The World Movement for Democracy

January 21, 2009

[First published January 17, 2006] In answer to all those who believe that, with the apparent exception of President Bush “using war to spread democracy,” nothing is being done to do so nonviolently. This is wrong, and leads to an unfortunate pessimism about the future. There is much reason for hope, and I hope that this post helps show why.

There is an official multinational and unofficial effort of nongovernmental organizations to secure and further democratic freedom. Most of their activity is unknown, simply because they are ignored by the major media. But, members of the freedomist network, which includes this democratic peace blog, should know of them as an extension of our effort, although they don’t know of us.

Democratic activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, have come together to cooperate in the organized international promotion of democratic freedom. They call this a World Movement for Democracy (WMD). It has it’s own website, publications, regular online <A HREF="http://www.wmd.org/democracynews.html"Democracy News(see link below), courses, a steering committee, secretariat, and periodic assemblies. Its first and organizing Assembly was held in India in 1999; its second in Brazil in 2000 involved democrats from 93 countries, and more meetings have and will be held. The stated purpose of the organization is “to strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even where it is longstanding, and to bolster pro-democracy groups in countries that have not yet entered a process of democratic transition.” You can replace “democracy” with “freedom” in the above without loss of meaning, for what is usually meant is not only an electoral democracy, but one the also secures its citizens civil and political rights and liberties.

There also is the new <A HREF="http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/democracy/cdi_official.html"Community of Democracies (COD) . Foreign ministers and representatives of 106 democratic governments met in Warsaw, Poland, in 2000 and concluded with the Warsaw Declaration. This expressed their unified “commitment to promote, strengthen and preserve democracy.”

Moreover, there was a meeting in Warsaw of a non-governmental first <A HREF= "http://www.batory.org.pl/english/events/wfd/""World Forum on Democracy." It included 300 democratic activists, current and former political leaders, academics, and nongovernmental organization representatives from 85 countries. Its purpose was to discuss and advance “democratic governance and values throughout the world.” Clinton’s Secretary of State Albright addressed the forum, and pointed out that, “We need a true democratic community; defined not by what we are against, but by what we are for; enshrined by leaders from every point on the compass; and strengthened by the full participation of civil society.”

The COD is an Alliance of Democracies yet in its infancy. Now the democracies should strengthen its organization and functions, and better focus its efforts on a forward strategy of freedom (to borrow President Bush’s phrase). It already has taken action to mandate the creation of a UN Democracy Caucus. The caucus convening group was Chile, Czech Republic, India, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the United States, and the caucus now has a website.

Cheers, freedom networkians. These much needed organizational reforms and developments are well underway. If you are astounded that you didn’t know about this, you should be. In all the articles I’ve read on UN reform in the major media, not one to my memory mentioned the COD or the democratic caucus.


Links of Note

Democracy News (March 2005) An Electronic Newsletter of the World Movement for Democracy

RJR: You’ve got to see this newspaper (available by free email subscription) to see how useful it is as a dynamic signpost and useful source on global pro-democracy activities.

“The State of Human rights in Ten Asian Nations — 2005” PDF. A Report of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong (yes, Hong Kong):

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2005, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has produced the following series of reports, in order to present the state of human rights in the following ten Asian countries: Thailand, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, the Philippines, Cambodia, South Korea and Indonesia.

RJR: Any guess as to why China and N. Korea are omitted?

“My Lai Hero Hugh Thompson Jr. Dies at 62”:

Hugh Thompson Jr., a former Army helicopter pilot honored for rescuing Vietnamese civilians from his fellow GIs during the My Lai massacre, died early Friday. He was 62.

RJR: There are heroes and heroes, and Thomson is at the top of my list. This hero intervened with his fellow soldiers to stop their killing of My Lai Vietnamese villagers. He saved many lives. If you don’t know what courage this took, you must not have been in the military.

“Robbing the Congo. Part II: unspeakable richness”
You may remember my estimate of the colonial democide since 1900 because of new information on King Leopold’s wholly owned (that is, it was HIS) Congo Free State. This blog post provides a good summary of Leopold systematic mass murder of the natives and rape of the Congo’s resources for . . . . money.

“The Prejudice Map: According to Google, people in the world are known for …”. Fascinating, but misnamed. Views on national character are not necessarily prejudicial, but often reflect actual national character in the experience of tourists, visitors, and diplomats. Is there any doubt that Italians are passionate people who gesture a lot, while Germans really love their beer and are obsessive rule followers.

“Russia, China want talks not sanctions on Iran”:

Russia and China made clear on Tuesday they did not favor U.N. sanctions to induce Iran to scale back its nuclear program, and Tehran urged the European Union to return to the negotiating table.

RJR: As you know, both Russia and China have a veto on the Security Council. But the idea is to go on record as trying through the UN to do something about Iran’s forthcoming nukes. That having been covered for the go-to-the-UN-crowd, the only next step is . . . .


