Small Wars Journal

The Relationship Between Liberty and Democracy

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 1:03am

The Relationship Between Liberty and Democracy

Lemar Alexander Farhad


In 2005, I was the deputy officer in charge of provisional and national elections in Iraq. This was Iraq’s first democratic elections. It was a monumental time in Iraq’s history as a state. It was also America’s first flirtation with exporting Jeffersonian values to the Middle East. The U.S. government violently replaced a secular, authoritarian, and brutal regime with a democratic one. Yet, the results following the elections, and now, ten years later, have been very   disappointing. It is as if the American intervention, with its staggering loss of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars expended, has never happened. Iraq is ostensibly a democratic country, but like many other countries’ is one that is authoritarian, corrupt, and religiously biased. Why didn’t democracy yield a better outcome? The question lies within the question I have chosen for this article. In this article, I will argue that there is direct relationship between liberty and democracy. In order to have democracy, a state must value individual liberty and subscribe to liberal values.


Fareed Zakaria, in his essay, “A Brief History of Human Liberty,” argues that Christianity paved the way for the concepts of liberty to become entrenched in society, and thus liberty started in the West, and came before the concept of democracy. [i] He points out that although democracy was created in ancient Greece, the Greeks did not leave behind any viable democratic institutions to influence Europe.[ii] I do partially agree that the notion of liberty does trace its origins to Christianity. By contrast, I contend that liberalism traces its roots back to the European Enlightenment movement, which, was anti religion and against the Roman Catholic Church. Emmanuel Kant advocated the exercise of universal peace. The European Enlightenment ideas paved the way for the French Revolution. The concept of liberty, fraternity, and equality became mainstream political thought. These concepts soon made their way into the American Constitution.  Zakaria maintains that, “America’s path to liberal democracy was exceptional.” [iii]  Woodrow Wilson was influenced by liberal beliefs long after the founding fathers. His foreign policy was heavily partial to liberalism; as Wilson himself was deeply affected by Kant’s ideas. Zakaria in his essay, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” contends, liberalism is about individual rights. Western states combined the concept of liberalism and the rule of law to develop constitutional liberalism, which holds individual rights, property rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, equality, separation of church and state, and government of checks and balances, almost sacrosanct.[iv]


Phillip C. Schimmter and Terry Lynn Karl in their essay, “What Democracy Is…And Is Not,” contend that democracy comes in several forms, and that a state’s socioeconomic condition, institutions, and policies determine the form of democracy being practiced.[v] They define democracy as a modern system of governance where the rulers are held accountable by its citizens. The authors add that like all other forms of governance, democracies depend upon the leaders who hold positions of authority.[vi] Schimmter and Karl conclude by saying that final aspect of democracy is a state held free and fair elections.[vii] It has been widely noted that that liberal democracies yield better economic markets and quality of life, than non-liberal democracies. Examples of liberal democracies are the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, Denmark, and Germany.

Central Asia

Central Asia remains plagued by political stagnation and repression, rampant corruption, widespread poverty and widening socio-economic inequalities.

- John D. Negroponte, (former) Director of National Intelligence[viii]

The Soviets attempted to create a political society based on communist ideology. In reality, the Soviet Union relied on local actors to govern ethnically and linguistically diverse regions. As the Soviet Union began to collapse, political leaders and communist strongmen became the new ruling elite in the former Soviet republics. Most former Soviet states, especially those in Central Asia and the Caucuses are not liberal democracies. In this essay, I will argue that the reason most former Soviet states have not transitioned into liberal democracies is due to the totalitarian Soviet background shared by the elites who now govern these states. The notion of individual and collective liberalism has not yet manifested itself in these societies.

Former Soviet Strongmen

Leaders such Islam Karimov,  Imam Ali Rahmon, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and Nursultan Nazarbayev have been labeled as Central Asian strongmen, or rather as dictators.  Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, in their essay, “Modern Nondemocratic Regimes”, espouse that when a regime has removed political, economic, and social diversity, while only promoting a system of unitary politics and institutions associated with the regime’s mission, these regimes become totalitarian in nature.[ix]  Many of these states may not be truly totalitarian; however, they are authoritarian. The cast of former Soviet strongmen run political parties and dominate political and economic life. Guriev and Triesman, in their essay, “The New Dictators Rule by Velvet Fist,” state, “The new dictatorships preserve a pocket of democratic opposition to simulate competition. Elections prove the boss’s popularity. In Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev was re-elected with 97.7 percent of the vote.”[x]

The rationale behind their unwillingness to change is rather simple. The countries in which they preside were all given independence in the early 1990s. These leaders are products of the former Soviet regime, and only know and understand one system.  Most of the countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus lack cultures that promote entrepreneurship, trust, and innovation. They are poor and have weak government, political and civic institutions. Through my own travel in Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, I have seen how mismanaged many of the government institutions are. These societies may not be able to handle overnight transition to true democracies.

Most countries that attempted to transition from totalitarian type regimes to democracy have been dismal failures. Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries that had two different types of regimes prior to U.S. military operations, have suffered due to their governments’ inability to properly manage democratic governance. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have democracies, yet they are illiberal. Perhaps this is due to the fundamental concept of liberalism that is missing in their respective societies. Such is also the case for many of the former Soviet Republics.

Stability and Security vs Democracy

Former Soviet states are a direct product of the Soviet communism with an authoritative twist. The elites who took power were from the old guard, and were indoctrinated into a system of unitary governance. Many of these countries lack properly functioning government institutions. As a result, the governments over the years have done little to bolster education, and economic diversity. These societies have yet to fully grasp the concept of individual liberty and liberalism. Thus, they have not pressured their governments for change. These governments have promised their people stability, and many have delivered it. In an unstable world, many of the people living in these countries are content with stability, even at the cost of democracy.


As Fareed Zakaria presents in his essay, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” not all democracies are liberal. Illiberal democracies are on the rise in many parts of the world, from Pakistan to Malaysia, to Russia, and beyond.  Governments that have not invested in liberal values may have a democratic structure, but they are considered illiberal democracies. For, true democracy is more than a method of electing political leadership and approving laws and budgets through an elected, legislature. The spirit of liberal democracy lies in the notion that the ultimate sovereignty in a state belongs to the people who, in complete freedom, build and democratically elect a government to serve them. It has been demonstrated in many states that there is a strong correlation between liberty and democracy. In order to have democracy as it is defined and practiced in the west, governments and societies must have liberty first.  Liberal democracies are founded on the principles of liberty, absolute sovereignty of the people, and the rule of law. As my experiences in Iraq in 2005 have proven to me, without this relationship between liberty and democracy, you will have illiberal democracies. Perhaps, before exporting and championing for Jeffersonian democracy, we should have considered the relationship with liberty and democracy.

