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Should the west help spread democracy? Essay


These points illustrate that whilst there are a great many potential benefits from a democratised world, there exist some potential issues that must be successfully addressed for the citizens of both newly democratised and Western states to benefit. It is both inevitable and important to question the morality of one state intervening in the internal affairs of another. The morality of any venture is determined ‘both by the principles it creates or destroys and by the contingencies of circumstances. ‘7 There are three moral issues concerning the promotion of democracy in undemocratic states.

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Firstly, one of the key principles in justifying intervention in another states internal affairs is that it must be in the interest of the citizens of that state, not in the self-interest of the intervener. Adequately satisfying such a criteria is extremely difficult but critical for the long-term success of any global campaign for the promotion of democracy. Secondly, as democracy promotion inevitably involves intervention in the domestic affairs of another state on some level, important moral questions regarding the international system in which such intervention takes place arise.

Thirdly, promoting and in some cases imposing a political system on a society of different, if not unknown, cultural and societal values has many moral implications on a more specific, domestic level. For a state to have any claim to legitimately intervening in the internal affairs of another state, it must prove that it is not motivated by self-interest. However, to quote Thompson ‘no social action can be completely free of the taint of egotism which… claims for the actor more than is his due. ‘8 Marx similarly concluded that all values camouflage underlying interests.

9In reality, Stewart summarises the work of Cox, Ikenberry and Inogouchy by writing that US policy is not driven by moral impulse but by economic imperatives of transnational capitalists who seek to reconsolidate their hegemony over the global economy. The most effective way for the West to demonstrate a genuine benevolence in promoting democracy would be to maintain consistency in its policies. This is to say that the West cannot intervene in an authoritarian state under which its interests are threatened whilst ignoring the one that promotes them.

However, it is widely held that democracies are unable to maintain consistent foreign policies. Waltz cites four key reasons for this; democracies prefer easy solutions with immediate benefits, foreign policy is decided by internal pressures unrelated to the international system, legislative attention to foreign policy is sporadic and disruptive and finally foreign policy is dominated by unpredictable and uniformed public opinion, often over-riding experienced decision makers.

10 The resulting inconsistencies damage not only moral legitimacy but also the practical abilities of the West to promote democracy. A second and important part of maintaining consistency of the West’s democratic message would be the democratisation of certain international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. Such institutions potentially hold a very important role in the democratisation of authoritarian states but until they are seen to not solely represent Western interests, their moral standing, as well as chances of practical success will be damaged.

In an international political system founded on equality between independent sovereign states, any state that intervenes in the internal affairs of another subverts the legal and institutional framework from which its own survival depends. Similarly, when intervention on the behalf of democracy by the West involves some kind of duress (physical, political or economic), it is often neither legal nor democratic in its execution.

Therefore, there must be more fundamental reasoning by the West than the simple assertion that ‘democracy is best for everyone because it works for us’ because, as the historian Dicey put it, ‘men come easily to believe that arrangements agreeable to themselves are beneficial others. ’11 This requires some fundamental change in the conception of international society that in turn requires a consensus among states and people to gain legitimacy. To quote Bull, ‘demands for world justice are therefore demands for the transformation of the system and society of states, and are inherently revolutionary.

’12 Whilst there is no universal morality regarding international relations a more popular consensus is emerging regarding fundamental human rights. It is indeed the growing inability of many weaker states to provide or protect such rights that is put forward as a legitimate justification for international intervention on behalf of democracy and has, since the early 1990’s, started winning the battle against sovereignty as the sacred fundamental of international society.

13 Essentially, Western promotion of democracy would force a shift in the emphasis of international relations from order to justice, justice being the realisation of universal human liberty. As there is no consensus as to what constitutes justice, conflict will arise between the pursuit of such justice and international order. However, calls for justice – the promotion of democracy – and the preservation of international order do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Bull writes, ‘ there is overwhelming evidence of a consensus in international society as a whole in favour of a change held to be just, especially if the consensus embraces all great powers, the change may take place without causing other than a local and temporary disorder. ’14 Such a consensus does not exist. Authoritarian states will not agree to the removal of their power.

Furthemore, although it is argued that the world is currently uni-polar, and that the only superpower, the US, certainly supports the promotion of democracy (at least publicly), other major powers such as China and Russia would not agree to the required change in international order. There is not even uniform consensus within states that publicly support the promotion of democracy. Realists argue that foreign policy cannot be founded on values; the West should not promote democracy as a matter of principle, but policy must instead be dictated solely by interests.

