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December 3, 2008

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The Ukrainian Crises Discredits the Democratic Peace. What??

December 3, 2008

William R. Hawkins writes in his The Washington Times commentary, “The United States stake in Ukraine,” that, “The Ukraine crisis . . . discredits the liberal notion, popular in the 1990s, of a “democratic peace” ending international conflict via the voting booth. Too many countries have parties and factions with very different ideas on what their proper alignments and foreign policies should be based — whether ties of ethnicity, religion or ideology.

I’m glad to see that commentators are finally beginning to discover the democratic peace. But, I suppose, that on first acquaintance it is too much to expect them to understand it. I suggest to Hawkins that he reread his sources on the democratic peace. Conflict is a big word. It means not only violence, but also nonviolent disputes and strong disagreements. Democracies have these all the time. It is called politics. What the democratic peace refers to is violent conflict. Its propositions are:

Democracies don’t make war on each other.
Democracies have the least foreign and domestic violence.
Democracies commit the least democide, and liberal democracies virtually none.

Nowhere in these propositions, which are the general findings of systematic research on violence and war in international relations and comparative politics, is conflict mentioned.

And, therefore, in no way does the Ukrainian crisis reflect on the democratic peace.

Impact of democracy: Peace breaks out

December 3, 2008

[First published on December 23. 2004,in the WorldNetDaily] The number and severity of armed conflicts in the world is on the decline. The world is becoming more peaceful.

What are the facts?

First, in a 2004 Yearbook report, the respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute states that, “In 2003 there were 19 major armed conflicts in 18 locations worldwide, the lowest number for the post-cold war period with the exception of 1997, when 18 such conflicts were registered.” In 1991, there were 33 wars. The trend line of wars and violence conflict is sharply down.

Second, this drop is further verified by the Canadian organization Project Ploughshares, which in its Armed Conflicts Report 2004 claims that the number of armed conflicts, broadly defined, fell to 36 in 2003, from a peak of 44 in 1995.

Finally, looking more systematically, I have statistically analyzed a variety of violent conflict data sets and found a clear decline in the amount and severity of conflict in recent decades.

How do we understand this?

One explanation for this striking downturn in war and armed conflict is the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union tried to prevent wars among their allies or neutrals that would risk escalation to nuclear war. With the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is said, there was a consequent spike in wars, especially separatist and civil wars, and that we are now recovering from it.

However, this explanation seems to ignore the many wars that occurred before the fall of the Soviet Union, such as the Korean, Vietnam, Vietnam-Cambodian, Sino-Vietnamese, Sino-Indian, Pakistan-Indian, Ethiopia-Somalian, Israel and her neighbors, Iraq-Iran wars, etc. Moreover, the trend line of the annual total of those killed in war declined throughout the Cold War.

Another explanation is that with the end of the Cold War, the United Nations and regional bodies have undertaken more effective peacekeeping. True, there may be more missions, more special advisers, more diplomats running around to assess ongoing wars and recommend or try to negotiate solutions. But they hardly are more effective.

For one thing, the United Nations has itself declared its own failure in peacekeeping. For another, there are horrendous failures of the United Nations regarding peace: Israel-Arab violence; Somalia, North Korea, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and terrorism. The many millions who have died in wars and democide (genocide and mass murder) since the end of the Cold War in 1991 attest to the inadequacy of the United Nations and regional organizations.

If the Cold War’s end and U.N. peacekeeping are inadequate explanations, what might better explain peace breaking out in the world? The growth in the number of democratic governments in the world. This answer is very well supported, both empirically and theoretically.

At the end of 2002, there were 121 democracies governing over 60 percent of the world’s population – 89 of these governments were liberal democracies. This number of democracies has reached such a critical level (there were no liberal democracies in 1900, and 22 in 1950) as to catalyze a reduction in the number of wars and battle dead.

In short, the explanation for the downturn in violence is the growth in democracies. I have subjected this explanation for violence up to the year 2000 to a number of scientific tests, and these are on the above-mentioned website.

Why should the growth in democracies explain the sharp drop in wars? It is because democracies do not make war on each other and have by far the least amount of foreign and domestic violence and democide. Therefore, the greater the number of democracies, the greater is the zone of peace in the world.

That this explanation is missed in the peace research community and by commentators shows how far we have yet to go in the communication and acceptance of this fundamental law of nations. However, top leaders do not miss it. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, President Clinton’s former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, and former Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu have mentioned it. It was part of President Clinton’s foreign policy. In his National Security Strategy of September 2002, one of the three pillars is “to extend the peace by seeking to extend the benefits of freedom and prosperity across the globe.”

And the idea of a democratic zone of peace is the basis of President George W. Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom.” Furthermore, in his speech on the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003, he proclaimed a Forward Strategy of Freedom. He declared that, “As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.” With regard to the Middle East, he said, “As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.”

President Bush is right. Right theoretically, empirically and historically. Extending freedom extends the region of peace. And with the growth in the number of democracies, we can well see this principle in the drop in the number and severity of armed conflicts in the world.

The best foreign policy for peace is clear: Foster democratic freedom.

Tsunamis of Death. Why One, Not the Other?

December 3, 2008

[First published on December 27, 2004] We have been deluged in the news with pictures, stories, and descriptions of the disastrous lose of life from the earthquake and resulting Tsunami that struck nine nations in South and Southeast Asia. This is truly a disaster with the horrible death toll so far at 24,000 (link here). This deserves all the attention possible, and immediate international aid.

