Can We predict War and Is It Inevitable?

May 18, 2009


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[First published September 22, 2005] This blog is inspired by Navin’s blog, “Can We Predict Wars? (here), described as “based on the premise that “we learn from history that we learn nothing from history. Logically, it must then be possible to predict war based on historical events.”

I quite agree that it is to history we must look for the ability to predict war and peace. But the recourse to history must go beyond the subjective reading of historians; it must also add to this knowledge a systematic treatment of cases and events, much as any scientist treats his empirical observations. That is, we have to well define what we mean by war and any variables we believe predict or account for war in a way that people who disagree with us can duplicate our data; our data should contain all or a well selected sample of wars and be made available to other researchers; and we should use systematic and replicable techniques of some sort to assess the relationships among the data.

If we do this, which quantitative researchers on war and peace have done, we are able to predict when and where wars will not occur, and explain why. We can also establish the probability of war occurring. In light of the common view of war today, these two statements are amazing. Consider the first statement that we can say with high confidence where wars will not occur. For example, I predict with a feeling of absolute certainty that there will be no war between France and Germany, France and Spain, and Germany and Poland in the next five years. Now, from history, with all the wars that these two peoples have fought, this is quite a prediction. Yes, you will say, but no one now expects such a war, which begs the question as to why.

Okay, how about there will be no war between Greece and Turkey (which some do expect), or Colombia and Ecuador, Paraguay and Bolivia, or Botswana and Namibia. But, there might be a war between Israel and Syria, Iraq and Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea, or Tanzania and Uganda.

How do we know this? Because we know empirically from history and verified theory that democracies don’t make war on each other, and therefore we can predict that between any two democracies there will be no future war. However, war can well occur between two if one or both are not democracies. Moreover, the probability of war is far higher if both are nondemocracies.

In this case, can we predict when war will occur? It is most likely when there is a shift in the balance of interests, capabilities, and wills between two nondemocracies such that the balance no longer supports their status quo. There is a ton of nuances and things to be defined in this apparently simple statement. I’ve done this in my draft book, Principles of Freedom on my interactive book blog (here). See Part III, and specifically the conflict helix.

Thus, I argue the we define a sphere of peace in which we can predict with near certainty that war will never occur, and one in which we can also predict that war has its greatest likelihood — one the sphere of democracies, the other of nondemocracies. In the latter sphere war will occur when the status quo — structure of expectations — between nondemocracies collapses.

Is war inevitable? No! We can expand the sphere of democracies to encompass the globe and thereby make war history. There is no reason to suspect that the relationships among democracies will be any different than they are today if all countries are democratic. Democracies will remain intrinsically democracies, and thus the essential nature of democracies –political rights for all citizens, the democratic culture, multiple civic groups, a spontaneous society, and bonds and cross pressure — that ensure peace will remain.

Link of Day

“A Neural Net for Predicting War and Peace” By A. OLBRICH, & A. HERGOVICH

Abstract: Background: Social Identity Theory (Turner, 1986), Theory of Integrative Complexity (Tetlock, 1985) and the Theory of Groupthink (Janis & Mann, 1977) provide powerful tools for predicting international conflicts and wars. The aim of this study is to develop an application of artificial intelligence for predicting war and peace.

I’ve seen so much of this kind of psychological reductionism over the years when all one has to do is look at the type of government a country has –but, this is too simple. Yet, what personalities become rulers or leaders depends on the political system, and its culture, and history, and what they can do with the power they have also depends on these variables.

Links I Must Share

“China’s model for a censored Internet”:

Some worry China’s controls could be copied elsewhere.

“Iran ‘will trade nuclear secrets’:

Iran is ready to trade nuclear secrets with other Islamic states for peaceful purposes, the country’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said.

“EU drops hardline stance on Iran”:

The EU’s “big three” are said to have backed down from a demand that the UN nuclear watchdog should immediately report Iran to the Security Council.

