Friday, December 16, 2005

Iraqi Elections--and Challenging Orthodoxies Revisited

In the run-up to the Iraqi elections, Fred Kaplan had this to say at Slate:

Whichever way today's Iraqi elections go, the very fact of their existence is irresistibly inspiring. Watching these long-oppressed people exercising their franchise as citizens, hearing them express their hopes for a better, freer life—who could fail to be moved or to wish them well?

Yet as we await the results (a process that could take weeks, followed by the months it will likely take to form a government), it's an apt time to step back and consider the broader prospects for Iraqi democracy. Unfortunately, they don't look so good.

...working from an exhaustive historical database, [Ed] Mansfield and [Jack] Snyder outline the conditions for a successful democratization, among them: a literate populace; a fairly prosperous and diverse economy; and a set of democratic institutions, not least a state apparatus capable of mediating and administering disputes among competing social and political groups.

Apply the list to Iraq. In the winter 2005/06 issue of the National Interest (due out next week), Mansfield and Snyder do just that, and the results come up all zeros. Present-day Iraq, they write, exhibits "all the risk factors": an inflammatory mass media, scant rule of law, corrupt bureaucracies, low income and literacy, an economy based almost entirely on oil, and an exceedingly weak administrative state.

Successful democratization, they write ... depends not just on some critical mass of conditions but also on the sequence in which these conditions develop. When popular elections occur before democratic institutions take hold, they find, the chances of an enduring democracy are especially dim. "Out-of-sequence, incomplete democratizations," they write in the journal piece, "often create an enduring template for illiberal, populist politics." This is especially true in countries sharply divided along ethnic or religious lines. In such countries, elections have been "an ethnic census, not a deliberation about public issues." They create a politics that hardens these divisions. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for political actors to forge new ties across those divides; the necessary institutions (trade unions, secular parties, or other interest groups) either don't exist or lack sufficient power.

That pretty well sums up Iraqi politics. What we saw today was not simply Iraqis going to vote for a new parliament. We saw Shiites going to vote for Shiite supremacy, if not an outright Islamic state. We saw Sunni Arabs going to vote for some restoration of Sunni power. We saw Kurds going to vote for the enhancement of Kurdish autonomy.


When the new government takes office, all the "risk factors" that Mansfield and Snyder describe will come into play explicitly; they will define political disputes, and it will take great skill and determination for Iraqi's political leaders to fashion compromises.

Beyond Iraq, Mansfield and Snyder's analysis raises profound doubts—as if enough hadn't already been kicked up—over President George W. Bush's declared policy of spreading democracy across the Middle East. The premise of this idea, laid out in Bush's second inaugural address, comes down to this: Democracies are peaceful; thus, turning hostile regimes into democratic states serves not just our moral ideals but our national-security interests.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated the point in an op-ed piece for the Dec. 11 Washington Post. "The fundamental character of regimes matters more today than the international distribution of power," she wrote. This, she added, is why America's new statecraft centers on the promotion of democracy everywhere. "Democracy is the only guarantee of lasting peace and security between states because it is the only guarantee of freedom and growth within states."

She might be right about democracy and peace, but if Mansfield and Snyder are right, the equation doesn't always apply to democratization. If "the fundamental character of regimes" really does mean more than the balance of power (a doubtful point, but let's stipulate it for now), then she should be very watchful about the character of democratizing regimes as well. Booting out a dictator and holding an election do not a democracy make. Mansfield and Snyder's lesson is that, depending on the character of the regime and the society that it reflects, democratic elections without democratic institutions might worsen the prospects for real democracy—and, if Rice's equations are valid, they won't do much for American security, either.


All good points to keep in mind, as developments unfold in Iraq.

I am sympathetic to the Mansfield and Snyder argument, but there is also another problem--at some point the "die is cast" and you have to see something through to the end. We are committed in Iraq and part of that is to get a functional government up and running that is better than the old regime.

It's a lot like a roller coaster ride--either you choose not to get on or you wait till the end to get off--you can't do it in the middle (unless you want to get killed).
It's interesting to compare and contrast Snyder/Mansfield with Daniel Pipes' contribution also in the current issue of The National Interest.

"Voting should not start the democratic process, as has been the case in the Middle East of late, but culminate it. For democracy to take root means leaving behind the bad habits of tyrannical rule and replacing them with the benign ways of civil society. This includes such difficult steps as creating voluntary associations (political parties, lobby groups and so on), entrenching the rule of law, establishing freedom of speech, protecting minority rights, securing private property and developing the notion of a loyal opposition.

