies going to war against another democracy, you basically find a few like Finland siding with Germany in WW II. Pretty weak since they were mainly fighting the USSR.

The small number of democracies during any given period does not make this theory invalid. It only means that in the future we may see it disproven with a larger sample. I doubt it, though.







 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Uh, well, actually, they were.

Uh, well, actually, they were not.

Democracy promotion is, in fact, one of the reasons we went to war in Iraq. I know it’s an inconvenient reality that takes some of the shine off your, "it was all about the WMD’s argument,", but, hey, reality is like that.

You know damn well that what was sold to the American people is WMD. Installing democracy may have been a subtext to the invasion, but let’s be honest here. Promoting democracy has been a staple of American foreign policy for decades, but that was NOT the reason we went in there.
Take all of what was said. Take Rummy, Condi, Cheney, Powell, and the President himself, and count how many times words like “mushroom cloud”, “smoking gun”, “imminent threat”, "nuculer", versus words like, “democracy”. Go on, count ‘em. You know you don’t have to.
And ask anyone off the street. Go on, ask ‘em. “Why did we go into Iraq?” And see what they say. You know you don’t have to. Don’t bother responding with, “if they didn’t pay attention, that’s there fault.” Because it’s not their fault, it’s the President’s; as well as Cheney, Condi, Rummy, Powell, and others for going on every morning show they could find to talk about WMD.
You know it to be true, you just have a problem with admitting it.

I wasn’t talking about the invasion there, was I?
[...]
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, what makes tyou think this post is about the invasion of Iraq at all?


Because I’ve been reading this site for some time now. You, as well as many other hawks, keep repeating the same old tired acclamation. That the WoT, or the Struggle against … oh, I can’t even remember anymore, is SYNONOMOUS with the War in Iraq.

So, if you’re not talking about Iraq, then what? You’re just theorizing on a philosophy? Is this your dissertation? Are you planning to go back to school?

Huh. You still didn’t answer any of the questions though. Unsurprisingly.

As far as your questions, I don’t know what the Left’s policy is. You would have to ask them.
Here’s the funny bit. I actually agreed with you with my original comment. That setting up a democracy alone is not good enough for providing stability. And you took that comment to an attack from someone on the Left.
Because, according to you, anyone who doesn’t believe in the Neo-Con, Neo-Libertarian approach to foreign policy must fall with the Left.

Unsurprisingly.

And to suggest that setting up a democracy was the main reason for going into Iraq…

physician,heal thyself.

...right back atcha’ doc.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Well presented. History shows clearly that democracies will happily go to war - after all, the government reflects the will of the people, and sometimes the peoiple feel aggresive. On the whole, of course, a representitave government is less likely to go to war, against another democracy or otherwise, because of simple statistics. In a dictatorship, it only takes one crazy person to send a country to war against its better interest (and somehow dictatorships seem to select for exactly that sort of crazy), and situations where the country suffers but the dictator personally benefits from a war are common. In a representative government, a large number of people need to share the crazy - a far less likely occurance - and at least some of those people need to be willing to make personal sacrifice to sustain the war.

I’ve always felt it was the combination of trade and representitave government that greatly lessened the chance for war. When a large number of people benefit directly by trade with a foreign power, and the government reflects the will of those people, going to war then represents not only the personal sacrifice of those in the war, but a direct economic sacrifice by a great many. The chance that a majority will be in a position to say "you fight the war and suffer, I’ll reap the benefit" is greatly lessened in the presence of trade.

However, WWI shows that sometimes countries are willing to go to war even when there’s a clear economic/utility loss for everyone involved, simply because a mood has swept the country leaving rationality behind.
 
Written By: Skorj
URL: http://
Promoting democracy has been a staple of American foreign policy for decades, but that was NOT the reason we went in there.
I’d agree that promoting democracy was not the only reason we went to Iraq, of course, and I’d be sympathetic to the argument that democratization was not touted as strongly as the WMD argument, but you are simply, flatly and verifiably incorrect when you say that democratization was "NOT the reason we went in there."

