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Why are we encouraging democracy in the Middle East?

MSgt

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NYStateofMind said:
I just want to tell you all what an interesting, thoughtful and thought provoking thread this is. It's a pleasure to see a discussion like this here. I haven't been here for long, but I was beginning to think this forum was only about partisan bashing. Keep up the good work. :smile:


It comes and goes. Stick around. You'll see that in one thread the Libs and the Cons go tooth and nail and then on another thread those same individuals are talking about how much they like the same type of movies. It's a good community. (Did I say that last sentence? This Internet thing is nerding me out.)
 

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RightatNYU said:
It's about stability.

Democracies don't fight each other.

This confuses correlation with causation. While that's GENERALLY true, it's also true that this is the first time in history when outsiders have tried to force liberal democracy on profoundly illiberal undemocratic regions of the world. It's not the case that being a democracy causes peace. Liberal values cause both democracy AND peace.

To borrow a page from Freakonomics, when a king found out that the province in his kingdom with the most disease also had the most doctors, he ordered all the doctors executed. This seems to be the analogous neoconservative prescription to bring about peace/democracy: when an area has a lot of wars, get rid of the dictators. This overlooks the fact that lack of democracy is a symptom, rather than a cause, of some wars. There's no reason to assume that Democratic Peace Theory will hold, when democracy is force-fed to a region of the world with no democratic history, values, or desire.

RightatNYU said:
Which would you prefer in 50 years or whenever the oil runs out?

A middle east where there are a billion or so people who are absolutely dirt poor, have no marketable resources, absurd amounts of guns/bombs/nukes, and autocratic governments that despise the west and see us as the source for all their problems.

or

A middle east where there are a billion or so people, an average mix from rich to poor, have a diverse economy, less guns/bombs/nukes, and democratic governments that are beholden to their peoples best interests, which would be to trade with us, not attack us.

This makes several assumptions:
1. That democracies will automatically lift people out of poverty where dictatorships have failed.
2. That democracies will automatically diversify the economy where dictatorships have failed.
3. That democracies are less likely than dictatorships to have absurd amounts of guns/bombs/nukes.
4. That democracies and the citizens thereof will consider "their people's best interests" to be the same things you consider to be in their best interests.

I see no evidence for any of those assumptions.
 
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GySgt said:
In case you haven't noticed, from Sudan, to Syria, to Saudi Arabia, and to Iraq the tyrants are the Sunni.

Except when they're not, as in the Iranian ayatollahs or the Shiite militias in Iraq.

GySgt said:
Their future is their own hands. Our problem (present of future) was Saddam. We did the right thing by sticking around to make sure they weren't taken over by the next dictator. If they fail to get along, then they fail themselves.

Of course they'll be taken over by the next dictator, with the possible exception of the Kurds. Most Iraqi Arabs, Sunni and Shiite alike, have no interest in democracy except as a means to advance their own sectarian agendas.

GySgt said:
King Abdullah 2 is a wise man. He has publicy stated that he wishes his government to become a democracy.

Yikes, I hope he doesn't go that route anytime too soon. He is indeed a wise man...much wiser than the Jordanian masses.

GySgt said:
He has stated that the Middle East must change if it is to compete on the same level as the rest of the civilized world. He is very well aware of what the ruined societies in his region have bred. I see Jordan as the next Britain. They too maintain a traditional Monarch, however, they are a democracy.

Yes, but the British masses aren't trying to establish Christian law, don't routinely take to the street to chant "Death to (insert country here)", and don't blow things up at the slightest provocation.

GySgt said:
The problem with the Middle East is Islam. Our age happens to be a losing era for Islam, when its functionality as a mundane organizing tool has decayed in much of the world—just as European Christianity had done by the beginning of the 16th century. Until these people are able to seperate their religion from their governmentship they will remain stagnate.

That's not going to happen anytime soon. Islamism is on the rise, not the decline, in large part BECAUSE of the increasing democracy in some Middle Eastern nations.
 

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Kandahar said:
This confuses correlation with causation. While that's GENERALLY true, it's also true that this is the first time in history when outsiders have tried to force liberal democracy on profoundly illiberal undemocratic regions of the world. It's not the case that being a democracy causes peace. Liberal values cause both democracy AND peace.

To borrow a page from Freakonomics, when a king found out that the province in his kingdom with the most disease also had the most doctors, he ordered all the doctors executed. This seems to be the analogous neoconservative prescription to bring about peace/democracy. There's no reason to assume that Democratic Peace Theory will hold, when democracy is force-fed to a region of the world with no democratic history, values, or desire.

