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.


What? Saddam Was Going To Do That?

January 11, 2009

[First published February 27, 2006] Former Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada has written a book, Saddam’s Secrets: How An Iraqi General Defied And Survived Saddam Hussein, with Jim Nelson Black, and which includes information about various Saddam military plans largely unknown to the public. Now, Georges (Iraqis go by their first names) graduated from the Iraq Air Academy in 1959, was trained in the Soviet Union and U.S., and by Britain, to fly the most advanced fighters, and became a first rate pilot well recognized for his skills.

As he rose in rank, he gained the confidence of Saddam by telling the truth, even though it was dangerous to do so. He was retired before the Iraq war and became a consultant to American forces after Saddam’s defeat. He has also been a spokesman for the newly elected prime minister of Iraq. An Assyrian Christian, he is now the president of the National Presbyterian Church in Baghdad and chairman of the Assembly of Evangelical Presbyterian Churches.

See the reviews here, here, and here.

There is always the question of how much is true in the biographies or memoirs of those who were high up in defeated, tyrannical regimes. In Georges’ case, much of what he says about Saddam is consistent with information from other sources, such as Saddam being a small time punk who rose in the Baath party through assassination and murder, and who once in power, systematically purged the party through mass murder, used poison gas against his Kurds, launched a war against Iran, invaded and raped Kuwait, slaughtered the southern Shia after the loss of the Gulf War, and so on.

What troubles me, however, is not the matter of Georges’ truthfulness, but his morality. Through all Saddam’s horrors, Georges remained, as he says, a “loyal patriot.” That is, he did not resign, or find a reasonable excuse to leave Saddam’s military, and he was a willing participant in a military that was carrying out all Saddam’s horrors that he writes about. Moreover, when his family was outside the country and he was sent to Britain, in spite of his awareness of Saddam’s plans on Israel below, he did not defect, and he never became a spy for the U.S. or Britain (that I know of). But, he did save the lives of all those airmen shot down over Iraq. When one of Saddam’s despicable sons demanded they all be killed, Georges refused even at the risk of his own life, and for this he spent some time under arrest thinking he would soon die.

Aside from what I mentioned above, which is well known, I also found the following important:

In 1990, Saddam ordered a poison gas and chemical attack on Israel with 98 of Iraq’s best fighters. No warning would be given, nor would permission be requested to use Syrian and Jordanian airspace. He could not be dissuaded from this even when Georges argued that all 98 would be shot down before reaching Israel. Saddam was willing to gamble that at least 10 aircraft would be able to drop their bombs. He also ordered a similar attack on the capital of Saudi Arabia. The launching of the Gulf War by the United States caused him to cancel these plans.

As to what the U.S. would do if Israel were so attacked, “everyone” thought the U.S. would rattle its papers and do nothing. This estimate was based on Clinton’s weak response to attacks on American ships, bases, and citizens. Saddam believe that the Americans were afraid to fight.

The invasion of Kuwait was predicated on the belief that American Ambassador April Glaspie had given Saddam a free hand regarding Kuwait, or to do whatever else he planned. So, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, they thought the American military buildup in Saudi Arabia and threats were for show.

With the exception of Georges, so he says, all the generals and ministers surrounding Saddam were afraid to tell him the truth, and lied to him continually.

The whole military and civilian establishment was corrupt and incompetent, based on nepotism, favoritism, bribery, and fear.

Much internationally and by human rights groups was made of an American attack on civilian air raid shelters during the Gulf War, but it was unknown that contrary to the Geneva Convention, Saddam had built command bunkers beneath these civilian shelters.

If Saddam were to be defeated, he wanted the whole country to be destroyed with him.

During the Iraq-Iran war he wanted to make a statement about Iranian subversion among the Iraqi Shia, so he ordered a heavy bomber to be loaded with nine-tons of bombs, and that they be dropped on the University of Tehran when the classes were in session. The bomber actually took off and headed for its target, but ran into mechanical difficulties and crashed.

Iraqi battle dead during the Gulf War totaled about 100,000, with about 200,000 seriously injured. These soldiers were Saddam’s throwaway pawns, as much victims as those he murdered outright.
I
In its relations with Iraq, the UN was thoroughly corrupt.

When UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq, Saddam easily manipulated them through kickbacks and bribes, while the Iraqi people suffered greatly.

Doubtlessly, Saddam was trying to develop nuclear weapons. He spent tens of millions of dollars buying the services of scientists and technologists and acquiring the needed equipment.

Saddam arranged to pay $100 million, and made a $5 million down payment, for Chinese scientists to make nukes for him, but apparently the deal was too close to the invasion for him to receive any useful warheads in return.

There can be no doubt that Saddam had WMD (and Georges is amazed there is any question about this). He not only used them on his own people, but also planned to use them against Israel and Saudi Arabia. WMDs were his “obsession.” When it looked like Iraq would be invaded, Saddam had his scientists commit to memory the designs of their weapons before destroying this paper trail.

Trucks and converted civilian aircraft transferred WMDs in large amounts to Syria before the Iraq invasion.

What are the lessons of this book:

America and other democracies must pay close attention to their credibility for responding to provocation and attacks.

The Department of State must be clear about warning dictators about where we draw the line. Replace the diplomatic, “We will take seriously . . . ,” with, “We’ll stomp your ass if you . . . .” When dealing with these tyrants, any ambiguity is a sin.

Just in getting rid of Saddam, and preventing a like replacement, was a momentous victory for the Iraqi people, for American national security, for that of other democracies, and in the War on Terror.

American national security and that of other democracies, such as Israel, must not be dependent on the absolute power and whims of such bloody tyrants as Saddam. In this age of transferable nuclear knowledge and equipment, easily producible poison gas and chemical weapons, missiles, passenger planes that may be hijacked, cargo ships that may be made into launching pads, possible suitcase sized nukes, transportable closed containers galore, and thousands of religious fanatics willing to commit suicide for a cause, all democratic leaders should have their foreheads tattooed with the warning:

COEXISTENCE WITH BLOODY TYRANNICAL THUGS IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

I hasten to add that I am not advocating we make war on them, unless they are an immediate threat, as Saddam and the Taliban (by their support of terrorism against the U.S.) were, or are murdering their people wholesale. Otherwise, I argue we should strongly support internal or expatriate democratic forces, and use the thousand and one ways available to us to peacefully bring down a tyrannical regime.