Can’t CATO’s Foreign Policy People Get Anything Right?

January 20, 2009

[First published January 22, 2006] Leon Hadar, research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, has responded to my previous blog on “The Myth of “The Myth of Democratic Peace.” His response was consistent with the sophomoric research and writing of his article, “The Myth of Democratic Peace.”

His reply below continues in this vein, for he didn’t read my blog with sufficient care to realize I did not write the part to which he objects, my colleague Pro Forma did. Since Hadar makes a point of his Ph.D, I should note that Pro Forma has one also in political science, and his major field is international relations focusing on the democratic peace.

First, Hadar’s mistaken response to me:

Wooo… Bozos? No reliance on social science? The entire article was a summary/review of a book by two leading American political scientists, Edward D. Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia University, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (MIT Press, 2005). Doesn’t that count as reliance on “acutal social science?”[sic] Isn’t their book part of the vast “DP literature?” Do the two represent the “anti DP rehtoric [sic] by paleo-conservatives?” And although I myself have a Ph.D. in political science… to compare the very primitive social science field to the scientific research that led to the discovery of America? You seem to give intellectual arrogance a bad name. I’ll discuss the points you made on my blog in a few days. [he does so here] Just to make one point: I make a clear distinction between a liberal government and a democratic government. They’re not the same. If anything, you probably could make an argument that liberal nationalism is more peaceful than non-liberal and democratic form of nationalism, or that liberal governments don’t go to war against each other (in general). And btw most of the people I know would have preferred to live in pre-1971 Switzerland (before it permitted women to vote) or in British-controlled Hong Kong than in democratic (?) India. Finally, my opinion piece was not an academic research paper and it certainly didn’t represent the views of the Cato Institute, where scholars conduct debate on the issues without calling each other Bozos. Leon Hadar.

Pro Forma responds:

First, Hadar should read blogs more carefully: his comments were addressed to Rummel, even though the blog clearly says that the comments were made by a colleague of Rummel’s — that’s me. So I’m responding. And by the way, perhaps Hadar can go back to his own blog here and correct all the snide references to Rummel and redirect his attack from Rummel to me. And what’s this about accusing Rummel — of all people in the libertarian world — of being like a commissar? Given that Rummel toiled as the only libertarian in the leftist swamps of the University of Hawaii Political Science department for most of his career, this is really a stupid comment by Hadar. Perhaps calling someone a commissar is the paleo equivalent of lefties bringing up the “H” word (Hitler) when talking about anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton. . . in any case, it is uncalled for. But since it wasn’t Rummel who wrote the words Hadar is attacking, it probably reflects more on Hadar than Rummel. So Hadar can call ME a commissar if he likes. . . . By the way, I don’t have a beard, so perhaps Hadar can move on from ad hominem remarks to more substantive ones. . . .

Hadar says his “entire article was a summary/review of the Mansfield -Snyder book.” Then why open with the snotty comment that if you listened to those who embrace democracy, you’d have to conclude that democracy is, among other things, a cure for erectile dysfunction? If you want to do political science, drop the cheap rhetoric.

Yes, Mansfield-Snyder (M-S) is part of the democratic peace literature. But it is only part. And you can’t rely “entirely” on this book, without looking at one, its methodological weaknesses, two, its core agreement that no two democracies have fought each other, and three, what policy implications M-S make.

Regarding the methodology, while M-S is an important contribution to the literature, is has significant technical weaknesses which Rummel adequately addressed several months ago concluding that: “. . . the results about the war likeness of democracy in Electing To Fight do not prove (show, establish, indicate) that incomplete democratization is a danger to peace.”

