Monday, August 07, 2006

Democracy and war

Western mainstream media comments extensively on Yanukovich becoming a new PM in the Ukraine. Some commentators experience cognitive shock, “How comes? Everything was so democratic but then “the enemy of democracy” becomes a new Ukrainian PM? Is it a blow on democracy or not?” Acting in the interests of the major Western powers and being democratic has become synonymous but in reality there are almost no connections.

By democracy we mean nothing but a technical model of government that is copied from Western standards and has several variations. There’s no doubt that for citizens of the Western countries this model works perfectly. So perfectly that 99% of them sincerely believe that this model should also bring peace, prosperity and happiness to every country in the world once implemented. Cause is taken for effect here, I believe.

Theoretically Western-type democracy model looks ideal but after its evident failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine an open minded person should ask a simple question, “Maybe something is wrong not with the people of these countries but with the model itself?”

It is not hard to see that at the heart of the model of democracy lies confrontation. Conflict and conflict based competition is the essence of democracy. Elections, multi-party system, checks and balances, free press, civil society – they are all about competing, warring, struggling for power, dividing people into winners and losers, fighting for minorities rights. It all works in aggressive cultures where people prefer competition over harmony, criticism over consensus, and change over stability. How comes people of democratic cultures did not annihilate each other so far? I think it’s a result of several factors.

First, the ability to keep aggression "pacified" is a result of a thousand years of never ending wars in Europe between dozens of countries varying is size. The sheer instinct of survival “civilized” European nations and by the time first concepts of democracy were tried European wars were so “civilized” that citizens of some Crapenburg Principality didn’t even know if today they belong to France or to Prussia although the quantity of wars and conflicts never really decreased. Millennium of European never ending wars also brought up a new type of man – a person who is friendly or neutral towards occupying troops, who is ready to compromise, who values above all the life of an individual but doesn’t care much about the fate of his Crapenburg Motherland. But the most important - Europeans learnt to treat conflicts and even wars more like a game that should be kept within “civilized” rules forged over centuries. Fortunately, it all ended with an invention of weapons of mass destruction.

In countries where wars were very rare and where people could enjoy at least a hundred years of peace another type culture was molded. We are talking about India, China, Japan, and Russia. In these cultures conflicts were frowned upon, harmony was more important than competition, unity more important winning, where individual interests were less important then interests of a family, group, nation or country. In such cultures conflicts were subdued, competition highly regulated, team spirit encouraged and individualists ostracized.

Now what happens when an aggressive democratic model is installed in such countries? Let’s have a look. In Saddam times Sunni and Shia lived together in peace, marriages between Sunni and Shia were common, people didn’t even know if their neighbors are Shia or Sunni. Of course, there were small groups of radicals but they were underground. Then “democracy” comes. It was all but natural that major political parties and organizations competing for votes start profiteering on the most evident topic – religious differences. Conflict that was almost invisible before is blown out of proportion. At the same time, unlike Westerners, people in Iraq are not used to treat conflicts as a “game”. They take it very seriously. A country is divided by implacable differences – you belong either to a Sunni party or to a Shia party. What’s more – the so-called system of checks and balances leaves no hopes to resolve the conflict peacefully. We get a civil war but what is the real reason of the civil war – religious differences or a model of democracy that encourages confrontation? More then that – countries that achieved some harmony are strongly criticized by democracy pundits for lack of conflicts and fights.

There are hundreds of examples when a Western type model of democracy gave rise to civil wars. American model was probably the worst although Americans try really hard to implement it all around the globe. Take Latin America, for example. In the 19th century it took only a year or two for a Latin American country to adopt American type “democracy” and a new civil war between “Democrats” and “Republicans” started.

People in your country live in peace and harmony? Then we need to finance some NGO’s that will teach you democracy. “Orange revolution” in the Ukraine is a good example. Wonder why only 15 years ago conflict between Ukrainian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and Russian-speaking Ukrainian was almost non-existent? Why differences between Northern and Southern clans in Kirgizia were so meager?

