Monday, October 09, 2006

More realism

The October issue of The American Spectator has a fine article by James Kurth on the chequered history of democratization in American foreign policy, from the post-Civil War South to Iraq. It's a well-written and thought-through piece by someone who clearly knows what he's talking about, from an essentially realist perspective.

Kurth doesn't poo-poo democratization. But he compares cases to illuminate why democratization fails or succeeds. The critical factors include previous liberal-democratic practices and large middle and working classes with a big vested interest in the rule of law, representative institutions, and nonviolent political change. The failure mode awaiting countries that don't have these factors is either ethnic break-up (like Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Iraq) or populist democracy (rather than liberal democracy). The latter is what's happening in Russia and Venezuela: a one-man authoritarian system headed towards dictatorship with only vestiges of democratic practices. It's what happened to Italy in 1922-24, then Germany in 1930-33.

Unfortunately, the article is available on their Web site only to subscribers. But you can rush out to your local bookstore and buy it. You might scruple to avoid TAS as a right-wing rag, but enjoy Ben Stein if you can't enjoy the rest.

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