Theorists such as Niebuhr and Schlesinger argue that a foreign policy based on morality is inadvisable for two reasons. Firstly, they argue that the state cannot be bound by the same moral rules as the individual. As Schlesinger writes ‘governments are not individuals. They are not principles but agents. They are trustees for the happiness and interests of others,’ and so to risk any entity held for others is negligent.

15 The second reason, articulated by Niebuhr argues that any moral basis will be resented by others; ‘We are not a sanctified nation and must not assume that all our actions are dictated by considerations of disinterested justice. If we fall into this error the natural resentments against our power … will be compounded with resentments against our pretensions of superior virtue. ’16 Other realists such as Kennan simply believe that a foreign policy based on moral values does not represent the interests (principally security) of any nation, particularly the West, and so should not be pursued.

Therefore, it can be said that realists do not believe the West should promote democracy as they do not believe in a foreign policy based on moral principles. Democracy promotion does not represent Western interests. Criticism of such an outlook lies in the realist view of ‘interest’ being primarily that of security. As discussed before, the democratic peace theory offers the possibility of increased security for all nations in a democratised world. Realists also overlook the other long-run economic and cultural benefits of democracy in considering Western interests.

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The final moral argument to be considered when discussing the promotion of democracy is that of whether it is right to promote a certain value system on another cultures. Kennan, a realist, argues that ‘no people can be the judge of another’s domestic institutions and requirements… we have the modesty to admit that our own national interest is all that we are really capable of knowing and understanding. ’17 Neo-Hegelian communitarians argue that individual societies must develop their own ‘rationality’ through lengthy dialectical historical process, in which interference would be to that society’s detriment.

18 Due to the lack of consensus on moral standards regarding international intervention in internal affairs, some people are always going to oppose intervention on their behalf. Additionally, the very fact that Western virtues are questioned both internally and externally, by friends and enemies, gives gravity to such moral arguments against the promotion of democracy. Conversely, there are examples in which Western intervention on the behalf of democracy has been welcomed by cheering crowds (for example France, Belgium, Holland, Panama). Additionally, Muravchik points to a logical contradiction in such arguments;

‘the reason it is wrong to impose something on others… is because it violates their will. But, absent democracy, how can their will be known? Moreover, why care about violating people’s will unless one begins with the democratic premise that popular will ought to be sovereign. ’19 Ultimately, policies must be judged by their consequences and not their motives. In the absence of a universal morality there stands many conflicting and competing moral principles. Thompson wrote ‘There is no moral touchstone that can help us judge in advance which goal should be served.

Nor can we subordinate all aims to one master goal. ’20 Thus, if democracy can be successfully promoted with little cost to citizens of such a state then morality becomes less of an issue. However, if it would require thousands of lives, millions of dollars and years of instability, the morality of pursuing democracy regardless would be a greater issue. Such a moral judgement leads to the practical question of whether democracy can actually be successfully promoted and if so, how? Adolph Berle, US Assistant Secretary of State said in 1939, ‘a nation coerced into democracy is not a democratic state.

’21 Coercion suggests that democracy is only in the interest of the promoter of democracy, as opposed to persuasion that would indicate a common interest as is the case for the spread of democracy. Neo-conservatives such as Muravchik argue that democracy can be successfully implanted from outside. Equally, there are many examples, especially following WWII, where democracy failed to take hold. In reality, outside intervention is likely to accelerate or retard, as opposed to determine, the development of democracy in any given state.

Successful persuasion limits the methods available to a Western government. One of the most obvious options open to Western governments is the use of military force – ‘democracy through the barrel of a gun. ‘ However, using military force to promote democracy must be totally out of the question for several reasons. Firstly, the moral considerations as discussed above would prohibit the use of military force purely as a means to promote democracy in a state that presented no threat to the promoting state.

Peace ranks with democracy as one of the highest values that must not be violated. Secondly, military force offers no guarantee of successful installation of democracy. Many factors affect the success of using force for such ends. Hostility of the local population has a large affect. If hostile acts are carried out by the population against intervening forces, historically at least, the chances of successful imposition of democracy in that state are significantly diminished.

The citizens of that state will not support newly sponsored institutions and the intervening military forces are likely to become more aggressive in their tactics leading to a viscous circle of violence (Iraq is a perfect example here). 22 Additionally, the likelihood of hostility towards intervening forces is high; rational action or thought is rarely present where the prestige of nations or states is involved. Thirdly, the use of aggressive tactics would undermine democracy’s moral appeal in the undemocratic world.

It would subvert citizen’s popular support for intervention on their behalf and threatens to taint democracy with the developed world’s reputation for heavy-handed domination of international politics. 23 Fourthly, international law and both domestic and international public opinion in the West would not support the use of military force against a sovereign state for the sole purpose of promoting democracy and as Meernik writes, the historical success of promoting democracy by force relied heavily on strong public support in the promoter state.

