Monday, March 28, 2011

Why imposing democracy is bad

As I explained in an article elsewhere the chance that the NATO operation in Libya will have a happy end is small. Iraq and Afghanistan are not exceptions but the rule.

The results of interventions have been extensively studied and they produce seldom democracy.

This is not surprising. Real democracy is about mutual respect between people. Equality for the law is in that respect much more important than the right to vote. The world is full of countries where you are free to vote but you are it risk to lose your house or your company due to obscure manipulations by people with power. In some of those countries (like Russia and Iran) the voting has become meaningless as it is predestined who is going to win. But in many others the government may change but somehow everything stays the same anyway.

As I mentioned a few posts ago peaceful resistance has a much better record at increasing democracy than interventions. To understand this one has to understand the outcome. An armed conflict ends with one side winning. If the existing powers win it doesn't have to bother with opposition for the next decade. On the other hand: if the opposition wins it doesn't have to bother with the former rulers and may discriminate them at will. When the conflict had an ethnic element this means that whole groups will be excluded.

Peaceful resistance on the other hand seldom ends with a clear win. If the opposition wins - like in Tunisia and Egypt - many elements from the former regime will stay behind. On the other hand can the regime never achieve a clear victory as there was no violent resistance. Too much violence will only undermine its own legitimacy. And even when defeated massive demonstrations will make a clear moral point about how a significant part of the population thinks about their "beloved leader".

It is this balance where nobody has all the power and solutions have to be negotiated or at least been taken with the interests of others in mind that forms the basis of real democracy.


Anonymous said...

Imposing democracy worked very well in Japan and west Germany after WW2.

Wim Roffel said...

That is only partially true. Only Germany became a real democracy (and it had been one before the war). Japan and Italy got effectively one-party rule.