Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Hey, I did it again! South of the border raises questions about Iraq,

NOTE: Once again I wrote a comment on Dan's blog, and thought it was good enough to paste to my own. Enjoy.

Dear Appalled Moderate,

"With the possible exception of India, I can't think of a viable democracy coexisting with crushing poverty and lack of economic opportunity."

Would you consider Brazil or Mexico to fit your analogy?

Seriously, advocates of foward promotion of Democracy to my knowledge do not mention South America or Meso-America. This is a hugely diverse region of multiple cultures (mostly related by Spanish or Portugese colonial influence) that has had a history of transition to democracy. It is also a stark warning to those who would let a hundred democracies bloom. It is also a region that has seen heavy US influence over a period of decades to the present day.

The answer seems to be that yes, Democracies can successfully form from previously autocratic and economically devastated third world countries. It is also often extremely unstable, prone to civil wars and revolutionary movements, often is plagued by uneradicable drug export problems, open to competition from other political ideologies such as Socialism, and not necessarily very friendly toward the USA at all. It is also true that even after decades of structural political progress, many of these countries are economic or social basket cases even with heavy Western patronage and guidance. Think of Venezula with its large oil industry and then think of Iraq, or Columbia and then of Afghanistan.

I'd say that anyone overly optimistic about the progress in Iraq or exporting democracy elsewhere should take a serious cautionary note from south of our border. People down there are still coming north because things are so much better here in every which way for most of the citizens of these countries. History - those who do not learn from it...

Hey Oldman:

That's Claude Tessier you were quoting, not me. You should have been able to tell it wasn't me by the lack of typos and presence of philosphical content.

I have no problem with encouraging democracy as suggested in the footnote and detail post by our proprietor. I just fear that W might turn his devotion to the "promotion of democracy" in various places as another reason to indulge in a little preemption. Unless there are genuine US interests involved, that would be an outrageous use of the troops.

Tthe rise of democracy in Latin America in the 80s always struck me as something that was organic -- rather than the result of US influence.
For that reason, my guess is, despite the strains we see now, most of the regimes down there will continue to be democratic.

Posted by appalled moderate

Dear Apalled Moderate,

Thank you for the correction. You are absolutely right, usually your posts are more 'nuanced'. As for your commentary, I would agree that Democracy is here to stay South of the Border. However the road to this point has been filled with corruption, civil war, social turmoil, and they still aren't necessarily places you'd want to live OR in agreement with the USA. And while the overall arc of democracy was organic, there has been extreme influence by the United States including invasions, power play diplomacy, taking part in coups, propping up dictators, etc. Noriega wasn't that long ago.

The question is are the American people really gung-ho on doing this for the next thirty or forty years. Because that's been the kind of history we saw south on the border, with some of the civil wars (Columbia) and political instability (Venezula) and economic problems (Argentina) continuing to the present day. There were been no simple ecstatic spreads of democracy and economic liberalization similar to Eastern Europe which the pro-transformation advocates are fond of quoting. What if the Middle-east is more like South America than Eastern Europe? We could be in for a bad time for a long time, and meanwhile other priorities would have to compete ...


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