End Notes

[i]Fareed Zakaria, “A Brief History of Human Liberty,” in Essential Readings in Comparative Politics, 4th ed., ed. Patrick H. O’Neil and Ronald Rogowski (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013),  188-89.

[ii]  Ibid., 189.

[iii]  Ibid., 198.

[iv] Fareed Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracies,” Foreign Affairs, (1997), 26.

[v] Phillipe C. Schimitter and Terry Lynn Karl, “What Democracy Is…And Is Not,” in Essential Readings in Comparative Politics, 4th ed., ed. Patrick H. O’Neil and Ronald Rogowski (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013),  204.

[vi] Ibid., 204.

[vii] Ibid., 205.

[viii] John D. Negroponte, “Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence,”

testimony, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, D.C., February 2, 2006.

[ix] Juan Linz and  Alfred Stephan, “Modern Non Democratic Regimes,” in Essential Readings in Comparative Politics, 4th ed., ed. Patrick H. O’Neil and Ronald Rogowski (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013), 268.

[x] Sergei Guriev and Daniel Triesman, The New Dictators Rule by Velvet Fist.  The Opinion Pages , The New York Times, 2015.


About the Author(s)

Lieutenant Colonel Lemar Farhad is an Army Foreign Area Officer with multiple deployments to the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is currently serving as Partner Engagement specialist at the Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Central Command. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the California State University of Fullerton, a graduate certificate from the National Defense University of Malaysia, and a master’s degree in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own and do not represent U.S. Central Command, the United States Army, or the Department of Defense.


Before looking at the relationship between liberty and democracy, Huntington, it would seem, asks us to first look at the priority of order/legitimate authority -- and then at the relationship between order/authority and liberty in today's changing world.

From Samuel P. Huntington's "Political Order in Changing Societies:"


The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government ...

Social and economic change-urbanization, increases in literacy and education, industrialization, mass media expansion-extend political consciousness, multiply political demands, broaden political participation. These changes undermine traditional sources of political authority and traditional political institutions; they enormously complicate the problems of creating new bases of political association and new political institutions combining legitimacy and effectiveness ...

"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is authority that is in scarce supply in those modernizing countries where government is at the mercy of alienated intellectuals, rambunctious colonels, and rioting students.

It is precisely this scarcity that communist and communist-type movements are often able to overcome. History shows conclusively that communist governments are no better than free governments in alleviating famine, improving health, expanding national product, creating industry, and maximizing welfare. But the one thing communist governments can do is to govern; they do provide effective authority. Their ideology furnishes a basis of legitimacy, and their party organization provides the institutional mechanism for mobilizing support and executing policy.

To overthrow the government in many modernizing countries is a simple task: one battalion, two tanks, and a half-dozen colonels may suffice. But no communist government in a modernizing country has been overthrown by a military coup d'etat. The real challenge which the communists pose to modernizing countries is not that they are so good at overthrowing governments (which is easy), but that they are so good at making governments (which is a far more difficult task).

They may not provide liberty, but they do provide authority; they do create governments that can govern. While Americans laboriously strive to narrow the economic gap, communists offer modernizing countries a tested and proven method of bridging the political gap. Amidst the social conflict and violence that plague modernizing countries, they provide some assurance of political order.


Interesting to note how Huntington seems to tell us that (a) overthrowing governments is such an easy, almost boring task; while the real consideration must be -- before one undertakes such government overthrows -- (b) whether one can -- via the appeal and capabilities of one's own ideology/way of governance -- ever hope to replace the order that the present government provides?

Lemar Farhad

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 12:44pm

Thank you all for your interest in this article. I appreciate the divergent viewpoints and counter arguments. Moreover, for those that shared articles and material, I have read them with great interest.




Mon, 10/19/2015 - 3:10pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I understand and agree with you ... to a point. A democracy is not made by voting. I think most political scientists would agree with that statement.

But the problem is more fundamental than Sunni-Shia power sharing or even Islam (or at least a strict interpretation of it). The real question to ask is "why won't these groups share power?"; "why do the people prefer a strict interpretation of Islam versus a liberal interpretation?" The ultimate question is "what makes humans prefer one set of values over a different set?"

Our problem is that we see strict interpretations of Islam or the failure to share power as the disease. It is not. Each of those are symptoms. The "disease" is human nature.

The real question, which has already been largely answered, is "under what conditions must humans live for them to transition from Collectivist values (like tribalism that support autocratic governments) to Individualistic values (like liberalism that support democratic governments). Those conditions are primarily economic and tied to what is commonly referred to today as a stable middle class. Unfortunately, when we answered the question originally we had not yet identified these two value systems. What we were looking for was "what are the preconditions required for a country to successfully transition to democracy?"

The author is going back and making the observation that liberal values have to predate democracy, but he makes the error of believing that value systems can be imposed from above. Still, he is basically right.

You are also basically right. My only caution is that you must not see strict Islam and a lack of power sharing as the cause of the problem. They are indicators of the value system the population prefer. It is that preference that is the crux of the problem.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/19/2015 - 12:45pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

TC--I was in Iraq with the 3/3 BCT that was responsible of the first "democratic elections" for Diyala Province-----

They spent hours and days getting ready for it from election poll security, to barrier planning, to ballots, to training Iraqi's on the election process, to insuring a correct ballot count AND especially to convincing the Sunni tribes to participate in the face of QJBR/AQI and Baathist calls to boycott the elections.

BUT in the end while everything "looked, tasted and appeared to be democratic" WE the US never once sat down and thought through the very complex problem of transitioning power from the haves "the Sunnis" to those that did not have the power "the Shia".

AND we especially paid no attention to the fact that the direct neighbor Iran was at the same time bringing Iraq into a Shia proxy status via Islam.

So again the comment is valid--at no time was "democracy and liberty" ever going to work in Iraq as the civil society was not prepared mentally and historically prepared for it.

The core reason we never "got it" was the fact that many of the military senior command in Iraq as well as in the US civilian side truly failed to realize that Islam is a complete religion with it's own internal political, judicial, business and social contract. That does in many ways clashes with our "view of democracy and personal liberty".

Many still do not get that specific feature of Islam when talking about "democracy and personal liberties/human rights" in the entire ME.

THUS the mess we now have in Iraq and for that matter the entire ME.


Mon, 10/19/2015 - 8:35am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


The point the author is making is, in part correct and in part wrong. That the value of individual liberty MUST exist before a real democracy can take root is a valid point and is accurate even if it is not fully accepted by many. Where the author goes astray is to say that the political elite can designate which value system a population will have. They cannot. If the population does not subscribe to individual values -- if they have a tribal value system -- then true democracy cannot take root. Changing an entire society's value system is not quick or easy. A society's value system is tied to a series of factors including wealth distribution and cultural history. The fact that you cannot force democracy from the top down on a society that is not primed for it should be the lesson of the last 12 years.