I wouldn't call the way democracy is sprouting in the middle east being any more "force-fed" than many of the way today's democracies were founded. And while I agree that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, evidence is strong in this case that it does. In the tens of thousands of nation-year-pairs that the DPP puts up, there are no wars. That's a pretty strong track record.

This makes several assumptions:
1. That democracies will automatically lift people out of poverty where dictatorships have failed.
2. That democracies will automatically diversify the economy where dictatorships have failed.
3. That democracies are less likely than dictatorships to have absurd amounts of guns/bombs/nukes.
4. That democracies and the citizens thereof will consider "their people's best interests" to be the same things you consider to be in their best interests.

I see no evidence for any of those assumptions.

You don't? Think of the most prosperous/up and coming countries in today's world. Japan, India, Germany, South Korea...they were all authoritarian states that made the transition to democracies, spurring their growth through diverse economies.

Since these nations became democracies, their use of guns/bombs/weapons have decreased drastically.

The best interests of the people in a democratic, capitalist society are successful, stable, trade with multitudes of countries. I'll settle for that.
 

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RightatNYU said:
I wouldn't call the way democracy is sprouting in the middle east being any more "force-fed" than many of the way today's democracies were founded. And while I agree that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, evidence is strong in this case that it does. In the tens of thousands of nation-year-pairs that the DPP puts up, there are no wars. That's a pretty strong track record.

DPP? What's that? Do you have a link?

Even the strongest track record of correlation doesn't imply causation: I have statistical evidence that 100% of the people who knew Mozart are dead. Therefore knowing Mozart caused them to die. ;)

Like I mentioned, this is the first time democracy has artificially been planted in a region of the world that didn't want it, so even if that is the case it doesn't mean that Democratic Peace Theory will continue to hold.

Even so, there are some examples of democracies fighting each other. You may not consider the American Civil War to be between two democracies since not all of the people could vote, but it was undoubtedly representative of the interests of the people doing the majority of the fighting. Democratic Finland was nominally allied with Hitler during WWII because it was fighting Russia. Iceland and Britain fought some naval skirmishes over water disputes.

Are democracies LIKELY to go to war with each other? No. But not because they're democracies, and it doesn't mean it can't happen.

RightatNYU said:
You don't? Think of the most prosperous/up and coming countries in today's world. Japan, India, Germany, South Korea...they were all authoritarian states that made the transition to democracies, spurring their growth through diverse economies.

They all had strong liberal democratic movements within the countries though. Iraq (or other Middle Eastern countries with the exception of Iran) does not.

RightatNYU said:
Since these nations became democracies, their use of guns/bombs/weapons have decreased drastically.

That doesn't imply a causal relationship. Clearly there's an outside factor at play in this equation:
The United States protects Japan/India/Germany/Korea because they are democracies. Japan/India/Germany/Korea have lowered their military spending because the United States protects them.

RightatNYU said:
The best interests of the people in a democratic, capitalist society are successful, stable, trade with multitudes of countries. I'll settle for that.

If your society values financial success, yes. If your society values strict adherence to Islamic law, subjugation of women, and martyrdom, then that is not the case.
 
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Kandahar said:
DPP? What's that? Do you have a link?

By DPP I meant Democratic Peace Proposition.
Even the strongest track record of correlation doesn't imply causation: I have statistical evidence that 100% of the people who knew Mozart are dead. Therefore knowing Mozart caused them to die. ;)

Like I mentioned, this is the first time democracy has artificially been planted in a region of the world that didn't want it, so even if that is the case it doesn't mean that Democratic Peace Theory will continue to hold.

Even so, there are some examples of democracies fighting each other. You may not consider the American Civil War to be between two democracies since not all of the people could vote, but it was undoubtedly representative of the interests of the people doing the majority of the fighting. Democratic Finland was nominally allied with Hitler during WWII because it was fighting Russia. Iceland and Britain fought some naval skirmishes over water disputes.

Are democracies LIKELY to go to war with each other? No. But not because they're democracies, and it doesn't mean it can't happen.

http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DP.CHART.V19.JPG
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DP.BACKSIDE.V.16.JPG

While correlation can't prove causation, in the political world, unlike the scientific world, tests cannot be repeated in controlled circumstances. As a result, policy decisions are based on past results and projected occurrances.

Here are some quite informative charts put together by Prof. R.J. Rummel, a noted scholar on the topic. He addresses your claims about democracies fighting each other, debunking each of them, as well as providing numerous statistics to show across the board evidence that this is an applicable theory.


