“After the events of 11 September, the US and the EU both looked at methods of promoting democracy in the region, but…only if it did not challenge their interests…The free flow of oil and gas, the movement of military/commercial traffic through the Suez Canal, commercial infrastructure construction contracts, the security of regional allies such as Israel, and cooperation on immigration, military, counter-terrorism…the expansion of free markets and free trade in a neoliberal modality…reduced democracy promotion to little more than a technology of US and EU external governance…The Obama administration initially attempted to replace “market driven modernisation” with “development driven modernisation”…in the aftermath of the 2011 revolutions, however, the Obama administration would increasingly come to see the Bush administration’s approach as the preferred policy agenda”.
(Ruth Santini and Oz Hassan 2012: 66-75)
At uni last week we looked at democratisation, specifically, the movement of individual states toward democracy from autocracy. We touched on the role of external powers [Western democracies] in supporting/imposing democracy on developing countries. It isn’t until recently that there are more democracies than autocratic regimes. We also looked at different forms of democracy and academic debates about whether democracy is good for development.
We also briefly discussed a range of other issues that challenge popular ideas about democracy (and led to significant insight into why autocratic regimes have persisted in many countries). The formation of many developing states is largely born out of the borders imposed on areas, often under colonial rule, not natural formation, fails to address ethno/religious difference. Significantly, modern Western democracies took 100s of years to be formed in their current state. Movements toward democracy were often violent, and were often built on the exploitation of the rights of others within and between States (i.e. slavery, exploitative labour practices imposed on women). Some authors acknowledge that the formation of the democratic modern nation-states (and their neo-liberal -philosophies, -policies, -institutions) exemplify deep structural inequality, both within and between countries [See Nicholas (2012: 213) : “We can observe the formation of such institutionalized patterns of hierarchy not just among preexisting sovereign states but actually in the historical process of state formation. Many contemporary European nation-states, most notably Britain and Spain, emerged out of struggles among adjacent kingdoms to impose authority over one another in conflicts uncategorizable as either domestic or international. Outside Europe, many societies were inserted into the international system through the imposition of colonial authority and, on decolonization, inherited a set of state institutions designed to enable colonial administration. Hierarchy amongst polities has often preceded and shaped the genesis of modern states”].
In the examination of democratisation, we briefly discussed that, throughout the twentieth century, Western liberal democracies have supported autocracies in the Middle East. This has been for political, economic, security reasons. Gilley (2013: 659) acknowledges the United States (U.S.) and European powers have a history of supporting authoritarian regimes. A 2006-2008 Arab public opinion poll indicated that 65% did not believe the US was sincere about promoting democracy (Gilley 2013: 674). In, 2010 another Arab opinion poll suggested that the majority of public (across Arab states) believed that of U.S. Foreign policy was to preserve regional and global dominance. Only 3% of respondents believed that U.S. foreign policy was to promote democracy (Gilley 2013: 680). Curiously, while Gilley acknowledges that other theorists, like Baroudi (in Gilley 2013: 676) believe that “democratization of the Arab world is far more likely to hinder the American agenda than to serve it”, Gilley (2013: 659) continues to conceptualise Bush’s “Freedom Agenda’ (659) as sincere in its objective of promoting in the Middle East.
While Gilley emphasises that democracy would have been more successful if it had been democracy in the hands of domestic actors (683), Santini and Hassan (2012) are more critical of the notion that Western powers support democratisation of the Middle East. Of U.S. policy and its influence on international institutions, Santini and Hassan (2012: 75) argue that Obama initially attempted to replace market driven modernisation with development driven modernisation. However, they argue that Obama increasingly applied Bush’s approach arguing that “the problem with the region was its “close economies” and that the region needed “trade” and “not just aid”; “investment” and “not just assistance” ; and that “protectionism must give way to openness”. (Santini and Hassan 2012: 75). Santini and Hassan (2012) argue that European Union’s (EU) concept of democratisation is embodied in regional institutions and processes (e.g. the Barcelona Process, 2000 EU Common Strategy on the Mediterranean Region and 2004 Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. While, they acknowledge that the EU has been less prescriptive in tying economic liberalization with democracy, they conclude that both the U.S. and the EU need to learn to engage and support civil society more effectively, rather than defining freedom for the region in neoliberal economic terms (Santini and Hassan 2012: 79)
Strasheim and Fjelde (2012) look more closely at the role of interim governments in changes from autocratic rule to democracy. These authors specifically look at the problems with intervention from Western powers (Strasheim and Fjelde 339-341). With their analysis in mind, I think it would be interesting to examine the extent to which interim governments were installed in Afghanistan, examining the extent to which Western powers undermined peace and security in Afghanistan. I think a lot of other interesting questions emerge from the readings:
By supporting movements toward democracy for late 'developing' countries, are Western democracies supporting democracy or neoliberalism?
To what extent do modern liberal democracies function as democracies? Discuss the role of the media, treatment of minorities and informed citizenship as key elements of a democracy.
To what extent should Western states intervene (particularly unilaterally), in the Middle East?
To what extent are interventions in the Middle East genuine interest in the rights of women or minority groups, or are human/women’s rights discourses used to justify interventions with more sinister motives?
To what extent are international institutions a product of the powerful States that formed and reform them?
Gilley, B. (2013) ‘Did Bush Democratize the Middle East? The Effects of External-Internal Linkages’, Political Science Quarterly, 34(8): 1323-1338.
Lees, N. (2012) ‘The dimensions of the divide: vertical differentiation, international inequality and North-South stratification in international relations theory’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 25(2): 209-230.
Santini, R. & Hassan, O. (2012) ‘Transatlantic democracy promotion and the Arab Spring’, The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs, 47(3): 65-82.
Strasheim, J. & Fjelde, H. (2014) ‘Pre-designing democracy: institutional design of interim governments and democratization in 15 post-conflict societies’, Democratization, 21(2): 335-358.