Spreading democracy in practice

by Henry on November 29, 2004

The OSCE must be doing something right, given the loud yelps of dismay from Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov in the FT today (warning: hidden behind paywall). Lavrov complains that the OSCE “has deviated from its original objectives” and that “some countries’ approach to the OSCE’s work is increasingly based on obvious double standards.” Dire warnings in diplomatic speak (“the very survival of the OSCE will depend on its ability to capitalise on its comparative advantages”) follow on demands that the OSCE revert to consensus-based decision-making and show a greater sensitivity to national and cultural differences. All of which amounts to a barely-stifled howl of complaint at the OSCE’s role in monitoring electoral behaviour in Ukraine, and blowing the whistle on some of the dodgy goings-on associated therewith. Since the early 1990’s, the OSCE has pioneered a very effective form of limited intervention that has helped prevent or mitigate ethnic conflict in a variety of trouble spots, as well as promoting democracy through election monitoring and norm diffusion. It’s clearly working well enough to discomfit the Russians. The final outcome in Ukraine is still up in the air (although it looks increasingly hopeful), but the process is very interesting indeed. It suggests yet again that outside actors can help promote democracy through monitoring, information diffusion and censure of bad behavior when the internal conditions are right. If Ukraine does indeed become a democracy over the next several years (I still wouldn’t lay hard money on this outcome) it will demonstrate that soft power, preventive diplomacy and constructive intervention can work, even in the teeth of vigorous opposition from the regional hegemon. Indeed, it will stand as an important counterexample of successful democracy-building to the mess in Iraq. Too early to say, of course, but worth keeping an eye on.

{ 63 comments }

1

Dan Hardie 11.29.04 at 11:13 pm

I pass this on from my buddy Tarik in the Ukraine, whose article John Q posted: first Gazeta Wyborcza, the Polish ‘paper of record’, and now ‘Kommersant’, which is a serious Russian paper, are reporting that up to 500 Russian Special Forces, armed but in plain clothes, are at the disposal of Victor Yanukovych in Kiev. Tarik says he’s seen nothing to confirm it himself but that those two papers are both highly respectable and unlikely to be passing on mere rumours.The b***** reads Polish, Ukranian and Russian, so he’s not relying on translators here. He does also say that the government offices in central Kiev (really Kyiv) appear to be burning large numbers of papers.

2

Sock Thief 11.29.04 at 11:22 pm

I would have thought that a more appropriate comparison for Iraq would be Yugoslavia under Milosevic rather than the Ukraine.

The OSCE deserve credit and clearly the softly-softly approach can work. But not in all circumstances.

3

alex 11.29.04 at 11:24 pm

It seems to me that the complaints by the Russians of double standards are more or less justified. For example, one of the complaints lodged by the OSCE against the recent Ukrainian elections, as well as the less recent Russian ones, is that the state media was used to air propaganda supporting the incumbent. But the same was true in every single previous election in both Russia and Ukraine; specifically, it was true in all the elections Yeltsin won – but nobody in the west seemed to care at the time.

Conclusion: the OSCE seems to be very eager to accuse governments of holding unfair election when a perceived pro-western party loses, and not at all eager to make noise when the perceived pro-western party wins.

4

dave heasman 11.29.04 at 11:35 pm

“the OSCE seems to be very eager to accuse governments of holding unfair election when a perceived pro-western party loses, and not at all eager to make noise when the perceived pro-western party wins”

If several million Russians had demonstrated for a week in the centre of Moscow, if the Russian TV stations had ditched propaganda and started reporting honestly, if the Russian army and police had publicised electoral fraud and declared that they would not attack the demonstrators, then I imagine the OSCE would have been more vocal and/or their report would have been better publicised. Can’t make bricks without straw. Plenty of straw in Kiev. Almost the most unlikely place on earth for this level of collective heroism. I’ve been in a state of euphoric dumbfoundedness for a whole week.

5

georgewbush 11.29.04 at 11:42 pm

All this protestin’ and civil-society hand-wringin’ aint gonna get the job done.
Just let me drop a few thousand bombs on those Commie Ukosian.., umm, Ukrauti…umm, you know who I mean, them people over there. If it aint the result of people killin’ people, it aint gonna lead to democracy.

George W. Bush

6

Robin Green 11.29.04 at 11:50 pm

If several million Russians had demonstrated for a week in the centre of Moscow, if the Russian TV stations had ditched propaganda and started reporting honestly, if the Russian army and police had publicised electoral fraud and declared that they would not attack the demonstrators, then I imagine the OSCE would have been more vocal and/or their report would have been better publicised. Can’t make bricks without straw.

It’s true, but they’ve had a lot of external help from the US and George Soros, I hear. (When official enemies do this, we call it “meddling” and/or “external agitators”.)

Yeah, yeah, I know, you think I think the US is always behind everything. But this time it’s true (and they appear to be on the least worst side this time).

7

Henry 11.29.04 at 11:55 pm

bq. It seems to me that the complaints by the Russians of double standards are more or less justified. For example, one of the complaints lodged by the OSCE against the recent Ukrainian elections, as well as the less recent Russian ones, is that the state media was used to air propaganda supporting the incumbent. But the same was true in every single previous election in both Russia and Ukraine; specifically, it was true in all the elections Yeltsin won – but nobody in the west seemed to care at the time. Conclusion: the OSCE seems to be very eager to accuse governments of holding unfair election when a perceived pro-western party loses, and not at all eager to make noise when the perceived pro-western party wins.

Might be a good idea to check out what the OSCE actually said about these elections before you make sweeping accusations of bias – for previous reports on elections in the Ukraine check “here”:http://www.osce.org/odihr/index.php?page=elections&div=reports&country=ua, and for Russia check “here”:http://www.osce.org/odihr/index.php?page=elections&div=reports&country=ru. You’re wrong on the facts.

sock thief – you’re right in saying that the general applicability of the model isn’t certain (I did note that it would only work when ‘the internal conditions were right’). But even if we agree that Milosevic is the better comparison, there still are some very telling differences between the ways that the US and allies handled his departure and the aftermath and what has happened in Iraq.

8

George 11.30.04 at 12:11 am

Robin: hey, “least worst” is about the best you can hope for on the world stage.

Henry: good points about the OSCE. And I hope you’re right to be optimistic, though there still seems plenty to worry about. For instance, if those mammoth protests in Kiev turned violent, would Putin send tanks to “stabilize” the situation? He probably feels some pressure to do so already. And then what would the West’s options be? More soft power?

