TCS Daily


Democracy Plus

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - March 14, 2003 12:00 AM

A key goal of any military action undertaken by America and her allies to wage war on the regime of Saddam Hussein is to remove that regime, and eventually replace it with a democratic system of government in Iraq. Indeed, the ambition to democratize is not limited to Iraq alone. Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute, President Bush presented a vision for the democratization of the Middle East as a whole:

The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater political participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward political reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.

The President is right to think that the spread of democratic values will assist in bringing about international stability. However, should the United States fight and win a war with Saddam's regime, and once it is involved in a postwar reconstruction of Iraq, it must ensure that democratization is accompanied with additional policy proposals to ensure that both Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East, experience a sense of stability at last.

The Bush administration will be well-advised to remember Christopher Layne's warning in his seminal paper "Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace." In his paper, Layne question the common assertion that democracies don't fight one another. He presents a set of four different circumstances where democracies in fact nearly went to war with one another. What drove these potential onrushes to war were the state interests of the democracies Layne studied. Just because a country is a democracy, it does not necessarily mean that its interests may not be threatened by another democracy.

It's true that the relative transparency of democracies makes them less likely to go to war, as uncertainty-which oftentimes leads to conflict-will be relatively absent from the picture. But that doesn't change the fact that the interests of one democracy may not be in accord with the interests of another. And this conflict may lead to war and instability, regardless of the fact that both combatant nations are democracies.

Moreover, even if it could be said that democracies never go to war with one another, there is no guarantee that a country made newly democratic will stay that way. There is always a danger of having democracies backslide into authoritarian or totalitarian dictatorships-a danger which cautions us against putting all of our eggs in the democracy basket. Unless a series of comprehensive security relationships are constructed between the United States and countries in the Middle East that may be democratic at a certain point in time, the stability that may be brought about through democratization will be lost if a democratic nation backslides into adopting a less desirable form of government.

The United States can establish closer cooperation between its military, and the militaries of other countries in the Middle East that may be democracies. This cooperation can take the form of regular military exercises, and extensive consultation between military heads on issues such as preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting terrorism, and if possible, establishing military alliances that will engender further such cooperation in the future.

In addition, the United States can propose greater cooperation in the spheres of intelligence gathering and analysis between itself and potential new democracies in the Middle East, as well as cooperation on preventing and deterring activities of international organized crime groups in the Middle East.

A third area of cooperation could come in the economic arena-with the United States working with potential new democracies to augment the economic performance of those democracies through the introduction and encouragement of free-market and free trade policies.

Finally, the United States could work to involve potential new democratic nation-states in the ongoing effort to help bring about a final and effective peace settlement to resolve the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict.

The United States should understand that stability in the Middle East will only be brought about if there exists a diverse means of support for that stability. A whole host of policy initiatives-beyond democratization-will have to be introduced to bring about a newly stable Middle East. Those initiatives should accompany democratization to bring about the outcome wished for by the President in his speech.
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