Wrong, Wrong, Wrong Again

December 5, 2008

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong Again

Why can’t they get it right? Here we have a solution to war (see here)—the democratic peace—and reporters, commentators, and editorialists continue to mischaracterize and misinterpret it. For centuries, plans to end war have filled library stacks with books. They have emphasized balancing power, diplomacy, international law, cultural exchanges, trade, collective security, arms control, and international organizations like the League of Nations and U.N. All have failed. Now, finally, scientists and historians have discovered that democracies never have made war on each other, nor are any likely to do so today, even though there are about 120 of them. The obvious implication is that fostering democracies will reduce the number of international wars (as it has already) and eventually, as all nations become democratic, end them.

Stop and think of this for a moment. A solution to WAR! This is breathtaking. But, the media treats this thoroughly tested solution as through a recipe for lemon pie.

Example 1. In a commentary, William R. Hawkins writes: “The Ukraine crisis further discredits the liberal notion, popular in the 1990s, of a ‘democratic peace’ ending international conflict via the voting booth.” Wrong. DP refers to war, not conflict. Second, democracy does not mean just voting. The Soviet Union had elections, but strictly one-party. You were free to vote for anyone, as long as it was the candidate selected by the Communist Party.

Example 2. In ”Get Out Of The UN, Start Over” Paul M. Weyrich writes: “Democracies are not perfect, but by and large they do not start wars.” Wrong. Democracies have started many wars, although compared to nondemocracies these are much less lethal. Rather, democracies do not start wars against each other. Never have.

Example 3. BBC News wrote an editorial ”Do democracies fight each other?” in response to Presidents Bush and Clinton emphasizing DP in their speeches. After referring to one of my publications, the BBC pointed out that many historians disagree, and referenced two who wrote on it. They first mislabeled DP as “democratic pacificism,” and then claimed that the idea was falsified by such wars “as US and Mexico in 1848, the American Civil War, the Boer War and World War I.” Wrong. Mexico, the Confederacy, and the Boers were not democracies. And Germany in World War I was not a democracy in foeign and military affairs. These and other cases have been studied in detail by students of DP and found to be no exceptions. See for example, the historian Spencer R. Weart’s Never At War (his summary chapter is on my website). The BBC also consulted an economist, who claimed that, “Disputes between Canada, the US, Britain, Norway, Iceland, Spain and Portugal have escalated into violence, sometimes involving naval gunfire.” Excuse me, but this was not war. Nor was anyone killed or injured in these warning shots across the bow.

[First published January 3, 2005] The DP is now the basis of our foreign policy, and well understood by the leaders of many other democracies. All of us have a hard job ahead of us to educate the media, intellectuals, and academics in what DP is, and the research upon which it is based. World peace depends on it.

Link of Note



“We” (12/4/04) by Tod Lindberg



Although DP is mentioned, Lindberg does not focus this thoughtful article on it. Rather, he asks, “Will the United States ever go to war with Germany or France? Will France ever go to war with Germany?” This is now unthinkable, and the heart of his article explains why. And that why serves well as a partial explanation for DP.

Dictatorships — A Crime Against Humanity

December 5, 2008

[First published December 31, 2004] By international law, as defined in the statute of the International Criminal Court, genocide is illegal. And the statute names murder and extermination (actually types of democide, as is genocide) as crimes against humanity. Also, various international human rights conventions have been signed and ratified by well over a majority of nations, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly; and the two international covenants passed by the General Assembly in 1966, one on civil and political rights and the other on economic, social, and cultural rights. These conventions unambiguously assert the right of a people to life, liberty, freedom from torture, equal protection of the law, secret ballot, periodic elections, and freely chosen representatives.

In brief, it is illegal for governments to murder their people, torture them, and deny them democratic freedom.

Well, then, who does this? Who systematical violates these international laws? Assuredly, the regimes of Syria, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, Egypt, Libya, Cuba, Angola, Chad, and so on. But, this is tiresome. Why keep listing these countries that violate international law, whose rulers are criminals because of the genocide or democide their agents commit, and their denial of their people’s human rights—freedom. Better, lets just simplify this and introduce what is sadly missing in our news and commentary, which is moral clarity.