“Rita: Watch This Blog”:

Defense Tech pal HYPERLINK “http://alexandertheaverage.blogspot.com/”Kris Alexander works for Texas’ homeland security department. Which makes his HYPERLINK “http://alexandertheaverage.blogspot.com/2005/09/h-48-its-big-one.html”blog (here) essential reading, now that a HYPERLINK “http://home.accuweather.com/index.asp?partner=accuweather”category 5 killer hurricane is about to put the whomp on the Lone Stars.

Conflict
Books/articles/statistics


More on the Democratic Peace and Sharp Decline in Violence

May 11, 2009


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[First published October 17, 2005] A study has just been published by the Human Security Center, War and Peace In The 21St Century (pdf here). I recommend reading it for the comprehensiveness of its data and analysis.

The reports conclusions are:

Over the past dozen years, the global security climate has changed in dramatic, positive, but largely unheralded ways. Civil wars, genocides and international crises have all declined sharply. International wars, now only a small minority of all conflicts, have been in steady decline for a much longer period, as have military coups and the average number of people killed per conflict per year. The wars that dominated the headlines of the 1990s were real—and brutal—enough. But the global media have largely ignored the 100-odd conflicts that have quietly ended since 1988. During this period, more wars stopped than started. The extent of the change in global security following the end of the Cold War has been remarkable:

°The number of armed conflicts around the world has declined by more than 40% since the early 1990s. [See the igure below from the report]

°Between 1991 (the high point for the post–World War II period) and 2004, 28 armed struggles for self-determination started or restarted, while 43 were contained or ended. There were just 25 armed secessionist conflicts under way in 2004, the lowest number since 1976.

°Notwithstanding the horrors of Rwanda, Srebrenica and elsewhere, the number of genocides and politicides plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001.

°International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001.

°The dollar value of major international arms transfers fell by 33% between 1990 and 2003 (Figure 1.10). Global military expenditure and troop numbers declined sharply in the 1990s as well.

°The number of refugees dropped by some 45% between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end.

°Five out of six regions in the developing world saw a net decrease in core human rights abuses between 1994 and 2003.

The positive changes noted above date from the end of the Cold War. Other changes can be traced back to the 1950s:

°The average number of battle-deaths per conflict per year—the best measure of the deadliness of warfare— has been falling dramatically but unevenly since the 1950s. In 1950, for example, the average armed conflict killed 38,000 people; in 2002 the figure was 600, a 98% decline.

°The period since the end of World War II is the longest interval of uninterrupted peace between the major powers in hundreds of years.

°The number of actual and attempted military coups has been declining for more than 40 years. In 1963 there were 25 coups and attempted coups around the world, the highest number in the post–World War II period. In 2004 there were only 10 coup attempts—a 60% decline. All of them failed.

How do they explain this great decrease in warfare and its severity?

A dramatic increase in the number of democracies. In 1946, there were 20 democracies in the world; in 2005, there were 88.10 Many scholars argue that this trend has reduced the likelihood of international war because democratic states almost never fight each other.

An increase in economic interdependence . Greater global economic interdependence has increased the costs of cross-border aggression while reducing its benefits.

A decline in the economic utility of war . The most effective path to prosperity in modern economies is through increasing productivity and international trade, not through seizing land and raw materials. In addition, the existence of an open global trading regime means it is nearly always cheaper to buy resources from overseas than to use force to acquire them.

Growth in international institutions . The greatly increased involvement by governments in international institutions can help reduce the incidence of conflict. Such institutions play an important direct role in building global norms that encourage the peaceful settlement of disputes. They can also benefit security indirectly by helping promote democratisation and interdependence.

There you have it. The first empirical anslysis to note the sharp decrease in violence other than my own, and to attribute it to the democractic peace. My only disagreement is that I would consider the democracies achieving a critical mass to be the major cause, and the others to be minor. The other causes existed before the decrease in violence, and it is only that growth in democracies that is the factor that significantly changed — that along with the end of the Cold War, which be it recalled, was predicted at the time to lead to a leap in violence, since the Soviet Union (having disappeared) and U.S. were no longer concerned to cap any violence that might draw them into a major war with each other.

