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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Re-articulating the democratization strategy 

[Moved to the top for Sunday - scroll down for other posts]

"Democracies are peaceful countries." So said George W. Bush last week in the aftermath of a surprisingly peaceful election to ratify Iraq's new constitution. This simple idea, propounded most famously by Natan Sharansky in his influential book The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, is a cornerstone of America's strategy in its war against Islamic jihad. The President expressed it this way almost two years ago in his speech before the National Endowment for Democracy:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.

Two years later, there has been no wavering from the Bush administration's view that we will push the reform of the political systems in the Arab world even if it means instability. Condoleezza Rice said this in Cairo in June:
For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.

Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

And, finally, at Princeton on September 30:
People still differ about what the September 11th calls us to do. And in a democratic society, that debate is healthy and just and right. If you focus only on the attacks themselves and believe they were caused by 19 hijackers, supported by a network called al-Qaida, and operating from a failed state -- Afghanistan -- then our response can be limited. The course of action presumes that we are still living in an ordinary time.

But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.

Some would argue that this broad approach to the problem is making the world less stable by rocking the boat and wrecking the status quo. But this presumes the existence of a stable status quo that does not threaten global security. This is not the case. A regional order that produced an ideology of hatred so savage as the one we now confront is not serving any civilized interest.

For 60 years, we often thought that we could achieve stability without liberty in the Middle East. And ultimately, we got neither. Now, we must recognize, as we do in every other region of the world, that liberty and democracy are the only guarantees of true stability and lasting security.

There are those who worry that greater freedom of choice in the Middle East will only liberate and empower extremism. In fact, the opposite is true: A political culture of transparency and openness is not one in which extremist beliefs can ultimately thrive. Extremism is most dangerous when it lurks in the dark and hides underground. When there is no political space for individuals to advance their interests and redress their grievances, then they retreat into the shadows to grow ever more radical and divorced from reality. We saw the result of that on September 11th and now we must work to advance democratic reform throughout the greater Middle East.

The Bush administration believes that democracy is important because it eliminates the circumstances under which terrorism prospers.

There are several problems with this justification for the democratization strategy.

First, whether or not established democracies extinguish terrorism by dint of their political "transparency" and accountability, the journey to democracy is the work of a generation. During that transition, jihadis, fascists, dispossessed ethnic groups and foreign meddlers may increase terrorism to increase their leverage or to strangle the young democratic state in its crib -- nothing bolsters fascism more readily than a security problem. Democracy in Iraq has not eliminated the terrorism there, and it will not any time soon. This is because as democracy advances its opponents are ever more motivated to fight to defeat it.

Second, it may be that even mature democracies are particularly susceptible to coercion by terrorism. Democracies rely on due process of law, which is often at odds with effective anti-terror tactics (a controversial point to be sure, but trust that I believe it to be true). Also, democracies are more vulnerable to the short term swings in public opinion that terrorism is designed to provoke.

Third, it may be that the greater susceptibility of democracies to terrorism means that, as a matter of demonstrable fact, terrorism is no less likely to flourish in democracies and autocracies. The Philippines, for example, is as democratic as any Arab country is likely to be in my lifetimem, yet it still suffers from Islamic terrorism. The same can be said for Indonesia.

Fourth, it may simply not be true. F. Gregory Gause III in the current issue of Foreign Affairs attacks the idea that "[a]s democracy grows in the Arab world ... the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism." It won't, he argues, because "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type." This strikes me as manifestly true.

Arguments like Cause's and Robert Pape's are persuasive that democratization of the Arab world will not, in and of itself, eliminate the conditions that inspire Islamic terrorism.

In addition, the Bush initiative to democratize the Arab world does not come without costs. As Gause points out:
[E]ven if democracy were achieved in the Middle East, what kind of governments would it produce? Would they cooperate with the United States on important policy objectives besides curbing terrorism, such as advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, maintaining security in the Persian Gulf, and ensuring steady supplies of oil? No one can predict the course a new democracy will take, but based on public opinion surveys and recent elections in the Arab world, the advent of democracy there seems likely to produce new Islamist governments that would be much less willing to cooperate with the United States than are the current authoritarian rulers.

To be sure, the Bush administration seems cognizant of this argument insofar as it tirelessly expresses a willingness to sacrifice "stability" in order to advance democracy. However, recognition that the old trade-offs no longer apply does not diminish Gause's main point, which is that the democratization strategy is not without significant risks.