PS: your use of the Ukraine situation as a stick to bash the war in Iraq is silly. The two are lights years apart.

9

anon 11.30.04 at 1:49 am

Conclusion: the OSCE seems to be very eager to accuse governments of holding unfair election when a perceived pro-western party loses, and not at all eager to make noise when the perceived pro-western party wins.

They also don’t rescue cats from trees.

If they were working against fair elections in cases where pro-western parties won, then they would be despicable. But it seems unfair to criticise them for merely choosing an area to focus on.

10

Carlos 11.30.04 at 2:49 am

I’m all for fair elections and praises to the OSCE for their role in this, even if the end result may well be Ukraine secession.

11

alex 11.30.04 at 4:01 am

Henry wrote “Might be a good idea to check out what the OSCE actually said…You’re wrong on the facts.”

No, I’m not. Contrast, for example, the OSCE reports on the ’96 Russian election with the reports on ’04 one. The former acknowledges the pro-Yeltsin media bias in two paragraphs before moving on – and its generally a quite short report; while the latter report is much longer and contains about five pages on the pro-Putin media slant. Yet ’96 was almost certainly a far dirtier election than ’04 when the outcome was obvious far in advance.

More importantly is how these reports have been perceived and reported in the West. In ’96 and ’00 media bias in favor of the incumbent were not on the news in the west at all. In the Russian ’04 elections the issue was pretty prominent. Need I bring up that all the (western) commentators citing pro-Yanukovich propaganda in the Ukranian media as arguments right now were not complaining in earlier elections?

12

Matt 11.30.04 at 4:04 am

George asked,
” if those mammoth protests in Kiev turned violent, would Putin send tanks to “stabilize” the situation? He probably feels some pressure to do so already.”

This is terribly unlikely to happen, even if Putin would like to be able to do it. The Russian military is a shell of its former self, and could not possibly invade Ukraine, even if it thought no European power could stop it. See, for example, Pavel Felgenhaur’s article in today’s Moscow Times:

13

Matt 11.30.04 at 4:22 am

Damned being no good at putting in links. Felgenhaur’s article is here:
http://www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2004/11/30/009.html

14

DoDo 11.30.04 at 10:25 am

While OSCE did criticise earlier Russian elections, even if its weighting can be criticised, I think more significant criticism is deserved for its evaluation of the Afghan Presidential ‘elections’. How they could declare the elections largely fair with their observers present at only a few places, and troubling news coming from other parts of the country, while the President was elected without the election of a Parliament that is supposed to act as check & balance – this is beyond me.

15

DoDo 11.30.04 at 10:30 am

While OSCE did criticise earlier Russian elections, even if its weighting can be criticised, I think more significant criticism is deserved for its evaluation of the Afghan Presidential ‘elections’. How they could declare the elections largely fair with their observers present at only a few places, and troubling news coming from other parts of the country, while the President was elected without the election of a Parliament that is supposed to act as check & balance – this is beyond me.

16

Barry 11.30.04 at 10:47 am

As a True American, I gotta say – this is BS! This aint’ democracy!

If it were, there’d be death squads, bombings and heaps and heaps of denied bodies!

It ain’t even Christian!

17

abb1 11.30.04 at 10:59 am

It suggests yet again that outside actors can help promote democracy through monitoring, information diffusion and censure of bad behavior when the internal conditions are right. If Ukraine does indeed become a democracy over the next several years (I still wouldn’t lay hard money on this outcome) it will demonstrate that soft power, preventive diplomacy and constructive intervention can work, even in the teeth of vigorous opposition from the regional hegemon.

Is there any evidence that the current events have been influenced by any outside actors to a significant degree?

I mean, people took to the streets – this seems to be The Event, the long and the short of it. Could this really be organized by OSCE or any alphabet agency for that matter?

Seems to me that the Ukranian government simply didn’t have sufficient level of consent of the governed, while the Iraqi government did.

18

Motoko 11.30.04 at 1:00 pm

This is from oscewatch.org (unsurprisingly perhaps OSCE’s democracy promotion doesn’t impress them too much):

“The British Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG) sent observers to the second round of the presidential election in Ukraine on 21st November 2004. BHHRG monitored the election in the city and district of Kiev, Chernigov, and Transcarpathia. Counts were observed in central Kiev and Uzhgorod.

Contrary to the condemnations issued by the team of professional politicians and diplomats deployed by the OSCE mainly from NATO and EU states, the BHHRG observers did not see evidence of government-organized fraud nor of suppression of opposition media. Improbably high votes for Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich, have been reported from south-eastern Ukraine but less attention has been given to the 90% pro-Yushchenko results declared in western Ukraine.

Although Western media widely claimed that in Ukraine the opposition was, in effect, excluded from the broadcast media, particularly in western Ukraine the opposite was the case. On the eve of the poll – in flagrant violation of the law banning propaganda for candidates – a series of so-called “social information” advertisements showing well-known pop stars like Eurovision winner Ruslana wearing the orange symbols of Mr Yushchenko’s candidacy and urging people to vote appeared on state television!”

Ruslana! Talk about election rigging.

This article from the Guardian is worth reading too.

19

jet 11.30.04 at 1:12 pm

I wonder why this post attracted an abnormal amount of assclowns? There were a lot of interesting comments interspersed with a few instances of assclownery. Strange. And this isn’t even very controversial so maybe it was just an errant link from DU.

20

des von bladet 11.30.04 at 1:31 pm

Motoko: The UKHHRG is not your friend.

(Unless it is, in which case consider yourself tarred with the same brush.)

21

Barry 11.30.04 at 1:32 pm

Jet, I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes.
That sort of stuff is your guys’ rightful turf,
and it was wrong of me to trespass.

22

abb1 11.30.04 at 1:43 pm

Actually, that was an excellent comment, best I’ve read in weeks.

23

Motoko 11.30.04 at 2:16 pm

Thank you, von. I’ll have a look at that.