So, I suggest that finally we call all dictatorships what they are. Since in themselves they are a crime against humanity and thus illegal under international law, we should recognize that all dictators are international criminals. Period.

After all, in most cases nondemocratic governments are nothing more than gangs of thugs. They have seized or hold power with their guns and use their naked power to pillage, rape, and kill at their whim. The are like a gang of thugs that have descended on a group of hikers, stealing their possessions, raping some, and killing others.

Unlike these thugs who need no justification for their debauchery, out international thugs often use nice words that seduce the intellectually unwary and naive, such as justifying their actions and rule by their alleged pursuit of development, glory, some Utopia, racial purification, religious doctrine, or simply by saying that they are a “government.” But beneath this cover they remain what they are — gangs of international outlaws.

If we keep firmly in mind that many governments are made up of nothing but supremely powerful gangs of thugs, then it clarifies much of the why and how of democide and war. It makes it easier to see them all as the criminals they are, to take international action to bring them to justice, or at least to put a halt to their repression and violence.

Of course, characterizing all dictatorships as criminal will upset the diplomats and international relations specialists of the democracies who see stability of relations, diplomatic interaction, balancing of interests, and personal relationships with dictators as paramount for their national interests and the peace. I submit. They are wrong, deadly wrong. Peace and national interests are best preserved by democratizing these dictatorships and unchaining their people – by freeing them from fear.

On Thugsville—Oops, The UN—Dealing with Global Threats.

December 5, 2008

[First published on December 16, 2004] In an address to a December 16, 2004, luncheon hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized again, that the United Nations is central to dealing with global threats. He pointed out that the UN is “The only universal instrument that can bring States together in such a global effort.

Ha! In fact, the United Nations has become a weapon and a shield for the world’s dictators.

Not all dictators are the same. Some are no more than thugs. While hiding behind their guns and goons, they murder their captive citizens, condone torture (and a few even approve slavery and rape), and loot their country’s wealth and resources for personal gain, for power, for an ideology, or for a religion. Of the many such thugs since 1945, the list would include Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Idi Amin of Uganda, Pol Pot of Cambodia, and recently deposed Charles Taylor of Liberia Now we have such ruling thugs as General Than Shwe of Burma, Fidel Castro of Cuba, General Teodoro Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei of Iran, Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi of Libya, Kim Chong-il of North Korea, King Fahd Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, General Umar al-Bashir of Sudan, Bashar al-Asad of Syria, Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, General Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, to mention some of the worst of them. These and the other thugs, along with the more moderate, but sympathetic and collaborative dictators, dominate the UN and now defeat its mission.

This is a reluctant conclusion about the UN that I’ve come to since my early years of strong support.

What’s to be done? I don’t suggest withdrawing from the UN. It has too many useful functions, serves as a neutral forum for contact and communication between adversaries or enemies. When there is general agreement on conflicts, interventions, peacekeeping, refugees, humanitarian aid, sanctions, criminal tribunals, human rights, and so on, the UN helps save lives and promotes human welfare and security.

Nonetheless, what is clear to me from the UN’s overall record is that given the millions dying from war, democide, famine, and poverty, the good of the organization is still much too limited by its dictatorships. Two things should be done. There should be a democratic-nation-only-caucus to deal with all issues before the UN. Such a caucus is now in its teething stage.

Second, there should be an international governmental organization of all democracies to deal with issues about which the UN cannot or will not act, particularly the promotion of peace, human security, human rights, and democracy. I have written on such an Alliance of Democracies, and need not say more here. Given what I have pointed out about the UN’s problems, the need for such an organization is obvious. It would not compete with the UN where that body could act to promote democratic values. But, where it could not, particularly because of the opposition of the dictatorships, then the Alliance would serve a most useful cause.

There is already growing movements and governmental activities pointing in the direction of such an Alliance. Democratic activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, have come together to cooperate in the organized international promotion of democracy. Such is already underway. Democratic activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders have come together to cooperate in the organized international promotion of democracy. They call this a World Movement for Democracy. It has it’s own website, on line publication Democracy News,
courses, a steering committee, secretariat, and periodic assemblies. It now needs strong public support, and especially a formal way to deal with global issues.

Down with thug regimes and their UN power. Democracies of the world, unite.