The Fukuyama-Garfinkle Muddle on Terrorism and Fostering Democracy

December 31, 2008

[First published Aapril 6, 2006] Francis Fukuyama And Adam Garfinkle wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal titled “A Better Idea”. They argue, “Promote democracy and prevent terrorism–but don’t conflate the two.”

Professor Fukuyama currently Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International_Political_Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Johns_Hopkins_University”Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is best known for his, The End of History and the Last Man. Professor Garfinkle is editor of the American Interest, and has taught U.S. foreign policy and Middle East politics at the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, and Tel Aviv University.

Any op-ed by such high-powered academics is worth reading, thinking about, and responding to, which I will do seriatim. They wrote:

The Wall Street Journal recently asked: “Anyone out there have a better idea” than the Bush administration’s policy of high-profile democracy promotion in the Arab and Muslim worlds as a means to fight terrorism? Well, yes, there is one. That better idea consists of separating the struggle against radical Islamism from promoting democracy in the Middle East, focusing on the first struggle, and dramatically changing our tone and tactics on the democracy promotion front, at least for now.

RJR: Promoting democracy and fighting terrorism are one in the same. Democracies do not as a matter of policy promote or sponsor terrorism, understood as murdering unarmed and innocent men, women, and children to promote a political or religious cause.

The essential problem with the administration’s approach is that it conflates two issues that are separate. The first has to do with violent, antimodern radical Islamism (on display both in the reaction to the Danish cartoons and in the mosque bombing in Samarra); the second concerns the dysfunctionality of political and social institutions in much of the Arab world.

RJR: The answer to both is still democracy, as many Arab liberals, to their personal endangerment, have been trying to point out. On this, see Barry Rubin’s, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East.

It is, of course, the administration’s thesis that the latter condition causes the former. It is also its contention that U.S. Cold War policies of support for Arab “friendly tyrants” are mainly to blame for Arab authoritarianism. Thus did the president say in November 2003–since repeated several times by Condoleezza Rice–that we sacrificed freedom for stability in the Middle East for 60 years, and got neither.

RJR: I agree with Bush and Rice on this.

It follows from this view that if the United States stops supporting authoritarian regimes and instead does all it prudently can to bring about democratic ones, our terrorist problem will be dramatically reduced if not altogether solved.

RJR: Yes, I think terrorism would be sharply reduced, but not necessarily solved, although that is possible also.

Authoritarian political cultures do function as enablers of radical Islamism, but the essential cause of the latter–today as before, in dozens of historical cases concerning violent millenarian movements–is the difficulty that some societies and individuals have in coming to terms with social change. That is why rapid modernization is likely to produce more short-term radicalism, not less.

Muslims in democratic Europe are as much a part of this problem as those in the Middle East. This is not a trivial point; it is a central one that directly challenges a key tenet of the administration’s view.

What the administration sees as one problem ought to be seen as two. Radical Islamism needs to be dealt with separately from democracy promotion. This involves doing everything we can to ensure the political success of the governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also involves killing, capturing or otherwise neutralizing hard-core terrorists in many parts of the world, and keeping dangerous materials out of their hands, in what will look less like a war than like police and intelligence operations.

RJR: Modernization and democracy are not the same thing, but democracy is the best system for handling the stresses and strains of modernization. As to the point about Europe, the terrorism by emigrant or Muslim citizens is directed at their democratic governments, while terrorism is not supported nor knowingly encouraged by these governments. Create such democracies in Arab lands, and in time, terrorism against such governments will wither away for lack of foreign and domestic support.

Stretch one’s mind on this. Imagine that Iran, and all Arab states, are democratic. From whence, then, would the radical Islamist and terrorists come? From dissatisfied domestic Muslims? But democracies have always had dissatisfied radical non-Muslim terrorist groups of some kind, even terrorists, as for example, the radical leftists during the Cold War and bomb throwing anarchists before WWI. But, democracy has been robust enough to handle them until they disappear for want of governmental and popular support.

But the threat above all lies on the level of ideas. Just as it proved possible to stigmatize and eventually eliminate slavery from mainstream global norms without having first to wait for the mass advent of liberal democracy, it should be possible to effectively stigmatize jihadi terrorism without having first to midwife democracies from Morocco to Bangladesh. The United States and its Western allies should be helping genuine, traditional and pious Muslims to reassert their dominance over a beautiful and capacious religious civilization in the face of a well-financed assault by extremist thugs.

RJR: Beautiful and capacious religious civilization? This is multiculturalism rearing its blind and wooly head. Nothing beautiful about a civilization that largely supports the outright murder of people en masse because they are non-Muslims, or secular Muslims. This is an aspect of Islam, as currently practiced in Arab nations. Anyway, this seems to ignore that the authoritarian Arab dictatorships use the Islamists to fight foreign pressure for liberalization, and to continue to repress their people.

….To put it mildly, the Iraq war has not increased the prestige of the U.S. and American ideas like liberal democracy in the Middle East.