"For Iraq, this tempered approach implies lowering expectations, for building democracy will likely require decades, especially because Iraqis do not accept American guidance."
It might be a roller coaster ride with all the thrills for those sitting in armchairs, but on the ground its 30,000 dead Iraqis, 2000+ dead American troops, and a country that is now the least secure in the world, with Shiite militias running death squads, torture chambers, and Taliban-like control of the streets, beating up women for not covering their heads and hounding out vendors of western music and movies. A possible evolution might end being that democratic Iraq continues to foster terrorism, with Sunni areas hosting Al Qaeda-like cells, and Shiite Iraq hobnobbing with elements in Iran that liaise with regional or international terrorists. A particularly striking example is Pakistan, where Bin Laden's Al Qaeda was fostered and cultivated under the democratic rule of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There's just too many other empirical examples that have been neglected.

We have come to this point because there was not even a minimal discussion on whether democracy has much to do with defusing extremism and terrorism. I think that lack of debate on this very point after 9/11 is the biggest failure of our media. There is very little analysis on what is the threat, and what are its roots. Do democratic nations around the world automatically shut down terrorism? Does religious extremism dissipate in such democracies? Should our national security strategy focus on bringing democracy to the world, or are we putting all our eggs in the wrong basket? What if we bring democracy to many regions, and then international terrorism still rampages?

It appears that the strategists have a single weapon in their arsenal - democracy, and thus try to use it in every war they fight.
The ulitimate and never mentioned evil, (and I use that word with specific intent) of the fascist Bush government totalitarian dictatorships disinformation warfare campaign conducted on the America people - is the shapeshifting of the necessary response to the horrors of 9/11 -into the far more costly, bloody, adventurist and predatory imperialism insidiously masked as democratization through military force.

When and how exactly did responding to bin Laden and al Quaida for attacking America on 9/11 - morph into the ridiculously utopian concept of democratizing Iraq and the ME militarily.

9/11 is the feeble excuse the warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government totalitarian dictatorship exploit and misuse enforcing every fascist decision or policy. Every single secret machination is majikally transformed into a "national security issue", that only the secret supremist fascist cabals in the Bush government are capable of rendering and properly managing.

Focus groups like congress or the America people are irrelevent, inferior, and have absolutely no input, or access to, or voice in the decision making. The allmight fascist Bush government totalitarian dictatorship is communicating with god, always right, never makes a mistake, and is sanctioned by the "Old One" to singularly pilot America into the fiery future.

Any examination into this radical and stealthy alteration, or shapeshifting of policy or re-direction, re-writing, or re-invention of America's strategic military objectives will unearth and reveal the real evils behind the fascist Bush governments unholy ambitions and designs.

Democracy is devolved into a hollow word, having no more substance or moral dignity than a shout.

By deconstructing the fascist Bush government totalitarian dictatorships mecurial and shapeshifting narratives deceptively exploiting the horrors and the dead of 9/11 through a concerted and relentless disinformation warfare compaign (information domination and perception management operations) first hyping, exaggerating, manipulating and contaminating the intelligence product with a festering litany of hyped, cherry picked, uncorroborated, dodgey, sexed-up, and patently false desceptions, and then mysteriously adopting the lofty languate and utopian pipedream of democratizing the Middle East militarily as justification for the plunder and profiteering, - I mean war and occupation of Iraq - will expose a government commandeered by fascist cabals of warmongers and profiteers operating above, beyond, outside, in breach and total disdain of the laws and principles that formally defined American democracy, and a totalitarian dictatorship run amock.

The fascist narrative continue its' roiling oleaginous metamorphisis today as Iraq is torn asunder and the fascist Bush government totalitarian dictatorship proclaims victory, mission accomplished and labels the emerging government a shining example of democracy, and a bold and decisive success.

Factbasedreality, and truth are lost in the blood and ruin.

