October 27, 2005

Democracy, Terrorism and Perpetual Peace

I have a few thoughts in response to Dan's insightful continuation of the "peaceful democracy" discussion. First, Dan takes issue with certain aspects of my statement regarding the ability of Islamic terrorists to operate in Western Europe.

While I agree with a lot of this, one of the things that I think is frequently missed in these types of formulations is where the types of terrorist groups that are active in liberal democracies originate from....I am not aware of a single Islamic terrorist group that has sprung up fully-formed inside a Western-style democracy....The various Islamic terrorist groups active in London are more or less extensions of their Middle Eastern counterparts and their existence and strength in the West should be seen more in the context of an attempt to export the political culture of the Middle East into Europe...

I think Dan is right about most of this, though I'm not sure to what extent it really addresses the main thesis. Regarding the genesis of terrorist groups, "fully formed," in Western-style democracy, is this really crucial to the discussion? First, there is time for just such a growth - as many of these movements and ideologies are relatively new to the landscape of the region (western democracies) – so it is not beyond the pale that we might see some in the near future. If the attitudes and inclinations can be found in local populations to join these existing groups, it is more than feasible that at some point there will also be the initiative to form new ones.

And then, at what point do copycat organizations and cells gain the status of a new organization as opposed to outgrowths? Does it really matter where they were born if such affiliated groups spread throughout the world anyway? Does the fact that this movement was originally an imported phenomenon mean that changing the country of origin’s political system will mean that the imported movements will wither on the vine?

Dan is right that Salafism is one aspect of the political (and religious) culture of the Muslim world, but if its appeal can penetrate European democracies, its appeal would also likely survive the democratization of the Muslim world. Won’t similarly minded Salafists just keep on “exporting” from a democratic Muslim world – assuming there are no future home-grown movements in western democracies and elsewhere?

So pointing out that Salafist jihadism is an export of the Muslim world, does not necessarily mean that it exists only because of an absence of democracy in that region. Further, even if it wouldn't have arisen in the first place if that society were democratic at the time of genesis, now that it has arisen (and we see that it can persuade those living in such free societies), can the cat be put back in the bag - even if the bag is embroidered with democracy? I remain unconvinced.

As an aside, Dan is absolutely right about the levels of apathy in some of those nations, and the impact this can have on the ability of these groups to operate with impunity. It appears that some of this is changing now - as indicated by Blair's controversial, yet ultimately necessary, moves to silence some of the most vehement proponents of jihadism. I’m not entirely comfortable with the implications of such illiberal policies, but at the same time the United Kingdom needs to take desperate measures to combat a very real threat in its midst that was left to fester for far too long. Hopefully, a balance can be struck, and necessary checks can be implemented on what is otherwise an unseemly level of executive power.

Regarding the issue of state sponsors, Dan is right that many of these organizations benefit from some form of support from, or haven within, states (or failed states, frequently) and in that sense, denying them these bases is important. But as Dan alluded to (I think), doing this through invasion and democratization in all such areas would probably be beyond our means, as well as abilities. I would add that, as per above, democratization might not achieve our desired ends regardless.

Wealthy individuals and clandestine cells can still operate within states that do not officially sanction such behavior - even democracies. In some instances, these groups rely as much on the support of local populations as they do on central governments within states. Pakistan is a good example in this regard. I don't doubt that Musharaff would like to see LeT and other groups rolled up, but he lacks the political latitude to act in such a manner and risks creating a violent schism in his country if he were to crack down in a serious way. He also almost lost his life, on more than one occasion, in retaliation for such efforts. Arguably, Pakistan isn't much of a democracy per se, but would more democratic fortifications in Pakistan solve this? Wouldn't any elected government in Pakistan face the same issues as long as there was indigenous support for jihadists?

As another example, in Indonesia we know that it is the dynamics of democracy itself that makes the ruling coalition hesitant to go after Jemaah Islamiya. This ruling coalition relies on Islamist parties to maintain a majority stake in the legislature, and cracking down on Jemaah Islamiya might cost them their control. So they skirt the issue. Limiting state sponsors and denying safe havens are important and a worthwhile goals, but democratization is not necessarily adept at achieving these ends where local populations create powerful disincentives.

Dan then takes on the thesis about the bellicosity of emerging democracies put forth by Mansfield and Snyder:

...a number of people within our own country who would argue that the institutional checks and balances of our own system have been insufficient to prevent the temptation of using warfare as a means of achieving electoral dominance, crushing dissent, minority rights, and power-sharing within current and past US governments, and we've had an unbroken democratic system (as variously defined) in place for more than 200 years. While I myself tend to think that such claims are twaddle, my point in bringing up that some people would make just the same arguments for our own government as Mansfield and Snyder would for emerging democracies is that if you can argue it here in a 200 year-old democracy you can argue it anywhere....