See my thoughts on why we failed.…

I will add that I can think of only one case where we successfully forced democracy on a population, but the conditions had been set long before we did it and we were granted legitimacy by the government we were replacing. That was post WWII Japan. It was perhaps the perfect storm of democratic opportunity. In that sense it is the exception that proves the rule. Reading Barrington Moore Jr’s “The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” you will see that Japan was socially well on its way towards democracy before the Americans dropped anchor in 1853. They had previous constitutional government experience in the Meiji era. It had a homogonous, mostly literate population with a diverse, largely industrialized economy. On top of those positive social and economic conditions, the occupation force that arrived in 1945 was granted legitimacy by the sitting Emperor. Within days the Americans handed the new Japanese government a democratic constitution they had little input in. In essence, we “created” that democracy … and it flourished.

But situations like that are rare, and each situation needs to be considered individually.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/19/2015 - 6:33am

Just who in DC assumed in their right minds that by holding a so called democratic election in a Muslim country in 2005 with a 70% Shia majority and with the remaining 30% being Sunni with the ongoing Sunni calls to boycott the elections-- was going to end well?

I have a bridge in Angola to sell.

Especially when the out of power Shia had for the first time in the history of the ME—a chance to take control of an Arab country legally via the US supported elections—just as we allowed Hamas in the so called free elections in Gaza to participate and then wondered why they won.

Who in DC then and those of today really believed this was going to turn out well especially with Iran as a next door neighbor??????

Let’s be honest about history—many stated it would not work and yet here we are 12 years later debating “democracy and liberty” where the majority rules by whatever they define that rule to be thus we have IS now representing the Sunni and yet we wonder why?

Really worth listening to..................

Hassan Hassan ‏@hxhassan
.@michaeldweiss goes to Texas to chat about Isis and dazzles the educated crowds

State Department's Deputy Secretary's remarks at the Freedom House. Are they measured or overly idealistic?

The space for civil society is shrinking in many parts of the world. It’s under attack through restrictive laws, arbitrary arrests, and sanctioned brutality. It’s under siege where power has become concentrated in the hands of a few and corruption a way of life. It is under threat by those who see independent media, free assembly, and an open society as a source of insecurity instead of a great reservoir of strength and stability.

Over the last three years, more than 50 countries have introduced or enacted measures to restrict civil society.

Now many who repress rights do so in the name of stability—their codeword for keeping entrenched interests in power. But I think we all know and believe that the best guarantor of stability is not control—it’s freedom. Nearly every major national security issue we face is at its core a failure of governance. The inability of governments to live up to the most fundamental of its responsibilities—to protect the lives and the rights of its citizens—can devastate nations, destabilize regions, and ultimately pose a threat to the United States. (My comment, but is democracy the only form of governance that addresses these issues?)

We cannot solve all the world’s problems, and we cannot fully solve any of them alone. But we also cannot retreat—or abdicate our unique capabilities to influence and shape change.

It is precisely at these kinds of moments—when more actually is demanded of us—that we have an obligation to try to come together as a global community to act in defense of our values and all of those who share them.

Now, you all know this very well: experts say that on average, successful transitions from dictatorship to full democracy with rule of law take somewhere between 15 or 20 years in the best of circumstances. For Tunisia and the rest of the region, it’s been four-and-a-half years since the Arab Spring began.(O.K., if we all know this, then is there a more reasonable path to democracy that we can support by enhancing education and economic development and encouraging the growth of human capital versus imposing democracy upon governments that we overthrow militarily?)

President Putin invaded their country to make their democratic experiment fail because it was a threat to his own experiment.

And now in Syria, we see that Russia has gone to war to bolster an authoritarian regime that is brutalizing its own citizens and attracting the world’s worst terrorists—ensuring more suffering, more refugee flight, and more space for Daesh.

In the face of such acts, it is tempting to want a grand American solution that imposes freedom and order overnight. We should and we must debate our strategies and consider all options. But we cannot deny the lessons we’ve learned over a decade of sacrifice about the effectiveness and sustainability of large-scale, open-ended military interventions.

If you asked an academic or a historian, 50 or 100 years ago, what defines the wealth of a nation, they would say, well, it’s the size of its population, the expanse of its land mass, its abundance of natural resources, the power of the military....

But I think all of you know, better than anyone, that what really matters in the 21st century, what really constitutes the wealth of a nation is it human resource, and the ability of that resource to creative, to innovate, to think, to argue, and to even, if necessary, to fail.

And systems that do not cultivate this potential—and indeed that work to destroy it—will not flourish in the 21st century. They do not protect minorities from oppression by the majority. They do not foster broad-based growth, value truth, or respect the dignity of their own citizens. They steal trade secrets because they must. They invade other countries to distract from problems at home. They repress civil society because civil society is stronger than they are.

And they won’t succeed in this century any more than they ultimately did in the last one.

authoritarians and extremists will find that their politics of division and ideologies of hate will have precipitated exactly what they hoped to destroy: a world of renewed unity, repaired peace, and a resurgence of faith in our shared democratic ideals. But only, only if we keep working to make it so.

End of excerpts. Personally I found little to disagree with, but I suspect we would agree on the how, and maybe even the definition of legitimate governance. As many have already commented, there are different definitions for democracy. There are other forms of governance that have also proved to relatively successful. Shaping is one thing, while imposing is another. My issue is our attempt to impose the U.S. form of democracy upon post war chaos. It is almost guaranteed to fail, and the second order effects are that erodes confidence in democratic forms of governance elsewhere.

Robert C. Jones

Sun, 10/18/2015 - 10:21pm

In reply to by Dayuhan



Sun, 10/18/2015 - 9:41pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

At times the urge to "install democracy" seems to be related less to perceptions of legitimacy in the target country than to perceptions of legitimacy among Americans. The domestic audience expects an American intervention to be followed by a transition to something that Americans recognize as "democracy", and American politicians have to give them what they want in order to sustain the domestic perception of moral high ground. None of this seems related to any issues of practical functionality or perceived legitimacy in the country where the government is being "installed".


Sun, 10/18/2015 - 7:53pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell


I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as "Universal Human Rights." There is Universal Human Nature. But that Human Nature chooses different values and ideas about right and wrong that leads them to choose different forms of government depending on a large number of factors. The most salient of these factors are Stability, Economic Wealth Distribution, and cultural history. When there is an external threat, instability and poverty people will chose a strong leader and be willing to stone to death those that threaten the group. That is human nature. That is universal. Everything else is conditional.