24

roger 11.30.04 at 4:37 pm

Hey, I did like this sentence: “If Ukraine does indeed become a democracy over the next several years (I still wouldn’t lay hard money on this outcome) it will demonstrate that soft power, preventive diplomacy and constructive intervention can work, even in the teeth of vigorous opposition from the regional hegemon.” In the spirit of resisting authoritarian regional hegemons, perhaps CT could look at the Bush administration’s coup-ist tendencies in Venezuala. While looking at what the evil Ruskies are doing in the Ukraine, the mainstream press – with the honorable exception of the LA Times — has rather neglected the assassination of Danilo Anderson. The man was killed when his car blew up via a plastic bomb. Anderson was the prosecutor investigating the links between the CIA and the coup attempt in Venezuala in 2002 — which the Bush gang was the only nation in the whole hemisphere to recognize, and which fell comically apart in a week. The Bush gang was vociferous about Chavez representing a radical minority — but seems not to have much to say following his winning a 58 percent majority in the referendum this summer. Meanwhile, who is giving asylum to the terrorist opposition? the U.S. If Russia was training Ukrainian terrorists, I think there would be a bit of a stink, no? So where is the press about the training of Anti-Chavez terrorists, with anti-Castroites, in South Florida? This, while the U.S. waxes wroth at Syria for “sheltering terrorists.” Of course, hypocrisy laced with a little terrorism is nothing new for the American or Russian hegemons. That’s how they do business.

25

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.30.04 at 4:43 pm

If Ukraine does indeed become a democracy over the next several years (I still wouldn’t lay hard money on this outcome) it will demonstrate that soft power, preventive diplomacy and constructive intervention can work, even in the teeth of vigorous opposition from the regional hegemon. Indeed, it will stand as an important counterexample of successful democracy-building to the mess in Iraq.

You just have to go too far with the last sentence don’t you? Soft power is great against bad governments which aren’t willing to kill their own people en masse, use rape as a regular social control tool, or who refuse to employ genocide. The current PM has refused to do so (thus far). Which would mean that its lessons aren’t so useful vis-a-vis Iraq. This is especially true if you are using this as an example of how Iraq could have been made democratic. Because if that is what you meant, it is just silly.

You are also using ‘vigorous opposition from the regional hegemon’ rather inappropriately in my opinion. Vigorous opposition to developments in the Ukraine used to be expressed by Russia slaughtering people and starving the region. Your definition of vigorous opposition now is a lot closer to the definition of soft power–diplomatic whining. Soft power is excellent against diplomatic whining. It isn’t so great against physical action, especially when it isn’t backed with the likelihood of physical action. This is why North Korea is a nuclear power, Iran is going to be if we follow the current path, and genocide (oh, I’m so sorry I mean non-genocidal mass killing of certain ethnic groups) continues unabated in the Sudan. Soft power isn’t often so great against people willing to use physical force.

26

George 11.30.04 at 5:38 pm

Matt: thanks, I will read the article. And you’re probably right that direct military intervention by the Russians is unlikely, and would certainly be unwise. But when has that stopped the Russians? I’m just remembering how they reacted the last time they perceived the West as seriously intruding on their sphere of influence (ie, in Serbia). The Russian Army raced in to occupy that strategic airport, and nearly came to blows with Wes Clark’s NATO forces. After all that’s happened the past few years, Putin must feel colossal pressure to resist further Western (particularly American) penetration in the old Soviet bloc.

27

Henry 11.30.04 at 5:39 pm

Sebastian, you’re jousting against a straw man of your own invention here. If you take the time to read the title of the post, you’ll find that I’m talking about different methods of democracy promotion. Not about human rights, not about fighting nuclear proliferation. Democracy promotion. Different topic. If you want to hold up Iraq as an example of how to build democracy go ahead and be my guest. The point is that the CSCE method (and the EU’s Copenhagen criteria) have worked. Not universally applicable by any means – but not creating the dog’s dinner that we’re seeing in Iraq. With a couple of aberrant cases (Japan is the most important) successful democracy promotion from outside has involved exactly the kinds of multilateralism and construction of “thick” international institutions that the Bush administration has sneered at, and that you seem to be sneering at to, if I understand you correctly.

Alex – unless your words mean something quite different to what they seem to mean, you were arguing in your original post that the OSCE was hypocritically unwilling to publicize problems in elections that the West didn’t care about. Now you’re arguing that the fundamental problem is that the West perceives and reads OSCE reports differently when it cares about the elections. These are quite different arguments – in one the OSCE is at fault, and in the other ‘the West.’As you seem to half-heartedly be shuffling your way into acknowledging by default, you’re wrong on the first (though imo almost certainly right on the second).

28

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.30.04 at 6:32 pm

Sebastian, you’re jousting against a straw man of your own invention here. If you take the time to read the title of the post, you’ll find that I’m talking about different methods of democracy promotion. Not about human rights, not about fighting nuclear proliferation. Democracy promotion. Different topic.

Ah yes, your usual condescension. Are you talking about different methods of democracy promotion? Not honestly you aren’t.

Soft power may be effective against those who don’t want to fight. But you shouldn’t pretend that it will work against those who do. Which is why democracy wouldn’t come about under Saddam–he was willing to employ rape, murder and genocide as social control tools. He was willing and able to convert a UN aid program into a bribery scheme while still letting his people starve for PR purposes. If you want to express the choice as between no chance of democracy under Saddam because soft power cannot work against someone willing to employ genocide, and a bad chance after invasion, please feel free to do so. But do not pretend, as your initial post explicitly states, that the choice was between soft power and hard power paths to a democratic Iraq with the hard power US path as the failure. I have no problem with arguing about whether or not Bush’s actual plan as carried out was well done. What I have a problem with is the fantasy that some sort of democratic regime could have been brought about under Saddam through the use of soft power. It could not, which is why your point on Iraq is flawed.

That is not me erecting a strawman. That is you being condescendingly nonresponsive.

29

abb1 11.30.04 at 6:44 pm

Soft power is great against bad governments which aren’t willing to kill their own people en masse, use rape as a regular social control tool, or who refuse to employ genocide.

Don’t know about ‘soft power’, but no govenment can kill their own people en masse, use rape as a regular social control tool, etc, without significant cooperation from ‘their own people’.

In Ukraine, as I understand, the police and army simply refused to intervene.

In Iraq under Saddam the whole population was heavily armed and clearly they could’ve easily ended it if they really wanted to. They didn’t, which tells me that they weren’t really fed up; many of them were, for sure, but apparently not enough.

30

Henry 11.30.04 at 7:40 pm

bq. What I have a problem with is the fantasy that some sort of democratic regime could have been brought about under Saddam through the use of soft power.