Other punitive measures such as sanctions, interruption of trade preferences and development funds used solely to promote democracy would be equally inappropriate. If, as Kristol writes, democracy requires a complex set of pre-conditions, namely strong cultural traditions and attitudes24 such as high literacy and education levels, social capital and sustained economic growth, punitive measures would only serve to delay the onset of sustainable democracy, even if these measures forced through some institutional reforms.

In general, punitive measures would likely create massive tensions and instability between the Western and undemocratic world. As not every authoritarian state could be democratised at once, accusations of double standards would abound no one state would understand why it was suffering punitive measures whilst others are -not. Apparent double standards, even if practically necessary would, as previously discussed, undermine the moral appeal of democracy promotion and so reduce its chances of success. Additionally, any authoritarian state may believe it to be targeted next.

Such beliefs may encourage some form of pre-emptive action from the authoritarian to protect its sovereignty, action with possible grave consequences for Western countries. Currently Iran and North Korea, feeling very threatened, appear to be building up various arsenals, in part to protect their sovereignty. One final point put forward by some commentators is that in the current world of particular tensions between Islam and the West, Western governments may need to consider being more, not less tolerant of authoritarian regimes to prevent a clash of civilisations.

There are non-punitive methods of promoting democracy. Positive conditionality and the funding of institutional reform, not linked or in addition to any other form of aid can have positive results. Not only does positive conditionality enable the West to exert pressure on authoritarian states without worsening the political relations between the two states, it is also more likely to supply certain democratic pre-conditions. Youngs outlines three key areas to be targeted by Western governments wanting to promote democracy. The first area is the establishment or encouragement of a thriving cosmopolitan civil society.

Youngs writes that in Eastern Europe, following the end of the Cold War, it was widely held that the ’emergence of a dynamic associational life would instil values and perspectives capable of engendering subsequent liberalisation in the political sphere. ’25 In addition, many of the values and virtues of a cosmopolitan civil society are held to underpin democracy. The second area is the promotion of a free market economy. Historically there has never been a democracy with a command economy. More theoretically, writers such as Hume saw a connection between political liberalisation, private ownership and commercial development.

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The less control the state has over the economy, the greater the ability of private economic enterprises to restrain the state. The third area identified by Youngs is what he terms the ‘good governance agenda. ‘ This refers to increasing the efficiency, transparency and accountability of the state in order to combat corruption and clientelism. Such reforms would, by their own success, promote a strengthened legal framework and modernised administration. 26 Doyle and Art hold similar views in what Doyle sees as necessary expansionist democracy promotion.

Doyle holds that democracy is best promoted through ‘inspiration, instigation and intervention. ‘ Inspiration is the encouraging of local populations to struggle for their liberty, using such methods as the promotion of a cosmopolitan civil society. Instigation involves institutional and economic reform. Intervention, Doyle writes, is legitimate when widespread dissatisfaction with an authoritarian regime is demonstrated by a population or when human rights are being systematically violated. 27 This last point is important when, as discussed above, force was ruled out as a method of democracy promotion.

Force cannot be used to promote democracy in itself. However, it is the view of many writers that when force is necessary for other reasons, it is legitimate and astute to promote and build democracy through non-violent means on the back of violent conflict with an authoritarian state. One final point is that in promoting democracy, the promoter must recognise a wide range of political systems, all based on democracy, but tailored to the cultural, economic and popular needs of each individual state. This requires the recognition of social democracy as well as liberal democracy as a legitimate form of government. George W.

Bush paid at least lip service to this demand in his inauguration speech of 20th January 2005, ‘the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way. ’28 To quote Machiavelli, ‘There is nothing more difficult than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. ’29 Democracy is the most appropriate form of government for a majority of people, societies and cultures.

Inevitably, certain groups or individuals will spurn it and some will even fight against it and its imposition. International society, should such a thing exist, is likely to benefit from a more peaceful and ordered environment, where the respect for human, political and economic rights is more widespread. In addition, the spread of democracy should stimulate extra growth in the global economy. For these reasons democracy is a political system that should be encouraged and actively promoted by existing democracies, notably the West.

However, advocating Western promotion of democracy requires strict qualification because, as Art writes, ‘the aim of spreading democracy around the globe… can too easily become a licence for indiscriminate and unending US military interventions in the internal affairs of others. ’30 Firstly, the actions and message of the West must be consistent and carried out with humility. This means promoting democracy in all authoritarian states with equal vigour, regardless of Western interests in and relationships with such states and the democratic reform of international institutions biased towards Western economic or political power.

