So LTG's post about the Neo-Cons banging the war drums for "regime change" in Iran has inspired me to post something about what causes regime change and democratization.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Political scientists have done a lot of research on this subject. Much of it has its roots in research by people like Samuel Huntington who also did work for the government advising them about how to establish a stable regime in South Vietnam (so that worked out). His most influential book among political scientists is Political Order in Changing Societies. The premise of Huntinton's early work was that democracy didn't matter - the emphasis was stability and order. Democratization was not that important as a goal. This book was a product of the times (the Cold War) in which the US government was more concerned with preventing regime change (especially preventing Communist take overs) than fostering it. He also wrote about the "Third Wave" of democratization. But this work did not meet the standard for rigor in the discipline at the time nor did it provoke the controversy of his later work. Huntington's last book before he died was the infamous "Clash of Civilizations." A lot of Republicans LOVE this book. It seems to argue that conflict between different cultures is inevitable. Many neo-cons use the arguments in this book to justify their (as Dr. S. pointed out) quasi-religious faith in military conflict as a means to achieving regime change. But even here they miss the point. Huntington is arguing that the conflict will continue regardless of the identity of the leadership. Huntington was arguing (and I disagree) that conflict between the West and the Muslim world is inevitable and persistent. Regime change won't effect it.
I prefer other approaches in political science. Researchers who have focussed on democratization and revolutions. Some of the prominent figures in this literature are Gabriel Almond, Barrington Moore, Theda Skocpol, who wrote at about the same time as Huntington. They took a more sociological approach to the problem emphasizing varying combinations of economics, culture and institutional structures. The interest in institutions really started to kick in the 80s and later with researchers like Joel Migdal, Juan Linz and Robert Putnam. Migdal emphasize the role of the state and its relationship to civil society. Linz argued that presidential systems were inherently unstable in new democracies. Robert Putnam argued that corrupt and ineffective institutions were likely to be found in combination with societies in which civic engagement was low.
There are also works that have made the argument that oil is bad for democracy. The best example of this research (in my opinion) is Michael Ross. He has produced a number of good articles that show that not only does dependence on oil exports hinder democratization, it appears to have a significant and negative impact on women's rights.
These are not the only researchers in this area. There are others that some might think are important that I left out because I'm not trying to produce a solid academic lit review here, just a list of friendly suggested readings. But the bottom line from this list of authors is that democratization is extremely complicated. None of the researchers that I know of (not even Huntington) have ever argued that all you need to do to establish a democracy in a country is invade and remove the dictator and watch democracy rise up by divine right (Bush's view).
John Bolton is held up by the neo-cons as an expert in international politics. But his training is in Law not political science. His ignorance about the complexities of democratization is perhaps a symptom of that training. He has a position and he argues forcefully for it but he seems never to have actually researched or read the research of others who approach the problem from a perspective of hypothesis testing.
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 4:25 AM