PS. “Democracy” in countries like India or Japan is very far away from the Western model. Japan managed to live fifty years with a one-party parliament, symbolic checks and balances system, incredible lack of any political dissent on TV and in newspapers. Things are not better in India.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Wonder why only 15 years ago conflict between Ukrainian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and Russian-speaking Ukrainian was almost non-existent?"

Hahahahahhahaahhaah !

That's got to be the stupidest thing I'ver ever read about Ukraine !

Tim Newman said...

Konstantin,

There is so much nonsense in this post I have been obliged to write a lengthy rebuttal of it over at my place.

Anonymous said...

This blog is really the proof that some people should be kept away from internet. Konstantin, you are embarassing yourself and the entire blogger community.

Anonymous said...

@ Konstantin

Thank you for this fine post. You're indeed improving every day! You probably just had the nice brain-revigorating holiday I am still waiting for...

Do not worry for the sarcastic comments of some know-it-all.

Their poor sense of analysis and their blatant lies speak for themselves:
Just take my favorite excerpt from the brilliant "re-butt-al" written by some smart chap:

"Anyone advocating such nationalist ideas as Ukrainian language would find themselves harrassed, jobless, arrested, imprisoned, or shot prior to 1991?"

Do you see what I mean?

@ Anonymous #1
Sorry, but I strongly feel that I have to "Hahahahahhahaahhaah" back to you!

@ Tim
Now, Tim, do you really mean that Ukrainian language was forbidden in the Soviet Union? Ever been in Soviet Ukraine, Tim? Obviously not... Shame on you, then! Meanwhile, just cut the crap...

@ A-moron-ymous #2
You should be the one keeping away from the internet. How dare you speak that way???

As we French people say: ***Quand on n'a rien ? dire, on ferme sa gueule.***
No offence, anyone!


Spasibo za vnimanie!
Спасибо за внимание!

jin said...

Konstantin, what are you triing to pull here? Is this some kind of provocation? If you mean what you wrote, then it is as wrong as your post about AIDS.

'Theoretically Western-type democracy model looks ideal but after its evident failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Ukraine an open minded person should ask a simple question, “Maybe something is wrong not with the people of these countries but with the model itself?”‘

You should add Yugoslavia to it. But look, are these conflicts the results of democracy, or are they just results of deep inner divisions? It is true, that in Yugoslavia, after the fall of communism, democratic and semi democratic parties tended to function on nationalistic lines and that caused the civil war. But if you look now, all of the former republics, now independent states, want to be members of the EU. How come? Because nationalism has lost most of its value and now we have parties based on different ideologies.

Yes, parties do compete for votes. There is criticism, there is debate, there is conflict, but this is all the way in which the population can then later decide which party they find most suitable to lead them. Without conflicts about all kind of issues, how could we even have democracy, how could we have freedom? We could not. The only other solution would be a dictatorship, lack of freedom, a one party rule, conformism.

And such a political system, in which there is no place for dissent, no place for improvement through competition, must sooner or later fail, because it doesn’t allow individuals within the country to come to their full potentials. It is not possible, because the elite, the party, the dictator, will not allow it. They will not allow it, because it could endanger harmony and their rule.

Now, about Ukraine. Ukraine is still a democracy, even if Janukovich won. Changing of government through elections is part of democracy as we know it. And it is good. What is happening in Ukraine is, that finally conflict lines between the pro western and pro Russian political forces are being bridged and new alliances which are only pro Ukrainian are being formed.

You mention Iraq. Iraq is a failure of American imperialism. You just don’t come to a country after you bombed it and impose democracy. People will fight you. Fighting will cause much hatred and violence will spiral out of control. But that does not mean, that Iraq can not be a democracy. Actually, if you look at the progres being made, you see, that fundaments are being laid for a kind of teocratic republic Iranian style, which is in a sense a democracy, allthough not fully developed. One can imagine, that popular demand will one day make a full democracy out of Iran and maybe even out of Iraq. There will be sectarian tensions, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be resolved like in Belgium. Iraqis are no fools and sooner or later they will come to their senses.

