Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun

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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Kyle says:

    Well put, though wouldn’t you say there’s a degree of independence between democracy and democratic cultures and liberalism and liberal cultures.

    Liberalism, I think, being the more critical cultural import and thus key to the successful development of representative or democratic governments and stable societies. Then again maybe this is a terribly Eurocentric way of looking at politics and government and stable illiberal democracies may be more culturally stable than I give them credit for.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Democracy without a foundation of liberalism is likely to be unsustainable and end up with a President-for-Life. The democracy is just a marker of the liberalism in the culture… it’s not the end in itself.

    The election isn’t the point. It’s the population and the leadership are inclined to hand over the reigns of power to the folks who won the election every so-many years.

    The dictators who say “we’re having an election!” and then stuff the boxes (Iran!) or just don’t put anybody else on the ballot (Saddam’s most recent, I believe) are trying to signal democracy but an election is not, in itself, a signal of a democracy (though, indeed, democracies have elections).

    Democracy is an outcome of liberalism. But without liberalism, I would not be in a hurry to see democracy.Report

  3. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    The Iranian example doesn’t take into account the years of building up a middle class. Iran has the most educated, largest middle class in that part of the world. When that crew comes into its own it historically asks first for economic freedoms, then political freedoms, and then only eventually democratic vote (usually in degrees) as the way to actualize its political freedoms. So the vote in Iran helped reveal the lack of political accountability and freedom. But in a place (like say Palestine) where there is no economic freedom and a middle class than people vote in the hardest elements, usually with authoritarian-ish flavors (as Larison is right about Egypt and Jordan).Report

    • Avatar Kyle in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

      Good point on Iran, though the more I think about this, the more I think it’s difficult to separate a framework for understanding the interactions between culture and government from nation-state exceptionalism. Or rather I’m having difficulty reconciling IR theory with IR reality.

      Because to step outside of Asia Minor for a second, you can point to Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan and Russia as states that don’t fit comfortably on an axis of regional stability, democracy, and/or liberalism charted by either Sullivan or Larison.

      If you stay in Asia Minor, I think Turkey and Israel become interesting quasi-outliers.Report

  4. Avatar Katherine says:

    I think Sullivan is taking a country that is the exception to the rule in the Middle East and misinterpreting it as representative. Iran is the only country in the Mideast where increased democracy is likely to bring about decreased Islamism – in every other country over there the population is more supportive of Islamist ideas and more hostile towards Israel than the current government – which is why the US devotes so much money to propping up those dictatorships.

    When the population of a dictatorship is asking for anything other than free-market secular liberal democracy, the US finds it much more in its own interests to be on the side of the dictator.Report

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