Here, I think Dan is taking some shortcuts. Yes, people can "argue" that even mature democracies show some of these tendencies identified by Mansfield and Snyder as existing in immature democracies, but the point of the authors was that such immature democracies act on them more frequently than mature democracies (and even authoritarian regimes). They are using statistical evidence to support these claims, not just making an argument. So, while some people may make facile arguments about the United States and other mature democracies, these do not necessarily undermine the conclusions of the authors. Not unless someone can show statistically that mature democracies are just as bellicose and likely to start wars as immature ones. I’d like to see that evidence. I would also add that Dan’s link to the work by Matthew White is discussing wars between two democracies, whereas Mansfield and Snyder were discussing the war-like tendencies of emerging democracies in general – not exclusively their penchant to go to war with other democracies.

Finally, to clarify, I am not embracing the Cold War paradigm of support for authoritarianism. I am in favor of supporting democratic reforms, and other institutional growth such as independent judiciaries and better regulated, and in some cases more open, economic markets. But with this in mind, we should still pay attention and put emphasis on the pace of change (especially in the realm of electoral expression) and the necessity that such change should ideally occur in tandem with other institutional growth.

Posted by at October 27, 2005 03:10 PM | TrackBack (9)
Comments

Regular BD readers already know of my skepticism about democratization. This skepticism extends to the concept of peaceful democracies.

Being inclined to look at this subject in the context of history rather than academic theory, I find it likely that what has kept European states (the former Yugoslavia excepted) from warring with each other over the last half-century has mostly been the memory of the two devastating wars fought across the length and breadth of Europe in the half-century previous. Was democracy in most European governments a factor as well? Frankly, I doubt it. Similarly in North America the United States having achieved dominion over a vast territory more than sufficient for its population had little incentive to run risks to acquire more in the absence of any threat; its form of government may have reinforced this dynamic (for example by deterring the expenditures that would have been necessary to make permanent American rule in the Philippines or to acquire more islands in the Caribbean), but was not the decisive factor.

There is a difficulty here in assembling counterfactuals. Would America and Britain, for example, have been more likely to war against one another after 1815 if one or both had been dictatorships? If they had been that, they would not have been America and Britain. It may be similarly difficult to evaluate whether a change in the manner of government in other countries, in the abstract, would push them from pacifism to bellicosity or vice versa.

It should however be much easier to make this evaluation in the case of specific countries whose current situation and past history we know in detail. In the case of Iraq -- being mindful here of my skepticism about Arab democracy in general -- it is not unreasonable to assume that should a stable democracy be established it would be much less likely to attack its neighbors than was the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein. Iraq would be relatively weaker, preoccupied with internal security, and mindful that Saddam's attacks on neighboring countries all ended disastrously. Can we generalize, though, from this one case? I don't think so. Another emerging democracy might be tempted to use a purported foreign threat as a way to unite internal political factions who may agree on little else. Iran, for example, did this in the time between the Shah's fall and the Iraqi invasion, and does it now. Other examples could be multiplied: my point is that history and each nation's individual circumstances are more relevant to the level of bellicosity of its foreign policy than its system of government alone.

Posted by: JEB at October 27, 2005 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good point. I think individual circumstances are more salient.

And it should be added that in the case of Iraq, much has been made (rightly) of Iraq's capacity being limited in terms of waging offensive war. But that doesn't necessarily undermine the theory - it just means that in instances where a nation's military is decimated immediately prior to emerging as an immature democracy, outward hostility is a reduced risk. But if the military were intact? Who knows.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 27, 2005 06:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And it should be added that in the case of Iraq, much has been made (rightly) of Iraq's capacity being limited in terms of waging offensive war. But that doesn't necessarily undermine the theory - it just means that in instances where a nation's military is decimated immediately prior to emerging as an immature democracy, outward hostility is a reduced risk. But if the military were intact? Who knows."

so maybe its better to invade them than for them to have an orange revolution? Hmmmm.

More examples - Argentina - more likely to fight under the Junta, or now? Russia, more dangerous under Brezhnev, or Putin? Indonesia, more dangerous under Suharto or now?

And BTW, Iran was aggressive towards its Sunni Arab neighbors under the Shah, in case y'all have short memories.