Which is, precisely, your own fantasy – not something that I said. My point was that what is happening in Ukraine may (emphasis may) turn out to be an important example of how democracy-building can work in practice, and that the current situation in Iraq provides a perfect example of how not to do it. And that democracy-building is going to work best in the context of a multilateral framework of strong international norms supporting democracy. Nothing more than that. If you find arguing against the lefties in your head to be entertaining, then go ahead by all means. You’ll probably even win the arguments most of the time, as long as you can set your own terms of debate. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I don’t find it interesting, and if I object when you attribute arguments to me which I’m actually not making.

31

Matt 11.30.04 at 8:34 pm

Hi Georoge,

It’s worth noting that the Russian forces that ran to took the air strip in Kosovo then had to beg for fuel from the Nato troops, as they’d used up all they had getting there! We surely didn’t want to fight with them, but they also could not fight. The primary activity of the Russian military these days are, 1) taking bribes and hostages in Chechnya, 2) building Dachas for Russian generals. It’s a really sad thing, and shows quite a lot about the state of the government in that country.

32

George 11.30.04 at 8:35 pm

There’s a reasonable discussion to be had here, if we can knock off the sneers. Henry is correct to point out that if — a big if — all turns out well in Ukraine, that will represent a nice case study in how soft power and diplomacy can, in some cases, help bring about democratic reform. But he’s incorrect to imply that this would say anything useful about the Iraq case. The two are worlds apart, and Sebastian is right to point that out (albeit through a thick haze of snark).

33

George 11.30.04 at 8:59 pm

Matt, no argument here about the debased state of the Russian military. They seem to careen from one embarassment to the next. But that wouldn’t necessarily stop them from doing something foolish. Might actually make it more likely.

I read that Moscow Times article, interesting stuff. But the writer’s final conclusion is not quite the same as yours. He says that Russia could no longer *successfully* impose its will militarily on its satellites, but he also says there remains the will to try. That’s the risk: that the Russians may be compelled to do something that is no one’s interest.

Anyway, it’s all speculation of course. But I hope the White House has thought about the possibility.

PS: regarding the Kosovo airport, I thought I read that Gen. Clark was all hot to push the Russians out by force, and had to be overruled by the Sec General. That would not have been pretty.

34

Henry 11.30.04 at 9:16 pm

Hi George

I’m not trying to say that the Ukrainian model is applicable to the Iraq case. Rather, I’m saying that we’ve seen a lot of arguments over the last couple of years that a robust approach to democracy promotion based on the use of military force could help transform the Middle East. We’ve also seen an alternative model of democracy promotion based on multilateral institution building. Our experience to date has been that the former doesn’t work (or at best, works only extremely rarely). Furthermore, it doesn’t have the security payoff that it was touted as having (democracy-promotion is here seen as a means to the end of transforming the security situation). The latter approach (which also sees democracy as an instrumental means to an end – see my article with Greg Flynn referenced in the original post), has a much better success record, but only works under a limited set of circumstances (as I say, ‘when the internal conditions are right’). To say that Iraq doesn’t work as a model of democracy-building is _not_ the same thing as saying that a Ukrainian model would have worked in Iraq.

35

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.30.04 at 9:43 pm

I’m not trying to say that the Ukrainian model is applicable to the Iraq case. Rather, I’m saying that we’ve seen a lot of arguments over the last couple of years that a robust approach to democracy promotion based on the use of military force could help transform the Middle East. We’ve also seen an alternative model of democracy promotion based on multilateral institution building. Our experience to date has been that the former doesn’t work (or at best, works only extremely rarely). Furthermore, it doesn’t have the security payoff that it was touted as having (democracy-promotion is here seen as a means to the end of transforming the security situation). The latter approach (which also sees democracy as an instrumental means to an end – see my article with Greg Flynn referenced in the original post), has a much better success record, but only works under a limited set of circumstances (as I say, ‘when the internal conditions are right’).

Jee-sus, put something like your 9:16 post in your initial post instead of the sneering jab, and you wouldn’t have had so much argument from me.

If you don’t believe that the Ukranian example is applicable to Iraq, great. The next logical question is: what do you do about the huge number of cases where ‘internal conditions’ are not right? Which may or may not lead us back to the Iraq question. That is why your initial post could easily be seen to draw a parallel between the two cases. If you didn’t think internal conditions were right in Iraq, and therefore you didn’t think that soft power would be likely to work, why did you mention Iraq at all? Why not say something like: “attempts to bring democracy in Iraq are doomed to failure because the Iraqi people are not ready for it.” or do you believe something else?

36

Henry 11.30.04 at 10:39 pm

Sebastian, if we want to have a serious conversation about this as opposed to an exchange of snark (yes: I’m guilty too), the best place to start would be “this post”:http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001295.html where I address the pros and cons of this sort of democracy building in the Middle East at greater length.

37

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.30.04 at 11:08 pm

Ok, I’ll take a deep breath.

Ahh.

Regarding your other article. You seem to be saying that what worked for Eastern Europe won’t work for the Middle East. In that we are certainly agreed.

If I may overquote so as not to lose context:

The CSCE helped to secure the democratic transition in Western Europe in two important ways. First, it created a normative framework that enabled democratic activists in Warsaw Pact countries to have their protests heard. When the Soviet Union and its satellite states signed up to the Helsinki accords, they thought that they were getting the West to recognize the division of Europe into different spheres of influence, in exchange for meaningless concessions on human rights. Many in the West thought that the Soviet negotiators were right, including Henry Kissinger who tried to block the accords (although he puts a different spin on this in a more than usually mendacious section of his autobiography). As time went on, the Helsinki commitments proved to be a potent weapon for democratic activists within Eastern bloc countries; they could now use their governments’ failure to live up to international commitments as a tool to embarrass them in public. The US and other democratic states provided a sympathetic audience.

Second, the CSCE created a set of instruments designed to allow a limited form of collective intervention within CSCE participating states in order to shore up democracy. It’s usually difficult to get states to agree to allow outsiders to intervene in their internal affairs. However, the states participating in the CSCE had previously made an internationally binding commitment to democracy. Furthermore, many of them were interested in joining the EU at some stage and wanted to show their willingness to reform. This meant that many CSCE states were prepared to allow the CSCE to become involved in internal disputes as a sort of honest broker, representing the collective interests of other states in ensuring a secure neighborhood. Preventive diplomacy, practiced through the CSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities, was instrumental in preventing a crisis in the Baltic states over ethnic relations that could very easily have led to renewed confrontation between Russia and the West.