Dave Maxwell

Sun, 10/18/2015 - 6:32pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

The question is whether a social contract and the right to self determination is a universal human right. The American experience, born out of the Enlightenment, would seem to indicate that it is a universal human right. The key is self determination by the people who chose to accept a form of government. It is up to them to develop the social contract that works for them. External imposition of government violates our basic American values (and I would submit universal human right) of the right to self determination.

We have a conflict that may be incommensurable in many situations because rather than allow self determination we either try to impose our system of government on others (or indirectly do so through support of leaders who we believe will create a favorable government for us - and as aside we are so often vulnerable to being "played" by those we "chose") or we believe it is in our interest (which it generally is) to ensure that a nation's government is aligned with and favorable to us and our interests even if they do not fully adopt our system of government.

Robert C. Jones

Sun, 10/18/2015 - 5:59pm

When one imposes governance onto another, the failure is probably less about the form of governance imposed, and more about the inherent lack of popular legitimacy with a large portion of the affected population simply because it was imposed upon them.

"hearts and minds" is not about bribing some population to like a particular government, rather I belief it is best thought of as a poetic term for popular legitimacy - the recognition of the right of some source of governance to affect ones' life.

Geoffrey Demarest

Sat, 10/17/2015 - 3:05pm

Curmudgeon, Nah, no apology needed, don't worry about it, no big thing. I see that my peevish comment went up four times. Ha. It was because malware has invaded my computer life and couldn't see if it was taking, so I kept pushing the buttons. It doesn't reflect any intensity. I'd love to debate, converse with you some time. We have different understandings, but I doubt much difference of attitude. Geoff

Geoffrey Demarest

Sat, 10/17/2015 - 3:05pm

Curmudgeon, Nah, no apology needed, don't worry about it, no big thing. I see that my peevish comment went up four times. Ha. It was because malware has invaded my computer life and couldn't see if it was taking, so I kept pushing the buttons. It doesn't reflect any intensity. I'd love to debate, converse with you some time. We have different understandings, but I doubt much difference of attitude. Geoff


Sun, 10/18/2015 - 6:58pm

In reply to by Bill M.

I will draft an outline. Private message me an email.

Yes, it will absolutely be an opinion piece, but after you see my ideas you may not want any part of it. ;-)

Bill M.

Sun, 10/18/2015 - 4:00pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

If it is solely an opinion piece, we should be able to do a short one to see if it gains traction. The constructive criticism we receive would be helpful in further refining our thoughts on the process.

I'm game, we need to identify the intended audience and key message we want to convey. Bill


Sat, 10/17/2015 - 6:22pm

In reply to by Bill M.

You make a statement that hits on one of my pet peeves - "We shouldn't shy away from martial law and occupation doctrine, it is absolutely essential in my view to create the stability required to allowed another form of governance to emerge." I would argue that the recent failures of landpower are due to exactly that point. Would you like to toss some ideas back and forth, maybe putting an opinion peace together?

Bill M.

Sat, 10/17/2015 - 2:57pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon


A weak defense follows :-).

I'll address your second disagreement first. I think I phrased it as "if we continue to commit to imposing the U.S. version of democracy are we doomed to failure?" It was rhetorical question. We didn't do it in Libya, but it seemed (my perception only) that U.S. leaders had high hopes that a liberal democracy would arise out of the ashes. You're right about Syria, but darn if the President isn't on the receiving end of considerable political pressure to do more in Syria, as though it is our problem to solve. Some folks learn, others don't, and yet others who know better continue to push for more involvement. This isn't because they think it will work, but they do so to weaken the other political party, to gain domestic political power.

It reminds me of listening to LBJ's comment (listening to his taped discussions in the Oval Office), when he said we can't win the Vietnam War, but I can't pull out because the Republicans will blame the loss on us. At the end of day even when our leaders know what the right decision is, they are often unable to make it due to other considerations related to gaining and maintaining their political power. Our nation has never suffered a lack of physical courage, but moral courage is another matter at the upper political levels.

Kilcullen's work was my first exposure to competitive control theory, and I actually wanted to do a thesis, or at a least a paper on it, but I couldn't find sufficient resources to make it anymore than an opinion piece. However, I think it applies to more than insurgencies, I think it applies to any post conflict situation where the status quo form of governance has been destroyed. At that point people do want to know the rules. I saw that repeatedly in Iraq in 2003, when we failed to provide a rules based structure. That allowed a lot things to develop that certainly weren't in our interests, or in the interests of the Iraqi people.

After reading other references that explained the theory by using it to explain how communists displace existing forms of governance and established control I had an aha moment. Clearly a casual observation, but an observation nonetheless, is that I see parallels with communism, Islamic law/governance, and perhaps other forms directive forms of governance that can be quickly imposed on top of chaos. We could never compete effectively by trying to apply liberal democracy (when it is a foreign concept to begin with) on top of chaos. At this point in the transition people want some degree of order. We shouldn't shy away from martial law and occupation doctrine, it is absolutely essential in my view to create the stability required to allowed another form of governance to emerge.

I'm currently reading Asia's Cauldron by Robert Kaplan (excellent and quick read by the way), and I loved his discussion on Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore. He truly was one of the most notable personalities of the 20th Century. I read one of Lee's books, and look forward to reading his other book. He never discussed competitive control theory, but he certainly recognized it underlying tenants. As Kaplan and many others said, Lee was a man of vision who brought together a multiethnic country and elevated from third world status to first world status with a degree of authoritarianism. Lee noted a soft people will vote for those who promise a soft way out. He criticized western media for being cynical about authority, and points to other countries who had less authoritative governments where corruption ruled and meritocracy didn't flourish as it did in Singapore. Kaplan references John Stuart Mill's belief that authority needs to be created first, and then we can go about limiting it. Didn't we do the exact opposite in Iraq? There is a lot more in the Good Autocrat chapter that is relevant to the discussion.

My comments are not intended to be academic. They are observations based on my participation in some events, and my interpretation of the history I have studied. It seems that a slight philosophical change on our part that would accept it takes time for legitimate governments to develop in the wake of a storm would go a long way. We may also need to revisit Mill's thoughts on the requirement to install authority first, so legitimate governance can grow, regardless of how repugnant that seems to us. The other way seems to be little more than mob rule.


Sat, 10/17/2015 - 10:02am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill, you are correct (as always) that our failures to assist failed states like Libya, and ones we helped to fail, like Afghanistan and Iraq, is based on our blind faith in liberal democracy. But I would argue that our zealous belief in liberal democracy springs from our zealous belief in liberal ideals. I would define liberal ideals as the belief in individualism - that each individual has certain rights that should not be abridged without a morally valid reason. This is the foundational idea behind the universal human rights movement that is now enshrined in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following the author's argument, a democracy requires that the population must first accept liberal ideals - what I will call individualist values - before it can successfully transition to a liberal democracy.

