January 28, 2007

Dominion Over the World (Sidebar): Ah, Democracy...Ah, Peace

I recently had occasion to mention Jim Bovard (in "Upsetting All Those 'Beautiful Minds'"), and three of his books that everyone should read: Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, The Bush Betrayal, and Attention Deficit Democracy.

I was looking through Attention Deficit Democracy last evening, and was especially struck (again) by his discussion in the chapter titled, "Democratic Delusions on Peace and Inevitability." I'd like to share several passages with you, because they so wonderfully cut to the heart of this major piece of the government propaganda that has inundated us for the last several years -- although as Bovard points out, this particular lie has been used by politicians for many decades. In fact, these are the two quotes placed at the opening of the chapter:
See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction. -- George W. Bush, October 3, 2003

Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy. Democracies do not attack each other.... -- President Bill Clinton, January 25, 1994
"Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." Uh-huh.

Bovard disposes of these fact-deprived myths in delicious fashion (highlights added, and footnotes omitted):
Drivel about democracy has long thrived in Washington. As soon as democracy is idealistically invoked, it is as if the laws of probability have been suspended. The "standards of proof" in Washington debates are often as low as one can find outside an elementary school cafeteria room. Mere assertions repeated ad nauseum and flaunted by dignitaries trump almost anything, depending on who is spouting. History exists only to be selectively invoked to vindicate further seizures of power, or new incursions abroad.

Two of the biggest contemporary political delusions are the notions that democracies inevitably beget peace and that the spread of democracy around the globe is inevitable. Each of these beliefs will be examined, noting how they arose and how they have been exploited to sanctify political power and military aggression.


The doctrine of "democratic peace" now provides vital camouflage for the American war machine. ...

This doctrine has long proven handy for presidents seeking the high moral ground for U.S. artillery. When President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917, he proclaimed, "The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty." Wilson said nothing about making democracy safe for the world. . . .

Faith in this "democratic peace" doctrine has revived in recent decades. President Reagan declared that "the surest guarantee we have of peace is national freedom and democratic government." Clinton also embraced the doctrine and used it to sanctify his foreign policy time and again. As Thomas Carothers noted, "Clinton officials stock almost every general foreign policy speech with the argument that promoting democracy abroad advances U.S. interests because democracies tend not to go to war with each other, not to produce large numbers of refugees, not to engage in terrorism, to make better economic partners, and so on."

But no president has been half as liberal with invoking the doctrine as George W. Bush. . . .

The only way that history supports this doctrine is to exclude all the cases of wars between democracies. This theory can survive only as long as people look at history in a way that is so contorted that it makes the typical political campaign speech look honest. Some of the advocates of the "democratic peace" doctrine are slippery regarding categories, as if the fact that a nation starts a war proves that it is not a democracy.

There are plenty of cases to dismiss the democratic peace imperative. . . .

Britain's Boer War, 1899-1902, involved the brutal crushing by one democratic government of another democratic government, as well as pioneering concentration camps and other methods of suppression that would become far more widespread in the twentieth century.

The First World War was by far the bloodiest conflict in human history up to that time. Schwartz and Kiner noted, "Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a war for democracy against 'Prussian dictatorship,' but that was propaganda. Germany had civil rights, an elected parliament, competing parties, universal male suffrage, and an unparalleled system of social democracy." Germany was far more democratic than either the British or French empires.
Here's another passage that I especially wanted to share with you. Most of us have seen lists like this before (I've seen any number of them), but they always take me aback. I offer it so that you have this handy, whenever you again hear the "democratic peace" nonsense, which it seems we are subjected to at least several times a day.

From Bovard:
Another key to the myth of "democratic peace" is to disregard the long record of democracies attacking nondemocracies. Bush, defending U.S. military action in Iraq, declared, "Free societies are peaceful nations. What we're doing for the long term, we're promoting freedom." However, since World War II, the United States either attacked or invaded the following nations:

Korea 1950-53
Lebanon 1958
Vietnam 1961-73
Laos 1964-73
Dominican Republic 1965-66
Cambodia 1969-70
Lebanon 1982-84
Grenada 1983
Libya 1986
Panama 1989
Iraq 1991-2005
Somalia 1992-94
Croatia 1994
Haiti 1994
Bosnia 1995
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999
Afghanistan 2001-2005

Johns Hopkins University professor John Harper noted, "America's imperial career does little to support the view that the United States, by virtue of its democratic norms and institutions, is inclined to solve international disputes pacifically and to promote democracy abroad."
Bovard's book was published in 2005, so the entries for Iraq and Afghanistan should now read "1991-2007" and "2001-2007," respectively.

Stunning, isn't it? Yes, sir, we sure are some peace-loving, democratic folks. Just the other day, I wrote: "They hate us because we won't leave them the hell alone, and because we won't stop killing them." I suspect some readers may think me guilty of overstatement on this subject. The facts would indicate otherwise.

Consider how our political leaders demonize other countries with records containing only one or two non-defensive attacks or invasions of this kind -- and then ask yourself about the degree of honesty, integrity and intellectual coherence they demonstrate. As I often note, we consider ourselves as a nation uniquely exempt from the standards we apply to almost everyone else (or, at least, to those countries currently or about to be in our sights). According to the fable that constitutes the core of our national self-deception, we represent history's "ultimate" and "best" answer. Our knowledge is so precious that we are affirmatively obliged to impose it on the rest of the world, by force as required.

Bovard's book is an endless source of valuable information and cogent analysis. I strongly recommend that you consider getting it.

Dominion Over the World:

Part I: Iraq Is the Democrats' War, Too

Part II: Why the Stories We Tell Matter So Much

Part III: The Open Door to Worldwide Hegemony

Part IV: A "Splendid People" Set Out for Empire

Part V: A Global Empire of Bases