With the United States and Great Britain supporting democracy all over the world, many developing countries are creating models based on these two countries. There is a prevailing thought that more democracies lead to greater political stability.
In developing a democracy, there are four challenges:
· Getting the nation to build a solid identity as one people, called nation-building
· Ensuring the various branches of government have legitimacy leading to authority over its people to create order and justice
· Guaranteeing a majority of the people vote as a hallmark of the democratic process
· Ensuring that justice is congruent for everyone, especially for traditional societies that are used to having a have group and a have-not group (Magstadt, 257-258)
Going from a tyranny to a polity takes time, patience, development, and resilience.
Citizens in democratic states believe it is the government’s job to create and sustain a secure environment. Some of the issues that can lead to political discontent, and thus uprising surround jobs, wages, taxes, and immigration. Political violence may not be as prevalent in stable, affluent, and democratic systems as it seems to be in nondemocratic ones, but it can happen.
When political authority is widely respected and accepted, a government can do a reasonably stable job of providing the physical safety each citizen needs. Crime is discouraged and political dissent is tolerated, but regulated, nonetheless. However, if a government can no longer afford the security and prosperity citizens have come to expect, or it promotes one segment of the population over another and it brutally represses attempts to redress legitimate grievances, then government finds itself the source of conflict and not the problem solver.
It is important for us to be vigilant and resist a state from turning to an elite ruling class with total control. Democracy is fragile. It takes engaged citizens that vote, protest, debate, and compromise to maintain democratic principles, even when entrenched ideologies are at stake. Otherwise, tyranny reigns.
Tyranny is a form of government by one ruler, and oligarchy is a form of government with several rulers. Both forms often give power to only a select few creating a totalitarian state. In order to maintain complete control in a totalitarian state, rulers often control and utilize mass media to generate fear toward a specific group of people and thus create a common enemy. These governments often use violence to maintain control of the citizenry. We only need look at a popular book series, turned movie to see how fear-based control might look. In the movie, The Hunger Games, President Snow sanctions the murder of children from each district to control the people and pay penance for an uprising that occurred against the government decades earlier. As the movie unfolds, the heroine, Katniss becomes the sign of the resistance seeking to stop the games and return control to the people. President Snow, to keep control, sanctions whippings and shootings on mass media. Although this work is fictional, many totalitarian states have existed such as Nazi Germany.
The United States has a strict policy of non-negotiation with these totalitarian states and has often helped rebel leaders fight against their governments. The US has also conducted wars to dispose of a totalitarian regime and used its economic strength to cripple the administration of these totalitarian states economically. For example, the 1989 US invasion of Panama ousted totalitarian leader, Manuel Noriega.
There is no doubt that it is hard to be a good citizen in this kind of totalitarian regime. However, there is a body of evidence of citizens going through extraordinary efforts to help the scapegoated or unjustly blamed populations in history. For example, some Germans helped the Jewish people escape Nazi Germany. People have risked their lives, protested, took up arms, and performed a myriad of other civil disobedience tactics to change a regime. Going from a tyranny to a polity takes time, patience, development, and resilience. This is often the case in developing nations. Remember that we discussed a polity earlier in the course. A polity puts the interest of all above one’s self in governing.
Many people associate threats to national sovereignty as coming from outside a country; however, some threats come from inside the country. Some of these threats include the pressures that diverse groups can put on the political order of a government. One of the promises of a liberal democracy is that it can maintain a variety of cultures and groups within it. What happens if there are groups that are not satisfied with the government? What happens when a group is so dissatisfied that it wants to separate from the government?
Some democratic principles say that self-determination requires that anyone who wants to be independent should be allowed to be independent. In the case of the democratic nation or state, however, governments have often decided that unity is preferred over self-determination. One example in the US was the Civil War. The North and the South had differences that seemed irreconcilable to their people. In other cases, such as Quebecois sovereignty in Canada, and that of Eritreans in Ethiopia, compromises have been made in favor of independent groups and states and peace has been maintained. These are always tricky cases because national interest, including economic and security concerns, must be weighed against the claim of a group’s need to be independent. When a group is successful at dividing territory and claiming its independence from a government, this is known as secession.
