Thursday, December 08, 2005
Snyder/Mansfield and Lynn are taking aim at two of the article of faith of the utopians--that promotion of democracy and closer economic ties between states guarantees international peace and harmony.
A strategy of forced-paced democratization, Snyder warned, is more likely to engender greater conflict and instability. A stalled transition to democracy in a country with weak political institutions greatly increases the likelihood of internal conflict or external war--between four to fifteen times more likely--than in states that remain authoritarian or are stable, mature democracies.
Mansfield notes that incomplete democratic transitions are the rule rather than the exception--that a state that starts to democratize is twice as likely not to complete the process. This calls into question the U.S. strategy that all one has to do is to "get the ball rolling" and the process will complete itself. Unless you are prepared to devote the resources and energy to manage the process all the way through--with all of the expense that entails--you are better off letting democracy occur under a gradual, evolutionary process.
Snyder and Mansfield note that successful democratic transitions are associated with states that are rich, have high rates of literacy and civic participation and a usable state framework (strong state institutions) and the legacy of previous attempts at democratization (a responsible press, political parties, etc.) In other cases, premature forced democratization usually leads to ethnic and sectarian polarization and inhibits the development of effective, neutral institutions capable of providing good governance.
In such cases, new elites seeking to gain legitimacy or old elites trying to hold on to power are more likely to stoke the fires of aggressive nationalism--significantly increasing the chances of civil war or external conflict.
A policy of nurtured evolution--building institutions, strengthening rational state administration, moving to develop the rule of law and a mass media culture predicated on responsibility--is the precondition to successfully opening the political system.
Could it be possible that the problem is not really being looked at through the right dimensions. Perhaps its not just a matter of institutions or processes that may be missing. If there is an ideology that holds power over masses and draws them away from rational progress that is in their own economic interests, then institutions, processes such as elections etc. and even reasonably developed democracy may not be sufficient to erode support for extremist or terrorist elements. That after all is the ultimate goal - if this is still about reducing terrorism and improving security around the world.
I agree with the criticism of the neocon approach that all you have to do is start the process and that is that. I think I am more in line with the Krauthammer thesis--in those countries where democracy promotion is tied to U.S. security interests, you have to go the distance.