Secondly, democracy must not be promoted through punitive measures. The use of punitive measures undermines democracies moral appeal but is above all counter-productive – violence, covert interference and economic punishment all work against the successful establishment of democratic will and institutions in a state. The West most also accept that different states require different political systems – social democracy must be considered equally with liberal democracy. Democracy and freedom are desirable ends for humanity.

However, as values they are not alone and until every state is democratic they will compete against others such as peace, security and stability. Therefore, in the promotion of democracy, the West must ensure that the means must be morally justifiable regardless of the ends and proportionate to the benefits gained by their employment. Bibliography Alden E. H. , Schurmann F. , Why We Need Ideologies in American Foreign Policy: Democratic Politics and World Order, Institute of International Affairs, University of California, Berkeley, 1990 Bayliss J. , Smith S. , The Globalization of World Politics, (2nd Ed.

), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001 Bull H. , The Anarchical Society, (3rd Ed. ), Palgrave, London, 2002 Halperin M. , Siegle J. , Weinstein M. , Why Democracies Excel, Foreign Affairs: Sep/Oct 2004, Vol. 83, Issue 5, p57-72 Holmes K. R. , American Internationalism: Promoting Freedom, Democracy and Development, US Foreign Policy Agenda: Volume 9, No. 1, August 2003, p. 5-7 Houngnikpo M. C. , Pax Democratica: The Gospel According to St. Democracy, Australian Journal of Politics and History: Volume 49, No. 2, 2003, p. 197-210 Meernik J. , United States Military Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy, Journal of Peace Research, Vol.

33, No. 4 (Nov. , 1996), p. 391-402 Muravchik J. , Exporting Democracy, The AEI Press, Washington D. C. , 1991 Patrick S. , More Power to You: Strategic Restraint, Democracy Promotion, and American Primacy, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2002 Thompson K. W. (editor), Moral Dimensions of American Foreign Policy, Transaction Books, New Brunswick, 1984 Youngs R. , The European Union and the Promotion of Democracy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001 References Art R. , A Defensible Defence, International Security: Vol. 15, No. 4, Spring 1991, p. 5-53 Hall J. A. , Paul T. V.

, International Order and the Future of World Politics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999 1 Holmes, American Internationalism; Promoting Freedom, Democracy and Development, p. 1 2 In 1941 Britain declared war on Finland. Both were democracies but Churchill did so under pressure from Stalin in the context of WWII, not because of any British grievance with Finland itself. See Muravchik, Exporting Democracy, p. 8-9 3 Kant, ed. Reiss, Kant’s Political Writings, p. 100 4 Halperin, Siegle, Weinstein, Why Democracies Excel, p. 57 5 Ibid. , p. 3 6 Youngs, The European Union and the Promotion of Democracy, p.

10 7 Halpern, ed. Thompson, Moral Dimensions of American Foreign Policy, p. 75 8 Thompson, Moral Dimensions of American Foreign Policy, p. 8 9 Alden, Schurmann, Why We Need Ideologies in American Foreign Policy, p. 13 10 Ibid. , p. 6 11 Thompson, opcit.. , p. 2 12 Bull, The Anarchical Society, p. 84 13 Bayliss, Smith, The Globalisation of World Politics, p. I DON’T KNOW – LOOK UP 14 Bull, opcit. , p. 91 15 Muravchick, opcit. ,, p. 22 16 Ibid. , p. 20 17 Ibid. , p. 22 18 Youngs, opcit. ,, p. 9 19 Muravchik, opcit.. , p. 34 20 Thompson, opcit.. , p. 11 21 Muravchik, opcit.. , p. 82

22 Meernik, United States Military Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy, p. 393-400 23 Youngs, opcit. , p. 23 24 Muravchik, opcit.. , p. 65 25 Youngs, opcit.. , p. 15 26 Ibid. , p. 17 27 Doyle, in Paul, Hall, International Order and the Future of World Politics, p. 41-66 28 Inaugural Speech for the second term of President George W. Bush. See http://www. whitehouse. gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050120-1. html 29 Machiavelli, in Stewart, More Power to You: Strategic Restraint, Democracy Promotion, and American Primacy, p. 1 30 Art, in Meernik, United States Military Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy, p. 393

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Should the west help spread democracy? Essay
  These points illustrate that whilst there are a great many potential benefits from a democratised world, there exist some potential issues that must be successfully addressed for the citizens of both newly democratised and Western states to benefit. It is both inevitable and important to question the morality of one state intervening in the internal affairs of another. The morality of any venture is determined 'both by the principles it creates or destroys and by the contingencies of c
2018-01-06 16:13:03
Should the west help spread democracy? Essay
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