You talk about democracy being a result of aggresive people, if I understand you correctly. I think Europeans are not an inch more aggresive than anybody else. They just had some faster development and good armies and they conquerd the world. But as I can remember, Turks were also triing to spread their empire as far as it would go and there were many wars all around the globe before any Europeans came there. Do you really believe, that if the Turks had the chance, they wouldn’t counqer all of Europe? Or the Russians?

‚In countries where wars were very rare and where people could enjoy at least a hundred years of peace another type culture was molded. We are talking about India, China, Japan, and Russia. In these cultures conflicts were frowned upon, harmony was more important than competition, unity more important winning, where individual interests were less important then interests of a family, group, nation or country.‘

Well, I think in Germany interests of the country were before the interests of the individual as well before the 2.nd World War. I think it is so in every country, no matter if it is a democracy or a dictatorship. Even more, one could argue that in dictatorships interests of the ruling elites are more important that the interests of their countries.

Are you saying that in those four countries you mentioned life was better than in European countries? Was there more progress being made there? Do you know, that there was a giant Chinese naval expedition in 1422 which reached all the(some say) way to America? But after that some crazy emperor thought that it is better to live in harmony without progress and exploration, and closed off China from the rest of the world. What good did that bring to China? If there would have been freedom and democracy in China at that time someone would definetly set out on a voyage to try and get himself at least some trade links, if he wouldn’t organize a small army of mercenaries and try and conquer some Bantustan who knows where. And with contacts people would learn about progress being made in foreign lands and China would probably not faced the humiliation of the siege of Embasies in Beijing.


‚More then that – countries that achieved some harmony are strongly criticized by democracy pundits for lack of conflicts and fights.‘

Which? Do you mean Russia here? Hope not, because Russia is a democracy, just not yet a fully developed one; one with to much pover invested in the President. I sincerely hope Russia will in future turn into a modern democratic state with guaranted freedoms for her citizens, where political parties will compete for votes (as they allready do) and voters will decide which party suits them best. It may be a different kind of democracy than in Sweden, but a democracy non the less. The key is peacefull change of government. No more revolutions, just a revolution at the ballot box each 4 years.

You see, even if there are conflicts, there is a peaceful way of solving them.

“Democracy” in countries like India or Japan is very far away from the Western model. Japan managed to live fifty years with a one-party parliament, symbolic checks and balances system, incredible lack of any political dissent on TV and in newspapers.‘

I think you are wrong here in the sense you are triing to say that Japan is no democracy at all if it isn’t the same as European democracies. Like some kind of a cripled democracy, more like a dictatorship in disguise. It is not like that. We know democracies, which function on clear cut lines, where two or three parties compete for power and one of them gets the control of government and many times the judiciary and legislature as well. But then we also know democracies built on consensus, where we have huge parties triing to cover all of the political spectrum or we have many parties cooperating in multiparty coalitions. If Japan had only one dominat party it simply means the majority of population had their interests covered through that party. Ofcourse there are other parties as well, like the Social democratic party. If the population will think the Liberal democrats are crap, they’ll go and vote for somebody else.

Well, at the end, just some thought on the word democracy. What we now call democracy in something different than what the Greeks had. It is the rule of the people, yes, but there are some checks built into the system, which protect minorities and guaranty rights. What is at play here is liberalism (not to be confused with American liberals, which are more social democrats) and the merger of democracy and liberalism gave us a system with checks and balances and constitutions and freedoms and protection of individuals. If you would have democracy just like a system of decision making, without that liberal component, you would end in a system, where the majority would get the minority killed if it wanted so.

I am just saying this, because there are now many democratic states around, but if you go and look at their political systems, you will see that there is hardly one identical to the other.

katjusha said...

jin wrote: You should add Yugoslavia to it. But look, are these conflicts the results of democracy, or are they just results of deep inner divisions? It is true, that in Yugoslavia, after the fall of communism, democratic and semi democratic parties tended to function on nationalistic lines and that caused the civil war. But if you look now, all of the former republics, now independent states, want to be members of the EU. How come? Because nationalism has lost most of its value and now we have parties based on different ideologies.

