Is The U.S. The Most Violent Of All?

January 18, 2009

[First published February 3, 2006] I’ve had the most respected academics in peace research tell me flatly that the United States is the most violent nation in the world. And after I’ve given lectures and speeches on the democratic peace, some questioners have said or implied the same thing. This myth has been widely believed among peace researchers and is a matter of religious faith on the left.

In response, I would point out the bloody wars in Africa and Asia not involving the U.S., including the Iraq-Iran war which cost about a million lives. Then, I would note the worst domestic democides, including that of Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on, and compare the top annual domestic democide rates (the percent of the population murdered per year of the regime) to that for the U.S. (I always had a special page in my notes with the figures):

U.S. = .000016
USSR = .42
Communist China = .12 (if 1959-1962 famine treated as nondemocidal)
Hitler’s Germany = .09
Pol Pot’s Cambodia 8.16

And, I would add, here are the average overall domestic democide rates (average percent of the population murdered) for types of regimes.

Democracies = .043, of which the U.S. = .001
Authoritarian regimes = 1.1
Totalitarian regimes = 3.9, of which communist = 5.2

Particularly note how small the annual rate is for the U.S. even compared to the average for democracies.

But, the leftist mind assumes that there has to be something bloody wrong with the U.S. (in addition to its raging imperialism, blood sucking capitalism, and ardent support for right wing dictators), and so they fall back on the civil murder rate. They say, “No one is secure in America, since Americans murder each other at a rate greater than any other nation, and that’s why it is the most violent nation in the world.”

Well, this can be easily checked on the Internet, such as through The International Crime Victim Survey and here. From the latter source, I reproduce its rank ordered list of murder’s per nation per capita.

Note that the U.S. is not only 24th, but that its murder rate is tiny compared to the top four nations. It is 6.9% of Colombia’s, 8.6% of South Africa’s, 13.2% of Jamaica’s, and 21.2 % of Venezuela’s.

The next time a so called “anti-war” activist, self-righteous “peace researcher,” or blathering leftist declares that the U.S. is the most violent nation in the world, kindly tell them that their ignorance is only exceeded by their ideological blindness.


But, Didn’t The U.S. Support Tin-Pot Dictators?

January 14, 2009

[First published February 9, 2006] Whenever I give a speech on the democratic peace to university audiences, questioners always shift the focus to the United States, and especially this kind of question:

Has not the U.S. intervened in many countries, some democracies such as Chile, Guatemala, and El Salvador, supported death squads murdering rebels, and behind the scenes helped mass murder, such as in Indonesia?

Even if true, none of these events was a war. No collection or list of international wars includes them. They are therefore irrelevant to the proposition that democracies do not make war on each other, and cannot be used as evidence to disprove it. As to democide, I have only counted those governments directly responsible. If one were to also count indirect responsibility, then this would have to be done not only for the U.S., but all regimes, including those of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. I bet that if this were done, the proportional differences between democracies and nondemocracies would be even more weighed toward totalitarian regimes.

To understand why a democracy like the U.S. would be allying itself with dictators, one has to understand that in the late 1940s to the late 1980s, American foreign and defense policies were geared toward containing communism, and responding to the realistic fear of a Soviet Invasion of Europe or a nuclear first strike on the U.S. This Cold War was World War III, with hot battlefronts in Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan; and with theaters of related guerrilla warfare, subversion, spying, and political action throughout Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Within this context, American alliances, and ties to “right wing” dictators, or interventions to prop them up, were meant to prevent their communist takeover or revolution, and/or to secure their support of our side in the Cold War by, for example, providing basis. There has been much criticism of this among academics, but strangely, there has been no similar criticism of the American alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler in World War II. Yet, of all regimes, Stalin’s was worse than any military or authoritarian regime we supported after the war, and on par with Hitler’s.

One example always brought up is the 1973 military coup in Chile against an elected president that America presumably engineered. To many on the left it is the proof of American imperialism and true antidemocratic nature. But, the U.S. did not intervene against President Allende, or help overthrow him. See my “The Chilean Coup–Icon of the Anti-American Left.” The coup against him was an internally generated matter. The U.S. did favor it, however. Keep in mind that Allende was a communist, aided by Castro and the Soviet Union, and was attempting to convert Chile to a communist dictatorship, like that of his model, Castro. By the time of the coup, Allende had destroyed virtually all his pubic support, including the unions, business, the church, and, of course, the military.