So, if the democratization project holds out little demonstrable chance of shrinking the number of extremists and if it carries the great risk of propelling anti-American regimes into office, should the next administration abandon Bush's initiatives and return to a willingness to exchange support for autocracies for "stability" and pro-American governments? My answer is no.

The true benefit of democratization has very little to do with Natan Sharansky's romantic view that a genuine franchise and the civil rights necessary to sustain it will somehow destroy jihadi terrorism by removing the discontent that feeds its roots. No, the best and perhaps only argument for democratization is that it will increase the number of active enemies of the jihadis within the Muslim world, whether or not those enemies of the Islamists are themselves supporters of the United States or quite opposed to us. It will be enough for us to create more enemies of al Qaeda. We need to create more enemies of al Qaeda because we cannot beat al Qaeda on our own.

Al Qaeda, we believe, enjoys the active support of a very small proportion of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the Muslim world is so large that small proportion includes a lot of people. If only 1% of Muslims are inclined to support al Qaeda personally, that still gives them a base of more than 10,000,000 people to recruit from. If those people are disproportionately Saudis -- as they appear to be -- there are also thousands of rich people in a position to divert funds to support al Qaeda. Is there any possibility that democracy will satisfy the 1% most radical Muslims? There is none.

Al Qaeda is the product of more than 70 years of ideological development. That ideology grows in fertile soil for many reasons rooted in ancient Arab and Muslim economic and political failures. The ideology of jihadism also succeeds because it competes against, er, nothing. There is no meaningful ideology in the Arab world, which sustains its rulers in the barren soil of monarchy or rank authoritarianism, to compete with radical Islam.

Just as communism's intellectual roots stretched back decades before the establishment of the first communist state, jihadi ideology is a coherent and highly developed political philosophy with origins long ante-dating the state of Israel, Western dependance on Middle Eastern oil, the presence of American soldiers in the region, or the Taliban government of Afghanistan. As was the case with communism, it will take a long time to discredit and destroy this ideology. While widespread political reform would be a wonderful thing, it will have very little impact on al Qaeda.

How, then, do we destroy both al Qaeda and the jihadi ideology? The answer is that "we" -- meaning the West -- cannot. Just as the United States did not destroy communism, only Muslims, and particularly Arab Muslims, can destroy the jihad. They will do so only when it is worth their great personal sacrifice to ruthlessly pursue the people in their own world who promote this ideology.

As with the decades-long war on communism, the war on Islamic jihad requires a strategy that both contains the advance of the jihad as much as practical and motivates its most direct victims -- in this case Muslims -- to destroy it from within (as the Russians and the Chinese have both, in quite different fashion, destroyed communism). Containment, in this case, requires passive strategies (such as homeland security) and the active participation of the existing governments of the Islamic world. The demands of containment require us to coerce and cajole fundamentally hideous governments, including especially Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as other tactics, such as our flowering alliance with India and our careful diplomacy in Central Asia) have put us in a position to do that.

Unfortunately, steps we take to coerce the autocracies of the Muslim world also make us less popular among the Muslim masses. This is not different from the Cold War, in which active American efforts to contain communism -- the Cuban embargo, the military defense of South Korea and Vietnam, support for the insurgents in Angola, support for Taiwan, and support for Israel in 1967 and 1973 -- enraged the otherwise oppressed populations of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and so forth. As we learned during the Cold War, containment alone cannot dispose of an enemy founded in a well-articulated political philosophy. We therefore must combine containment of the jihadis with a long-term plan to motivate the Muslim world to discredit and destroy the jihad from within. This is the true purpose and promise of the Bush Administration's "democratization" strategy, even if Bush himself does not express it this way or even understand it in these terms.

Muslims need serious motivation to discredit and destroy the jihad because the jihadis are extremely dangerous and ruthless people. They have demonstrated their capacity for breathtaking brutality not just on September 11 and in the Sunni Triangle, but across the world over a period of at least twenty years. None of Western arm-twisting of Israel, the retreat of the United States from the region or promises of Western aid or free trade will provide that necessary serious motivation. The only way to inspire Muslims to fight the jihad is to invite them to embrace a competing ideology that can fill the empty void of their civil society and give them something in defense of which they are willing to risk war with the jihadis. Communism, and its bastard step-child Ba'athism, is entirely discredited. Moderate Islam -- the peaceful part of the "religion of peace" -- might have filled that void, but it has not thus far and shows no prospect of doing so any time soon. The idea of popular sovereignty -- the philosophy of John Locke, if you will -- is the only political philosophy available in the West that holds any promise of competing with the evil coherence of Islamic jihad. It is helpful that it is a wonderful thing to fight for.