I’ve addressed that point in great detail here and here, and I think I covered every possible angle. I cited quotes from the proponents of the war at PNAC, from Bush administration officials, from Bush himself and from the relevant legislation.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon,
With all due respect, not only was democratization NOT touted as strongly as WMD, it was treated with casual dogmatism,
“Oh, by the way, while we’re there, we’ll set up a democracy, of course.”

Your citations are duly noted. I will cede to you that democratization of the Middle East was, in part, one of the rationalizations for going there. But for some to suggest that it was presumed outstanding is just plain wrong.

WMD WAS the reason we went there. And history will write it as such.
Democracy is just gravy.

Bowl week has prompted me to use a football analogy,
You don’t fight your way to the End Zone just to kick an extra point.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
With all due respect, not only was democratization NOT touted as strongly as WMD, it was treated with casual dogmatism,
In terms of the public arguments made by politicians, I’d agree with you to some extent. But I’d do so with a caveats: "democratization" is not an argument you can make in front of the world, voters, etc without some serious repercussions. For one thing, the coalition of people/nations who supported the war — such as it was — did not agree on a single reason to attack Iraq. Touting democratization first and foremost certainly would have put a few of them off. In Foreign Policy, politicians often appeal to the most broadly acceptable of rationales rather than the real geopolitical issues. (see: Roosevelt, WWII) However...
I will cede to you that democratization of the Middle East was, in part, one of the rationalizations for going there. But for some to suggest that it was presumed outstanding is just plain wrong.
...when you discuss "motivations", you need to be specific about whose motivations you refer to. Generally, granted, the nation thought first and foremost about WMD. But the Neocons, the national interest realists and others who made Iraq a focal point of foreign policy have LONG done so on the grounds that the Middle East needed democracy for the US to eventually see stability in the region.

So, again, if you want to talk about motivation, there’s plenty of ammunition for the democratization argument there, too.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Democracy has its problems. I’m a small "d" democrat who noticed some big problems with the democratic process as practiced by a non-profit property-owners association board that I volunteer on.

I noticed that an elected committee, even when it fully complies with established parliamentary procedures (ie. Robert’s Rules) and relevant state statutes, can still be hijacked by an intransigent, self-interested majority. If the board contains fewer than 8 officers, a 3 or 4-officer coalition coagulates with ease, and in loose associations - like large rural property owners associations for instance - this tiny clique can wield lien and quasi-police powers over hundreds of individuals, while it manages budgets in the millions of dollars.

When a governing majority coalesces around the allied officers’ mutual conduct violations or personal commercial interests, big problems occur. Our POA had three officers who, concurrently, were violating one of the association covenants they are charged to enforce, while promoting an expensive private contract to one of this majority’s officers’ companies, and - if that’s not enough - using an undocumented "reinterpretation" power to revise the same covenant they were violating (they effectively bypassed a supermajority, 25% quorum requirement).

Now, usually you can poor cold water on mating dogs to stop this sort of thing. But there’s not much the minority officers can do once this sort of a clot forms, because the clique is uniquely empowered to inflict retributions against its opponents. Here are a few of the ’democratic’ levers at its disposal

1. This legal, democratically-instituted clique controls all the media that channel political discourse: the design and publication of newsletters, ballots and proxy-forms, scheduling and notification of meetings, interpretation and final presentation of ’official’ meeting minutes, etc.

2. The majority can eliminate inconvenient debate simply ignoring minority officers’ correspondences, nominations, agenda suggestions, and queries.

3. Majority officers can take the podium at public meetings to mis-represent the minority officers’ public opposition as "vendetta" for lost board votes. Paint the minority as "shrill" and "divisive."

4. Overt friends and supporters of the minority officers can be kept off of, or removed from, volunteer committees. In our instance, the majority retracted an officer-appointment after learning of his adverse advocacy.

5. Having legitimately eliminated all adversarial deliberation, the majority can abuse its coercive collections and enforcement protocals.