Secession is most successful when there is a demonstrated social, cultural, and political difference between a group of people and the rest of a population. Successful secession also requires a distinguishable territory in which this population exclusively resides. These characteristics were met in Quebec and Eritrea. When secession is initiated for purely political or economic reasons, with little cultural or territorial justification, it is usually met with more resistance.
In the case of Iraq, we see a recent example of struggles resulting from cultural differences in a newly formed democracy. After the invasion that replaced Saddam Hussein’s regime, many cultural and ethnic groups acquired a political voice that they previously did not have. The ability to participate politically is undoubtedly an advantage of this new democracy, but what should be done if certain groups want their independence from the more massive state?
In Iraq, there are three primary ethnic groups:
Each one has a distinct culture and religion. Each one claims legitimate authority over certain territories. Should these groups be allowed independence? How should democracy deal with these differences?
A partial answer, in cases like Iraq, is to give each group at least some sovereignty. Self-government among a diverse social population usually requires a “less-is-more” approach to government. What do you think some possible solutions are for this problem? How should democracy be advanced among diverse religious and cultural groups?
Terrorism and Westernization
There are people who do not embrace democratization in the post-Cold War world. In some parts of the world such as the Middle East, democracy is a Western idea with its own set of political values and some cultural values as well. Western values such as mass political engagement and free-market economics can collide head-on with these societies. These societies see democratic movements as code for materialism and a toleration of alternative lifestyles, gender equality, and individual freedom. It’s more than just a philosophical disagreement. It is the opening shot in a battle that traditional societies fear could corrupt and destroy long-held ways of life. Those in the West may have a hard time understanding a philosophy that does not support material progress and individualism. There have been deadly consequences as a result of that misunderstanding. Attacks on Westerners and Western institutions, both at home and abroad, have been on the rise in recent years.
Westernization is a process that includes the adoption of Western value systems and Western-style economic/political systems. Westernization has met major resistance in some countries, especially in areas where religious fundamentalism is dominant. Fundamentalism refers to a movement whose characteristics include an absolutist doctrine not open to compromise or change; intolerance of dissent and opposition; mass conformity in terms of lifestyle; specific duties restricted by gender, age, or religious status; and, a legal code dependent on sacred, religious remedies. Fundamentalists take a dim view of efforts to advance a secular, non-gender-specific political agenda. When religious fundamentalists become the governing force, government is not inspired by democratic values. These governments will take whatever steps necessary to protect against democratic reforms.
As technology seems to ‘shrink’ the world in many ways, creating increased interaction among countries and cultures, there has been a steady rise in terrorism or using violence to achieve political, religious, or economic goals. Terrorism has been used by a variety of groups, including religious fundamentalists and states. One of the examples of terrorism was the 9/11 attacks on the US.
The Use of International Organizations and Treaties
Anyone familiar with the 20th century knows that it was not a peaceful time. People tend to focus on the two world wars, but these wars were not isolated incidents. There were numerous interstate, intrastate, and regional conflicts. As far as Europe is concerned, it’s difficult to find a time, past or present, when the borders of Europe were stable for more than 5 years! Even today, Europe is dealing with more turbulence as it confronts the prospects of a global environment in which a more unified and cooperative Europe can make a difference (for better or worse) in local and global economies. What will the future of Europe hold? The answer to this lies in the prospects for the future of the European Union.
One of the challenges to creating such an international organization is the threat it poses to national sovereignty. Sovereignty is the authority and right of an independent nation to make its own decisions, but this authority is challenged and undermined by international agreements. As a continent, Europe is no stranger to international organizations. After World War I, many European states joined the League of Nations, hoping that the concept of collective security would guarantee peace. However, the League failed and a consequence of that failure was World War II. But why did the League fail? Instead of providing the collective security it promised, nations looked to their own self-interests when times got tough.