Link of Day

“Final Report of the Commission on Human Security” A UN Report different from the above

The report proposes a new security framework that centers directly and specifically on people. Human security focuses on shielding people from critical and pervasive threats and empowering them to take charge of their lives. It demands creating genuine opportunities for people to live in safety and dignity and earn their livelihood.

RJR: Note this policy conclusion: “Clarifying the need for a global human identity while respecting the freedom of individuals to have diverse identities and affiliations.”

Links I Must Share

“Book Learning:

A controversial new work says French school textbooks are just plain anti-American.

RJR: Is there any doubt?

“Rice: No presidential ambitions”

RJR: This is politicospeech for, “I’ll run if people show enough interest.”

“TRUE ACADEMIC FREEDOM HAS A NEW ALLY”

The cultural left has a new tool for enforcing political conformity in schools of education. It is called dispositions theory, and it was set forth five years ago by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Future teachers should be judged by their “knowledge, skills, and dispositions.”

RJR: By dispositions, or what in my academic experience was called “political sensitivety,” which was used to evaluate faculty and graduate student applicants, means bowing before the left’s holy icons. Five degrees is no good. It has to be a full forty-five degrees.

“United Nations uselessness”

The chief of mission for Sudan in Washington, Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed, assures the world in a Sept. 28 Op-Ed in The Washington Times that since “Every reliable report coming our of Darfur indicates that the situation has stabilized and the mortality rate has returned to pre-war levels,” at last there is “the beginning of a new era in Sudan.” Despite this exercise in public relations, the facts on the ground in Darfur are savagely different.

RJR: This is the UN, you know. It could not be otherwise.

War/peace docudramas
On WWI, Stalin, Holocaust,
China, Cambodia, and others


A Just Democide Doctrine?

April 30, 2009

[First published December 28, 2005] I just finished reading Downfall: The End Of The Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank, which is on what led up to and caused the defeat of Japan in World War II. Based on the latest disclosures about the Magic and Ultra decoding of Japanese diplomatic and military messages and the debate among top Japanese rulers, this is the definitive book on the effect of our dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It answers the major questions I had:

Were the bombs decisive? Yes. And it had to be two bombs. Hiroshima alone would have allowed the Japanese to conclude, which they were on the verge of doing, that we had only one bomb, and it would take a long time for us to make another.

Were the Japanese peace feelers in Moscow serious? No. Not by the Japanese or by the Soviets, who were bent on conquering Japanese held territory

Would a change in American surrender terms from unconditional surrender to allowing a continuation of the emperor and imperial dynasty have brought about surrender. No. The reason the Allies insisted on unconditional surrender was so as not to repeat the mistake of the Versailles Treaty that ended WWI. It allowed the Germans to keep their government and military organization in place, and left it to Germany to punish her war criminals, and reform the military that led her into war. Now, in WWII, Britain and the U.S. were convinced that Japan and Germany would have to be occupied, and democratized by the Allies. Few critics of our Afghanistan/ Iraq nation building seem aware that this is what we did successfully in “authoritarian and militaristic” Germany and Japan after their defeat.

Would a million Americans have been killed if we invaded Japan? Unknown. Contemporary estimates were 300,000 more or less would be killed. However, given that the Japanese had predicted where the invasion would take place, had reinforced her forces there well above what we anticipated, would use all her aircraft for suicide attacks, and had prepared civilian battalions for suicide attacks, the toll on our side may not only have been close to a million, but the invasion may have been defeated. In any case, the Navy finally opposed invasion, and preferred to rely on blockade and air attacks alone. However, the war ended before this became an open fight between the Army and Navy.

Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki democide? Yes, it was mass murder, as was the firebombing of Tokyo and all other major cities.