RJR: Of course, the thug regimes, and those that through corruption and rich appointments hugely benefit from them, do not like the war, nor do the Islamists and terrorists. Nonetheless, the process of democratization of the Iraqi people has generated considerable questioning of the status quo by the people, and a movement toward democracy that had not existed before.

….The Bush administration has indeed opened up new space for debate and political participation in the Arab and Muslim worlds. But recent elections in Iran, Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq have either brought to power or increased the prestige of profoundly illiberal groups like Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; even our putative friends in the Shiite alliance that did well in last December’s Iraqi elections have been busy institutionalizing an intolerant Islamist order in the parts of Iraq they control.

Administration principals speak of creating public space for dissent and debate lest it all be driven into the mosque, with the risk that this “might” bring illiberal groups into power. The tide of public opinion today is not running in favor of pro-Western secular liberals, however, but rather the Islamists. In many Arab countries this means that premature democratic elections will most definitely and predictably bring the mosque into the public square while driving out all other forms of expression. The tolerant are making democratic way for the intolerant, who in turn are very likely to block the possibility of any reverse flow of authority. How such dynamics promote liberal democracy in the longer run is hard to see. More likely, U.S. policies that foster pro-Islamist outcomes will delay political liberalization, help the wrong parties in the great debates ongoing in Muslim societies and, quite possibly therefore, make our terrorist problem worse.

RJR: I’m surprised that Fukuyama buys into this. Where before in the Middle East there were bloody thug regimes, mass murder, the persecution of liberals, and no freedom of speech, there have now been elections in a number of Arab countries, the establishment of parliaments, and some democratization. This is a long process that may involve two-steps forward a one-step back, as it did in the growth of democracy in the United State, Britain, and France.

We need to change tactics in the way we go about supporting Middle Eastern democracy. The administration’s highly visible embrace of democracy promotion as a component of its national security strategy (as outlined in last week’s official document on the subject), and its telegraphing ahead of time of intentions to bring about regime change in places like Iran, only hurt the cause of real democrats in the region. The effort to push countries toward early national elections, given the rising Islamist tide today, will invariably force us into the appearance of further hypocrisy when they produce results we don’t like.

RJR: There is nothing in democratic theory that says we should like the outcome of democratic elections. If the results are another Hamas win, so be it. The people have spoken, and that is what democracy elections are about.

Islamist parties in Egypt and Palestine have gained popularity in large measure not because of their foreign policy views, but because of their stress on domestic social welfare issues like education, health, and jobs, and their stand against corruption. Fine, let them deliver; and if they don’t or turn out to be corrupt themselves, they will face vulnerabilities of their own not far down the road.

RJR: This is my argument as well, but what Fukuyama and Garfinkle seem not to see is the inconsistency of this with much of what they write previously.

Democracy promotion should remain an integral part of American foreign policy, but it should not be seen as a principal means of fighting terrorism. We should stigmatize and fight radical Islamism as if the social and political dysfunction of the Arab world did not exist, and we should shrewdly, quietly, patiently and with as many allies as possible promote the amelioration of that dysfunction as if the terrorist problem did not exist. It is when we mix these two issues together that we muddle our understanding of both, with the result that we neither defeat terrorism nor promote democracy but rather the reverse.

RJR: Rather, I must say that Fukuyama and Garfinkle are the ones muddled in their thinking on this. This is especially true because they fail to understand:

The role and power of the Arab and Iranian thug regimes in terrorism
The terrorists utter long run dependence on the support of these thug regimes.
The power of democratic freedom to end war, internal violence, and democide.
The effect of the ongoing democratization of Iraq and Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom on thug regimes in the Middle East, and particularly in helping liberal Arabs fight for freedom.

Still More Evidence For No Wars Between Democracies

December 31, 2008

Still, No Wars Between Democracies

[First published April 7, 2006] This morning I came across two blogs (here, and here) that relied on Matthew White’s page to dismiss the democratic peace. Since White continues to have influence on the democratic peace debate, I have a few words to say on his statistics.

Thanks to Dean Esmay for referring me to Matthew White’s page that raises questions about the democratic peace. I know of White’s useful Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century , and have used his statistics in my own research. He is careful, thoughtful, and systematic in what he presents, so when he questions the democratic peace, he has to be answered.

First, he presents the pros and cons about the various possible exceptions to the democratic peace. Keep in mind that the democratic peace, among other propositions, says that democracies don’t make war on each other. So, a true negative example thunders against this. Many have been proposed such exceptions, such as the War of 1812, the Boar War, WWI and Germany, democratic Finland being allied with Hitler in WWII, and the American Civil War. The sheer number of these exceptions and the weight of all the pros that White provides gives the impression that there has to be something to at least one or more of them. I have not studied them all, but those I have spent some time on in my own research, such as Germany in WWI, the case of Finland, the Boar War, and the Civil War simply cannot be treated as true exceptions. Others who have investigated these possible exceptions, in addition to the rest of them on White’s list, agree. In particular, I point you to Bruce Russett’s Grasping the Democratic Peace, James Lee Ray’s Democracy and International Conflict, and Spencer R. Weart’s, Never At War. Russett and Ray are political scientists, Weart is an historian. See also my democratic peace bibliography and my Q & A, which answers questions about some of these supposed exceptions (use the search command to find them).