Friendly neighborhood Jacobin

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 27, 2005 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

LH,

Your examples are interesting, but this is not supposed to be a 100% total absolutism withstanding any contrary examples. As for Breshnev, I don't know, that depends. Chechnya or Afghanistan?

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 27, 2005 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"As another example, in Indonesia we know that it is the dynamics of democracy itself that makes the ruling coalition hesitant to go after Jemaah Islamiya. This ruling coalition relies on Islamist parties to maintain a majority stake in the legislature, and cracking down on Jemaah Islamiya might cost them their control. So they skirt the issue. Limiting state sponsors and denying safe havens are important and a worthwhile goals, but democratization is not necessarily adept at achieving these ends where local populations create powerful disincentives."


Of course we havent really come down hard on Indonesia for their hesitant (though real) actions. That has to do with our own global prioritization right now. KSA was no tougher on AQ than Indon, till local dynamics forced them to be. And theres still probably more important support for AQ out of KSA than out of Indon. That will change when we are more in a position to apply pressure to KSA - at which time we can also apply pressure on Indon.

And in the long run, will Indonesia breed more terrorists than KSA? Or even the short run, for that matter? Would we be better off if Indonesia was still ruled by the military? Alternatively, would we be better off if wed pressed for democratization earlier in Indonesia, so theyd be further along by now?

Do you want us to support a military coup in Indonesia? I dont think you do. Its very hard making sense of any of this without knowing what policy options you are addressing. I get the sense this more an oblique attempt to take issue with various "jacobins" from Wolfowitz, to Hitchens, to Gerecht - which is difficult to follow since i dont know exactly whom youre debating, or what particular statements you are taking issue with.

If your actually addressing the policy concerns of the moment - should we, in our confrontation with Syria, attempt to keep the Baath or some similar Alawi/military dictatorship in power, or take our chances with the Muslim Brotherhood and whatever secular opposition exists there, that would be very interesting, but would be quite different from the abstract discussion we're having.

Quite frankly what ive seen of the earlier Democratic Peace theory debate impressed me mainly with the difficulties of definitions - whats a democracy, whats a war, etc. Not to mention the difficulties of controlling for other factors. I would imagine that introducing concepts of transitional democracys, semi-democracies, or illiberal democracies only makes those issues less tractable, and make the quantitative analysis that much less meaningful. So Im inclined to toss the quant anal., and look to examples and arguement instead.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 27, 2005 09:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Won’t similarly minded Salafists just keep on “exporting” from a democratic Muslim world – assuming there are no future home-grown movements in western democracies and elsewhere?"

first lets be clear - while there is much that is intrinsically bad about Salafism, not all Salafists are Qutbists, much less violent terrorists. Arguably a democratic Middle east would be a more economcially and culturally vibrant middle east generally, and would have fewere Salafists, and even more certainly fewer Qutbists. Democratization is the precondition for the transformation of the muslim world, but its not all that it entails.


"So pointing out that Salafist jihadism is an export of the Muslim world, does not necessarily mean that it exists only because of an absence of democracy in that region. Further, even if it wouldn't have arisen in the first place if that society were democratic at the time of genesis, now that it has arisen (and we see that it can persuade those living in such free societies), can the cat be put back in the bag - even if the bag is embroidered with democracy? I remain unconvinced."

Even if poverty produces crime, and ending poverty ends crime, what about the criminals already produced? Well, obviously, ending poverty to end crime doesnt entail firing the police. Similarly, democratization and regional transformation as a grand strategy doesnt mean that we stop police work, intelligence collection, etc.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 27, 2005 10:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, I think the Bush team has a pretty solid approach with Syria - pressure Assad, but go slowly and don't topple him for the sake of seeing what might happen. At the moment, given our predicament in Iraq, Assad may be the better of bad options.

That might change in the future, but we must deal with the present. In the meantime, do what we can to support grassroots movements and homegrown opposition (preferably non-Islamist) so that if and when Assad falls, we will not be burned in the process.

As for the examples of Indonesia and the like, you are asking them to do too much. They were raised in the context of making a point that democracies don't necessarily perform better than non-democracies in terms of eradicating terrorism. Your points seems to be that they don't perform any worse. Fine.

That doesn't mean that we always favor the non-democratic options, or favor a coup to topple the democracy, but it DOES mean that we should realize the limitations of democratization to achieve our desired ends.

That helps when crafting policy, because our resources are, ultimately, limited. We only have so many troops, so much money, so many foreign policy assets in terms of brainpower and policy shops, etc.