Therefore, should we not have dropped the bombs and carried out the firebombing? As an adamant opponent of democide, I must painfully conclude that with foresight as to the reasons below, I would have approved this democide:

It ended the war

It thereby saved the lives of millions of Japanese who were on the edge of starvation. They would have died of a nation-wide famine if we had started bombing the internal transportation network, and tightened the blockade, as planned had we not dropped the bombs. These are sure deaths aside from those who would have been killed had the Navy agreed to go along with an invasion.

It saved the lives of the millions who would have been killed under Japanese occupation and by continuation of the fighting in China, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. Perhaps a million or more were saved by the A-bombs.

Had we invaded Japan, all POWs held by the Japanese would have been killed. That was a standing order.

At the time of the surrender, Soviet forces were on the verge of invading the home islands from the north, and had the war continued for months (the bombs were dropped on August 6 and 9, 1945. Our invasion of southern Japan was planned for November, and that of the Tokyo area in March 1946. By then, the Soviets might have taken and occupied half of northern Japan. Thus, once Japan was defeated, the Soviets would have shared in the occupation as they did in Germany. Many Japanese lives alone were saved from communist terror as a result, or from fighting invasion Soviet forces.

Even if the ruling military in Tokyo had been forced to surrender by an invasion or strangulation of Japan, her vast armies in China and elsewhere might have continued to do battle (deeply ingrained in the Japanese military by their culture and unique history was to never surrender — this was a matter of honor and self-esteem), and the attempt to occupy Japan would have met a nation-wide insurrection and terrorist attacks by civilians that would have made those in Iraq look puny. What brought about a total surrender of Japan’s people and armies was the Emperor overriding the military and making it an imperial decree to end the war forthwith, and his radio broadcast calling for all Japanese to surrender. He had to be obeyed. He did this because of the two atomic bombs.

So, for me, as for American decision makers at the time, there is the awful choice between two stark evils. One is to murder hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians versus ending the war quickly with the millions of lives thus saved. What we have here is the need for — and even to think about it gives me a feeling of horror — a Just Democide Doctrine — that is an ethical rational for democide comparable to the Just War Doctrine developed by Catholic Theologians centuries ago. That is: If the lives to be assuredly saved by a democide far exceed in number the lives to be murdered, than the murdering is justified, although evil.

As to the ethics of this, I’ve been a deontologist, and much influenced by Immanuel Kant. Now, with this idea of a Just Democide, I’ve collapsed into situational ethics. So be it. That’s the world we live in.


The Blood Of Millions On Their Hands

April 29, 2009

The Blood of Millions on Their Hands

[First published on April 19, 2005] April 30th marks 30 years since the fall of Saigon, a horror story of the treason of American leftists and communists, and the blood on their hands. Their lying and deceit, their bamboozlement of a willing media and Democrat Party, and especially their exploitation of an army of young and empty minds that fearing the draft, or aroused by communist propaganda on behalf of North Vietnam, powered their demonstrations and protests marches.

In spite of the continued public support (as polls at the time showed) for our staying the course in Vietnam, and even though the war had been in effect won militarily, the alliance between the left, communists, Democrats, and major media forced an American military withdrawal from Vietnam, and a sharp decrease in aid to the South. Without sufficient American aid and support, the South collapsed under a conventional North Vietnam military offensive, and the North occupied and absorbed what had once been a sovereign country (no, it was not a civil war, but an invasion—the North and South had never been one country). Millions were killed and murdered before the United States turned tail to run off, and after the North’s victory, the killing did not stop. Hundreds of thousands were murdered — executed outright, or dying in “re-education camps,” and in the “new economic zones.” And never forget the over a million Vietnamese that risked an awful death on the ocean to escape the communists enslavement (the Boat People), of which perhaps 500,000 never made land again.

Then there was the communist Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in April 1975 after the United States stopped all aid to its defending Lon Nol regime. Result: about 2,000,000 murdered (for one Cambodian’s story, see ”The Karma of the Killing Fields,”, and for another, see ”A Birthday wrapped in Cambodian History”).

