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Conservative experts critical of Democratic Peace Theory

In its February 27 issue, The American Conservative writes:
When it comes to DPT [Democratic Peace Theory], the Middle East has become a laboratory with Iraq serving as a test tube for the experiment. And it’s a test that seems to be failing. […] In a way, neoconservative foreign policy is bursting with explosive self-contradiction. It urges Washington to use its military power to establish a hegemonic position in the Middle East, while at the same time it calls for holding free elections that empower forces opposed to the American hegemon and its allies. In Turkey, South Korea, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia, free voting has resulted in the election of political parties that are less than enthusiastic about American’s goals. [In the Middle East,] a process that challenges the current authoritarian regimes and permits free elections gives rise to illiberal regimes and makes the region safe not for liberal democracy but for nationalism and other combative forms of identity.
The author also quotes professors Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, who in their recent book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (Amazon.de, Amazon.com), as well as in a recent article for The National Interest, analyze many historic examples to argue that “early stages of transitions to electoral politics have often been rife with violence”, and that democratic transition can indeed become a potent cause of war:
Without a coherent state grounded in a consensus on which citizens will exercise self-determination, unfettered electoral politics often gives rise to nationalism and violence at home and abroad. […] When authoritarian regimes collapse and countries begin the process of democratization, politicians of all stripes have an incentive to play the nationalist card. […] The nationalist and ethnic politics that prevails in many newly democratizing states loads the dice in favor of international and civil war. […] In all of these varied settings, the turbulent beginning phase of democratization contributed to violence in states with weak political institutions. Statistical studies show that countries with weak institutions undergoing an incomplete democratic transition are more than four times as likely to become involved in international wars than other states, and that incomplete democracies are more likely to experience civil wars than either pure autocracies or fully consolidated democracies.
In order to avoid such disastrous outcomes in various democratization processes including the Arab World and China, the authors propose a whole lot of patience as well as a much stronger use of diplomatic measures. They also note that
A successful long-term project for promoting democracy globally by inducement would require the United States and Europe to work together. Separately, each has liabilities. […] Acting together, the United States and the EU would have adequate resources and political legitimacy to mount a program of encouraging preparations for democracy worldwide.
The German government and the European Union seem to believe that securing a few polling stations in Congo, would help democratisation: Our post or Bissige Liberale in German.

Update: Related article: After Neoconservatism by Prof. Francis Fukuyama, who gets a spanking from the Wall Street Journal (hat tip: Protein Wisdom).

A good read about Iraq as the "laboratory for ideas about how to wring stability out of chaos" is also "The Coming Normalcy" by Robert Kaplan, available as a free pdf at Michael Yon. Discussion at the great The Coming Anarchy Blog as well as the great American Footprints.

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David on :

Sir Ralf Dahrendorf had an essay in Die Welt recently where he wrote about the fallacy of viewing elections as democracy: http://www.welt.de/data/2006/02/20/848518.html

Kathy - At the Zoo on :

A couple ideas to consider, though I don't necessarily think these voices are totally wrong. First, I don't trust people who propose no solution to a problem and just sit there and worry us about every solution somebody else ventures to propose. "Look out, people. Something BAD might happen if we do that." You end up with a group of people who can't make a decision to save their souls. Second, the Bush administration doesn't explain this (or many things) well. But democracy isn't the cure. It's something that comes behind it. Transparant government of, by, and for the people (instead of for a dictator and his cronies). What follows this kind of government is prosperity. That's the pattern. Prosperity is the magic bullet. Hordes of unemployed and under-employed young Arab men have nothing to do but hang out. They are blocked from marriage by the situation. And they don't dare cat around. They have nothing better to do than go to the mosque and listen to icitatory propaganda telling them who to blame for their condition. What if they got a life? A job, a wife, children, a home? They'll forget jihad overnight. Then something besides oil will come from the ME. We don't have to control their choices in elections. In many ways, the election of Hamas has been a good thing. If people want to stampede off a cliff, that's their choice.

Thomas on :

Many had a job, a wife, children, a home, but still chose jihad. Look at the 9/11 or the London 7/7 or others. The world is more complicated than Bush supporters think.

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