They all had strong liberal democratic movements within the countries though. Iraq (or other Middle Eastern countries with the exception of Iran) does not.

That doesn't imply a causal relationship. Clearly there's an outside factor at play in this equation:
The United States protects Japan/India/Germany/Korea because they are democracies. Japan/India/Germany/Korea have lowered their military spending because the United States protects them.

If your society values financial success, yes. If your society values strict adherence to Islamic law, subjugation of women, and martyrdom, then that is not the case.

While I'll agree that we don't have exact evidence to project how this will pan out, I would argue that the evidence we do have from past efforts, and the early results from this experiment have shown that this has a good chance of success. Seeing Afghanistan have a voter turnout that put ours to shame drove it home for me that this will undoubtedly in the end be an improvement over the conditions they were in. And while no one may be able to prove it beyond a scientific doubt, as a policy, I believe it's satisfied the conditions that I would personally want any decision to fulfil.
 

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Kandahar said:
Except when they're not, as in the Iranian ayatollahs or the Shiite militias in Iraq.
Iran is Persian and they keep within their borders, except for the terrorist. The spread of the Arab disease is a Sunni venture. The "Shi'ite militias" in Iraq are exxagerated.

Kandahar said:
Of course they'll be taken over by the next dictator, with the possible exception of the Kurds. Most Iraqi Arabs, Sunni and Shiite alike, have no interest in democracy except as a means to advance their own sectarian agendas.

Yes, we've heard it all and it has always been wrong. "The Iraqi government is a puppet government." "Their new constitution's flawed." "Iraq's Sunni Arabs will resort to civil war." The voices of doom are always in a hurry to turn any bit of light into the grimmest story line.

The whole point was to get rid of Saddam. It is possible to see another dictator - not probable. In any case the leaders of the future Iraq will not be an "enemy" of the U.S.

Kandahar said:
Yes, but the British masses aren't trying to establish Christian law, don't routinely take to the street to chant "Death to (insert country here)", and don't blow things up at the slightest provocation.

Niether is King Abdullah II.


Kandahar said:
That's not going to happen anytime soon. Islamism is on the rise, not the decline, in large part BECAUSE of the increasing democracy in some Middle Eastern nations.

The fact that Islam is on the rise is of no consequence. Religions change because men change them. Progress demands it. And not even the stagnated civilization in the Middle East or their terrorists can stop it.
 

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GySgt said:
Iran is Persian and they keep within their borders, except for the terrorist. The spread of the Arab disease is a Sunni venture. The "Shi'ite militias" in Iraq are exxagerated.

I agree that most of the "Arab disease" is Sunni, but I see no reason to exclude Iran from this equation simply because it's not Arab. It's still Muslim and it's still in that part of the world.

Also, Hizbollah is Arab Shiite. That's not to say that it's as big of a problem among Shiites as it is among Sunnis, but extremism exists in both.

GySgt said:
Yes, we've heard it all and it has always been wrong. "The Iraqi government is a puppet government." "Their new constitution's flawed." "Iraq's Sunni Arabs will resort to civil war." The voices of doom are always in a hurry to turn any bit of light into the grimmest story line.

That doesn't make the "voices of doom" wrong. It's a fair assessment of the situation.

GySgt said:
The whole point was to get rid of Saddam. It is possible to see another dictator - not probable. In any case the leaders of the future Iraq will not be an "enemy" of the U.S.

I think it's very probable that there'll be another dictator (or multiple dictators if the country is partitioned). As for being an enemy of the US, hopefully they will not, but it's not an unthinkable possibility either. Having a dictator instead of a democracy actually makes this LESS likely.

GySgt said:
Niether is King Abdullah II.

No, but the Jordanian people are one of the most extreme societies even by Arab standards.

GySgt said:
The fact that Islam is on the rise is of no consequence. Religions change because men change them. Progress demands it. And not even the stagnated civilization in the Middle East or their terrorists can stop it.

Not Islam, Islamism. Islamism as a political ideology is on the rise because of democratic reforms in the Middle East.
 

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RightatNYU said:
By DPP I meant Democratic Peace Proposition.


http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DP.CHART.V19.JPG
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DP.BACKSIDE.V.16.JPG

While correlation can't prove causation, in the political world, unlike the scientific world, tests cannot be repeated in controlled circumstances. As a result, policy decisions are based on past results and projected occurrances.