A rural, democratic 501(c)3 that kinda sounds like Hussein’s Iraq, huh?
-Steve

 
Written By: Steve
URL: http://
"In the West, we often make a grave mistake in assuming that, because a government decides to hold elections, it is somehow legitimized. As a result, modern authoritarian governments now clothe themselves regularly in the trappings of democratic elections." -Dale Franks
I couldn’t agree with Mr. Franks more...
Let’s measure this.

Do you include the ’election’ of Evo Morales in this, for example?
I ask because I’m trying to determine, where the borders of illegtimacy are on your map.

And WMD was only a part of the reason we went there.
There were many others which were sufficient to warrent our removing Saddam.

And Pouge? You may want to take note; your claim of how history will judge us notwithstanding... The losers very seldom get to dictate how history is recorded.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
I should note, since it seems to’ve been comprehensively glossed over in Mr. Franks’ post: For all the wonderful talk about personal liberty, citizen empowerment, and the rights of the individual, from ancient Greece until fairly recently all of that was accorded rarely, if at all, to women. Is it really a democracy when fully half the population is disenfranchised?
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
I’d agree with you to some extent. But I’d do so with a caveats: "democratization" is not an argument you can make in front of the world, voters, etc without some serious repercussions.

Serious repercussions!?! If the administration had touted the democratization of the Middle East as the reason to go to war, the voters would most likely not approve. For democratization doesn’t always work, which is what I thought Dale’s post was all about. That it doesn’t always work out, but it’s our best bet.

For one thing, the coalition of people/nations who supported the war — such as it was — did not agree on a single reason to attack Iraq. Touting democratization first and foremost certainly would have put a few of them off. In Foreign Policy, politicians often appeal to the most broadly acceptable of rationales rather than the real geopolitical issues.

I must be reading this wrong. You’re suggesting that our politicians argued WMD out of convenience? That touting the real geopolitical goals would, “put a few of them off”?
So, in short, they were shitting us. The real goal was democratization, and getting the WMD was the gravy? You’re not admitting what the Left has been saying all along, are you? That we were lied into war???
Yeah, I gotta be reading that wrong.

...when you discuss "motivations", you need to be specific about whose motivations you refer to

Specific motivations? From what you’re telling me, that’s a lesson the Administration needs to learn.

Obviously, we’ll have to agree to disagree about how the Bush Administration took us to war. I will say, however, that I basically agree with you and Dale. Democracy in the Middle East is our best bet.
I just don’t think that’s what we, the American people and the world, were led to believe the war was all about. And that really sucks in my opinion.

*******************

And Pouge? You may want to take note; your claim of how history will judge us notwithstanding... The losers very seldom get to dictate how history is recorded.


True enough, Bithead. But the truth always catches up to it.
Always.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
How you have managed to construe what I wrote into "inferences" that directly contradict it is utterly mystifying to me.
Mystery solving.

I believe that democracy is a better form of government than repressive dictatorship, however is not always possible. I bring my own slant.

Dale - Summarises that a democracy must have strong internal structures that are pro-democracy, free press and free expression. That the business of the state is confined to the states business.
Democracy is only one piece of the puzzle, and hardly the most important one at that. The true key to liberalizing a society is a shared commitment to limited, constitutional, and consensual government that recognizes and protects the principles of individual liberty and equality before the law. Democracy may be an important part of such a commitment, but it is certainly not a substitute for it.


Dale - suggests christianity as being key in seperating religous power from the state which fails to explain Taiwan, India, Turkey and Japan - non christian democracies, do now have the seperation and are successful - the religion is irrelevent. IMHO to be successful repression must be formally removed from the function of government and that it is not funded in the state by any actor. In a non-democratic state repression is supported by the government. In a troubled state the repression is supported by a foreign power.

As Bithead points out to when the Left called for the removal of right wing govermental dictorships in South & Central America and Africa they were wrong, because this would remove repressive action from the state only. However the Soviet funded Left wing rebel groups would still practice repression and therefore soon form an undemocratic state. The Left were mistaken.