To repeat myself to the point of tedium: We, meaning Americans and other Westerners, cannot defeat al Qaeda on our own. We need the help of the Arab and Muslim world. Without them, we will never be able to separate the enemies from the neutrals. So the question is, what will motivate Muslims to turn in the jihadis in the back of the mosque? Well, we know they won't do it out of gratitude to the United States, and they rarely will do it because a monarch or an autocrat threatens them or gives them money. The risks are simply too great. They may do it, though, if those jihadis threaten an idea that they hold dear. Moderate Islam has failed to supply that idea. Communism is dead. The only alternative is the guiding light of the Enlightenment, the idea of the social contract. However much Muslims may resent the United States, they will fight the jihad to defend that idea. That's the hypothesis, anyway.

The "democratization" of the Muslim world, therefore, is critical to the destruction of the jihadi ideology for more than one reason. Least important is the reason most often given by the Bush administration and its supporters -- that it will "drain the swamp" of Muslim rage that festers under the heel of Muslim authoritarian and monarchical regimes. As Gause and Pape and Pat Buchanan argue, democratization may not shrink the number of radicals. But if enough Muslims conclude that popular sovereignty is a more attractive ideology than radical Islam, the number of Arab and Muslim enemies of al Qaeda will increase many times. Even if young democracies in the region elect governments that are less pliable from an American perspective, they may also do a better job of fighting al Qaeda, which represents a mortal threat to democratic government.

Democracy, then, will not diminish either radicalism or anti-Americanism (or opposition to Israel) in the Arab Muslim world. But it will create many more active enemies of al Qaeda, and in this war the enemy of our enemy is definitely our friend.

[Note: Portions of this post have appeared elsewhere on TigerHawk, but never stitched together into what I hope is a coherent argument.]

15 Comments:

By Blogger Patton, at Sun Oct 23, 02:57:00 AM:

Fear not - coherence is among your strong suits. Good essay.  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Sun Oct 23, 09:37:00 AM:

That is a far better case for the support of democracy than I’ve seen anywhere. In the long run, democracy is in our best interest. It doesn’t always work that way in the short run and it can even backfire. The 15 years of democracy in Germany after WWI ended with Hitler. The cultural factors that enable a stable and viable liberal democracy are not present in Arab countries. That doesn’t mean we shouldn't encourage that path. It may fail from time to time but we are planting the seeds and giving them a taste for what will hopefully grow into something substantial.

The main problem is that liberal democracy is antithetical to Islam. The very example of Mohammad’s rule in Medina leads devout Muslims to see anything but the rule of Islamic law as anti-Islam. We have to address the root cause of the problem – or more exactly they have to address the root cause.

We can play a very important role in the change of their culture. We (the West) have done it before. During the 19th century, Western criticism of Islamic ways had great effect. The British’s continual campaign against slavery almost ended the practice in most Muslim lands. Muslims never became as virulently aroused to unequivocally condemn slavery as the West did (Mohammad owned slaves.) But they sought to mimic civilization. Eventually much of Islam was marginalized or practiced in a perfunctory manner. Let’s remember the Arab culture, in particular, is very susceptible to criticism and shame.

Finally, let’s appreciate the ability of Arabs to embrace secularism. They will do so if they are pushed by a power that is confident in its own values. Democracy is a structural change that is important; but so is the intellectual and cultural change that requires the reconsideration of Islam in part or in full. We cannot continue to lie to them (and ourselves) about Islam. If we do, we become part of the problem.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Sun Oct 23, 01:22:00 PM:

I like it TigerHawk. The concept that bringing democracy anywhere makes us safer has been often repeated and rarely justified. Some people seem to have an idea that terrorism cannot develop in democracies, despite obvious examples in Ireland, Phillipies, or Indonesia. Will local terrorist organizations exclusively target their own countries? To some extent this begins as an extension of the "fly-paper" theory, although the addition of further anti-terrorist allies gives it another dimension, and added validity.