But I write to disagree with you on two points. The first is your reliance on Competitive Control Theory. As I understand it, from Kilcullen's work, the theory basically holds that “[i]n irregular conflicts (that is, in conflicts where at least one combatant is a nonstate armed group), the local armed actor that a given population perceives as best able to establish a predictable, consistent, and wide-spectrum normative system of control is most likely to dominate that population and its residential areas. Simply put, the idea is that populations respond to a predictable, ordered, normative system that tells them exactly what they need to do, and not do, in order to be safe." This is true, where the population values safety, security, and stability. It is not any more universally true than the idea that everyone values individual human rights over everything else. Where a population is seeking stability, it will value a powerful, directive leader because that leader will provide the safety and security they seek. Where the people prize individualist values they will resist such a leader. I offer the American Revolution as evidence. The Colonists had a directive leader, and they risked everything to rebel against that leader. My point is that, it is the conditions that people are living under that makes them prefer one set of values over another set of values. Neither set are universal.

Finally, to your last point, that America is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to forcing democracy on others. I would argue that maybe we have come to realize that we cannot do that. I offer Syria as my example. The President has not jumped into the fray. He does not want to occupy parts of Syria. He does not want to try to dictate to the local population the solution to their political problems. I don't believe he can openly admit to the American people that this is because he does not believe that democracy would not work in Syria, but I do believe that concerns about what comes after the military campaign have kept us out of direct action. So maybe we are learning ... or maybe not.

It appears to me history sides with the author's argument. Consequently, it seems that our passionate pursuit to impose our form of liberal democracy upon others means we will continue to suffer failure after failure as we ride to the rescue after states fail. A contentious argument I admit, but our proposed form of legitimate government will not compete with sharia, communism, or other forms of directive governance IAW the competitive control theory. However, other forms of democracy could. Are we capable as a nation in accepting other forms of governance? If not, what are the implications? Is our form of democracy in some societies little more than mob rule? This article's topic has serious implications, if our ends are always the same are we doomed to repeated failures due our impatience and insistence others become little Americas?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/17/2015 - 2:43am

Essence of victory in a democracy is getting outsiders to perceive your side in your ethnic conflict as a universal value. That's victory.


Sat, 10/17/2015 - 1:27pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest


I think this conversation is best continued as in private. Feel free to contact me via private messages.

I will reply to one of your points. My statement on harnessing the power of democracy might have been better phrased as harnessing the power of the demos, or the people. They were the source of all political power. This belief can be found in the Constitution's opening phrase "We the People," as well as in the ideals of Jeffersonian Democracy - "Jefferson's most fundamental political belief was an 'absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority.' Stemming from his deep optimism in human reason, Jefferson believed that the will of the people, expressed through elections, provided the most appropriate guidance for directing the republic's course." But to harness that power of the demos, the government had to be designed in a way that it guarded against man's less noble attributes - greed, the desire for power. and the whims of mob rule. So the Constitution broke that power up among various parties, and put limits on the terms of those in power, established a judiciary that was not tainted by politics and the whims of the people, and tried to guarantee the rights of minorities.

Also, I will apologize for aligning what you wrote with Anarchy. When you stated that you bowed to no ruler, I assumed that meant that you had not acquiesced to any government authority. When you acquiesce to a government you recognize its right to the exclusive use of violence to enforce its rule (another Weberian definition). In my typology based on the source of political legitimacy, a person who acquiesces to no government is an Anarchist. I did not mean that you were going to shot the President (although I don't get a chance to throw obscure historical references in very often, and thought you might recognize the name, so I took advantage of the opportunity.) In my system, early small band hunter-gathers would be anarchists because they did not recognize the authority of any one leader. Once the band institutes some form of enforceable political rule, as in a Chiefdom, then the members would become members of an ethnocracy, and if they institute a hereditary system to designate who the new chief is, a monarchy. In any case, that was a long winded apology. I am sorry.

Geoffrey Demarest

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 11:32pm

Woa there. I enjoy a good strawman, but yours was a bit much. Let me make it absolutely clear to any thread readers that I am not an anarchist and nothing I wrote came close to suggesting that I might be. In case anyone failed to pick up the reference, Leon Czolgosz murdered President McKinley. Not a clever analogy. Anyhow, the founders were indeed not anarchists. It is also a stretch to call them progressives if we are applying the current trappings of the word. Anarchists (including your Czolgosz) have forever been closer in their associations and thinking to socialists, as are today’s progressives. My observation is that the founding fathers trusted in the broad distribution of power, and sought a least-necessary amount of centralized government. I am curious about your description of the founders’ enterprise as trying to “develop a system of government that was meant to harness the power of democracy.” To me that’s an odd construct. From what documents do you take that interpretation? It seems to me they were trying to harness government -- to keep it from having too much power. You make it sound as though they were trying to harness the power of the people in order to give the government power. Wow. I do agree they intended a basic law that could be changed, but not easily. Their underlying observations about power have not changed. Human nature has not changed. Their, our revolution, which built away from centralized power and toward individual liberty, is as valid in principle today as it ever was. Our social compact is not a suicide pact, not dogmatic, not opposed to the aggregation of military force for the common defense, not immoderate. It is not obsolete. It is, moreover, the subject and object of our oaths.

Geoffrey Demarest

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 11:32pm

Woa there. I enjoy a good strawman, but yours was a bit much. Let me make it absolutely clear to any thread readers that I am not an anarchist and nothing I wrote came close to suggesting that I might be. In case anyone failed to pick up the reference, Leon Czolgosz murdered President McKinley. Not a clever analogy. Anyhow, the founders were indeed not anarchists. It is also a stretch to call them progressives if we are applying the current trappings of the word. Anarchists (including your Czolgosz) have forever been closer in their associations and thinking to socialists, as are today’s progressives. My observation is that the founding fathers trusted in the broad distribution of power, and sought a least-necessary amount of centralized government. I am curious about your description of the founders’ enterprise as trying to “develop a system of government that was meant to harness the power of democracy.” To me that’s an odd construct. From what documents do you take that interpretation? It seems to me they were trying to harness government -- to keep it from having too much power. You make it sound as though they were trying to harness the power of the people in order to give the government power. Wow. I do agree they intended a basic law that could be changed, but not easily. Their underlying observations about power have not changed. Human nature has not changed. Their, our revolution, which built away from centralized power and toward individual liberty, is as valid in principle today as it ever was. Our social compact is not a suicide pact, not dogmatic, not opposed to the aggregation of military force for the common defense, not immoderate. It is not obsolete. It is, moreover, the subject and object of our oaths.

Lemar Farhad

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 3:22pm

In reply to by Tahmina

Thanks Tahmina.


