Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, December 16, 2005


Another landmark. It is too early to say that the transition to democracy is complete, and yet, if we have to look back a few years from now and give a date when the transition to democracy in Iraq was completed, that date is likely to be: Thursday, December 15, 2005.

John Burns' description of the day is a moving one. And the Iraqis don't have time for the phony disagreements that Democrats and left-wing pundits use to mask a real consensus:

"Let's have stability, and then the Americans can go home," said Mr. Sattar, the store owner. Told that this sounded similar to President Bush's formula for a troop withdrawal, he replied: "Then Bush has said it correctly".

I look forward to the day, maybe not too many years hence, when the Americans are in Iraq, not as soldiers, but as tourists, traders, and exchange students.

Skeptics like Fred Kaplan remain. Fair enough. Kaplan writes:

A new book, Electing To Fight, by two political scientists—Edward Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia—reinforces this pessimism. The book argues that, while mature democracies do tend to be more peaceful and almost never go to war with one another, emerging democracies tend to be more violent and aggressive than any other type of regime—and are more likely to erupt in civil war or revert to autocratic rule.

... Working from an exhaustive historical database, Mansfield and 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.

But Kaplan has left out one huge factor:
the Americans
. Only two nations have been politically reconstructed by the Americans after a totalitarian episode: Germany and Japan. Both are durable, wealthy democracies, where beforehand, any pundit would have said the culture had powerful anti-democratic aspects. Two cases do not make a rule. But they do signal that the routine cross-national regressions that political scientists run are worthless in Iraq. A huge amount of democratic learning has taken place in the past two and a half years. Great democratic momentum has been built up. Iraqis want to live the dream, and they won't easily let it be taken away. (That said, corruption and terrorism will be intractable problems.)

Kaplan adds:

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.

No, it doesn't. Democratizing countries may be more likely to fight, but they are not more likely to fight other democracies. The "democratic peace" holds: no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other. We're a democracy. So spreading democracy does enhance our national security. And if some of these new democracies want to take on the world's remaining dictatorships, more power to 'em!

(However, it's true that a democratic episode can release energies that are then channeled in malign directions after democracy is overturned-- Weimar-turned-Nazi Germany is Exhibit A. If democracy does fail in Iraq, then Iraq may become a dangerous country.)


  • Check out a funny site dedicated to the absurdity and satire nature of saying “It’s All George Bush’s Fault!”

    Notta Libb

    By Blogger Notta Libb, at 1:15 AM  

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