After going through the exceptions, White concludes that the democratic peace depends on the definition of democracy and war. Researchers know this, of course, and have done different things about it. One is to collect their own data according to very clear, replicable criteria, while others have used data on democracy and war that have a wide reputation for their validity. Two sources especially have been important. One is the statistics on war collected by Melvin Small and J. David Singer, such as their data on wars from 1816 to 1992. I have used this in my research (see the table in the upper right here) as have hundreds of others. I should say that Small and Singer do not accept the democratic peace, which makes their classification of wars and democracies since 1816 particularly important. For democracy, in addition to the Small and Singer classification, which I am one of the few to use, there is the very popular and respected Polity data, which provides a scale for measuring the degree to which a country is democratic or autocratic. For an additional data set used in replicating the democratic peace, go here.

What is noteworthy about all these different data on democracy and war whose definitions or criteria slightly differ, is that those using them have come out with the same conclusions: there is a democratic peace. Replications have well established this to the point that students of international relations say it is the best-tested proposition in the field and almost has the status of a law.

Now, Mathew White lists 39 wars 1945-1999, and says that six “might have been between democracies,” which means they might not have been, but still he makes much of it in calculating the probability of this happening by chance. Rather than deal with his “might have been,” I’m going to actually collect data from two sources on democracy and international violence between countries. The source I will use for violence is compiled by Monty G. Marshall on “Major Episodes of Political Violence 1946-2004;” for democracy, I will use Freedom’s House’s “All Country Ratings from 1972-2003” (Sorry, I can’t find it on their stupidly remodeled website). Freedom House is not a proponent of the democratic peace (I don’t recall them ever mentioning it), so we can treat their data as independent of this proposition. Similarly with Marshall, who along with Ted Gurr, is the author of the Peace and Conflict Survey 2005 that I referred to in a former blog for ignoring the democratic peace.

From Marshall’s data, I’ll include as violence any that is indicated in his data as “international.” This is a hard test, since it includes violence short of war. From Freedom House, I will use their Free (F) rating of a country for a year as defining a liberal democracy in terms of civil liberties and political rights.

First, how many liberal democracies are there versus the total number of countries. For five years spans after 1972 and ending with 2003 (year, number of liberal democracies, total number of countries):

1972, 43, 148
1975, 39, 158
1980, 50, 162
1985, 55, 166
1990, 64, 165
1995, 75, 191
2000, 85, 192
2003, 87, 192

Now, for the classification of violence between types of regimes (F = free, PF = partly free, NF = not free, where F-F = between free countries, etc.)

F-F = 0
F-PF = 6
F-NF = 11
PF-PF = 5
PF-NF= 4
NF-NF= 20

So, between which countries is there the least violence? Between liberal democracies. Which countries are the most violent towards each other? Nondemocracies. All as precisely predicted by the democratic peace.

A note on statistical tests. Think of this subjectively. Here you have all these liberal democracies for each of thirty-one years, and none of them have violence between them. This is not a matter of just five or ten democracies, but by the end of the 1990s, there are over eighty. This number is not my reckoning, but that of Freedom House. And by Marshall’s data, in spite of so many democracies, none had violence between them vs. 20 cases of violence between the nonfree ones during these years.

Now, some people don’t like subjective statistics, so lets calculate the probability. There are 46 cases of international violence, and six alternative ways that could occur (e.g., F-F, or PF-PF). Let the number 1 stand for the F-F alternative, and the other five numbers for each of the others. Throw a six-numbered die 46 times, and what is the probability that it will never come up with a 1? The probability that it will not come up a 1 in one throw is 5/6. So, the probability of no 1 in 46 throws is 5/6 to the 46th power (assuming each case of violence is independent), which is a probability of happening by chance of 8.02E-36, or about the probability of one being hit by a meteor.

Obviously, there has to be something more than chance here. And what is that something? Surprise. It is two countries having democratic governments. That is, the democratic peace.

Link of Note

“DOES DEMOCRACY CAUSE PEACE?” By James Lee Ray. In Annual. Review of Political Science 1998. 1:27-46.

The idea that democratic states have not fought and are not likely to fight interstate wars against each other runs counter to the realist and neorealist theoretical traditions that have dominated the field of international politics. Since the mid-1970s, the generation of new data and the development of superior analytical techniques have enabled evaluators of the idea to generate impressive empirical evidence in favor of the democratic peace proposition, which is reinforced by substantial theoretical elaboration. Some critics argue that common interests during the Cold War have been primarily responsible for peace among democracies, but both statistical evidence and intuitive arguments cast doubt on that contention. It has also been argued that transitions to democracy can make states war-prone, but that criticism too has been responded to persuasively. The diverse empirical evidence and developing theoretical bases that support the democratic peace proposition warrant confidence in its validity.

RJR: It is Ray who should be referenced on the democratic peace, and not Matthew White. But, that is too much to expect out of the isolationist libertarian crowd that frequently quotes him.

Democratic Peace