Nation Building and the History of Force

January 21, 2009

[First published January 19, 2006] Political Scientist James L. Payne is an excellent and thoughtful scholar in the traditional vein (no quantitative methods), and many years ago I used his book, The American Threat: National Security And Foreign Policy, as a text in my national security class. He has recently published an article, “Deconstructing Nation Building: The results are in and the record isn’t good “ in which Payne says:

When plunging into war, hope generally triumphs over experience. The past—the quiet statistical tabulation of what happened when this was tried before—tends to be ignored in the heat of angry oratory and the thump of military boots. At the outset, it is easy to believe that force will be successful in upholding virtue and that history has no relevance. Lately, this confidence in the force of arms has centered on nation building, that is, the idea of invading and occupying a land afflicted by dictatorship or civil war and turning it into a democracy. . . . Nation building by military force is not a coherent, defensible policy. It is based on no theory, it has no proven technique or methodology, and there are no experts who know how to do it. The record shows that it usually fails, and even when it appears to succeed, the positive result owes more to historical evolution and local political culture than anything nation builders might have done.

RJR: Payne identifies 51 cases (and gives the list) of attempted nation building by Britain and the U.S. since 1850, and in which they succeeded in 14 cases — 27 percent. This is the basis of his conclusion. But, he does not take into consideration that “nation building” was not the intent of the intervention or war, but the consequences of military success, as it was for Italy, Japan, and Germany after their defeat in WWI, and Afghanistan and Iraq recently. Then what is Britain or the U.S. to do after winning the battles. Occupy the country and control it, as though by imperial rule? Leave and let some bloody gang take over the country again, with a new possibility of violence down the road? Or democratize? Given the importance of globalizing democracy for eventually solving the horrendous evils of war and democide, that 27 percent of the cases were successful is great. But Payne does not understand this relationship between democracy and violence.

This is clear in his recently published book, A History Of Force: Exploring The Worldwide Movement Against Habit Of Coercion, Bloodshed, And Mayhem (2004). Payne analyzes the role and progress of force in history, and finds that:

As far as we can tell from the historical record, we live in a much more peaceful world than has ever existed. Humans are less vicious, less inclined to inflict physical injury than they used to be. Within this broad picture there are of course deviations and exceptions, cases where certain regimes and cultures have exhibited temporary increases in violence. But these exceptions cannot obscure the larger pattern. As the following chapters show, the evidence for a decline in the use of force is massive, so broad and so obvious as to make the point something of a self‑evident truth. (p.7)

To show this, he presents the chart below (p. 15).

Now, although Payne writes as though he is the only one to discover this, other’s have shown this decline, and I have presented their data in several blogs (“Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines,” “Democracies Increase, Violence decreases, Media Still Blind,” and “World Conflict in Sharp Decline”)

About this decline, Payne says:

But, for most people, the observation seems to be wrong — and not merely wrong, but irresponsibly wrong and irritatingly wrong. Swayed by a number of fallacies and distortions, they are convinced that, compared to the past, we live in particularly vicious, bloody times. They therefore are disposed to reject out of hand any study that purports to find the opposite. Even if you can get them to look at some of the evidence and to agree that the facts do indeed indicate a dramatic decline, they are convinced against their will, so to speak. In their minds there remains a bedrock of contrary conviction that will continually reassert itself. For example, they will demand still more data to support the conclusion that force has decline — never noticing that the have no data to support their conviction that is has not declined. (pp. 7-8)

RJR: All true, but then, how does he explain that others don’t see this massive decline? By three factors: people tend to focus on the here and now, there is a “vested interest in perceiving a violent world,” and “sampling bias in the mass media.” And how does he explain the decline?

The routes whereby uses of force are abandoned are often quite unexpected, even mysterious-so mysterious that one is sometimes tempted to allude to a higher power at work. Time and again one encounters violent practices so rooted and so self-reinforcing that it seems almost magical that they were overcome. One is reduced to pointing to “History” to explain how this immensely beneficial policy — a reduction in the use of force — has been gradually imposed on a human race that has neither consciously sought it nor agreed with it. (p. 29)

Mysterious? Hardly. It’s the growth in democracies, which now comprise 121 countries in the world out of 192, and nothing mysterious about this.

Payne sent me a copy of this book in manuscript, which I read, and then pointed out to him that he missed the importance of the growth of democracy. Apparently, he could not accept this, for he made no change in his book, nor will you find anything on the democratic peace in his index. He does, however, address the fact that democracies seem to employ less force than other regimes, but he says that it is not democracy that comes first, but the fall in violence. Violence decreases and this encourages democratization. I suppose he would say that the causation runs from the great decline in force to the great increase in democracies.

Payne writes as though the hundred or so democratic peace articles and books do not exist, and in that sense, his book would fit into the 1950s or 60s, rather than 2004. How could he refuse to recognize the democratic peace, as also does Frank Denton in his Knowing the Roots of War: Analyses and Interpretations of Six Centuries of Warfare, which is on my website. Both are historians who, with the traditional distain of such scholars, refuse to recognize the value and results of scientific research on history. They don’t understand the philosophy and methods of research, they cannot believe that quantitative research is better than their educated mind focused on historical events, and thus they do not recognize the results of such research.

And this goes even more for the commentators, analysts, and editorialists who struggle to explain the sharp decline in violence of the last decades.