Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The check is in the mail; I'll love you in the morning; and democracies are peaceful...

"Democraticialis, it's for my man whenever he wants it"

We tried almost everything. Reading together the Weekly Standard and holding hands while watching Bill O'Reilly. We even signed up for one of those Restoration Weekends in Florida that David Horowitz organizes and were hoping that Jim Woolsey's address would arouse my husband to take up this white woman's burden. But his imperial drive remained dormant until a friend, "Scooter" told us about Democraticialis ("Judy loves it," he said). And it was shock and Awe from then on... A Regime Change for My Man whenever and wherever he wants it... Democraticialis, experience the neocon difference. ***

*** Side effects could include anti-Americanism, terrorism, bloodshed, chaos, violations of civil rights, and rising budget deficits. If you experience an insurgency that lasts for more than four years, please consult Dr. "Dick" Cheney. The insurgency may be in its last throes.

January 18, 2006
Guess What? Democracies Are Not Always Peaceful

by Leon Hadar
If you've been listening to the recent "democracy is the way to go" sermons by President George W. Bush and his advisers, you'll have to conclude that embracing "democracy" – a concept that is open to different interpretations – is the cure for most of humanity's ills, ranging from political violence and economic underdevelopment to male baldness and erectile dysfunction. ("Keep the spark alive… become the best guy… for her… take Democraticialis…").

Even in its more modest version, the global democratic crusade launched by the White House and inspired by the Wilsonian neoconservative ideologues adopts what the neocons consider to be an axiom of international relations, that democracies rarely, if ever, wage war against one another. Translating that maxim into policy means that Washington has the obligation, based not only on moral considerations but also on pure self-interest, to promote democracy worldwide as the most effective way to establish international peace and stability.

Indeed, in his second inaugural address, Bush proclaimed that "the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." He and his foreign policy aides have argued that one of the main rationales for ousting Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq – especially since no weapons of mass destruction were discovered there – was the need to rid Mesopotamia of a tyrant, establish a democratic system, and pursue similar regime changes and advance freedom in the rest of the Arab Middle East.

The Bushies argue that democracy would not only respond to the legitimate demands of those living under authoritarian systems, but also reduce the chances for domestic instability and international wars, and in that context, retard the spread of terrorism. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon and the State Department have become major instruments for nation-building and democracy-promotion, as most members of the policy community in Washington seem to subscribe to a catchy slogan: "Make Democracy, Not War."

The debate hasn't been on whether the spread of democracy helps to strengthen the foundation for international peace, but on the most cost-effective way to promote political freedom.

But two American academics and political thinkers are challenging now this conventional wisdom. In a new book, Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War (MIT Press, 2005), Edward D. Mansfield of the University of Pennsylvania and Jack Snyder of Columbia University seem to pull the intellectual rug from under the rationale presented by the Bush administration for what it's doing in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, arguing that states in the early phases of transition to democracy are actually more likely than other states to become involved in war.

Drawing on both extensive qualitative and quantitative analyses they and other political scientists have conducted, Professor Mansfield and Professor Snyder demonstrate that emerging democracies tend to have weak political institutions and are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of these countries attempt to rally support by invoking external threats and resorting to belligerent, nationalist rhetoric and slogans. They point to this pattern in cases ranging from revolutionary France to contemporary Russia. One of the most interesting case studies is the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.

Bloody Chapter

As the mostly peaceful and relatively prosperous communist Yugoslavia started transitioning into democracy, the leaders of all the major ethnic groups in that country, such as Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Franjo Tudjman in Croatia, succeeded in exploiting nationalist sentiments as a way of getting power and mobilizing public support through an open democratic process, including free elections, creating the conditions for a civil war that has turned out to be the bloodiest chapter in European history since the end of World War II.

The thesis is backed by complex statistical models but is in its essence quite simple: Be afraid, very afraid of new democracies, as they are more likely than not to be unstable and warlike. The authors provide a mostly "institutional" explanation for this phenomenon, noting that such countries often lack the rule of law, organized political parties, professional news media, and other political and legal institutions that can place constraints on the political leaders. In the period of sweeping political changes and uncertainty that characterizes the transition to democracy, many voters aspire for a sense of identity and security and elect populists and demagogues who promote bellicose nationalism that leads to civil and inter-state wars.