Of course, so the narrative goes, we are stuck in Iraq now, and tragcially there are no good options at this point, - and yes to future of Iraq will likely further divide the country into a Iranian backed theocratic Shi'ia South, a disgruntled Sunni center, and independent Kurdish north and these sectarian factions will battle it out for control of the oil and political power - and yes American will continue dishing out trillions of our tax dollars in the ensuing decades so the fascist warmongers and profiteers in, or beholden to the Bush government totatlitarian dictatorship can wrench control of and profit from plundering the Iraqi oil and profiteering from the occupation and re-construction process, - and of course we are never leaving Iraq, and yes, our soldiers and contractors will be viewed as occupiers and many of them picked off constitantly in the ensuing decades, and yes, America will be loathed with good reason through out the world and loose credibilty, and the ability to rally internationaly support for more necessary endeavors, and of course our real enemies - the jihadist mass murderers who actually attacked America on 9/11, and who are, and will continue to be abundantly funded and nutured by the Bush Crime Family Cabal "good friends" in Saudi Arabia and one prong of the axis evil in Iran, and will continue working feverishly to - (if you dare to examine our current intelligence assessments) execute the WMD sequel to 9/11 in a major population center in the near future, - and there will be much wailing an gnashing of teeth - but the narrative remains unchanged, reminding us all that - we're making progress, the terrorists are on the run, or in their last throes, and freedom is on the march, - so hi ho, hi ho its off to neverendingwar and Pax Americana empire we go.

A reading from the gospel according to Fox Amen.
And just to add to my comment above, terrorism and religious extremism thrives in all kinds of democracies, including those with the kind of institutions that are considered to be essential for liberal democracy.

There is an astounding amount of disconnect between the actual threat and the misdirected response to it.
Don't mean to monopolize this thread, but looks like I am.

I haven't read Mansfield and Snyder's book - looks like a trip to Borders is in order. But I did go through John M. Owen's review in the current Foreign Affairs. From Owen's review, it seems Mansfield and Snyder conclude that democracies (at least those that develop institutions and processes in the correct sequence) are less likely to go to war with each other.

Since when did the post 9/11 debate become about conventional wars between nations? If there is no war between nations in the Middle East, then does that imply that extremism and terrorism will disappear? Or that terrorists will stop targeting Americans?

And thats not all. Owen cites a striking example that Mansfield and Snyder have used in their book - the rush by international organizations to push Burundi and Rwanda towards democracy in the 1990s - resulting in the chain of events that culminated in genocide.

And Owen's piece agrees with what I pointed out above - that a democratic Iraq may be no less bellicose and reckless. And to add to that democratic Iraq may continue for years or longer to serve as an exporter of terrorism - more so that it ever did under Saddam.

What am I missing?
The practical application, and actual definition of 'democracy" is missing.

Will any expert here, please offer some definition or explanation of exactly what defines or constitutes - democracy?

Hopefully this brave position will inspire a vigorous debate, and many disparate voices will exhort, and exalt, or challenge and condemn this or that concept, structure, or definition.

Soon a gradual model of democracy forged in fiery debate will be revealed and we can all recognise a collectively aggreed upon abiding definition or codified set of principles, standards, proceedures, and laws defining the structure and concept of democracy.

Ruthlessly eroding (the formoer concept of) democracy in America, and/or invading, occupying, plundering, profiteering, and militarily imposing a perversion of democracy on Iraq, - is the definition of predatory imperialism, not liberating democracy.

Militarily erecting and enforcing kleptocracy or totalitarianism and then deceptively bruting these tyrannical perversions of rule as "democracy" - is an obscene affront on the peoples intelligence, and a grotesque violation of the principles and laws that formally defined our unique experiment in democracy, and patently false.

We swim in an ocean of lies.

A sombabulent and traumatized population is stunned and/or numbed or stupified by the harsh relentless disinformation warfare campaign (information domination and perception management operations) falsely promoting the high priests and policies of the fasicist totalitarian dictaorship.

The disinformation warriors and complicit parrots in the socalled MSM saturate the "sheeple with a relentless cacaphony of partisan hagioraphy and exalting fictional narrative of a righteous godful "Olympians" bravely prosecuting neverendingwar against "theevilone", - shapeshifting our government, and most treasured laws and principles into a fascist totalitarian dictatorship, - perverting the cores principles that formally defined our democracy, - cloaking systemic abuse, deception, failure, mismanagement, dereliction of duty, financial malfeasance and perfidy, and wanton profiteering, - insidiously throwing sand in the face of both the judical and political system, - and greviously abusing the people's rights, freedoms, and protections and betraying the public trust - and then mystifyingly cementing the imposed retardation with Hegelian proclamations of success, progress, and noble or atruistic ambitions and designs.

Tragically, the actual application, expression, implementation and re-engineered structures of the American and Iraqi governments are the mirror opposite of the former definition of democracy.

If leadership is not accountable to the people - then the entire concept of democracy evaporates and collapses. Rule by the few constitutes a lethal violation of the primary concept, structure, and core spirit of the idea of democracy, - therefore is notdemocracy.
Thanks for all the comments--and they will lead in to a good discussion of the president's comments this evening.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?