Second, and more importantly, M-S never disagree with, challenge, or disprove the most important democratic peace proposition. In fact, their study confirms that well-established democracies do not make war on each other. Yet this never surfaces or is acknowledged in Hadar’s article. This is the central tenet of the democratic peace, and failing to engage it is evidence of either ignorance (fixable: read more) or, as Rummel phrased it, “visceral prejudice” (probably not fixable . . . . )

Third, if “democracy” is so dangerous to world peace, what do M-S recommend, in terms of policy? Curiously, given the evils Hadar attributes to democracy, M-S specifically argue that the US should continue to promote democracy, but that it should be done differently: less emphasis on the rush to elections, more on building institutions of transparency and accountability — both of which are cornerstones of democracy. M-S is not an indictment of democracy, or of promoting democracy, but a cautionary warning about how to promote democracy, and the impetuousness of young democracies. This is a far cry from Hadar’s worrisome suggestions that non-democracies (universally non-libertarian) may be more peaceful than democracies, and is even more removed from real world considerations of what kinds of regimes the US would prefer to see in the world.

We need some basic Political Science 101 here. What’s this about Hadar’s “clear distinction between” liberal and democratic governments? The standard definitions of regime type in political science today center on the democratic – non-democratic distinction, with non-democracies subdivided into authoritarian and totalitarian versions, and democracies sub-divided into electoral and liberal. A liberal democracy is an electoral democracy plus a well-developed protection of rights through the rule of law. The core difference between democracy and non-democracy is that if you can change your government by ballots, you have a democracy, and if you can’t, it is either authoritarian or totalitarian. Is Hadar suggesting that there are authoritarian liberal regimes — in other words, where the people can’t change their government except by reverting to bullets, yet they have rights protected by the rule of law? What mechanisms might exist in such a regime to prevent the inevitable abuse of power by a regime that cannot be changed peacefully? What are the consequences of asserting this for the survival and strengthening of liberty?

Finally, if Hadar suggests that most of the people he knows would rather live in pre-1971 Switzerland — significant because half the population was denied a fundamental right to participate in choosing their government — then I’d suggest he doesn’t know very many women.

Pro Forma

Sometime ago, I issued a challenge to libertarians to make a reasoned argument for isolationism, or from a libertarian perspective, an argument against our war in Iraq. Thomas L. Knapp responded here, to which I replied. Knapp then
wrote a rebuttal
. David Tomlin also responded to my challenge, and I posted his response and my reply together. I will leave it to the reader to characterize this exchange, and only want to note that it is informative of the world view that libertarians have on foreign policy that is well exemplified by the Leon Hadar comments above.


The Myth of “The Myth of Democratic Peace”

January 20, 2009

[First published January 22, 2006]
They have become so predictable. Consider this bio: Dr. Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, where he analyzes international politics and economics with a special focus on the Middle East and East Asia. A former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post.

Now, what do you think Hadar’s take will be on the democratic peace? With the key words CATO and UN bureau chief, you’re right. He’ll be totally negative. And so he is in his recent article, “The Myth of Democratic Peace.”

What is it with these CATO libertarians? It’s not incompetence, not when there has to be a conscious avoidance of studies with which they disagree. It has to be a visceral prejudice. Well, my colleague Pro Forma lets rip on them, and he’s right. He says:

I think what really annoys me about these bozos are four things:

First, they rely on no actual social science (neither empirical nor theoretical) to make their points — the paleolibertarian case against the democratic peace is almost entirely rhetorical.

Second, they completely ignore the vast DP literature. It’s not that they say it is flawed and cite any examples…they just don’t even deal with it. The DP literature is incredibly rich in all sorts of empirical research, and abounds with theoretical explanations at many levels. Yet, they refuse to engage any of this. It’s like studying world geography, and despite Columbus and Magellan and Drake and modern cartography and trips into space and satellite photography, they are still using maps without the Americas, but instead a big vast emptiness between Europe and Asia. You can’t do science this way!

Third, they seem to dismiss any possibility of democratic peace by arguing that democracy has many definitions, so nobody really knows what it is…. yet they are quick to assert that this thing that no one can define is actually very non-peaceful. This not only is bad science, it denies the possibility of science.