I think all of this is a pretty good explanation of how such things can work once the anti-democratic elements largely give up the use of force. But that is a rather large qualification after the ‘once’. Iraq in Kuwait wouldn’t have been amenable to such pressure. China wasn’t amenable to such pressure after Tiananmen Square. The USSR wasn’t amenable to such pressure in the 1950s and 1960s and the pressure applied took more than 30 years to be successful–and I would argue that much of their success was directly related to the much more hard power challenge which Reagan offered.

You suggest that the Israel-Palestinian problem is more amenable to such a solution than any other area in the Middle East. I am skeptical precisely because of the caveat: “once the anti-democratic elements largely give up the use of force.” This caveat was appropriate when speaking of internal problems, but less so if you look at Israel and Palestine as two states (or a state and a proto-state). It is difficult to see, for instance, how international pressure on Israel could incentivice the cessastion of terrorist acts against Israeli civilians which would need to be a part of any settlement. But I will suggest that Arafat being dead might make things more possible in the medium run.

It is worth noting that the context of the Cold War included the relatively stable (if scary) strategy of mutual assured destruction via nuclear weapons. That strategy led to stable (in a very tense way) situations where the West could try to wait things out.

I’m not sure the same is true of the Middle East. Can we threaten to bomb ‘the Middle East’ into glass a nuke goes off in New York? Which nation do we attack? Do we make it a real war of civilizations by threatening to nuke Mecca? That doesn’t seem like a good strategy. Back in the Cold War we could be pretty sure that if we got nuked it was the USSR or one of her allies. The identity of a New York bomber might not be clear. I strongly suspect that MAD can’t lend the stability that we need to rely solely on long term games of waiting for the Middle East to get its act together with minor help from the West from time to time. So if we can’t wait we need to take direct action. Very few European countries seem to be interested in engaging militarily, and they aren’t interested in sanctions for most countries. What do we do with authoritarian governments who are still willing to use force to stay in power (thus not amenable to the soft power approach–at least as it applied to Eastern Europe), but aren’t willing or able to stop the terrorists in their midst–which means that trying to wait them out for 30 or 40 years is a very unattractive option?

38

alex 12.01.04 at 12:20 am

Henry wrote “Alex – unless your words mean something quite different to what they seem to mean, you were arguing in your original post that the OSCE was hypocritically unwilling to publicize problems in elections that the West didn’t care about. Now you’re arguing that the fundamental problem is that the West perceives and reads OSCE reports differently when it cares about the elections. These are quite different arguments…”

I am trying to argue both – they are certainly different claims but they are related. Yes, the OSCE pointed out problems in previous Russian & Ukranian elections. Their recent reports though are much more critical and scathing.

I think the two claims reinforce each other: the attention paid in the west to OSCE reports documenting fraud in the recent Russian, Ukranian, and Georgian elections is one reason why the OSCE became far more critical and active in each of these circumstances; the lack of attention to earlier reports in Russia & Ukraine, as well as the current reports on Central Asia, is one possible reason why they were/are not as critical as they should have been.

39

George 12.01.04 at 12:27 am

Henry: well put. I took this passage in your original post…

Indeed, it will stand as an important counterexample of successful democracy-building to the mess in Iraq.

…to mean something like “the example of the Ukraine shows how it should have been done in Iraq.” That doesn’t seem to be what you meant.

Where we differ is that I don’t think that the Iraq model (which might be called democracy building by force) has yet proved to be unsuccessful. You may scoff, but I continue to think that the effort is going pretty well. Within a year, odds are good that most of the country (ie, the Shia south and the Kurdish north) will be self-governed, relatively peaceful and free of American troops, with only the Sunni middle (if that) continuing to be locked down. Granted, that could still be a significant problem if it goes on for too long, but it would still be better than the ante bellum status quo.

In short, I just get irritated when I see casual references to Iraq as a “catastrophe” or “disaster.” Your word, “mess,” is less provocative, but still reflects what I think it a too-easy pessimism about the situation; many opponents of the war (not you necessarily) have got themselves so intellectually invested in its failure that they can’t see that we’re winning. It seems pretty clear to me that we are beating the insurgency and that the elections (in some shape or form) will come off in 2005. Success is only a matter of time and political will; now that Bush has been re-elected, it’s only a matter of time.

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c 12.01.04 at 4:42 am

If you call a theocratic democracy good then you may even be right but i doubt that that was what you planned when the war started. Also the formation of one shiite(Arab?) front in the election doesn’t lead me to believe that the elections are nothing more than a referendum about kicking the Americans out.

ps. Soft power, and that is everything except really using force, would in all likelyhood have produced a more democratic result. There were rumours that Saddam would allow elections when the US had parked its army in Quwait.

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Where's The Beef? 12.01.04 at 10:09 am

>> I strongly suspect that MAD can’t lend the stability that we need to rely solely on long term games of waiting for the Middle East to get its act together with minor help from the West from time to time. So if we can’t wait we need to take direct action.

– The Bush Doctrine in practice may produce a sort of MAD stand-off. But the leaders of the islamo totalitarians are not a negotiating entity like the Kremlin had been. If the US is attacked on a scale like 9-11, the governments of countries that have given aide and/or sanctuary to islamo terrorists will have the example of Afghanistan and Iraq fresh in their memories. So they now have increased incentive to demonstrate they are onside BEFORE some fanatical hitmen make the attempt and a coalition of the willing responds.

– The target of such an attack need not be the USA or the UK or other countries currently in the fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

– Pacification of Iraq is progressing hand-in-hand with democratization there and nearby. Doing both at the same time is fraught with risk.

I don’t think we can just cross our fingers and hope for the emergence of a Middle Eastern version of the combination of Solidarity and Pope John Paul II. We may be witnessing the creation of something of a greenhouse for such a movement within a liberated Iraq. People in other societies may find themselves drawn to the multiversity of an Iraq newly energized by its own political ferment and empowered by its bonds with a protective Western coalition of interests — political, economic, cultural, as well as security. If Iraqis can envision something like it, other people in the region will also.

So I do think that the example in the Ukraine is a different example but not a counter-example of the messy business in Iraq, which, afterall, was not undertaken solely for the democratization of Iraq.

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maureen 12.01.04 at 1:08 pm

One, I am proud to be a lefty and do not regard it as a term of abuse – hope that shuts up some people. Two, I do not know enough of the detail to comment usefully on Ukraine. But, as we keep getting onto Iraq, let’s restate the obvious:

* there were other ways of containing the Saddam regime, which the democracies had happily supported as long as it was holding down its own people or fighting other “baddies” – yes, I was protesting against this at the time!