Pointing to the Bush administration's campaign to build up democracy in Iraq and spread it to Palestine, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the authors warn that "unleashing Islamic mass opinion through a sudden democratization could only raise the likelihood of war." In a way, the political changes in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East have become a laboratory for testing the author's theories, which seem to have been corroborated by events.

In Iraq, the recent parliamentary elections helped to consolidate the power of the leaders of radical Shi'ite parties and those who represent the Kurdish separatist national movement; not surprisingly, Arab Sunnis also voted in support of their sectarian representatives. If anything, the ousting of Saddam Hussein and the free elections have led to more political instability and ethnic and religious violence, thereby creating the conditions for a Yugoslavia-like civil war. In Egypt, the members of the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood movement have strengthened their position in the last elections, while in Palestine, most observers expect the radical Islamic Hamas to gain more power in the coming parliamentary vote.

Unstable States

And let's not forget that last year's presidential election in Iran – which is clearly more open than, say, Saudi Arabia – ended with the victory of the most radical anti-American figure in the race. In short, as the authors suggest, the collapse of the old authoritarian regimes in the Middle East has given birth to weak and unstable states and the rise to power – through free elections – of warlike, ultranationalist politicians.

Mansfield and Snyder focus most of the discussion in their book on emerging democracies and suggest that mature democracies tend to be peaceful. Hence, their implication is that Washington and other Western powers have an interest to help create the foundations of functioning political, economic, and legal institutions in emerging democracies before moving to hold elections there.

But they don't explain why, say, Iraqis or Palestinians would accept such an arrangement, that is, postponing free elections until their countries are ready for democracy. Who will make that decision, and who will take control of the country's security until a democratically elected government comes to power sometime in the future?

Moreover, it seems to me that you don't need to apply complex statistical models to figure out that the main cause of wars in the modern age, since the time of the French Revolution, has been nationalism, and that democracy is the most loyal ally of nationalism in the sense that it indeed empowers the people to rally behind their nation, ethnicity, religion, and tribe and help drive into power populist figures that thrive during times of civil wars and wars between nation-states.

If anything, the history of Europe in the 19th century suggests that authoritarian governments were more successful in maintaining a relative peace in the continent for close to a century. Similarly, the most peaceful European states during World War II and the ones that avoided entering the war were Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, and Turkey, three non-democratic regimes, and Switzerland, which granted women the right to vote only in 1971(!).

Perhaps the time has come for an innovative political scientist to conduct research to determine whether – and I know it's not very PC – non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democratic states.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Democracies don't go to war against each other

Christians Are Leaving the Middle East

I was interviewed on the topic on the Voice of America and am quoted in the following piece to which you can listen by linking here. And also read my Measuring the Arab World: Check the Christian Barometer.

Christians are Leaving the Middle East
By Zlatica Hoke
Washington, D.C.
17 January 2006

Zlatica Hoke's Report, 2.68 MB
Zlatica Hoke's Report, 912 KB

The region where Christianity was born is rapidly losing its Christian population due to low birth rates and emigration. Some analysts warn about the negative consequences for the region.

Christian Populations in the Middle East

If exodus of Christians from Bethlehem continues in the next two or three decades, there may be no clergy left to conduct religious services in Christ's birthplace
There are between 12- and 15-million Christians in the Middle East, almost half of them living in Egypt. The exact figures are hard to establish because of the lack of official records and continued migration. Lebanon, with slightly more than one-million Christians, has the highest ratio: about 30 percent of its population is Christian. Most other Middle Eastern countries are less then 10 percent Christian.

Demographers say the Christian population has declined noticeably in most Middle Eastern countries since the beginning of the 20th century. Fred Strickert, professor of religion at Wartburg College in Iowa, says Christians became a minority in the Middle East after the spread of Islam during the 7th Century, but they continued to play an important role, until the decline of the Ottoman Empire.

"In 1908, there was an internal revolution. They called it the Young Turks' revolt. A new group of people came into power and many of them were very biased against the Christians," says Professor Strickert. "They were attempting to draft them into the army and things like that. There was a mass migration from all places in the Middle East - Lebanon, Syria, and Jerusalem - and, by then, many of the Christians, partly because of Christian missionaries, had benefited from schools and hospitals, and sought better conditions in the West for economics. And so, there was a large migration at the very beginning of the 20th Century."