So, while I think we should keep democratization in the mix, making it the centerpiece is not necessarily the wisest allocation of assets - especially because it can such the life out of every other effort around it. I think the Bush team has relied too heavily on this plank, and the hoped for ramifications. That is what I am getting at with posts on democratic peace and terrorism existing in democracies. I believe democratization will have benefits in the long run, but are those potential future benefits worth the enormous outlay now? Would toppling Assad be worth the risk at this juncture? Is it democratization at all or any costs no matter what? If not, what are the limitations and why?

Speaking of which, we dedicated $50 million up front for Pakistani aid post-earthquake. I was pleased at the time, but was expecting something more on the follow through when we got a grip of how serious the problem was. Recent estimates are putting the death toll potentially near 100,000 - in part the result of lack of aid reaching victims. The Pakistanis are asking for much more, and it would behoove us to offer it.

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SP202697.htm

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/10/26/asia/web.1026quake.php

Remember, every dollar we spend is PR gold in terms of overcoming entrenched anti-Americanism that leads to support for AQ (see: the tsunami effect in Indonesia). And every dollar we don't spend creates a void into which AQ will step in and spend and fortify that support. Yet, we haven't upped our contributions (yet, as far as I know). Perhaps aid packages don't capture the imagination as much as democratic revolutions and preventitive invasions and democratizations, but that would be a mistake.

Turning the tide of public opinion is more important than regime change in many instances. Pakistan is one such instance, since as I said, no matter how democratically pure Pakistan were to become overnight, even if Musharraf opened the door for full and fair elections, we would still have the problem of a population supporting LeT.

Priorities.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 27, 2005 10:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" I think the Bush team has relied too heavily on this plank, and the hoped for ramifications. That is what I am getting at with posts on democratic peace and terrorism existing in democracies. I believe democratization will have benefits in the long run, but are those potential future benefits worth the enormous outlay now? Would toppling Assad be worth the risk at this juncture? Is it democratization at all or any costs no matter what? If not, what are the limitations and why?"

In terms of tangible resources, Iraq aside (and i realize thats a big aside) I dont see the democratization initiatives as consuming all that much at this point. I do see it effecting certain policy decisions - for example in Uzbekistan - a very good decision IMHO.

We have emphasized it in our rhetoric - and all to the good I think - that not only has some marginal positive impact in the states where democratization as possible it helps us with our overall hearts and minds situation, and also helps us in our relationships with Europe - the foreign ministries may not like it, but in the broader polities it (When backed up by actions) makes us look less like imperialists, or islam haters, and more like agents of positive change. It reiterates what we are fighting FOR, as well as what we are fighting against.

Think tanks? WTF? Brookings, CFR, and others are doing quite enough realist analysis. Are you really concerned that Danielle Pletka at AEI is not doing enough analyzing other angles? Gerecht? The opportunity cost of the preoccupation of the Weekly Standard? Or are you thinking of bloggers? I am flabbergasted, indeed.

Back to Syria. It depends on what the available deal is. Deferring democracy in Syria is one thing - deferring it (and sovereignty) in Lebanon is another. IF you could get a deal in which Syria would A. Turn over everyone implicated in the Harirri murder B. Stop supporting armed groups in Lebanon C. Stop supporting armed groups that subvert the PA and the peace proces D.Genuinely cooperate on Iraq - Id be willing to look the other way on their internal affairs. But im skeptical that the current regime will make that deal. And Im unsure that Bashar Assad could deliver, even if he wanted to - Syria is a good example of an authoritarian state thats not monolithic. If we cant get all that Im inclined to try change - I think even the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria may be more diverse than we credit, and a situation where they came to power with our support (but without an invasion) would be a novum. It would present real oppurtunity across the region. And if it failed, theyd likely be no harder to contain than the Assad regime.


I am concerned that some elements in the admin would do a deal to bail out the situation in Iraq (in order to ease a speedy exit) and to preserve the policy of renditions (if more quietly than in the past) and would sacrifice lebanese, palestinians, and Israelis to achieve these nefarious realist ends. Given the background of a man like Negroponte, say, I think thats more likely than a surge of excessive jacobinism.

Re pakistan - ive seen a lot of debate about the real level of support for MMA, and the extent to which the nondemocratic aspects of Pervs rule aggravate that. Supporters of Bhutto and the secular opposition have a far different view than supporters of the status quo.

And yes, i agree that earthquake aid is a huge opportunity.

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 27, 2005 11:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq aside (and i realize thats a big aside)

Well, yeah. That's kind of the point. Otherwise I tend to agree with you, but I still think there has been a lack of balance. So, if not for Iraq, we agree. But I don't know what that means in the long run because that "if" accounts for so much.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 28, 2005 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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