* there were other ways of toppling the Saddam regime, though they might have taken some subtlety of thought

* there were other ways of running the country both in the immediate wake of the invasion and now – worked out in detail by the appropriate departments of state in both US and UK then ignored which would certainly have used the skills of the Iraqi people and taken the “politics of frustration” out of the present trouble

* a thriving democracy is one of the possible outcomes in Iraq but only one: anybody putting money on it at this stage is an ideologue or an idiot or both

* other possibilities include …… but you don’t need me to list them!

As a Brit and thus free to travel to any country I choose and find out for myself, I’ve just got back from Cuba. Among the many more interesting things I saw was the building from which The Mob once ran the place as part of the American imperium.

At which point hackneyed phrases compete. Is Iraq – or Ukraine – to be another case of “but he’s our sonofabitch” or history repeating first as tragedy, then as farce. I prefer the latter – the tune’s better!

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maureen 12.01.04 at 1:11 pm

One, I am proud to be a lefty and do not regard it as a term of abuse – hope that shuts up some people. Two, I do not know enough of the detail to comment usefully on Ukraine. But, as we keep getting onto Iraq, let’s restate the obvious:

* there were other ways of containing the Saddam regime, which the democracies had happily supported as long as it was holding down its own people or fighting other “baddies” – yes, I was protesting against this at the time!

* there were other ways of toppling the Saddam regime, though they might have taken some subtlety of thought

* there were other ways of running the country both in the immediate wake of the invasion and now – worked out in detail by the appropriate departments of state in both US and UK then ignored which would certainly have used the skills of the Iraqi people and taken the “politics of frustration” out of the present trouble

* a thriving democracy is one of the possible outcomes in Iraq but only one: anybody putting money on it at this stage is an ideologue or an idiot or both

* other possibilities include …… but you don’t need me to list them!

As a Brit and thus free to travel to any country I choose and find out for myself, I’ve just got back from Cuba. Among the many more interesting things I saw was the building from which The Mob once ran the place as part of the American imperium.

At which point hackneyed phrases compete. Is Iraq – or Ukraine – to be another case of “but he’s our sonofabitch” or history repeating first as tragedy, then as farce. I prefer the latter – the tune’s better!

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Henry 12.01.04 at 4:09 pm

Sebastian – even if we accept your argument that multilateral encouragement of democracy takes a very long time, and is very uncertain in its effects, I still think you would have to do an awful lot more to justify your proposed solution. I don’t know whether you can be convinced that the invasion of Iraq has made things worse – but you surely must at least accept that under many reasonable readings of the situation, we are now in a worse situation than we were in early 2002. And some of this has to do exactly with the logic of deterrence. The US military is demonstrably overstretched at the moment – the Rumsfeld theory that you could go in, fix the dictatorship problem, and turn over to cheering democrats in the short term has been completely exploded. If the problem is really one of deterring states from developing nuclear weapons programs and giving nuclear weapons to terrorists (for my part, I still think that this is extremely unlikely), then we’re in a worse position then we were two years ago – the US is less able credibly to threaten military action against offending regimes, given the mess that it’s created in Iraq. And this is entirely aside from the direct and proximate effects of the invasion, the failure to secure weapons and nuclear sites etc etc. I was in favour of the invasion of Afghanistan (I’d suspect that most of us at CT were). I’m not opposed to the use of armed force in principle. But I am opposed to the _stupid_ application of force in the pursuit of objectives which were always extremely unlikely, which now look to be unreachable, which did serious damage to the capacity to take collective security actions, existing alliances etc, and which has now left us in a considerably worse position than we were two years ago. The idea that force could be used to impose democracy from outside doesn’t seem to receive much empirical support. And I don’t buy the argument that we had to do _something_, given that the ‘something’ on the agenda carried very substantial downside risks, risks which are now playing out as many of us predicted.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 12.01.04 at 4:20 pm

Maureen,

there were other ways of containing the Saddam regime, which the democracies had happily supported as long as it was holding down its own people or fighting other “baddies” – yes, I was protesting against this at the time!

This is pretty much false. By January 2002 France, Germany and Russia were all agitating for the cessation of sanctions against Iraq–which is to say the cessation of the last remaining residue of the international contribution to containment.

there were other ways of toppling the Saddam regime, though they might have taken some subtlety of thought

If you say so. I will note that the international community had 11 years to figure it out.

there were other ways of running the country both in the immediate wake of the invasion and now – worked out in detail by the appropriate departments of state in both US and UK then ignored which would certainly have used the skills of the Iraqi people and taken the “politics of frustration” out of the present trouble

I agree things could have been done better. But better still to leave Saddam in power? No. And that is what you would be talking about if you rely on soft power to get rid of someone like Saddam.

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maureen 12.01.04 at 5:07 pm

Sebastian,

I never proposed leaving Saddam in power. On the contrary, my complaint is that he was allowed by Cold War thinking on both sides to stay in power for so long.

I do not speak for the goverment of France etc but one of the arguments against that particular regime of sanctions was that it was doing precisely nothing to weaken Saddam. (Compare with sanctions against apartheid South Africa – took a while to bring all parties on board, including Thatcher, but worked in the end.) It was, in fact, assisting him in the business of screwing the Iraqi people and may even have held his regime together – patriotism can be expoited in such situations and it was.

The chance was there in 1991 to proceed to Baghdad. Yes, that would have been mission creep but what else do we have now?

As for toppling him, all regimes have weaknesses. Had the political will existed then the dark arts which have been used elsewhere could well have worked in Iraq. It wasn’t morality or undue sensitivity about a little violence which held the democracies back – never has before – so we either have a failure of resolve or somebody, somewhere had an agenda.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 12.01.04 at 5:37 pm

I’m not sure I understand you. Were you an advocate for the assassination of Saddam?

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Where's The Beef? 12.01.04 at 7:11 pm

>>> As for toppling him, all regimes have weaknesses. Had the political will existed then the dark arts which have been used elsewhere could well have worked in Iraq. It wasn’t morality or undue sensitivity about a little violence which held the democracies back – never has before – so we either have a failure of resolve or somebody, somewhere had an agenda.

– Suppose that some combination of internal forces managed to take the violent steps necessary to depose Saddam. Now what?

– Iraq was on track to become a failed state vulnerable to the very sort of exploitation by the islamo totalitarians that we are now fighting against. Their offensive did not begin with 9-11, remember, and their direct insight into what was happening within Iraq was arguably better than ours.