World War III has been won, communism defeated as a competing and threatening world force, and there is no longer a perceived need to contain it. If people are stupid enough to elect communists, as they have done in Venezuela, and Bolivia, so be it. People who don’t learn from history, will have to repeat it.

In any case, in general, where the U.S. has intervened, and supported dictators under communist threat, these countries are now democracies. In two notable cases where we could have intervened and did not, the worst not only happened to these countries, but the horrible result continues to this day. Think of Cuba for one, where President Eisenhower refused to save the Fulgencio Batista regime from Castro, until it was too late. Then President Kennedy inherited Eisenhower’s plans to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban expatriates, which was miserably prepared and handled. Of course, had we supported Batista, we would be hearing to this day about American imperialism and intervention to save right wing Batista, but had we done so we would have saved tens of thousands of lives, and the Cuban people from a miserable existence under communism. And by now, Cuba would probably be a democracy, as are El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

Then there is Iran. At the time of the Ayatollah’s 1978-1979 revolution, Iran was led by a pro-American and secular modernizing dynasty, much to the rage of the Iran’s Ayatollahs and Islamic extremists. When the dynasty was on the verge of collapse, the Iranian military contacted President Carter asking for support for a military takeover — a protective coup. Typical of his softheaded worldview, Carter refused, and in effect gave a go ahead to the Ayatollah’s revolution. We now all know the result in the hundreds of thousands murdered, the infliction of totalitarian Islamic rule on a people, and the danger of its revolutionary regime producing nuclear weapons The irony of this is, as with Cuba, had we supported a coup this would have become another black mark against the United States.

Foreign and defense policy in wartime, which included the Cold War, and now the War on Terror, is messy and shot through with moral ambiguities and compromises. Thus, we dropped a-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; allied ourselves with the fascist Chiang Kai-shek regime of China, and the communist megamurderer Stalin; and agreed to turn over Eastern Europe to Stalin’s tender mercies after the war. Now we are allied with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among other distasteful regimes, who are hardly models of democracy. It all boils down to the balance sheet of pluses and minuses in defending freedom and waging peace.

But, then those pure in heart, innocent in mind, and morally self-righteous, will always find something in such foreign and defense policies to attack, while assuming no responsibility for the inevitable consequences. Witness the Patriot Act, alleged torture of terrorists, and the Al Qaeda NSA surveillance (“Bush spying”) program.


Why Are Americans So Incredibly Happy?

January 13, 2009

[First published February 14, 2006] In spite the continual deluge of bad news from the major media, are Americans happy with their lives? The Pew Research Center (PRC) has published a survey, “Are We Happy Yet?” The PRC did telephone interviews of a randomly selected sample of 3,014 adults. The margin of sampling error is 2%, which is meaningless given the huge differences between groups of responses.

The most interesting result is on the overall happiness of Americans, as shown in the chart below.

About one-third of Americans are very happy, and half pretty happy, which totals to 84% of Americans are happy versus 15% who are not. This great happiness of Americans has been consistent since 1972, without much variation across economic recessions, war and peace, and presidential administrations.

How does this happiness compare to other nations. While questions are not quite comparable, we can get some feel for this from the World Data Base of Happiness overall rating of nations on, “How much people enjoy their life-as-a-whole on a scale of 0 to 10.” The U.S. is 7.4, which is exceeded by fellow liberal democracies Denmark (8.2), Switzerland (8.2), Iceland (7.7), and Mexico (7.7), while at the bottom are Armenia (3.7), Ukraine (3.6), Moldova (3.5), Zimbabwe (3.3), and Tanzania (3.2), all nondemocracies, except for marginally (electorally) democratic Ukraine.

I can’t believe any readers of my blog are politically oriented, but just in case I should note how American happiness breaks out by political party. The Chart below shows this.

And this is not due to Republicans having more money. The same breakout occurs regardless of income. Also, if rather than party, we look at ideology, then conservatives are happier (40%) than moderates (33%) and moderates are happier than liberals (27%). What is more revealing is that the strength of ideology makes a difference. Conservative Republicans are happier than moderate liberal Republicans (47 to 45%), and conservative democrats are happier than liberal Democrats (31 to 28%). Independents are almost at the bottom (29%).