Professor Strickert says emigration of Christians continued in the second half of the 20th century, due to armed conflicts, economic hardship or persecution. He says many Christians emigrated to the west, because it has been relatively easy for them. Most of them are educated, and, therefore, employable, and they have enjoyed support from Christians in the west. Low birth rates are another important cause of the Christian population decline in the region, says Professor Strickert. For example, he says, Lebanon was more than half Christian in the 1920's and 1930's. Today, Christians account for less than one third of its population.

"In 1930, census was taken in Lebanon, and on the basis of that census, the government was arranged to have a certain percent of Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shi'ite Muslims, etc. and Christians had a significant number there. The Shi'ite Muslims, who were basically in the southern part of Lebanon, grew at a very rapid rate, simply because they had very high birth rate, while the Christians were dropping slowly."

Professor Strickert says, there also appears to be a decline in Christian populations in
Armenian Christian service in Baghdad - thousands of Christians have left Iraq since the first Gulf War
Iraq and territories under Palestinian control. A 2003 Israeli study shows that about 12.000 Christians fled historically Christian Palestinian towns, such as Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000. Some Palestinians blame the Israeli government's security measures, such as building a security barrier between parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"Bethlehem is especially hard hit by the wall," says Philip Farah, a Washington area Palestinian-American who left the region in 1975. "The wall cuts through a lot of people's properties. And if the property is cut by the separation wall, then they stand to lose the part of the property that is on the other side." Philip Farah says the security barrier, as well as Israeli checkpoints make it very hard for Christians from the West Bank and Gaza to maintain business, family and social ties with Christians in Israel. He says many who were able to leave, have done so.

Israelis say the number of Christians in Israel has not declined. There has actually been a slight increase, bringing the total number of Christians close to 120-thousand. "In Israel they [the Christians] have a small percentage of increase, that is 1.4 pecent of increase per year, which is about the same as that of the Jews in Israel," says Daphne Tsimhoni, a professor of modern Middle East History at Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology.

Leon Hadar, a Middle East analyst and author of the book, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East, says attitudes toward Christians in Israel may be changing. "There is an interesting development, in which some of the Russian immigrants who came to Israel, probably around 300-thousand to half-a-million are not Jewish, says Mr. Hadar. "They are Christians. And it is quite possible that, if that community - we are not talking about an Arab-Christian community, but an Israeli Hebrew-speaking community - becomes integrated into Israeli society, Israel will become less and less of an exclusive Jewish state, and will become more open to integrating Christians into Israeli society."

Some observers say Christians in the Middle East have fared better under secular governments. Jonathan Adelman, professor of political science at the University of Denver, Colorado, says the rise of fundamentalist Islam is a concern.

"When they hear that Sharia law needs to be introduced, which basically means that Christians cannot testify in court as equals, that they are inferior - this is something that is very hard for any minority in the world, does not matter if they are Christians or not - very hard to understand or to accept in the 21st century, which is about tolerance and is about modernity. That's why we've had millions of them get up and flee to other parts of the world, where they don't feel threatened."

Jonathan Adelman and other analysts say the world should pay attention to the exodus of Christians from the Middle East, because many of those leaving belong to the educated middle class, and tend to be more open to the western democratic ideals. More importantly, adds Professor Tsimhoni, the exodus of Christians represents a loss for Middle Eastern societies and they should make more effort to embrace them in their midst.

This story was first broadcast on the English news program,VOA News Now. For other Focus reports click here.

And more on Iran...

Very interesting news analysis on the Iran situation by Howard LaFranchi in the Christian Science Monitor in which I'm quoted:

from the January 18, 2006 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0118/p01s04-wome.html

On Iran, West looks for a Plan B
If US allies balk at sanctions, it's harder, but not impossible, to slap Tehran for nuclear aims.
By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Iran may yet end up on the docket of the United Nations Security Council for restarting its nuclear-fuel program. But even if the international community can agree to punish it with economic sanctions, will those actions succeed in stopping Tehran's pursuit of nuclear technology - and possibly a bomb?

Many doubt the current diplomatic efforts will have the desired effect, prompting some officials and analysts to lay out a range of Plan B's for coping with the crisis.

For some experts, the time is ripe to prepare the world economy for living without Iranian oil - by developing pipelines in the oil-rich Gulf region to circumvent Iran- dominated transport routes. With global markets already hinting at the impact that action against Iran could have, some say that countries should take steps now to ease the burden of future moves.