Now into Iraq where the religious groups are gaining funding from external powers, where corrupt practice directs repressive funding from the state. These are signs of a very troubled state, where it is unlikely democracy will succeed. Taking the lessons of history it is neccessary to institute a strong state (or three) in Iraq that are friendly to our general existance, so that it may rebutt external repressive influences (similar to El Salvador, Chile, Taiwan, Sth Korea) and eventually move to democracy when appropriate. Providing for meaningless elections in the current climate dooms Iraq to become a strong undemocratic state that is opposed to us, similar to what Carter forced to happen in Iran. In this case by making an about face from the 80s, the Left have become correct.

Dale says the Left have no moral right to point this out, because it was wrong in the past.

Moreover, I note that, while the Left has been an avid critic of democracy promotion, they have, at the same time, criticized the president for not promoting democracy more in Saudi Arabia.
And I note that the Right is happy to befriend a dictator (even this unhelpful, evil one that is actively working against a democratic Iraq) when it has not painted itself into a corner of "promoting freedom and democracy" as some sort of lame, third stage, hackneyed & doomed justification for a war.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
True enough, Bithead. But the truth always catches up to it.
Always.
Better watch what you wish for. No mater how often you say it, WMD wasn’t the whole deal... and from what you’re saying, history will judge accordingly.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
If the administration had touted the democratization of the Middle East as the reason to go to war, the voters would most likely not approve.
Indeed. Voters are often unaware of geopolitical issues. Roosevelt maneuvered us into WWII with very similar rhetoric, even skirting some legislation to play various games of realpolitik. (e.g., assisting Great Britain) I think the US might have been sympathetic to the idealistic arguments of the need for regime change and democracy in Iraq — Clinton made some good ones — but the international coalition would have shied from it. It’s a question of emphasis.
I must be reading this wrong. You’re suggesting that our politicians argued WMD out of convenience?
It was certainly emphasized to the extent that it was out of "convenience" — a "bureaucratic decision" as Wolfowitz famously said. I wasn’t aware that this was news.
So, in short, they were shitting us. The real goal was democratization, and getting the WMD was the gravy? You’re not admitting what the Left has been saying all along, are you? That we were lied into war??? Yeah, I gotta be reading that wrong.
Yes, you are reading that wrong.
I just don’t think that’s what we, the American people and the world, were led to believe the war was all about. And that really sucks in my opinion.
(shrug) I think anybody who was paying attention was well aware of it. It was in the freakin’ Authorization for Military Force for goodness sake. If they didn’t give it the emphasis you thought they should have....well, that’s also realpolitik. How explicitly was the containment doctrine spelled out? Or our ultimate goals in Japan and Germany? Or our post-war plans for Europe?

There’s generally more going on in foreign policy than makes the soundbites.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Dale - suggests christianity as being key in seperating religous power from the state which fails to explain Taiwan, India, Turkey and Japan - non christian democracies, do now have the seperation and are successful - the religion is irrelevent.

Not to history it isn’t and that was his point. The religion is no more irrelevant to history than the philosopher is to a philosophical tenet which is now used globally in some way, such as the concept of rights for instance.

The fact that those countries now have a constitution which stresses separation of church and state doesn’t change the fact that the principle calling for that separation came from the Christian religion.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
I would argue that religion and specifically Christianity, enters into the picture in so far is how would affects cultural thought. Certainly Christianity affected all of the west’s philosophy.

It is, I think, illogical to try to separate out a major foundational block of our culture’s philosophy, as irrelevant to our culture’s success.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
I dunno.
Why not ask Rangel and Kennedy?

Or, for that matter Harry Reid.

Next time, make sure the bridge isn’t burning before you try and cross it.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Good post all in all.
May I please point out a historical inaccuracy?: At the time of emperor Constantine, there was no Pope and no Catholic Church. This refers to your, and I quote "... recognized the Pope as the chief religious authority", reference.

Many thanks
Ian
 
Written By: Ian Johnson
URL: http://

 
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