Fri, 10/16/2015 - 10:36pm

Khele hoob. To elaborate on Central Asian States' example, one can’t morph a non-democratic country into a democracy overnight. These façade “democratic” countries will continue to further stagnate if no structural (institutional, socio-political, cultural, etc.) changes are implemented in the near future. These countries should first have the buy-in and be committed to democratic values themselves; otherwise all of the efforts promoted by the West under the aegis of Democracy will all be in vain, paired with numerous resources and lives lost.


Fri, 10/16/2015 - 7:05pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest


With all due respect, I am going to disagree with you in part. First, let me say that I never said Democracy is “good.” What I said, or intended to say, is that under certain circumstances, where the population has a certain level of wealth and security, they will prefer democracy to other forms of government like monarchies or theocracies.

I take it from your last sentence that you subscribe to a political theory espoused by Leon Czolgosz, Anarchy. Following my explanation of how legitimacy is tied to governments, Anarchists believe that legitimacy should not be transferred to any government – the Anarchist owes no loyalty to any government and should expect no protection of any government. He has transferred none of the twigs in his bundle of rights to the government and therefore cannot expect the government to provide him with any services under the "Social Contract."

I don’t believe that the Founders were Anarchists. I believe they were exceptionally progressive for their time. I think they understood the power and limits of democracy and tried to develop a system of government that was meant to harness the power of democracy without letting it turn into the “tyranny of the majority.” But their solution was neither perfect nor timeless. The world changed, and their solution began to fail. Amendments were offered to the Constitution to try to correct the cracks caused by human “progress,” but they invariably failed to keep up. Congress’ failure meant the Supreme Court was left to interpret the Founders intentions, with mixed results. In the end, what the Founders created was not a timeless document, but something meant to be amendable with the times. The problem is that there are a group that I refer to as the “Amish of American Politics” who believe that we must abandon all that we have learned in the last two-hundred plus years and return to politics as it was at the time of the Founders. That is wrong. If the Founders had intended that, there would have been no mechanism in the Constitution for amendments.

In any case, I respectfully disagree. Anarchy is no better a political solution than democracy. Granted, anarchy is viable under certain conditions, but I don’t believe any of those conditions currently exist in the United States.

One last point: You stated that democracy was “rule by the majority.” That is not what democracy is. Remember that the original Athenian democracy was ruled by a group called the "Council of 400" that were originally chosen by lot – at random – from the various groups of Athenian society. The selection was equal, with each of the key four segments of society receiving and equal share of the members. “The Majority” was not a necessary component of democracy, and has nothing to do with its fundamental premise, that the people grant the government its legitimacy.

Geoffrey Demarest

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 4:30pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

Hello Curmudgeon. It’s great that Lemar should spark such a topic. It leads us to try to express our thinking about what we are supposed to be and do, especially as partisans of the American military. Obviously, these kinds of discussions can become a word soup kitchen with a bunch of volunteer chefs. It can get pretty loose when the chefs speak different languages, and downright sloppy when political scientists are allowed to label ingredients. I don’t claim to be a better cook than you, so please excuse my throwing in too much of something if that’s all I’m doing. I think you and I would agree that we should not let the word democracy simply be a synonym for ‘good’ to be thrown around gratuitously. If all it means is ‘good’ then certainly I’m for that, and so what? I would prefer we kept the word to its denotation -- of rule by a majority. There is certainly some variety of representational/mathematical mechanisms by which a majority-voice is determined or claimed, but to me that is neither here nor there. I guess I’m willing to agree, as you assert, that in a democracy a government receives a “right to rule” from the people. That’s what all the democracies say, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela included. And therein lies something fundamentally unattractive. The founders didn't want to give anybody a right to rule, by way of electoral math or by any other means. They didn’t see any ‘legitimacy’ in that. They saw that majorities, however calculated, were perfectly capable of stupidity, cruelty and bigotry. The President of the United States was not given a right to rule. The framers wanted to lend a privilege of service and fill a limited need of governance. A president is not a ruler. The founders felt there was no need for a ruler except in very carefully delimited contexts and circumstances. The people can rule themselves. That proposition, the exceptionally American proposition, is not the same as democracy. I know it’s hard to fight a word, it’s like stopping the tide, and so OK, democracy means a lot of things, and on most occasions of its use it is meant to mean ‘fair’ or ‘good’ or maybe just something other than despotic. OK, but we should rail against the idea that democracy is good because of the people giving a leader a right to rule, or that a leader derives a right to rule from the people, or that legitimacy is derived from a majority -- all that -- that’s not what’s good about democracy. Nah, that’s what’s bad about it. No, as a member of the American military, I recognize discipline and that I have commanders, including a Commander-in-Chief. I volunteered. But as an American citizen, on the other hand, I have no ruler.


Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:12pm

Reading the last few comments it has become clear that the term “democracy” is ill defined. The author starts in the right place, but then takes away the wrong message. Major Farhad, citing Schimmter and Karl, “define[s] democracy as a modern system of governance where the rulers are held accountable by its citizens.” The phrase “held accountable by its citizens” means that the government receives its legitimacy – its “right to rule” – as Weber would say, from the citizenry. This places it in contrast to other forms of government that take their legitimacy from other sources. For example, the monarchy takes its legitimacy from the divine right of kings; God’s authority on earth is granted to the king to rule over the kingdom; or a theocracy where God’s authority passes to the priestly class who rule in God’s name; or a plutocracy where the wealthy, by virtue of their spending money to support the government, are the true source of its power; or an oligarchy where age and/or wisdom are the reason the people entrust rule to a small group. The key is not voting. In a democracy voting is simply the mechanism used to transfer legitimacy from a large part of the population onto a single individual who then acts on behalf of the population. The Athenians selected leaders by lottery, but it was still a democracy because the true power of government sprang from the citizenry.

As for why the U.S. promotes democracy as part of our foreign policy, I would argue it is threefold. The first, and longest, is economic concern. “Democracy” was a euphemism for “capitalist,” which stood in opposition to communism. We promoted “the American way of life” throughout the Cold War. When the Soviets fell, we blindly assumed that the victory was based in Democracy’s triumph over the autocratic communists. We began to believe our own rhetoric. Assisted by Francis Fukuyama, and his influential essay “the end of history,” we believed that Democracy was the be-all-end-all of human development. This was the second reason we promoted democracy. We became evangelists of democracy, promoting it everywhere and anywhere as the panacea to all of society’s ills. This idea has lost some of its steam after the war in Iraq. The final reason, and the only one that truly has to do with National Security, has to do with “the Democratic Peace”; a belief that Democracies do not go to war with each other and therefore, the more democracies on the planet, the less likely we will have to go to war. The Democratic Peace is a misnomer. It is truly the “Liberal Peace” because it is the idea of individual liberalism that is the foundation of the peace (an idea that is not completely accepted and which I will not endeavor to support here.)