The PRC carried out multiple regression analysis to pin down what accounts for the overall happiness of Americans. Overall, what best explains this are health, income, church attendance, being married, and being a Republican. Now, we know why the major media trumpet the gloomy, pessimistic, and depressing news. They are overwhelmingly dominated by non-church-going, liberal Democrats.

And note this carefully, the regression analysis showed education, gender, and race did not account for happiness, holding the other effects constant. Yet, our unhappy media liberals tend to focus on these three characteristics, and especially the last two, as though happiness dependent exclusively on them.

Finally, and to me the most important result of all. Being a cat or dog owner makes no difference to being happy or not. Again, so much for theory.


The Ameriican Push For Human Rights And Democracy

December 10, 2008

[First published April 25, 2006] The U.S. Department of State has published “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy:  The U.S. Record 2003-2004″ in compliance with the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights. If you are a freedomist, as I am, it is a fascinating read. It reveals much activity on human rights and democratization of which I was unaware, and which I am profoundly happy to see being done.

Of course, all such publications by a government agency have to be approached with caution. Bureaucracies will be bureaucracies, you know. The question is then where to look for an honest and probing review of the report. I look to Freedom House, which has been active in promoting democracy, and has a team of country experts that do their country freedom ratings. So, here is their review, in the format of a press release:

 Annual Democracy Report an Improvement This Year
Freedom House noted with interest the just-released report, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005 - 2006, issued by the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The report is an improvement over previous iterations, but it still lacks a sense of clear U.S. strategy towards the expansion of freedom around the world, Freedom House said today.

The report describes U.S. government activities encouraging democratic growth around the world, and includes accounts of country-specific diplomatic statements and actions, trade policies, and embassy-level interventions, as well as formal “democracy promotion” program activities. However, the 272-page report provides no indication of how the $1.4 billion in democracy and governance work in fiscal year 2005 was actually allocated, nor does it provide any other indication of the Administration’s strategic prioritization among countries, challenges and opportunities.

“The report is an improvement over previous iterations. It documents an impressive collection of programs and policies promoting democracy and human rights around the world,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “When one examines country allocation figures available from other parts of the U.S. government,  however, it becomes apparent that the real winners are countries in crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. programs still frequently fail to follow through with funding to those countries that are out of crisis but not yet fully democratic.”

Democracy funding for programs in Africa in particular remains meager. As Freedom House highlighted during its March 29th conference, the continent still has more countries rated “not free” than “free,” yet the region received only 14 percent of total U.S. funding for worldwide democracy programs last year.

Ms. Windsor pointed out other troubling trends. “We have already seen disturbing cuts to democracy programs in 2006. Funding for human rights programs in Central Asia have been cut, Latin American programs have had funding reduced, and even democracy programs in Iraq are facing serious cutbacks,” she said.

Freedom House did note that U.S. programs and policies in some countries have been well-funded and unequivocal in their objectives. The Administration’s push for competitive elections in 2005 in Egypt, for example, and its suspension of free trade talks with officials because of the imprisonment of an Egyptian democracy activist, have been commendable first steps towards a clear U.S. policy to promote democracy in that country.

In other countries, however, dialogue on the importance of democracy has not been matched by sufficient actions. Pakistan, for example, has not been criticized by the Administration for its conspicuously undemocratic behavior, and U.S. relations with Russia have not been significantly affected by the democratic deterioration that has occurred in that country.


Links of Note

“US Report Distorts Human Rights Status in China” It you want a good laugh, read this response by China to the above report on its abysmal human rights record.

“Never Forget Flash Animation.” This is an excellent flash animation of 9/11, available for your website or blog.

“Are Facts Obsolete?” By Thomas Sowell:

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: “Demagoguery beats data.”

RJR: I find this so true in the commentaries/editorials/speeches on democracy, democratization, and the democratic peace.

“Arts for Democracy”:

Arts for Democracy started, when I realized the Left, a group which I used to identify with, seemed to have lost the perspective of its views when observing the conflict between the West and Islam. Rather than joining either group in a never-ending blame game, I use art and text as tools to communicate my beliefs.

“School Of Democracy” Did not know one existed, did you? And in France!

“Democracy Digest” A periodic digest of issues and progress of democracy around the world, and to which you can subscribe.

“Foundation for Defense of Democracies”:

Fighting terrorism and promoting freedom through research, communications, education and investigative journalism.

RJR. For your bookmarks.



Click for a free pdf downloadable alternative
history series emphasizing the democratic peace.


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