Here are some quite informative charts put together by Prof. R.J. Rummel, a noted scholar on the topic. He addresses your claims about democracies fighting each other, debunking each of them, as well as providing numerous statistics to show across the board evidence that this is an applicable theory.




While I'll agree that we don't have exact evidence to project how this will pan out, I would argue that the evidence we do have from past efforts, and the early results from this experiment have shown that this has a good chance of success. Seeing Afghanistan have a voter turnout that put ours to shame drove it home for me that this will undoubtedly in the end be an improvement over the conditions they were in. And while no one may be able to prove it beyond a scientific doubt, as a policy, I believe it's satisfied the conditions that I would personally want any decision to fulfil.

I don't think those refutations of the examples I cited are sufficient. It looks to me like the guy that made this chart is looking for an excuse to label certain governments non-democratic simply because they don't fit the theory, rather than basing the theory on the evidence.

The Britain/Iceland thing: Yes, it was bloodless. But is that because both countries were democratic, or because the people firing the shots had bad aim?

The US Civil War: The confederacy was "oligarchic" if you consider that it was ruled by white males, but among them it was just as democratic as the North. Therefore it was representative of the interests of the people doing the fighting.


Democratic Peace Theories often fail to ask the question of WHY democracies don't tend to fight each other. It's generally because societies that are able to maintain a democracy have liberal values, and liberal values reduce the amount of wars. If you had a democracy without the liberal values (Iraq), there's no reason this theory should be expected to hold. If you had a liberal society without the complete democracy (HK/Singapore), it holds much better.
 

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For the long run: anyone out there have a better idea?

The underlying argument against democracy in the ME is that culture is decisive. Liberal democracies are the product of long-term trends such as the diminution of tribal and communal loyalties, the separation of church and state and the political empowerment of a burgeoning middle class. Absent these essential ingredients and the democracy is destined to collapse.

These arguments basically describe the rise of Western democracies. But simply because it took centuries to establish democratic orders in Europe, it does not necessarily follow that it takes centuries to establish one in the ME. Japan, South Korea and Thailand all went from either fuedal societys or quasi-military dictatorships to consitutional forms of government in much less time.

In the ME, the previous US policy was to support or tolerate undemocratic regimes. That period also coincided with the rise of al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, the WTC bombing in '93, the bombings of US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole, and September 11. Francis ***uyama may or may not be right that promoting democracy does not resolve the problem of terrorism in the short-term. (See this thread for more on ***uyama's opinions.) But for sure, we know that tolerating dictatorship not only does not solve the terrorist problem but actively nurtures it.

Which brings us back to the question: what should our policy be? We could respond to Bin Laden's truce suggestion and just retreat completely. But that would mean, in effect, that we would have to trust Bin Laden to keep his end of the bargain.

We could continue doing what we have been attempting for the past two or three decades: encourage friendly autocrats to modernize their countries without necessarily creating the kinds of openings through which Islamic fundamentalists could come to power. Egypt is a good example of this effort - and its singular lack of success.

Finally, there is the effort currently underway. One question that these efforts are answering is, exactly how do we know that a country does not want democracy, except democratically? Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese have all made their democratic preferences plain in recent elections. And with the possible exception of the Palestinians, they have voted to establish considerably more liberal regimes than existed previously.

To be sure, democracy is not a cure-all. These fledgling democracies still face considerable peril from insurrection, ethnic or religious feuding. The possiblity of a "Hitler scenario" can't be excluded either (Hitler actually came to power democratically in 1933).

But even so, democracy offers the possibility of greater liberalism and moderation. Seems to me that our bets are better placed on promoting democracies, even if some of them fail, than acceding to dictatorships, which have already failed.

(Note: much of the above is paraphrased from this.)
 

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Kandahar said:
That doesn't make the "voices of doom" wrong. It's a fair assessment of the situation.

No, it's not fair. It's not even accurate. It's just pessimism in the face of the imperfect reality.

Kandahar said:
I think it's very probable that there'll be another dictator (or multiple dictators if the country is partitioned). As for being an enemy of the US, hopefully they will not, but it's not an unthinkable possibility either. Having a dictator instead of a democracy actually makes this LESS likely.


Disagree. With the Iraqi government and all of the people who are working with U.S. military and American contractors and all of the people who are sending their children to American made schools and know that American funding has made up the bulk and heart of the reconstruction....they will not be enemies.

Kandahar said:
Not Islam, Islamism. Islamism as a political ideology is on the rise because of democratic reforms in the Middle East.