I still have one concern with the concept of democracy as an end goal. What prevents us from getting democratically elected nations that are hostile to the US? Democracy doesn't always equate to peace, justice, and civility. We, as a a democracy, have financially supported an a number of coups in an a number of countries. We've both developed and used nuclear weapons. After Afghanistan I doubt anyone will oppose us openly, but a government whose electorate genuinely hate us might not have qualms about secretly slipping Al-Qaeda money or information. (As we did with the Afghani freedom fighters, or Saddam Hussien in the Iraq/Iran wars) The point isn't to air dirty laundry, it's that the best we can hope for are governments equally ethical to ours. (And I expect most would be less ethical.) Equally ethical still gives a lot of room to maneuver. Democracy, liberty, and freedom are all valuable in their own right as humanitarian values, but let's not pin all of our hopes on these new democracies being benevolent to us.  

By Blogger chuck, at Sun Oct 23, 02:52:00 PM:

Fourth, it may simply not be true.

Somewhere in the Federalist Papers, the idea that democracies are inherently peaceful is raised, then attacked. I believe the author was Hamilton, but can't recall enough to pin it down any better than that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 23, 05:55:00 PM:

Barnett postulates that not only should a country become democratic, but they must be part of the "connected world" or "integrated".
Any thoughts?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 23, 07:45:00 PM:

Awesome essay!

However I disagree. Islam itself must be destroyed for us to win this war.

Take Turkey for instance. It has been democratic for many years and can be the poster child for the argument of democratization of the Islamic world. Yet don't you get the feeling that it could become radicalized at a moment's notice?

Only a strong internal security situation keeps the lid on Turkey. Because when it comes down to it, most Turks symphathize with Al Quaeda.

Enemies of radical Islam is only ultimately about a local power struggle.

Islam is at war with the rest of humnaity and that can never be glossed over. "Moderate" Muslims pretty much hate us too.

The war can be won only when Islam is discredited totally. And we are about 30 tp 40 years from dealing with that.

We will only deal with that after the nect 40 years proves fruitless....

You heard it here first.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Oct 23, 08:35:00 PM:

Last Anonymous Guy:

I think you may need a little historical perspective. Yes, radical Islam has been a building force for 70+ years. But that is but 5% of the history of Islam. And, yes, there were other expansionist and violent periods in Islam's history, but that may also be said of Christianity. While I agree that we have the work of a generation or more in front of us, victory will come when we have discredited the radical strains that have emerged in the last 70-100 years, not Islam itself.  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Sun Oct 23, 09:38:00 PM:

For the skeptics on the power of democracy to bring peace to the world, I suggest reading R.J.Rummel. Prof. Rummel’s thesis is that democratic countries don’t make war on other democratic countries. Thus, a world of democratic countries will bring world peace. He addresses many of the questions raised by the writers above. I’m not completely sold but I’m sympathetic.

TH, I have to respectfully disagree with your comments to Anonymous. I suggest you read Trifkovic if you think radical Islam is just 70 years old. The name may be but, names like “radical,” “militant” and “fundamentalist” are names we cooked up. Muslims just call it a revival of Islam itself. I talk about it here and give scholarly references. We may continue to disagree but it is worth knowing why.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Mon Oct 24, 06:01:00 AM:

TH, I only skimmed this quickly (I have a work commitment and will have to return and read it again in more depth), but two points leapt out at me:

1. You refer in one place to the "destroy(ing) jihadi terrorism by removing the discontent that feeds its roots" and in another to "ideology" as the cause of terrorism. Well, which is it?

The CW is that it's discontent, but I have never bought off on that. If it is ideology, you later state that "we" -- meaning the West -- cannot destroy an ideology, nor the men who promote it. Which meshed with my thought: "How does one fight ideology? With ideology. Say, perhaps, with democratic values?

Isn't that, in essence, what we are doing? Fighting Islamism with democracy?

And yes, that takes time, and yes, it is hard, and yes, it is not nearly so satisfactory or neat a solution as making a parking lot of the middle east or nuking it, but those are not arguments for giving up.

Doing things the right way is often harder than the sloppy or easy choice.

We have a Congress so short-sighted that their great moral solution to the torture problem was to use the Army Field Manual, for God's sake, as the basis of a law instead of taking ownership of the problem - a decision of almost breathtaking stupidity. Once again passing the buck so they can say "I told you so". And so it is no great surprise they can't keep their eye on this particular ball.

