Democracy Arsenal

« Trade Policy Strikes Back, Pre-emptively | Main | Stop the Murtha-Mongers »

November 16, 2006

Where State and Human Security intersect
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Marc and Shadi have pointed out a painful dilemma in their last few posts: That the values of a democracy promoting foreign policy have been given a bad name by the neo-cons and their rush to war in Iraq.  I have also been perplexed by this (keeping in mind that the USA has undermined itself abroad in the name of democracy several times before the neo-cons were on the scene). Yet I agree, we must not let the values of democracy (human rights, transparency, participation) become casualties of the past five years.  One way to do this is to forget about the rhetoric for awhile and dive into real problem solving.

The DLC  method of lining a bunch of lefties up against the wall and forcing them to say "kill terrorists" or "twin perils of terrorism and tyranny" before they get into the serious-foreign-policy club is silly. A much better strategy is to actually tackle liberal dilemmas in the real world: Like when to use force.  How to do it, whether or not the military is the one who should do it, should it be done by the USA or through a collective organization, what does the doctrine look like, what does the training look like, should it be privatized etc. etc. etc.

Our challenge today, not just as progressives, but as a planet is to derive a way to understand security two ways simultaneously: one that combines the needs of the individual with the more traditional needs of the state. This intersection is dangerous--with lots of careening traffic. Rhetorically this place is often posed as a tradeoff like the old rusty guns versus butter debate. But that is conceptually wrong and mostly unhelpful.  Both are important. Always. State and individual human security needs are not mutually exclusive and should not be seen as tradeoffs. A strong Army is good. So are more girls' schools. Because we haven't talked about it --putting everything on the budget table as we go--we have neither.

I attended a book reception today where the audience pitched questions along this theme.The Impossible Mandate? is a new publication out of the nonpartisan Henry L. Stimson Center . It centers on military preparedness, the Responsibility to Protect  and Modern Peace Operations. (The book will be up on the site asap!)

The central question: Is the world prepared to use military force to protect civilians from mass violence?

Author Tori Holt called the military role in providing civilian protection "coercive protection". What a great example of the new language we need to explain our new world. Those two words together help me envision an integrated idea at the all important intersection--using the military to create safety.  The humanitarian lobby Interaction comes at it from a humanitarian aid point of view in this publication

We're living in a time when an individual can inflict terrible harm on a state. The flip side of that coin is that the state is also marshalling resources on behalf of individuals.

I'm hoping that the outcome of all this conceptual athleticism is a policy to make a virtue out of necessity.  Support for preventive measures that help both states and individuals: participatory, self-government early and often. I'm going to think about this some more and hopefully come up with a less clunky way of putting it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Where State and Human Security intersect:


The central question: Is the world prepared to use military force to protect civilians from mass violence?

If there's one thing I hope we've all learned from the Iraq disaster, it's that our favored policies will not be implemented by us, but by deeply flawed institutions and people less enlightened than ourselves.

For example, suppose a racist book like the "Arab Mind" became the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military. We could then expect our soldiers to treat the population they're suppposed to protect like sub-humans.

Something to think about if you want to go into Darfur, and the natives start to resist.

We haven't seen widespread resistance from the populations we're trying to protect in Kosovo or Bosnia. So I don't think that the groups we're trying to protect in Darfur would engage in large scale resistance either.

The American military has never been a perfect institution, but it used to have a substantially better reputation prior to this administration. Yes, we bomb from high altitude which traded pilot safety for target differentiation and yes we have committed massacres. However, we had been known for good treatment of prisoners. Moreover, much of the pushback against administration policies came from the military. I'd say that pushback was often more forceful than that from Congress.

Ms. Kelly, I think you're exactly right. The proof of our values will be in the means we use to pursue them. These problems are hard and the answers we've got now are clunky. In other cases, such as the importance to intervention of constabulary forces rather than conventional military forces, the answers are clear but politically difficult. I think the best way to win of wary progressives is to make the case one answer at a time rather than trying to get them to buy into the large values agenda and then work out the implementation as a team.

The State was created, constitutionally, to protect our liberty and our individual rights. The State, itself, has no rights or needs, and nothing to protect.

"We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The US military has been used for at least a century to advance US corporate and state interests throughout the world--money and power. And where invading armies go they are accompanied by atrocities. Rape, torture and murder follow invading armies like fleas follow a dog. Try to put a pretty face on it if you like, but women and children suffer and die en masse when the bombs fall and the bullets fly, no matter what the excuse for the war was made out to be. And, it's illegal.

From Article 2 of the UN Charter:

The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

We haven't seen widespread resistance from the populations we're trying to protect in Kosovo or Bosnia. So I don't think that the groups we're trying to protect in Darfur would engage in large scale resistance either.

You don't think they would? You could very well be right. And if that's the case, then everything will be fine.

But that's precisely my point. If Iraq has taught us anything, it's that we can't assume a best case scenario.

Because if the natives resist our ground forces -- like they did in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq -- then there will be hell to pay:

So what happened then in the advance into Baghdad - and what is happening still as American soldiers fire on crowds of demonstrators? The answer struck me recently. The world's biggest and most formidable army - the most technologically advanced - lacks discipline regarding its own rules of engagement and an ability - the critical ability - to properly identify targets before engagement.


Cal: In Iraq we were invited in by a few expatriats with isolated ties to their home country. There was no real indication on the ground that we would be greated as liberators. The one area where there was such an indication was in the Kurdish areas where we in fact have not taken fire from the locals.

Somalia is a more telling counterpoint, but that wasn't a population under threat of genocide. Instead they faced mass starvation. Addressing the starvation itself did not meet with substantial difficulties. The problems came in with nation building. However, while there was an obvious need for nation building, the U.N. did not means had broad-based support from the local power brokers to pursue such a mission.