– If such a violent coup had gone part way and failed, like earlier attempts, it could very easily have led to outright civil war that would have attracted islamo totalitarians from across the region anyway. This was a signifant part of the risk of using soft power to force regime change.

– We denied them Afghanistan and several other potential sanctuaries. Iraq was in their sights for the reasons that some still think that we could have “fixed” Iraq by some form remote control through soft power alone.

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Dan Simon 12.01.04 at 8:23 pm

As I’ve pointed out before, the problem with the theory that the OSCE approach is a valuable tool for promoting democracy is that it seems to work best when lots of other factors are also at work vigorously contributing to the establishment of democratic rule. In other words, if the OSCE were a medical treatment, one would be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that it is a mere placebo, loudly claiming credit for democratic successes that would have been achieved regardless, and keeping silent about the dead patients that it never had a hope of saving.

Can anyone make a serious argument against the “null hypothesis” that the OSCE is completely ineffectual? That is, can anyone point to a single democratization that clearly would have been less successful in the absence of OSCE intervention? (Complaints from anti-democratic forces don’t count as evidence for the OSCE’s effectiveness, nor do kudos from leaders of democratic movements, unless you’re prepared to concede the much greater effectiveness of America’s bellicose rhetoric and military assertiveness–both of which have received far more authoritarians’ brickbats and democratizers’ plaudits than the OSCE ever did.)

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abb1 12.01.04 at 8:38 pm

Oops. Apparently it does, indeed, have something to do with the outside actors, “democracy promoters”; according to Katrina vanden Heuvel:

As Ian Traynor reports in The Guardian, “…while the gains of the orange-bedecked ‘chestnut revolution’ are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in Western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries and four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavory regimes…Funded and organized by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, the two big American parties and US non-government organizations…the operation–engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience–is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections.”

It was even US funding that organized and paid for key exit polls; those gave the opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko an 11-point lead and set the stage for charges of vote fraud.

Nothing is what it seems anymore, everything is phony, dammit.

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Henry 12.01.04 at 10:05 pm

bq. Can anyone make a serious argument against the “null hypothesis” that the OSCE is completely ineffectual?

Yes. “Vaclav Havel”:http://www.crvp.org/book/Series04/IVA-7/chapter_vii.htm.

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Dan Simon 12.02.04 at 12:20 am

Okay, Henry, let’s explore this a bit further. Suppose, for a moment–just for the sake of argument, mind you–that the CSCE had been of absolutely no use whatsoever to Vaclav Havel or any of the other leaders of pro-democracy movements in Eastern Europe. Do you believe, in that case, that Vaclav Havel, having been invited to address a CSCE summit in Paris, would not have paid at least some kind of lip service to the professed goals of the organization whose members–important heads of state of countries in a position to help Havel’s newly freed land–he was addressing? Would he really be so stubborn as to refrain from such a basic gesture of generosity and goodwill (not to mention good politics)?

I’m afraid you’ll have to provide a bit more evidence than that to convince me.

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George 12.02.04 at 12:39 am

When Czechoslovak President, Vaclav Havel, a man who one year earlier stood in a Prague jail because of his political beliefs, stood at the Paris Summit and endorsed CSCE as instrumental in bringing about his country’s Velvet Revolution, no one could doubt his qualifications for making such a judgment or his sincerity.

Obviously false: Dan Simon can doubt his sincerity.

I can’t say with any authority whether the OSCE is effective or not, or how much. But the Havel example (if accurately conveyed here) seems pretty clearly to meet the minimal standard of contradicting “the “null hypothesis” that the OSCE is completely ineffectual”.

Side note: I had to dig a bit to discover that the OSCE was called the CSCE prior to 1994. Presumably everybody reads all linked documents in full before commenting (coff), but you might make that clear for your nonexpert readers.

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Doug 12.02.04 at 10:54 am

Henry, I’ve skipped a lot of the Iraq back and forth, so your pardon if I’m repeating things addressed there.

One of the key items in the democratization/transition debate has been the influence of the neighborhood. That is, democratic neighbors increase the chance of a successful transition; non-democratic neighbors diminish it. The causality is another argument altogether, but the statistical correlation is a pretty good one.

Two things follow for the discussion here. First, Ukraine is bound to be better off than Iraq. One example is the role of Ukraine’s other nations: mediation from Poland, support from Slovakia. Contrast that with Iraq’s neighbors (an assortment of despotisms) and their actions.

Second, starting a neighborhood down the democratic path is a hard problem, and one about which a productive discussion could be had.

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Dan Hardie 12.02.04 at 1:16 pm

Shorter Dan Simon: If Vaclav Havel is a liar, then when he says the OSCE is of great help to establishing democracies he means the precise reverse, proving my case exactly. In future, all statements supporting any argument which I dislike will henceforward be treated as the reverse of the truth, particularly if they come from noted liars and supporters of dictatorship, such as Vaclav Havel. (NB: This assumption of dishonesty will not apply to statements by sources noted for their truthfulness, including especially spokesmen for the George W. Bush administration.)

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Sebastian Holsclaw 12.02.04 at 3:41 pm

I’m willing to trust Havel when he says that the OSCE is useful. I’m also willing to trust Havel and Walesa when they say that Reagan’s military buildup and blunt confrontation with the USSR was vital to their efforts. Which leaves us in kind of a ‘both’ place.

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abb1 12.02.04 at 6:36 pm

Can’t find anything about Walesa praising any ‘military buildup’. Or Havel.

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Dan Simon 12.02.04 at 6:56 pm

For the record, I’m deeply skeptical of the theory that Reagan’s arms build-up and bellicose rhetoric were decisive in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I have said as much before, publicly. I strongly doubt that any diplomatic nods in the direction of this theory by the likes of Walesa or Havel would change my mind.

For that matter, it’s not at all clear that either of these two gentlemen are likely to have particularly good insight into the causes of the demise of their adversaries. Both were brave, admirable, visionary men, to be sure. But they were preceded by numerous dissidents, each one no less brave, admirable or visionary, who ended up spending their lives rotting away in prisons or in one or another sort of exile for their troubles. The crucial differences between their circumstances–or even those of Havel and Walesa in, say, 1975–and those of Havel and Walesa in 1989 may not even have been visible to those men at the time, let alone conspicuous enough for them to observe and recognize as such.