The left seems not to care about such consequences. They opposed the war against the Afghan Taliban, and against Saddam Hussein. And even after both were defeated, in the face of terrorist attacks they wanted immediate withdrawal. I leave it to your imagination the resulting cost in blood of terrorist victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Dickey has informed me that:

On April 30th, thousands will be marching in Washington to honor the millions of killed and subjugated people of Indochina, to thank the forgotten heroes, and to remind us of what could have been. 57,000 Americans lost their lives defending the people of South Vietnam but history has proven their cause just. South Vietnam stood alone for two years; with minor material support, it could have defended itself indefinitely, just as South Korea has for nearly 50 years. Activists and protestors have been as silent as the [millions] murdered by the Vietnamese Communist government . . . . If there is a lesson to be learned from the Vietnam War that is applicable today, it is to not abandon a people in their darkest hour.

Visit http://www.april30.org for more information.


Link of Note

”Statistics Of Vietnamese Democide: Estimates, Calculations, And Sources (1997) By R.J. Rummel

Below is a summary table (from my Death By Government) of the Vietnam war dead and murdered. The link of note above gives all the sources and estimates involved in making the table, as noted in its footnotes. Study the table and then weep. These dead were all fellow human beings.


Never Again Series


No, Poverty is not the Cause

April 27, 2009

[First published April 27, 2005] It is a common myth that revolutionaries and terrorists are spawned by poverty, and thus have an understandable desire to overthrow the system or global order that they feel is responsible. Eradicate poverty, it is argued, and one furthers human welfare, peace, and good will.

Nice thoughts about poverty, and who doesn’t wish to help the very poor get a better life? But poverty is not the causative agent it is made out to be for revolution and terrorism. Not for war either, or collective violence. Empirical investigation shows that a country’s poverty has little correlation with its foreign and domestic violence. Moreover, a look at the biographies of leading revolutionaries and terrorists makes clear that they come from middle and upper class families, and are usually well educated.

Then what is the cause? In general, it is the socio-political structure of a society and its culture. Whether they are rich or poor, developed or underdeveloped, industrialized or not, democratic countries, with the resulting democratic culture, have a minimum of such violence. There is a clear relationship here. The less democratic a country, the more likely it will suffer from internal violence, including revolutionary violence and domestic terrorism of some kind.

The democratic peace even operates at this level.

As to what stimulates violence in nondemocracies, it is usually contextual, such as ethnic-racial violence aided and abetted by the government, protest demonstrations that turn into extreme violence over new regulations or repression, the assassination of a popular opposition leader, peasant uprisings over government controls, etc. Where the ruling government is always a “they” versus “us” on every major political or socio-economic issue, even minor demonstrations can turn into a countrywide conflict front that soon breaks into bloody rebellion and revolution.

Not incidentally, the cure for massive poverty is the same cure as for violent revolution and terrorism. It is democratic freedom.


Link of Note

”Understanding Terror Networks” (11/1/04) By Marc Sageman (Foreign Policy Research Institute)

Marc Sageman was a CIA case officer in Afghanistan between 1987–89 and is now a forensic psychiatrist. This essay is based on his book, Understanding Terror Networks.

The 400 terrorists on whom I’ve collected data were the ones who actually targeted the “far enemy,” the U.S., as opposed to their own governments. I wanted to limit myself for analytical purity to that group, to see if I could identify anything different from other terrorist movements, which were far more nationalistic.

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing—the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they’re just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.


Freedom's Website


No, Not 50-60Mil. War dead. It Was 15 Million

April 25, 2009

[First published April 11, 2005] I recently came across a reference to the number killed in World War II to about 60,000,000. This figure, or one lower at about 55,000,000 is not uncommonly mentioned. But, these figures are wrong and way too high. The correct count is closer to 15,000,000, but when I use this figure I get emails like one that said—“Your total inaccurate and detracts from your credibility.”