And so we return to the point the author was making – that liberalism proceeds democracy. Liberalism is founded in the idea that each individual is an independent being with their own “rights.” The idea of “rights” stands in contrast to the idea of “privileges.” A King has the Devine Right and can grant you privileges to own property or speak you mind. But those privileges are granted to you by the King and the King (or the Priests, or the Rich, or the Oligarchs) may revoke them at any time for any reason. A right is something you own. When you think of your rights it is helpful to think of them like a bundle of twigs. When you are a member of society you must relinquish some of those twigs for the protection the group offers. This is the “Social Contract.” So you hand over you right to kill anyone you want, or take anything you want from others, in exchange for the protection that others cannot kill you or take your things. But still, the idea is that YOU have those rights and you are relinquishing them to the government in exchange for certain protections and services the government offers. That is a Democracy. It is a system where the citizens have rights as opposed to being granted privileges. Simple, right?

A proposed explanation as to why "democracy promotion" (whether always successful or not and for whatever reason) might underpin our foreign policy(ies):

Great nations -- that have determined that they need to operate (read: to intervene) on the world stage -- these such great nations benefit from having a viable (to wit: a domestically and internationally "sellable") reason for doing so.

Having such an accepted reason to operate (i.e. to intervene), this provides these great nations with (a) the necessary "freedom of action" so that they might (b) pursue whatever are their true goals and objectives.

Thus, from this "great nations need a reason to intervene/freedom of action angle," to understand how and why (to wit: it is/was a domestically and internationally "sellable" idea) "democracy promotion" became, and remains, the backbone/a cornerstone of American foreign policy?

Geoffrey Demarest

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 11:18am

Your article is provocative (I suppose I mean poignant, but it did provoke me to comment). Let me suggest that perhaps maybe possibly the drift you’ve taken with your assertions, and the course of your attitude can continue on a happier and even more effective path. The American revolutionaries, (or at least, as I read it, those framers whose ideas prevailed in greatest measure)were not keen on democracy. The venerable Federalist Papers, for instance, are not kind to democracy. Democracy is not mentioned in the Constitution. Democracy was not the goal. Many constitutional scholars today teach that Wilson was of a progressive mindset explicitly opposed to the underlying ideals of the framers in that regard. The framers together noticed one central correlation -- that between despotism and the concentration of power. On the back of that one common observation, and in spite of otherwise disparate philosophical leanings, they conspired to arrange things so as to distribute, balance, delimit, and share power. In their resulting plans electoral democracy was a tool to allow for the regular and non-violent de-selection of leaders -- one contraption in a suite designed to resist the concentration of power. You are right to wonder about the course that our foreign policies have taken in the last century. It is dispiriting to see how and why the cult of political elections overpowered our ability to remember who we are and where we came from. America has an exceptional ideological inheritance, nevertheless. We will rebound and recover our azimuth. I ask you, meanwhile, to consider that Jefferson is not the problem. I agree with you that Liberty is a more consequential, virtuous word than democracy. The latter, in careful measure, can support or undermine the former. Liberty is a good thing, democracy is just a thing. By the way, Hillsdale College offers some excellent (free) online courses on the background of American thought regarding Liberty, which I recommend. Geoff


Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:57am

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

The New Hampshire system sounds like a meaningful democracy. I guess good governance will always be difficult in the complex society we live in.


Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:45am

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

Well, sweden is crazier than Greece. And the ethnic conflicts are alot worse here. I expect sweden to become a failed state in the years to come. Civil war like conditions are not off the table. But probably just more overt totalitarianism. The benefit of monarchy is that the instution is already in place so it could be an option if things disintegrate.

But im not sure you will go the way of Greece. In the US less central authority and stronger regions could be the outcome. And thats a good thing and the american system will prove itself once more. It would actually be a step closer to the constituton, would it not? I mean, federal authority, its uncontrollable, what does democracy even mean on a 320 miljon level? How could "the people" ever be an effective auditor on such a level?


Thu, 10/15/2015 - 8:12pm

In reply to by Bataki

There has long been a belief that democracy is only viable for a small population. I lived in New Hampshire for a while and we still had yearly town meetings where all the town laws, school regulations, infrastructure repairs projects paid for with town money, and other things were discussed and voted on directly by the voters of the town. It had worked for some time. Of course, the larger the group, the harder it is to manage that type of system.

I am not a big fan of monarchy, although I can see its appeal. I still believe the theory behind democracy is valid, but it is only viable under certain conditions that include a minimum level of wealth and security and some form of internal cohesion. Other systems, like monarchies, are better for societies under different conditions. If Athenian history is any indication, America will lose democracy to oligarchy over a period of years as the population is no longer willing to support government; refusing to pay taxes, refusing to serve in the military or perform other social obligations like voting, and expect the government to provide services even while they refuse to support it. Everything becomes a right and the word "obligation" takes on a negative connotation. That is essentially what happened in Greece. Lets see if history really does rhyme.


Thu, 10/15/2015 - 7:30pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

I dont think systems can be replaced. They can only grow organically. Devolution of power is always good and a sysems health will be decided by the strength and resilience of its smallest unit. The Socken(~parish) was probably the last healthy political institution in sweden. Since people met one another each week at church it was strong. And for the same reason people would know who was a psycopath and who wasnt and avoid having them as leaders.

Im not sure it is important how central authority is apointed. Central authority will always be inhabited by monsters, its just the nature of the beast. And no matter what system you put in place, the professional politicians and the oligarchs will always run rings around it. The people will always be outsmarted by those that can employ fulltime private beurocracies for lobbying and manipulating. Maybe the less legitimate central authority is, the less damage it will be able to do since the resistence against its rule will be stronger. Maybe thats why democracy is such a freakshow?

Maybe heredetary monarchy as the central ruler? If its heredetary the "ruler to be" can be protected against such things that makes a ruler vulnerable to NSA blackmail and such. (like, its probably not a coincidence that Putin is so independent AND that he was schooled by the KGB, he got informationsecurity with his motersmilk, as it were). Its also kinda hard to bribe someone that "owns" a territory for generations to come, like, what you gonna offer him?

Monarchy has another advantage and that is that the monarch only has one country, its for life and beyond. So the ruler will not intentionally destroy it. The "democrats" only borrow the place for 4 or 8 years so they will try to rob it as much as they possibly can in that limited time. Like, the endentured servants actually had a higher mortality rate in early american history than african slaves.

Of course, some monarchs end up being morons or mentally ill. But believe you me, our democracy is already putting such people "in power". So we already have that problem, a "George the mad" could hardly be worse than we have now.