Fourth, the implications — both philosophical and policy — of the anti-DP rhetoric by the paleolibertarians is profoundly disturbing for anyone who loves freedom and values liberty. Let’s think about this.

If democracy is so bad, then non-democracy should be pretty good. In fact, Leon Hadar concludes his article with a proposal to inquire if non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democracies (note to Hadar: it’s been done; they aren’t). If peace is a human value, and a good thing (since it favors life and well-being, and democracies were found to be actually less peaceful than non-democracies, we would not want democracy, and should work to establish and spread non-democracy.

Yet, I cannot think of any realistic non-democratic form of government that anyone would rather live under. The core difference between democracy and non-democracy is that you can change democratic governments with ballots (peaceful), while you can only change non-democratic governments with bullets (non-peaceful). This is philosophically very confusing: we want a peaceful government, so, according to the paleos, we want a non-democratic government so we’ll have peace. But we can only change this non-democratic government with non-peaceful means.

Does this mean we are doomed to renew and alter our government only with bloody means, and that the great experiment the American founders engaged in is a failure? If so, then all this writing about universal aspirations for democracy is false. And Fukuyama was wrong when he argued that over the past few thousand years, in the “marketplace” of history, democracy has been desired by people more than any other form of government.

If all this is wrong, then what form of government should we desire, and work and fight to put into place? On this, the paleos are strangely silent. Which is VERY worrisome. Since you cannot rely on government protecting rights and minimizing its incursions on liberty by either hoping the government will behave, or by putting power in the hands of a benign dictator who promises to keep government small, just how do the paleos think freedom will be protected? Thinking about this — and of the impossibility in history of establishing an anarchy-country, I’m beginning to think that the paleos, for now only on a theoretical level, are really enemies of freedom, and anti-liberty in their core.

Links of Note

“Diplomats Will Be Shifted to Hot Spots “:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed “transformational diplomacy.”
The State Department’s culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. “The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them,” she said. “The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power.”

The democratic peace oriented transformation (revolution?) of the Department of State continues. Now, think of what she would do if president.

“Public unrest increasing in China”:

The Public Security Ministry said it handled 87,000 public disturbances last year, a rise of more than 6% on 2004. . . . A ministry spokesman said the figure did not refer just to mass protests, but to all criminal cases linked to public disorder, including mob gatherings, obstruction of justice, fighting and trouble-making.

The greatest likelihood to the collapse of communist rule will come when a depression, or steep inflation, occurs, not with this mild unrest in the face of rapid economic growth.

“The Region: Moving apart “ By Barry Rubin:

The world is about to rethink its views of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict, due to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s past policy shift, his evident departure from politics, and Palestinian developments. The critical variable here is not what has happened to Sharon but a Palestinian political situation which makes any progress toward peace impossible for years to come. Sharon’s illness may be distracting attention from the Palestinian crisis, but it is ultimately much less important in shaping the region’s future.

Read Rubin. He is good and informative on this intractable ME conflict.

“The “Democratic Peace”: A Skeptic’s View “ By Mark Pietrzyk:

an alternative view is that the long peace between democratic states is the result of reverse causation. That is, the current peaceful international order (created by such factors as U.S. hegemony, the solidification of borders, economic growth, and the nuclear revolution) has made it possible for liberal democracy to flourish in many countries which have found it difficult or impossible to build and maintain free institutions in previous eras of international violence and instability.

Another book on the democratic peace. Note the logical problem. If (A) nations made war on each other before becoming democratic; and (B) did not make war on each other after becoming democratic, how is that B implies A. Does time reverse itself?

“A Lesson From Somalia”:

Somalia offers a sobering lesson of what can happen to American forces when our government blunders into the middle of a civil war. We dare not do it again. And we had better see the warning signs.

I must be the only one that sees the American intervention in Somalia as a victory. We saved about a million lives at the cost of 18 American marines. Have ever before so few given their lives to save so many?

The vast literature on the
Democratic Peace