The State and Democratization

The Polity IV data set code book, has a section entitled Indicators of Democracy and Autocracy (Composite Indicators), the authors write about the development of the state and the evolution of political participation as a corollary.  If you read it in tandem with this post on Max Weber’s view of the state and state legitimacy, you’ll begin to understand the nature of the state and why it has become the dominant contemporary form of political organization.

Three broad processes have reshaped the global landscape of state structures during the last two centuries One is an extraordinary expansion in the absolute and relative power of the state, a process that began i Europe. The new states created by the American and French revolutions marked the threshold between political world dominated by monarchies, whose claims to absolutism were belied by the fact that most social and economic life was autonomous from state control or extraction, and a political world in which state power was based on ever-widening control and mobilization of human and material resources exchange for broadened rights of popular participation. An integral part of this process was the development of bureaucracies with high capacities to regulate, tax, and mobilize people in the service of state policy. 

The second process was the transformation of the structures of political participation and legitimation. This transformation followed one of two paths, toward plural democracy or mass-party autocracy. The popular side of the bargain by which most West European rulers built state power in the nineteenth century was to acknowledge the right of widespread participation in policy making.  That right was given institutional expression in elected assemblies which could review, and sometimes initiate, public policy; in elections direct or indirect, of chief ministers; and in recognition of citizens’ rights to voice and act on political opinions. The concept of bargain is a metaphor for sequences of political crises and reforms in which these rulers granted rights for participation, however limited, to all significant social classes and groups, while simultaneously extending the state’s right and capacity to regulate, tax, and mobilize the human and material bases of state power. 

The process of political democratization had its own logic and dynamic which, in most of Western Europe, eroded all but a few symbolic vestiges of traditional autocracy (see for example Bendix 1978). Nonetheless, pressures to extend democratization have always contended with the self-interested desire of rulers to preserve and enhance their autonomy from political constraints. Theempires of Central and Eastern Europe–Germany, Russia, Austro-Hungary–implemented thetrappings but not the substance of effective democratic participation in the late nineteenth and early

Israel and Syria once again Negotiating over Golan Heights

In intro to IR on Wednesday we addressed global environmental issues and we went over this chart outlining Thomas Homer-Dixon’s overview regarding the link between environmental scarcity and security. According to Homer-Dixon, environmental degradation is not only an important economic, social, and health issue, it is crucially an issue of importance for global security.

We see the important link between increased environmental scarcity and social effects (like ethnic conflicts, deprivation conflicts and coups d’etat), facilitated indirectly at times by the conditions of weakened states.

Homer-Dixon argues that these environmentally-driven conflicts will increase the more the environment degrades. Moreover, it is just those places in the world that have the least capacity to deal with the potentially negative effects of environmental degradation whose environments will be most likely to suffer.

In the far left column is “unequal resource access”. One of the most important resources to humankind is water. The conflict between Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights is crucially linked to water. As we learn from the New York Times:

JERUSALEM — Peace overtures between Israel and Syria moved up a gear on Wednesday when a Syrian cabinet minister said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel had sent a message to President Bashar al-Assad to the effect that Israel would be willing to withdraw from all the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria.

The Syrian expatriate affairs minister, Buthaina Shaaban, told Al Jazeera television, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria.” She said that Turkey had conveyed the message.

Israeli officials did not deny the statement from Damascus but would not confirm it either, offering a more general, positive reaction. “Israel wants peace with Syria; we are interested in a negotiated process,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Olmert. “The Syrians know well our expectations, and we know well their expectations…”

“…Withdrawal from the Golan Heights is a contentious issue in Israel. The territory is a strategic plateau that overlooks a large swath of northern Israel. Israel has objected to past Syrian demands for access to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water source for Israel.

Yehuda Raizner/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Indian member of the United Nations force in the Golan Heights, a strategic

plateau that overlooks a swath of northern Israel.

Newsweek Editor Fareed Zakaria Says “No” to Olympic Boycott

In a recent column, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria argues that the US should not boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.  He argues that it would have the opposite of the intended effect.  Here are some snippets:

Public humiliation does not work nearly as well on the regime in Beijing as private pressure. At first glance, China’s recent crackdown in Tibet looks like a familiar storyline: a dictatorship represses its people. And of course that’s part of the reality — as it often is in China. But on this issue, the communist regime is not in opposition to its people. The vast majority of Chinese have little sympathy for the Tibetan cause. To the extent that we can gauge public opinion in China and among its diaspora, ordinary Chinese are, if anything, critical of the Beijing government for being too easy on the Tibetans. The real struggle here is between a nationalist majority and an ethnic and religious minority looking to secure its rights.

