Versions of Democracy
What the Diplomats Demand
passes in most media accounts as the "international community,"
that floating collection of international diplomats who seem to
have a stronger sense of loyalty to the international system, the
ideal of diplomacy and agreements as ends in themselves not to
mention all the cushy international conferences than to their
own countries of origin, is constantly saying that what it really
wants from benighted countries mired in conflicts is more openness,
more democracy, more respect for human rights. But
when the rubber meets the road, what the diplomats tend to demand
is more arrests, without being too picky about details like due
process or probable cause.
most recent country to have this lesson driven home is Pakistan,
but it is hardly alone and it surely won't be the last to learn
that a little selective repression is what really floats the boat
of the keepers of international ethics and morals.
facing a tense cross-border standoff with perennial rival India
over the ever-disputed territory of Kashmir, has acceded to demands
to arrest Islamic militants, including some involved in the two
groups India holds responsible for the December 13 attacks on the
Indian parliament in New Delhi. (It is likely, as India accuses,
that the Pakistani government has itself provided at least tacit
support for some of these groups over the years.) So far Pakistan
has arrested scores of militants, but neither India nor London nor
Washington is content with the results.
might suppose, given the tender concern most international diplomats
express for human rights when they give speeches and given that
Pakistan's government came to power through a military coup and
is not exactly known for treating dissidents with much respect that the Western diplomats would be worrying in public whether Pakistan
has treated those arrested properly, reading them their rights and
making sure they didn't pick up any innocents. But it turns out
that the vaunted protectors of human rights and proper procedures
are mainly upset that the net has not been spread far enough, that
not enough alleged militants have been snagged yet.
don't see any shift in their [Pakistan's] position on terrorism
as directed against India," said Indian foreign ministry spokesman
Nirupama Rao. "What we expect from Pakistan is concrete, serious,
substantial steps to deal with cross-border terrorism and groups
that operate from Pakistani soil. We have yet to see satisfactory
other words, round up as many alleged militants as possible and
break their organizational backs. And if that takes cutting a few
civil libertarian corners, so be it.
is hardly the only country to get a call to "round up the usual
suspects." The putative test for seriousness about the "peace process"
on the part of the Palestinian Authority is the willingness to round
up a bunch of militants. I might have missed it, but I've never
heard either an Israeli or an American spokesman say, "Make sure
you don't get any innocents by mistake and make sure the presumption
of innocence prevails."
recent New York Times article about Saudi Arabia reported,
in a manner that sounded very much like a complaint, "In the past
decade, as thousands of young Saudis left to wage holy war abroad,
Saudi leaders let them go, aware of the danger they might pose to
the United States, but more focused on the danger they would pose
at home." The underlying assumption here seems to be that the Saudi
government can and should control the movement of every one of its
citizens, and imprison those suspected of certain sympathies, whether
or not they have yet engaged in any overt terrorist activities.
Yemeni government has recently imposed restrictions on foreign students,
teachers and Muslim clerics living in the country. It also has launched
an aggressive manhunt for suspected backers of Osama bin Laden and
al Qaeda in its territory. These steps followed a visit to Washington
by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Presumably the Yemenis got
a message something like my paraphrase crack down on your
own people if you don't relish a large-scale invasion that would
lead to the United States running the place.
it is appropriate that the supposed avatars of human rights and
democracy recommend repression and crackdowns to other countries
who want to be approved by the club. After all, democracy and respect
for the will of the people are little more than window dressing
in most of the "advanced" democracies. Fewer than half of eligible
Americans even vote, and some unknown percentage fail to do so because
they understand that the people don't really run things.
European Union, containing our most influential and powerful putative
allies, is an increasingly even aggressively undemocratic
or even antidemocratic institution. The trend is to have more and
more policies set by bureaucrats in Brussels who answer to nobody,
and less and less decided at the level of the nation-state
and even less to be influenced even tangentially by the people who
are the presumed beneficiaries of all this wise ruling. It is most
doubtful whether most Europeans supported conversion to the Euro
currency and certainly the masters in Brussels weren't about
to take the risk of authorizing a referendum. But the Euro is now
the currency, largely because of indifference among people experienced
and intelligent enough to know that their opinions and voices count
for little or nothing.
OF ENDORSING REPRESSION
record of the "international community" when it has undertaken "nation-building"
is fairly consistent with the tendency to prefer repression and
state control to freedom. The Cato Institute recently published
a valuable short history, Fool's
Errands: America's Recent Encounters with Nation Building,
by Gary Dempsey with Roger Fontaine, that does case studies of Somalia,
Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, documenting some of the failures and mistakes
in these countries.
chapter on Bosnia is especially illuminating. Bosnia, remember,
has three main ethnic groups and no substantial history as an independent
nation-state. But the nation-builders in the U.S. State Department,
the UN and the EU insisted on recognizing a state with the borders
former Yugoslav dictator Tito had put in place for essentially administrative
reasons (though there was also the motive of keeping the ethnic
groups divided and conquered). So Bosnia was going to be a multiethnic
showcase, no matter how impractical that goal was and whether
the people who lived there wanted it that way or not.
Klein, America's top nation-builder in Bosnia, was remarkably frank.
"Our job," he said to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 1998,
"is to turn a province into a country sometimes whether the people
like it or not." NATO Senior Deputy High representative Hanns Schumacher,
responding to a question about a lack of Muslim-Croat cooperation
or enthusiasm about NATO's plans: "I don't care. I am simply not
interested in who does not want the Federation: this is a concept
we will implement ... We dictate what will be done."
diplomat Carlos Westendorp, who was High Commissioner in 1997 dismissed
numerous elected officials and disqualified even more from running
for office. He explained that if elected Bosnian officials "cannot
agree about some decision, for example the passports, the license
plates, the flag ... I will stop this process of infinite discussions.
In the future, it will look like this: I will give them a term to
bring a certain decision, that is to agree about some decision.
If they do not, I will tell them not to worry, that I will decide
he was done, Westendorp had meddled extensively in the electoral
process, going so far as to back certain candidates, and dismissed
13 Bosnian officials from power. He imposed 46 different laws and
executive orders by decree. He also began the process of controlling
the Bosnian media, closing offices of journals and TV stations he
considered irresponsible (i.e., not cheerleaders for NATO occupation).
maybe we shouldn't be surprised to find the benevolent and wise
functionaries of the New World Order demanding that various countries
round up suspects if they want to be taken seriously as members
of the international club. But we shouldn't be under any illusion
that this process has much to do with spreading liberty, respect
for human rights, or even minimal adherence to democratic procedures.
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