What confuses people is the way war dead are often counted. The most authoritative sources, widely relied in the field of war studies, are the statistical books of J. David Singer (See his Correlates of War Project here). His figure for World War II war dead is 15,000,000. Crazy, right? You often read figures like those I mentioned, and here is an authoritarive source which gives a figure only 25 to 30 percent of that usuallygiven. Even more confusing about this is that the World War II death toll for the Soviet Union is widely accepted as about 20,000,000. What gives?

What has caused these massive disparities is the confusion between those killed in combat and its crossfire, and those murdered by governments during the war (democide). Aside from battle or military engagements, during the war the Nazis murdered around 20,000,000 civilians and prisoners of war, the Japanese 5,890,000, the Chinese Nationalists 5,907,000, the Chinese communists 250,000, the Nazi satellite Croatians 655,000, the Tito Partisans 600,000, and Stalin 13,053,000 (above the 20,000,000 war-dead and democide by the Nazis of Soviet Jews and Slavs). I also should mention the indiscriminate democidal bombing of civilians by the Allies that murdered hundreds of thousands, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of these dead are usually included among the war-dead. But those killed in battle versus in democide form distinct conceptual and theoretical categories and should not be confused. That they have been consistently confounded helps raise the toll during World War II to some 60,000,000 people, way above Singer and my estimated 15,000,000 killed in battle and military action. And that the almost universally accepted count of genocide (a form of democide) during this period is no more than “6,000,000” Jews, around 13 percent of the total wartime democide, has further muddled research and thought.

Overall, both World War I and World War II had about 24,000,000 (combat) war dead. This leaves still many, and smaller, wars to go to reach my approximate 35,000,000 war dead 1900-1987. I did a through search of the estimates of war dead for each nation, 1900-1987, and you can find them in my books Lethal Politics for the U.S.S.R., China’s Bloody Century, Democide for Nazi Germany, and for all others, Statistics of Democide. For their location on my website, see my list of documents

Good to clear that up. I trust I won’t see those highly inflated World War II war dead totals again.


Link of Note

”Why Not Here” (2/26/05)

By David Brooks [only available for purchase at The New York Times]
From Colleague: Along with the idea of memes and the zeitgeist, here’s a good oped by David Brooks. I especially like his mention of the argument that US foreign policy is at its best when it is not accommodating, but “maximalist” for freedom….Another reason to be grateful that John “Rodney King” Kerry ain’t president!

Brooks says:

[Why not here] This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?

Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody’s vantage point changes.

“Why not here?” is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion.

Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.

The question is being asked now in Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt made his much circulated observation to David Ignatius of The Washington Post: “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”

So now we have mass demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. A tent city is rising up near the crater where Rafik Hariri was killed, and the inhabitants are refusing to leave until Syria withdraws. The crowds grow in the evenings; bathroom facilities are provided by a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts and a Virgin Megastore.
The head of the Syrian Press Syndicate told The Times on Thursday: “There’s a new world out there and a new reality. You can no longer have business as usual.”

Meanwhile in Palestine, after days of intense pressure, many of the old Arafat cronies are out of the interim Palestinian cabinet. Fresh, more competent administrators have been put in. “What you witnessed is the real democracy of the Palestinian people,” Saeb Erakat said to Alan Cowell of The Times. As Danny Rubinstein observed in the pages of Ha’aretz, the rules of the game have changed.

Then in Iraq, there is actual politics going on. The leaders of different factions are jostling. The tone of the coverage ebbs and flows as more or less secular leaders emerge and fall back, but the amazing thing is the politics itself. If we had any brains, we’d take up Reuel Marc Gerecht’s suggestion and build an Iraqi C-Span so the whole Arab world could follow this process like a long political soap opera.

It’s amazing in retrospect to think of how much psychological resistance there is to asking this breakthrough question: Why not here? We are all stuck in our traditions and have trouble imagining the world beyond. As Claus Christian Malzahn reminded us in Der Spiegel online this week, German politicians ridiculed Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in 1987. They “couldn’t imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany.”

But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, “In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. … We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.”

Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a “maximalist” agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal – like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.
As Sestanovich notes, and as we’ve seen in spades over the past two years in Iraq, this rashness – this tendency to leap before we look – has its downside. Things don’t come out wonderfully just because some fine person asks, Why not here?
But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we’ve learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there’s an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people’s minds.

Not all weeks will be as happy as this one. Despite the suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq, the thought contagion is spreading. Why not here?

Freedom's Website Never Again Series


On Democratization and Its Globalization

April 24, 2009

[First published December 6, 2005] You may remember my blog on “Does Incomplete Democratization Risk War?”. I evaluated the book by Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield on Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War, and concluded that their quantitative results about the war likeness of nations in transition to full democracy do not prove (show, establish, indicate) that they are more likely to make war than other nations. I warned, however, that their results are being misapplied to Iraq.

Well, here is a review of the book by John M. Owen IV that does so. To give you some priceless quotes:

According to the academics, Bush’s chief transgressions have had to do with foreign policy, especially the Iraq war — a mess that could have been avoided if only the president and his advisers had paid more attention to those who devote their lives to studying international relations. . . . [RJR: I am a former academic who has spent his life studying international relations, and I support Bush’s foreign policy and Iraq War]

[On] Iraq, and in particular the notion that the United States can turn it into a democracy at an acceptable cost. In effect, Mansfield and Snyder have raised the estimate of these costs by pointing out one other reason this effort may fail — a reason that few seem to have thought of. . . . . What if, following the departure of U.S. troops, Iraq holds together but as an incomplete democratizer, with broad suffrage but anemic state institutions? Such an Iraq might well treat its own citizens better than the Baathist regime did. Its treatment of its neighbors, however, might be just as bad. . . .

If Mansfield and Snyder are correct about the bellicose tendencies of young, incompletely democratized states, the stakes of Iraq’s transition are higher than most have supposed. They are high enough, in fact, that those who called so loudly in the 1990s for an end to UN sanctions because Iraqis were dying but who are silent about the Iraqis who are dying now ought to reconsider their proud aloofness from the war. An aggressive Iraq, prone to attack Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Israel, is in no one’s interest. The odds may be long that Iraq will ever turn into a mature democracy of the sort envisaged by the Bush administration.

Note that Owen does not even let a wisp of doubt cross his mind that Mansfield and Snyder are wrong.

Larry Diamond, editor of the Journal Democracy has a very good article on “Universal Democrary? appearing in Policy Review Online. He says:

[Re Iraq] This is the most ambitious effort to foster deliberate political change since European colonial rule drew to a close in the early post-World War II era. Can it succeed? Since Iraq lacks virtually all of the classic favorable conditions, to ask whether it can soon become a democracy is to ask, really, whether any country can become a democracy. Which is to ask as well, can every country become a democracy?
[note that Iraq is not a fully functioning democracy, and under a constitution that has been approved by the Iraqi people]

My answer here is a cautiously optimistic one. The current moment is in many respects without historical precedent. Much is made of the unparalleled gap between the military and economic power of the United States and that of any conceivable combination of competitors or adversaries. But no less unique are these additional facts:

• This breathtaking preponderance of power is held by a liberal democracy.

• The next most powerful global actor is a loose union of countries that are also all liberal democracies.

• The majority of states in the world are already democracies of one sort or another.

• There is no model of governance with any broad normative appeal or legitimacy in the world other than democracy.

• There is growing international legal and moral momentum toward the recognition of democracy as a basic human right of all peoples.

• States and international organizations are intruding on sovereignty in ever more numerous and audacious ways in order to promote democracy and freedom.

He concludes:

The fully global triumph of democracy is far from inevitable, yet it has never been more attainable. If we manage to sustain the process of global economic integration and growth while making freedom at least an important priority in our diplomacy, aid, and other international engagements, democracy will continue to expand in the world. History has proven that it is the best form of government. Gradually, more countries will become democratic while fewer revert to dictatorship. If we retain our power, reshape our strategy, and sustain our commitment, eventually — not in the next decade, but certainly by mid-century — every country in the world can be democratic.