I wouldn't agree with your last sentence. Nationalism in all republics of former Yugoslavia is strong as in 1991. Nationalism HASN'T lost most of its value, just it is modernized and there is a fact that the war is over :) Now people don't have to fear for their life but have to fear for their job and how to earn for living. Economy is the biggest issue but a day doesn't pass without nationalistic incidents or scandals.

Nevertheless, even far-right nationalist parties are now willing to make dialog. Of course they always keep the temperature high, just in case :)

But I agree with you that the conflicts were a result of deep inner divisions and may I add unfinished and never resolved chapters from history. Not to mention the fact that national relations in this area had always been on master-servant track.

k.
zagreb, croatia

katjusha said...

forgot one thing: democracy and conflicts in former Yugoslavia are closely conected. If there was no democracy none of the national issues would emerge. Under communist rule people just couldn't deal with those issues because it would mean undermining communist power. Democracy brought too many questions with no answers and thats why the war started. It was unavoidable.

jin said...

Yes Katjusha, I know there are certain politicians both in Slovenia and Croatia which make use of border problems. But that is really not dangerous, just stupid. And in other republics, now independent states, there are still problems. But such problems will exist anywhere in the world, for a long time. Nationalism wont go away.

The key is in solving such problems peacefully.

But it is probably true, that democracy functions best in countries without serious religious and ethnic divides. But on the other hand, Belgium and Switzerland function very well.

Anyway, can we blame democracy for a violent transition from communism to democracy? Or do we blame people who made us hate each other?

Lucifer's Angel said...

Alright Kostya (if I could respectfully call you so), it is a very interesting view on democracy. By blaming democracy for the many of the world's conflicts you are creating a conflict within a blogger community here: some agree, some laugh at your views. Are you not living a democracy?
Would you rather be jailed for your radical views?

I believe the religious conflict is not so much a product of democracy. The religious differences between Sunnis and Shiites are not too significant. The conflict rather happened as the result of insurgent groups taking advantage of this difference to create a conflict. The world would blame the US and that's what they need.

Another good example of a democracy different from the US is Singapore. The country gained independence only in 1965 and went through a number of racial riots based on ethnic differences (the population of over 4 million comprises of Chinese, Malays and Indians). The democracy the country instilled, however, is a limited one. First of all, there is only one major party (PAP) which also controls many of the country's major entreprises (Singtel, Temasek holdings) - a shade of communism there? There are opposition parties, but they are heavily suppressed, especially near election times. However, majority of Singaporeans are happy as they enjoy the good economy, the fine HDB housing and a well developed infrastructure. The racial tensions are held on a short leash too, through propaganda of religious equality and unity. Heck, they even have a Racial harmony day. It seems that this 'controlled' democracy works rather well. People go through a purely symbolic act of voting, but have hardly anything against the Government. Maybe too much freedom the US advertises is really too much the people can handle after all?

Anonymous said...

is this a joke, or what?

"So perfectly that 99% of them sincerely believe that this model should also bring peace, prosperity and happiness to every country in the world once implemented"

in this very point i'm struggling myself - should i be sarcastic or rather explain, what causes i'm boiling inside.
your logic stroke me with one blazing enlightenment and now i may die in peace.

aww, goddamn, i've chosen sarcasm i suppose. my bad.

no, Konstantin. we do not believe democracy brings peace. what we do believe is it gives us better chance to be
a part of decision chain, leading us to peace, war, raping goats or whatever our sick-western-twisted minds
will lead us to.

repeat after me. "they do not believe democracy brings peace. they do not..."

whew.

since that's the lemma your mumbling was depending on, i rest my case.

p.s. if for some reason _my_ sick mumbling was not clear to you, i make it capital letters. yes, we'd
like Iraquis, Ukrainians, and even Russians to decide for themselves if they want to live in peace,
or even slay each other in merciless bloodbath. themselves. not one of them. decide. themselves.
all of them. decide. themselves. decide.

goodnight

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