I wish not to lessen this human catastrophe, but I must point out an important and most curious discrimination. One would think that a human disaster of even bigger proportions, such as 30,000 killed would be as, if not more, newsworthy. And if some dictator murdered these 30,000, it is news that is even more important. It is true of our domestic news. Ten people dying in a highway crash is not as newsworthy, nor is it given as much attention, as ten people murdered in a short time by a serial murderer?

Well, then, how does one explain the incredible lack of interest in 30,000 Iranians being murdered by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in 10 days of 1988 (survivor’s report here)? Most authoritative on this, we have the memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. I will quote from Christina Lamb’s report, “Khomeini fatwa ‘led to killing of 30,000 in Iran’” (U.K. Telegraph, February 4, 2001):

CHILDREN as young as 13 were hanged from cranes, six at a time, in a barbaric two-month purge of Iran’s prisons on the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, according to a new book by his former deputy.

More than 30,000 political prisoners were executed in the 1988 massacre – a far larger number than previously suspected. Secret documents smuggled out of Iran reveal that, because of the large numbers of necks to be broken, prisoners were loaded onto forklift trucks in groups of six and hanged from cranes in half-hourly intervals.

Gruesome details are contained in the memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, The Memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of the founders of the Islamic regime. He was once considered Khomeini’s anointed successor, but was deposed for his outspokenness, and is now under house arrest in the holy city of Qom.

Published privately last month after attempts by the regime to suppress it, the revelations have prompted demands from Iranian exiles for those involved to be tried for crimes against humanity. The most damning of the letters and documents published in the book is Khomeini’s fatwa decree calling for all Mojahedin (as opponents of the Iranian regime are known) to be killed.

Issued shortly after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in July 1988 and an incursion into western Iran by the Iranian resistance, the fatwa reads: “It is decreed that those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin (Mojahedin) are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.”

It goes on to entrust the decision to “death committees” — three-member panels consisting of an Islamic judge, a representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, and a state prosecutor. Prisoners were to be asked if they had changed loyalties and, if not, were to be executed. . . .

According to testimony from prison officials — including Kamal Afkhami Ardekani, who formerly worked at Evin prison — recently given to United Nations human rights rapporteurs: “They would line up prisoners in a 14-by-five-metre hall in the central office building and then ask simply one question, ‘What is your political affiliation?’ Those who said the Mojahedin would be hanged from cranes in position in the car park behind the building.”

He went on to describe how, every half an hour from 7.30am to 5pm, 33 people were lifted on three forklift trucks to six cranes, each of which had five or six ropes. He said: “The process went on and on without interruption.” In two weeks, 8,000 people were hanged. Similar carnage took place across the country.

News about this did get around, and it is available on the internet. But, it was backburner news, and one had to search for it. I doubt that it was reported by the major media, or as any front page or p.2 newspaper report. Now, compare flood of news on the current disaster killing at least 24,000 to that of 30,000 Iranians murdered in 10 days by order of one man — an even greater tidal wave of blood.

True, this awful, terrible, democide lacks the gruesome photos, the riveting video, the heart rending testimony of survivors, the chilling account of the disaster, but . . . isn’t there something that the murder of 30,000 human being had that the current disaster does not – humanitarian outrage over such stealing of human lives by one man — over such evil doing. What would the media have done about one American who strangled 30,000 people, one at a time, one per hour, per an eight-hour day, over 10.5 years it would take? I think it would even beat the Peterson case in the news.

Shame. Shame on the media for their inattention to such a horrible and important democide.

Left Wing, Right Wing! What About Up-Wing?

December 3, 2008

[First published December 26, 2004]In an interview with Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said (link here) that “the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle. I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center.”

This reference to a left-right spectrum is surprising, coming from Schwarzenegger who is more libertarian than Democrats or Republicans in his political philosophy. Perhaps he felt this was a matter of communication to newsmen who seem to know of no other way of characterizing political differences than left versus right. This is all one ever hears in the news, and even by informed commentators who ought to know better.

The left –right way of understanding political differences has a long history, which some only take back to the seating on one side of the aisle or the other of different factions in the French National Assembly during the time of the French Revolution. Left versus right was used during the American Revolution as well, and even further back at the time the English Revolution of the 1640s. So reporters and commentators can be excused for believing this left-right spectrum of politics is the only one possible.

It is not. There is also up!

Libertarianism is often mentioned in the news, but it seems to hang in the air as a political philosophy without secure footing on the political left-right scale, to use a more appropriate word for what will follow. Some treat libertarian social views emphasizing maximum freedom, including legalizing dope, prostitution, and gambling, and support for abortion, as left wing. Some others treat its belief in a free market and freedom from excessive regulation as right wing. Libertarianism can’t be both left and right wing at the same time, but few seem to recognize this contradiction.

In dealing with politics at its most diverse on the world stage, what we have here is three political scales, rather than just the left-right one. There is one scale from extreme left socialist/communist to the fundamentalist monarchist or theocrat (for religious rule). Another scale is of the latter at one end to the libertarian at the other. And the third scale is from libertarian to the extreme left. These three scale are connected at their ends to form a political triangle, as shown in the figure below.
(use this link if image not shown) http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/PK.FIG8.1.GIF 

Political Triangle


Empirical research on political systems and an analysis of the different ideologies confirms this political triangle. Let’s place the libertarian end as up, as I did in the figure. Then we can well ask of a politician, is he left wing (towards socialism), right wing (towards fundamentalist/traditional rule of some kind), or up-wing (towards the greatest freedom in social and economic matters)?

Then again, as crazy as libertarians have become on foreign policy, maybe the triangle should be flipped top to bottom so that we have them as down-wing.