Obviously foreign money and employees in the media should be banned. Along with foreing thinktanks and lobbyists and such. Political actors should have skin in the game and physically be within reach.

Of course, the US system has functioned as well as can be expected. But its kinda old, overripe, as it were. So the oligarchs are running rings around it by now. But such is politics, it degenerates. And usually start out pretty rife to begin with and attract the worst people. I think the US system has done ok. But obviously you can not copy it to other places these things are organic. You americans probably dont have a clue what made it work as not-bad as it has.
(I AM extremely critical of the menace that you have become to the rest of us especially in combination with the hypocritical rethorics that go along with it. But then, the US system is really there to benefit US citizens, that is the only relevant measurement of its success.).

Switzerland has an attractive system. But its also organic and cannot be copied by others.


Thu, 10/15/2015 - 5:38pm

In reply to by Bataki

While I see you have valid concerns about "liberal democracy," I am curious what you believe it ought to be replaced with? Why do you feel that those systems won't take your money or sexually abuse your children?


Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:31pm

In reply to by Bataki

I just need to add another tidbit from the supposedly "liberal" democracy of Sweden.

Homeschooling is expressly forbidden. Parents that try get fined tens of thousands of dollars and get threatened to have their kids taken away from them by the state if they do not back down. Up until now no citizen has tried to go all the way, they have either backed down or fled the country before.

All citizens are required to send their kids to the staterun institutions for indoctrination in socialism also known as public schools. In these institutions many kids are terribly mistreated. Sexual abuse is commonplace in the higher grades, rapes not unheard of. This is of course not carried out by the employees. Instead the abuse comes from the lackof authority and lack of rules and lack of enforcement of rules from the staff. And as i said, if parents refuse to send their kids to these houses of horror, the risk losing custody. Which would result in even worse abuse of their kids.
Thats "liberal democracy" for you.

"In order to have democracy as it is defined and practiced in the west, governments and societies must have liberty first."

Frankly, democracy does not interest me. It might be my poor readingskills but this article seems to argue it backwards, as if democracy was an end onto itself? Property rights and a state that does not intrude upon my liberties is what i want from any government. Not the right to put a slip of paper in a box at regular intervals.

In my country, Sweden, the state is extremely opressive. The state confiscates over half of what any normal non rich citizen earns. A citizen is not even entrusted in carrying a knife. And yet is entrusted to vote? There is something fundamentally wrong with that. Democracy is a fundamentally opressive form of government. It is three wolves and a sheep voting on what they are going to have for dinner. What preserved civil liberties in the US was the relative absence of democracy, not democracy.


Sat, 10/17/2015 - 1:32pm

First, I would like to commend you on your thesis. I believe that you are absolutely correct; a state must value individual liberty and subscribe to liberal values before it can transition from autocracy to democracy. But I feel you made a critical error, one that is made by most political scientists. You look to the political elite. You see them as the harbingers of change. That misses the central point of your thesis. The liberal values of individual liberty must exist first and foremost in the general population. It is there that the change must first occur. Democracy is not something that is forced upon the population from the top down. I would think Iraq would have taught you that. Democracy is something that is forced from the bottom up. From here I will critique your essay and then offer some different views on how to look at democracy.

First, I have no idea why you made any connection between religion and democracy. Fareed Zakaria is both right and wrong. Liberty predates Democracy, but religion has nothing to do with it. The first Democracy, and the Roman Republic, were both originated by pagans.

But he is correct that liberty predates democracy. Athenian democracy was first established circa 508 BC after a transition from oligarchial rule.1. I am unqualified to do the history of this transition justice and it is not necessary at this time. Two points should be made about the Greeks during this period. First, their interest in personal freedom and liberty predates the establishment of democracy and this preoccupation transitioned from the most privileged Athens to the rest of its citizens.

“…(W)hether or not isonomia (equal political participation) and isegoria (equality of speech) originally were aristocratic concepts, they certainly acquired great importance early in the development toward democracy. In fact, this development can be described as a process of steady expansion of political equality from the narrow circle of only the noble to the noble and wealthy upper class, then to the middle class of farmers who fought in the hoplite phalanx, and finally to the lowest census class, the thete who rowed the fleet and contributed most conspicuously to the task of maintaining the power and prosperity of the city.”2.

Liberty was demanded by the lowest class of citizen. THIS IS WHERE LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY STARTS! I cannot emphasis this point more. I sincerely recommend that you look at the works of Kurt Raaflaub when researching how democracy namesake began in Athens.

So if, as I assert, liberal ideals and democracy do not spring from the minds of the elite, from where does it come? My answer (and this is only theoretical) is that it comes from the transitions in values that occurs as a society becomes both wealthy and stable. I would offer that you need to look at the works of Adam Przeworski in conjunction with the foundational works of Seymour Martin Lipset.3. They provide the foundation for the idea that economic stability distributed amongst the population creates the conditions for democratic stability. But the true key is in the works of Inglehart and Welzel.4 Their work, although misguided by old ideas of Modernization, demonstrate how the transition in values contribute to the transition to democracy. Finally, I will offer my own work.5.

You are on the right track, but it seems you are attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

My final comment is that Central Asians are fundamentally no different than the Athenians or the Romans. They are no different than the Venetians who held on to a Republic through the Middle Ages or the people of the lowlands of Belgium and the Netherlands whose ideas on republican rule influenced both England and the Pilgrims who arrived on the shores of America. Human nature does not change by region, or religion. Cultural differences exist, but not differences in human nature. Once you accept that, the rest falls into place.

I wish you good luck in your future endeavors.

1. Larsen, J. A. O. (1962). "Freedom and Its Obstacles in Ancient Greece." Classical Philology Vol. 57(No. 4): 230-234.

2. Raaflaub, K. A. (1983). "Democracy, Oligarchy, and the Concept of the "Free Citizen" in Late Fifth-Century Athens." Political Theory Vol. 11(No. 4): 517-544.

3. Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy. American Political Science Review. 53 (March): 69-105; Przeworski, Adam, Jose Antonio Cheibub, Michael E. Alvarez, Fernando Limongi. 2000. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Material Well-being in the World, 1950-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


5.… ;

A very well thought out article. The pond must be filled with water before the fish are allowed in.


Tue, 10/13/2015 - 10:44am

Major Farhad does a fantastic job of brining in aspects of movements that many enlightened authors do not see. His identification of the importance of religion in movements, separating pure concepts like Kant's as one factor to be regarded, identifying personalities at play when actions are implemented, along with the reason for the desire to change a system of government from within or by outside influences, is a lesson for all of us to look at the broader aspects of issues.

Colonel (r) Brian D. Perry Sr. J.D.

Asad S. Farhad

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 8:49am

Well said Major.