Second, people are confusing individual with general results. Just like we will always have criminals, we will always have terrorists. Democracy won't change that. But democracy does, in the more general sense, make it harder for terrorism to flourish if you look at the overall population of nations statistically, and there are levels of terrorism just like there are levels of crime (and levels of democracy, quite frankly - all of which make comparisons like this somewhat problematic). The larger point is, are we going to follow the UN's lead and prop up dictatorships in defense of their enlightened 'order uber alles' philosophy? How "stable" was Saddam's Iraq? The man did invade Kuwait and Iran after all. Democracies, generally speaking, do NOT go about invading other nations unprovoked, and that's a point worth noting. They just plain make better neighbors, and in a nuclear age with terrorists running about loose, perhaps that's a consideration we ought to be thinking of.  

By Anonymous Don Cox, at Mon Oct 24, 06:47:00 AM:

"The main problem is that liberal democracy is antithetical to Islam." (In comment above)___Liberal democracy is antithetical to any organised religion that claims the right to determine laws, such as Roman Catholic Chritianity. There will always be a conflict between priests or clerics saying "God says you must do this" and citizens saying "But we want to do that".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 24, 07:11:00 AM:

We shall see Tigerhawk.

To "weed out" the radical strains of Islam is to gut Islam itself.

Islam, by definition, is a radical religion. It purports to trump Judaism and Christianity. Muslims will ALWAYS think of Jews and Christians as infidels not worthy of respect. It has ALWAYS been this way and always will no matter how watered down the actual practice of Islam can become.

History perspective? I think you ignore it yourself.

Like I said, we are about 30 to 40 years from calling out Islam for what it truly is: A glorified cult bent on world domination.

Yes we shall see indeed. When the "moderate" Muslims hold a knife to your throat and demand conversion or death, what will you do?  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Mon Oct 24, 08:17:00 AM:

I don’t want to take up Tiger’s blog, Don, to argue my points (you’re welcome to stop over and visit mine.) I agree with you up to a point. Religion, with its emphasis on dogma and authority, lends itself to autocratic governments and, indeed, has a history of doing so. However, there is also a question of the actual content of the dogma. I suggest, in this case, we see profound differences – differences that create extra hurdles for Islam.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 25, 01:30:00 PM:

This analysis is OK as far as it goes, but:

1) It is personal prosperity, not the "idea of democracy", that will motivate Muslims to modify their faith and exclude radical/conquest aspects of their faith.

2) This is not the work of a generation - it's the work of centuries. We are talking about the kind of transformation that took Christianity from the Crusades and Inquisition to missionary work based on good deeds (and bribery). Which leads to:

3) Once we have helped Arab nations build stable democracies with stability-ensuring middle classes - there is nothing to guarantee that all the tools of these modernized societies will not be used in service of yet ANOTHER revival of militant Islam.

The Third Reich and the Holocaust were hatched in one of Europe's most technologically advanced democracies - centuries after Germany spearheaded the "Reformation" of Christendom in the direction of individual suffrage.

4) What are the chances that the foreign ideas of Western democracy will take deep root in Islam? We hope for an outcome like in India or Japan, but nobody wants to occupy/colonize Arab states for 50-plus years. So how will foreign ideas come to seem acceptable/natural to the population?

Take a look at the post-colonial mess in South America. This is as likely an outcome as successful grafting of democracy on Islamic society.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 25, 04:45:00 PM:

Points very well taken. I thought of Jason Pappas' point of secularism as I was reading it, however -- you are discounting the influence of other religions, including agnosticism, which will slowly grow as the ideal of personal liberty is embraced in heretofore (exclusively or mainly) Muslim societies, and will encourage hostility to authoritariansm, especially jihadism. Submission to authority must be inculcated; individualism is a natural urge and will not be stopped.
Daniel Day  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Oct 26, 10:28:00 AM:

Another magnum opus from my TH partner. To your point, we have neo Nazis in Germany; we have radical islamists in france; we have all manner of neo wierdos here in the US (remember the Unabomber). Within a democracy, you will have extremists who are ultimately managed by law enforcement -- because these types typically wind up breaking the law if they're committed insurgents. Rule of law will ultimately prevail once you establish conditions and a social contract which the has popular legitimacy. Along the way, you create a standing army and domestic police capabiltity that works for the people and provides security. That's what will happen in Iraq -- and we hope throughout the Middle East. As you create propsperity in Iraq to go along with freedom, you watch how the poeple will protect what is theirs...  

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