An international agreement is a compromise between two countries to give up some of their authority in exchange for some benefit. This benefit usually comes in the of economic or political security, but international agreements never promote sovereignty. Sovereignty is seen by many as the absolute right for a country to exist so threats to this sovereignty are not always met with positive reactions. Yet, what if giving up sovereignty is beneficial for all? This is a question faced by many countries in Europe who joined the successor to the League of Nations, the United Nations, after World War II for security purposes. Many of these nations went a step further to form the economic organization, the European Union (EU).
The question for many of these countries is how to maintain a strong national identity as they become part of a larger international community. The EU represents a more unified Europe. It has its own currency, transportation systems, and governmental structure which allow common problems to be solved more efficiently. For example, most member nations use the Euro as their currency. This commonality makes travel and trade easier. The EU hopes to create an environment in which people can flourish. Do you think these are good enough reasons for several countries to give up some sovereignty? Find a list of EU countries to see the nations that have answered “yes” to this question!
|SOME MAJOR POINTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION|
|Free trade||No common language|
|Freedom of movement within EU||Threatens national will|
|Job opportunities||Hard to join|
|Common currency||Loss of control of goods produced|
|Monetary control||Well off nations must share wealth|
Another form of international cooperation is the international treaty. Treaties have existed longer than other international political institutions and are usually intended to create security alliances between countries. Treaties are less threatening to national sovereignty because as collective defense mechanisms, they rarely require countries to give up any extensive authority or autonomy. These agreements often require, however, that governments promise to make future decisions according to the provisions made in these treaties.
What if a promise is broken? A treaty is only as effective as its enforcement mechanisms. For example, the UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions on North Korea due to its forbidden nuclear testing program. These sanctions were crippling to the country’s economy. The action forced North Korea, at least temporarily, to curtail its nuclear testing.
Over the course of history, treaties have been broken more times than they have been upheld. Why? Countries’ interests change and it is often more advantageous to break or cheat on a treaty than it is to uphold it. As long as national sovereignty is maintained, governments do not have difficulty backing out of treaties.
Treaties tend to be weak, but they do serve important purposes. In the case of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), many countries came together to ensure mutual security. This military alliance promises that if any member country is attacked, it will receive the assistance of the other member countries. This treaty was created because the fates of the countries in the Atlantic world (North America and Northern Europe) were perceived to be closely tied. Treaties can emerge in response to other treaties. The Warsaw Pact, for example, was a collection of European nations behind the Iron Curtain who entered a defensive treaty (under pressure from the Soviet Union) in response to what was thought to be the provocative nature of the NATO alliance. This measure is not unusual; one has only to revisit the years prior to World War I to see how the alliance between France, Russia, and Britain triggered a similar alliance between Germany and Austria. These actions actually set the stage for World War I.
In the case of other, less provocative treaties such the World Trade Organization (WTO), member countries decide that it would be in their interests to establish open trade relationships with other member countries. These relationships usually mean that trade between the participating countries is mutually beneficial and that no one country is taking unfair advantage of the market. One criticism of these types of organizations is the negative impact they have on domestic workers by forcing a country to create policy based on capitalistic interests, rather than democratic ones.
As we have seen this week, things do not always run smoothly within a nation-state or between nations. Some causes for these issues can be a result of ethnic and cultural differences. These differences can then lead to acts of violence, either against a nation or its citizens. Terrorism is on the rise. In order to combat these issues, a nation may elect to join an international organization or sign an international treaty. However, joining an international organization poses risks to sovereignty, and treaties are often broken without consequences. These solutions are only as good as the alliance of the nations involved.
Magstadt, T. M. (2016). Understanding politics: Ideas, institutions, and issues. Cengage Learning.