In these circumstances, a boycott of the Olympics would have precisely the opposite effect that is intended. The regime in Beijing would become only more defensive and stubborn. The Chinese people would rally around the flag and see the West as trying to humiliate China in its first international moment of glory. (There are many suspicions that the United States cannot abide the prospect of a rising China.) For most Chinese, the Games are about the world’s giving China respect, rather than bolstering the Communist Party’s legitimacy…

…Some want to punish China for its association with the Sudanese government, which is perpetrating atrocities in Darfur. But to boycott Beijing’s Games because it buys oil from Sudan carries the notion of responsibility too far. After all, the United States has much closer ties to Saudi Arabia, a medieval monarchy that has funded Islamic terror. Should the world boycott America for this relationship?

60 Minutes Report on Torture in Guantanamo Bay

Via the CBS news program 60 Minutes, we learn about a German resident of Turkish origin who was tortured by his captors in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.  From the description:

An innocent man held as a terror detainee for years tells Scott Pelley, in his first U.S. television interview, how Americans tortured him in Afghanistan and then at Guantanamo Bay.

You can find the video report here.

Corruption and Transparency International (Redux)

Apropos of an earlier post and discussion in class today about correlation and causality, here is an excerpt from an interview with Transparency International’s Huguette Labelle, where she answers questions about the apparent correlation between corruption levels and GDP, and corruption levels and levels of violent conflict:

Question:
The countries with the best scores in the CPI seem to be some of the world’s richest countries – is higher GDP the key to less corruption?
Answer:
I think the difference between the countries at the top and the bottom is not so much due to their relative wealth or poverty, but to the development of their institutions. The top scorers have effective public sectors, with open contracting procedures, strong disclosure rules and access to information.

Labelle is implying here that the correlation between corruption and GDP is not causal; it is spurious (we’ll talk about spurious causation next class).

Question:
Many of the countries with the worst scores in the CPI are victims of violent conflict (Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan). What is the relationship between failed states and corruption?
Answer:
In a crisis situation, the institutions of government are weakened, so corruption can more easily take hold and spread. It is not just individuals, but also institutions, that are responsible for maintaining integrity in a country. Many countries at the bottom of the CPI are failed states that are at the intersection of poverty, conflict and corruption.

Timor Leste (East) and Nation-Building

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has a new report on the situation in Timor Leste. Some of you may be aware that Timor Leste broke away from Indonesia four years ago following a brutal war of secession, during which forces loyal to the Indonesian government were alleged to have committed horrendous crimes against humanity. Thanks to UN intervention, the killing stopped and the small state of Timor Leste gained its independence. Recently, however, the UN-directed nation-building exercise in Timor Leste has imploded, along with domestic order.

According to the ICG.

Four years after Timor-Leste gained independence, its police and army were fighting each other in the streets of Dili. The April-June 2006 crisis left both institutions in ruins and security again in the hands of international forces. The crisis was precipitated by the dismissal of almost half the army and caused the virtual collapse of the police force. UN police and Australian-led peacekeepers maintain security in a situation that, while not at a point of violent conflict, remains unsettled. If the new government is to reform the security sector successfully, it must ensure that the process is inclusive by consulting widely and resisting the temptation to take autocratic decisions. A systematic, comprehensive approach, as recommended by the UN Security Council, should be based on a realistic analysis of actual security and law-enforcement needs. Unless there is a non-partisan commitment to the reform process, structural problems are likely to remain unresolved and the security forces politicised and volatile.

The problems run deep. Neither the UN administration nor successive Timorese governments did enough to build a national consensus about security needs and the kind of forces required to meet them. There is no national security policy, and there are important gaps in security-related legislation. The police suffer from low status and an excess of political interference. The army still trades on its heroism in resisting the Indonesian occupation but has not yet found a new role and has been plagued by regional (east-west) rivalry. There is a lack of transparency and orderly arrangements in political control as well as parliamentary and judicial oversight with respect to both forces.

The situation in Timor Leste illustrates–from the perspective of comparative politics–the importance of the state and its crucial role in facilitating stability by consolidating political power and maintaining, to paraphrase Weber, a monopoly on the legitimate use of political violence. From an IR perspective, we see the difficulty of imposing legitimate order on a society from outside, whether–as is the case here–through intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) like the United Nations, or–as in Iraq–through unilateral, or multilateral means.

Here’s a report from the BBC on the upheavals of April-June 2006.

Crisis Group Named in Top Ten Global Think Tanks

The Crisis Group is a non-governmental Organization (NGO) that does great work on conflict around the world. From the group’s website, we find out:

The International Crisis Group has been listed as one of the “Top 10 Think Tanks in the World” in a new survey, based on peer review, conducted over 18 months by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The Crisis Group have archived the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s report here.

From the group’s “about” page, we learn about the Crisis Group’s purpose:

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, with some 145 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

Crisis Group’s approach is grounded in field research. Teams of political analysts are located within or close by countries at risk of outbreak, escalation or recurrence of violent conflict. Based on information and assessments from the field, it produces analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch, a twelve-page monthly bulletin, providing a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.