The mystery of why certain established tyrannies suddenly collapse at certain times, and why certain fledgling democracies endure at certain times–while others do not–is far too important to bury in partisan bickering. If I subject the theories I see to the vigorous challenge of empirical plausibility, it’s not to promote my own ideologically-driven wishful thinking, but rather in the hope that a nugget of truth may be found after the rubble of bias has been blasted away. I’d therefore hope that my skepticism would be taken, in this light, as a welcome contribution, rather than as a threat–as some here unfortunately seem to perceive it to be.

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Dan Hardie 12.02.04 at 7:37 pm

‘I’d therefore hope that my skepticism would be taken, in this light, as a welcome contribution, rather than as a threat—as some here unfortunately seem to perceive it to be.’

Dan, your ‘threatening’ ‘skepticism’ is neither threatening nor skeptical. You asked ‘can anyone point to a single democratization that clearly would have been less successful in the absence of OSCE intervention?’ Henry replied that Vaclav Havel had pointed to such a democratisation; you stated, on no evidence at all, that Havel might have been lying, concluding that if this was conveniently the case, your argument would then be entirely true. Stop flattering yourself that you are seen as a ‘threat’: you are seen as a damn fool.

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rob 12.02.04 at 7:37 pm

Dan Simon,

in a typical wishy-washy liberal manner, I think that attributing the fall of communism to any one explanatory factor is wrong. Undoubtedly you’re right to say that Reagan’s arms build-up (and Carter’s for that matter) could not have by themselves caused the fall of communism: they could have just bit the bullet and made their people poorer. Equally, a public commitment to a human rights declaration doesn’t have to mean anything to an autocracy: just look who’s signed up to the UN Charter. Clearly, Gorbachev alone couldn’t have undermined a social system which was relatively strongly embedded in the society in question, while to say that it was the failure of communism to expand, and to hold its own, looks a bit odd too: no new countries became communist between 1919 and 1945-6, while a communist revolution was defeated in Germany. All four of these factors working together could have significant effects though, especially when combined with the rise of a relatively young generation of communists who’d cut their political teeth under the comparatively liberal rule of Kruschev, which legitimated the criticism of communist ideology (remember Kruschev’s denunciation of Stalin?). Then you get a) the guns or butter dilemma b) a willingness to question recieved doctrine c) ostensible commitment to some kind of social-democratic alternative d) the apparent unpopularity of communism, and hey presto, Gorbachev (and his cohorts) reforms undermibne communism from within. What this says about the success of the OSCE/CSCE I don’t know: perhaps better cases are the former Soviet Republics, where I think it served as a useful institutional vehicle for Western Europe to support democracy (in some cases).

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rob 12.02.04 at 7:38 pm

Dan Simon,

in a typical wishy-washy liberal manner, I think that attributing the fall of communism to any one explanatory factor is wrong. Undoubtedly you’re right to say that Reagan’s arms build-up (and Carter’s for that matter) could not have by themselves caused the fall of communism: they could have just bit the bullet and made their people poorer. Equally, a public commitment to a human rights declaration doesn’t have to mean anything to an autocracy: just look who’s signed up to the UN Charter. Clearly, Gorbachev alone couldn’t have undermined a social system which was relatively strongly embedded in the society in question, while to say that it was the failure of communism to expand, and to hold its own, looks a bit odd too: no new countries became communist between 1919 and 1945-6, while a communist revolution was defeated in Germany. All four of these factors working together could have significant effects though, especially when combined with the rise of a relatively young generation of communists who’d cut their political teeth under the comparatively liberal rule of Kruschev, which legitimated the criticism of communist ideology (remember Kruschev’s denunciation of Stalin?). Then you get a) the guns or butter dilemma b) a willingness to question recieved doctrine c) ostensible commitment to some kind of social-democratic alternative d) the apparent unpopularity of communism, and hey presto, Gorbachev (and his cohorts) reforms undermibne communism from within. What this says about the success of the OSCE/CSCE I don’t know: perhaps better cases are the former Soviet Republics, where I think it served as a useful institutional vehicle for Western Europe to support democracy (in some cases).

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Dan Simon 12.02.04 at 9:28 pm

Rob: The “agglomeration of many little factors” explanation is terribly unsatisfying, intellectually–which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily false, of course. One problem with it is that we don’t know where to stop–do we include Raisa Gorbachev’s love of Western shopping sprees? Yeltsin’s drinking? Another problem is that once the list gets too long, we can no longer hope to compare this set of events with other comparable ones, to try to gauge the importance of each factor–given enough factors, there simply won’t be any comparable sets of events anymore.

A point in the “diffuse causes” theory’s favor, on the other hand, is the fact that there was a coup in 1991–one that, had it been launched, say, three years earlier, could very well have succeeded. Hence, we can think of the collapse of the Soviet Union as having been a matter of the Politburo’s hardliners having failed to react quickly enough to stave off the collapse. It somehow seems easier to attribute such a delay–as opposed to some kind of grand, revolutionary change–to numerous small obstacles acting in concert. (Note, however, that such causes are far more likely to be internal to the Soviet Union–even to the CPSU itself–than external. Personally, I don’t think nearly enough attention in this discussion has been devoted to the remarkable cultural and ideological sea change that must have occurred within the CPSU, in order for a Gorbachev to have been able to rise to power and push his reforms virtually unhindered during the late 1980’s.)

In any event, I appreciate your comments, and look forward to further interesting discussions on this fascinating topic.

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rob 12.03.04 at 10:18 am

Dan,

I think you’re right about the ideological change within the CPSU: that was the point of pointing to the rise of a generation which had grown up under Krushchev, who did really have quite a serious effect on the CPSU by denouncing the cult of personality around Stalin. I think that wouldn’t have been enough though by itself: that generation needed not only the disposition to question recieved wisdoms, but a reason to do it(guns vs. butter and the unpopularity of communism), and a set of guidelines with which to do the questionning (the Helsinki accords). I know that multiple factor explanations are less than entirely satisfactory in terms of positive social science, precisely because they often can’t be replicated and thus can’t be tested, but at the risk of offending sociologists, political scientists and economists everywhere, I’m quite sceptical about positive social science precisely because of the prevalence of multiple factor explanations. I do have an argument for this, which runs something like ‘reasons are (socially relevant) causes’; ‘the causal operation of reasons cannot be subsumed under law-like generalizations’; ‘if there are causal factors which cannot be subsumed under law-like generalizations, then the hope of being able to establish a set of law-like generalizations for social explanation is flawed’, where reasons and the background against which they are made provide the multiple factor explanation. This isn’t really relevant to the thread, though, so…

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