For others, the best course may be to accept that Iran is likely to develop a nuclear weapon eventually - and to prepare the region and the world for "the day after."

"I'm not saying I think a nuclear Iran should happen, but I think it's going to happen, so we have to prepare for that and deal with it," says Leon Hadar, a foreign-policy expert at the Cato Institute in Washington.

Recalling similar doomsday scenarios that greeted China's announcement that it had developed nuclear weapons, and global consternation eight years ago when Pakistan joined the nuclear club, Mr. Hadar says an argument can be made that even "rogue" regimes evolve once they possess the bomb.

"You can argue that [China's] behavior since it acquired nuclear weapons became more responsible," he says. The nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan has played a role in those two longtime enemies avoiding war over Kashmir, Hadar says. He adds that a similar understanding of "mutually assured destruction" might one day have to be developed between Israel and a nuclear Iran.

Of course, the flurry of diplomatic activity set off by Iran's unsealing of equipment at a nuclear enrichment plant last week is still aimed at stopping Iran from developing a bomb - a prospect that President Bush and other leaders say is unacceptable. China and Russia joined the United States and the European Union this week in insisting that Iran suspend its nuclear program. Going further, the Europeans moved for Iran's case to be taken up by a meeting early next month of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors.

The IAEA could refer Iran to the Security Council, which could then impose sanctions against Iran - steps that would further isolate it. But neither China nor Russia is yet on board the sanctions train, with both countries saying other diplomatic efforts must still be given a chance to work.

Another option would be for the IAEA to suspend nuclear cooperation with Iran. Such a move might draw the support of countries like India and Egypt, which have so far frowned on referral to the Security Council. But experts doubt how effective a suspension of IAEA cooperation would be - leading some to suggest that the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a smaller collection of countries with nuclear know-how, should act to restrict transfers to Iran.

One reason for the reluctance of Russia and China to act is both countries' high economic stakes in Iran - primarily the importance of Iran's gas and oil exports. China, for example, imports 17 percent of its oil from Iran.

That is why some experts say the world must deal now with its dependence on Iranian oil. Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

One idea is to reduce global dependency on oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz - the narrow passage from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman through which all Iranian oil exports pass.

"Until and unless the US-Allied stakes in the strait's threatened closure can be reduced, Iran will literally think and act as if it has us over a barrel," says Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington.

At a cost of about $2 billion, existing pipelines could be refurbished and new pipelines built to take oil from the Saudi Peninsula to non-Gulf ports, Mr. Sokolski says. Today a three-month closure of the strait and a loss of Iranian oil exports would cost the US alone a 4 to 5 percent drop in gross domestic product and cause a 2 percent rise in unemployment. But developing a pipeline alternative for exporting Iraqi and other oil without the strait would reduce the impact to less than 1 percent of GDP, Sokolski says.

And it would be Iran, rather than the global economy, that would suffer from a loss of strait shipping, he adds, with oil making up 80 percent of Iran's exports and oil proceeds paying nearly half of the national budget.

"It's also an indication of what the world is really prepared to do to handle Iran," Sokolski says. "If you're not prepared to do this, you're not going to do very much."

For now, the world is showing it is ready to focus diplomatic efforts on Iran. The sense of urgency about dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions stems largely from concerns about the governing regime in Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hasn't helped by advocating Israel's destruction.

But Hadar of Cato wagers that "even the most open-minded Iranian leader" would fall under nationalist pressures to develop a nuclear capability. With that in mind, some experts advocate dialogue with Iran rather than increasing its isolation.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a member of the German Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee who has met with both the Americans and the Iranians, says the international community should be working toward "smart sanctions" against Iran, even as it tries through diplomacy to persuade Iran to end its nuclear program.

But Mr. Guttenberg, who accompanied German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington last week, adds that "only the US has anything to offer that is of real interest to the Iranians."

That view suggests another solution to the crisis, one that would require dramatic Nixon-to-China-type discussions between Washington and Tehran.

Recently John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, has called on Iran to follow the example of Libya, which in December 2003 gave up its clandestine nuclear weapons programs in a bid to rejoin the global community of nations. But for many experts, such an outcome with Iran would require almost as big a shift in Washington as in Tehran.