It isn't best case scenario thinking to suspect that those who invite you to a country because they are being massacred are not going to shoot at you. For all the problems in Bosnia and Kosovo, this hasn't really come up.

It makes more sense to draw the lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan that legitmacy matters. Afghanistan has gone far more easily than Iraq. If we weren't fighting a two front war under incompetant leadership we'd still have to figure out a good way to handle the opium issue, but would probably be on a track similar to more successful interventions. Now intervention has a shoddy history, but by no means has every one turned into Iraq.

To be clear, I think Iraq shows that military action against dictatorships, even totalitarian dictatorships, will not easily follow the Germany or Japan model. Any attempt to change the government in Iran by force, even though the peeople of Iran are often quite liberal, would probably meet with disaster. But genocide or politicide is very different than mere dictatorship.

So, is the fact that I think Darfur natives wouldn't shoot at us adequate basis to establish that they won't? Of course not. But we don't have to rely on my opinion, we can ask the factional leaders and work out an agreement in advance. We aren't relying on expatriats here. Similarly the level of support by the international community is already dramatically higher than the war in Iraq, even with China's opposition.

(For the record, practically speaking, a large scale ground intervention by American in Darfur is impossible under present circumstances. The most we could do is to provide logistical and air support to the U.N./A.U.)

I'm not sure what's with all the italics. Sorry about that.

Afghanistan has gone far more easily than Iraq.

Gone is right.

KABUL, Afghanistan - Insurgent activity in Afghanistan has risen fourfold this year, and militants now launch more than 600 attacks a month, a rising wave of violence that has resulted in 3,700 deaths in 2006, a bleak new report released Sunday found.

The new report said insurgents were launching more than 600 attacks a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month at the end of March this year. The violence has killed more than 3,700 people this year, it said.

The violence "threatens to reverse some of the gains made in the recent past, with development activities being especially hard hit in several areas, resulting in partial or total withdrawal of international agencies in a number of the worst-affected provinces."

The report said that the rising drug trade in Afghanistan is fueling the insurgency in four volatile southern provinces. The slow pace of development is contributing to popular disaffection and ineffective implementation of the drug fight, it said.

Afghanistan's poppy crop, which is used to make heroin, increased by 59 percent in Afghanistan this past year.

Insurgents have launched a record number of roadside bombs and suicide attacks this year, and there have been clashes all year between insurgents and Afghan and NATO security forces, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces near the border with Pakistan.

WASHINGTON: Al-Qaeda's influence and numbers are rapidly growing in Afghanistan, with fighters operating from new havens and mimicking techniques learned on the Iraqi battlefield for use against U.S. and allied troops, the directors of the CIA and defense intelligence told Congress yesterday [Nov. 15, 2006].

Five years after the United States drove al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the CIA, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that both groups are back, waging a "bloody insurgency" in the south and east of the country. U.S. support for the Kabul government of Hamid Karzai will be needed for "at least a decade" to ensure that the country does not fall again, he said.

Actually, the country (except the capital, Kabul) has already "fallen" but nobody has the courage to admit it. Chalk up another loss for imperialism.

"Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction — compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably."

Admittedly Dec 2005 so a bit dated. Presumably the ratings are worse now but I'll bet they're still dramatically better than the polls in Iraq.

There's problems, but I think with more resources and competance the situation can be turned around. At least as of December 2005 a strong majority of Afghans seemed to think so.

This is not to claim that we were invited into Afghanistan in the way we were in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Darfur. We weren't. It was an invasion to get at the state haboring Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But the situation is still dramatically different than the one in Iraq.

Democracy promotion by the Neo-Cons (and by others of many political stripes) is viewed from a top-down perspective. I never understood how one could argue that democracy was being promoted by lopping off the top ayers of a government and replacing it with a hand-picked successor or party. Democracy springs from the people, and if it is to function at the national level it must first be practiced at the local level - otherwise you simply have a state governed by the elites.

I believe that the most pro-democracy policy to which the US has subscribed is contained in the plan of action of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (called "Agenda 21"). Ostensibly this document addressed the protection of the environment and the improvement of living standards, particularly for the developing world. What it was, really, was a plan for the development and empowerment of local democracy in support of the twin goals of environment and development.

I suggest that democrats should increase the emphasis on implementing Agenda 21, a document conveniently negotiated under a republican administration and adopted at a summit of world leaders. Using this as a basis, we should put effort into aiding localities develop local democratic processes in pursuit of local development interests. This is not a quick fix (thought I think benefits would be seen in a couple years), but just as our democracy rises from the local level to the states and nation, we can foster the development of local leaders around the world who will build their approach to leadership on democratic processes and they will bring that approach with them as they rise from local to regional and national leadership positions.

This is not a substitute for national-level programs to promote and support democracy, but it is a base that is necessary for those programs. Unlike military involvement, support of localities in sustainable development is relatively low-cost and leaves a favorable image of the United States. This approach doesn't even have to be limited to a federal policy - NGOs and corporations can also provide support to local development of democratic processes for development.

Again, if we want to "dive into real problem-solving" we ought to start at home, in a country that has the highest rates (in the developed world) of: infant mortality, incarceration, homicide, suicide . . . and the lowest rates of voter participation--a result of voter exclusion policies relating to third party exclusion, gerrymandering, voting impediments, court intervention, etc.

The "new democrat" likes to lord it over others while the "progressive" recognizes that we need to put our own house in order (my definition). Which am I? Which are you?

Why is this important? Because we will never be secure until we have democracy and prosperity at home--and we don't have it now for all out citizens. So we can hardly export what we don't have ourselves.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use