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.