It's inevitable. It's not necessarily "democracy" that is the problem. It is progress. Their fashion of oppression and use of Islam as a factor for control is threatened. Without Democracy as a factor, they are still faced with a world that is changing way too fast for them to keep up. In times of doubt and disorder, men cling to what they know. And all they know is oppression and Islam. Democracy is a thing of the west and the west is "satanistic." I venture to say that any type of progressive change in their world that would bring any type of foreign government into their lives would be "satanistic."
 
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oldreliable67 said:
For the long run: anyone out there have a better idea?

The underlying argument against democracy in the ME is that culture is decisive. Liberal democracies are the product of long-term trends such as the diminution of tribal and communal loyalties, the separation of church and state and the political empowerment of a burgeoning middle class. Absent these essential ingredients and the democracy is destined to collapse.

These arguments basically describe the rise of Western democracies. But simply because it took centuries to establish democratic orders in Europe, it does not necessarily follow that it takes centuries to establish one in the ME. Japan, South Korea and Thailand all went from either fuedal societys or quasi-military dictatorships to consitutional forms of government in much less time.

In the ME, the previous US policy was to support or tolerate undemocratic regimes. That period also coincided with the rise of al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, the WTC bombing in '93, the bombings of US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole, and September 11. Francis ***uyama may or may not be right that promoting democracy does not resolve the problem of terrorism in the short-term. (See this thread for more on ***uyama's opinions.) But for sure, we know that tolerating dictatorship not only does not solve the terrorist problem but actively nurtures it.

Which brings us back to the question: what should our policy be? We could respond to Bin Laden's truce suggestion and just retreat completely. But that would mean, in effect, that we would have to trust Bin Laden to keep his end of the bargain.

We could continue doing what we have been attempting for the past two or three decades: encourage friendly autocrats to modernize their countries without necessarily creating the kinds of openings through which Islamic fundamentalists could come to power. Egypt is a good example of this effort - and its singular lack of success.

Finally, there is the effort currently underway. One question that these efforts are answering is, exactly how do we know that a country does not want democracy, except democratically? Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese have all made their democratic preferences plain in recent elections. And with the possible exception of the Palestinians, they have voted to establish considerably more liberal regimes than existed previously.

To be sure, democracy is not a cure-all. These fledgling democracies still face considerable peril from insurrection, ethnic or religious feuding. The possiblity of a "Hitler scenario" can't be excluded either (Hitler actually came to power democratically in 1933).

But even so, democracy offers the possibility of greater liberalism and moderation. Seems to me that our bets are better placed on promoting democracies, even if some of them fail, than acceding to dictatorships, which have already failed.

(Note: much of the above is paraphrased from this.)


Well said. There are short term versus long term goals. Killing the terrorists of the day is a short term goal. Preventing the terrorists of the future is a long term. Keeping the dictators in place in the Middle East is counterproductive to the long term goal.
 

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Kandahar said:
Yes, we're trying to help people, but that doesn't mean that we're succeeding. As you said, Iraqis place tribe above country, and the election results have deepened this sectarian divide. I see no way that Iraq can survive as a unified nation without an authoritarian thug to hold it together.

You're right that there's no magic wand to plant democracy in the region...but I don't see why that's necessarily desirable in the first place. Aside from the obvious point that American military power and financial generosity are not infinite, I see no reason to expect a democracy to respect the rights of its people any more than a dictatorship would.

Actually, I would say the attacks on the mosques, as vile as they are, have done SOME good to the citizenry of Iraq. I was listening to a report on NPR yesterday, and they were interviewing some in Baghdad, who put tribe aside, and Sunni's stood with Shiite to protect themselves against these attacks, while denouncing them at the same time. It is up to the citizenry of Iraq to take this to the next level, I think.

Now before some of you get your panties in a bunch, isn't it human nature to wait for things to get to "rock bottom" before they can find the path to rebound? Having said that, the bombing's of the mosques in many ways are that rock bottom, because before the attacks were against people. Now they are attacking the VERY heart of all Iraqi's, and that is their religion, which for many defines who they are. They are rallying against this insurgency, against the very moron's who WANT a civil war in Iraq to promote their anti-democracy and anti-American rhetoric. This insurgency WANTS failure, because in failure there's always a power grab. The Iraqi people are seeing this, and are feeling it vital to resist the undoing of their country. They are seeing the bickering between the leadership, and are growing impatient with the insurgency. And just as the citizenry of the original 13 colonies stood up to England, and declared the United States a "nation free from tyranny and British rule", the Iraqi's can and will be the one's who make the difference now.
 
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