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Kagan vs. the Emerging Democracies

Martin Indyk and Robert Kagan write [1]:

Strengthening the liberal political order will require increased efforts to enlist the support of emerging democracies. Nations like Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Mexico have become increasingly influential economically. But they are struggling to find their identity as democratic powers on the international stage. Some are drifting toward a worldview that actually undermines the liberal nature of the global order.

This is very vague stuff, but if this complaint is anything like a lot of other Western criticisms of rising democratic powers it is mostly nonsense. The standard criticism of rising democratic powers is that they are unwilling to back Western governments’ policies of regime change and armed intervention in other nations’ conflicts. This is not necessarily because these democracies are “drifting” toward an illiberal worldview, nor is it because they favor undermining the current international order. Many of these governments have concluded that such policies are destructive and contrary to their understanding of what the international order is supposed to be like. According to this view, toppling other governments, attacking other governments, and trying to dictate political outcomes in internal conflicts have been very harmful to the affected regions and to international peace and security. These policies have also frequently resulted in the empowerment of illiberal political forces.

Indyk and Kagan don’t go into detail to describe what they mean by “finding” an identity as a democratic power, but if their past arguments are any guide this refers to the willingness of democratic states to imitate Western interventionist governments. It is particularly important [2] for [3] Kagan’s [4] ideologically [5]defined [6] division of states [7] into “autocracies” and democracies that all of the latter pursue similar foreign policy goals, which is supposed to put them in opposition to the interests of the former. What bothers the authors about so many of the rising democratic powers is that their governments refuse to subordinate their respective national interests to a crusading democratist ideology.

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7 Comments To "Kagan vs. the Emerging Democracies"

#1 Comment By collin On January 21, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

I am not sure what their point is here. Judging by his address today foreign policy is going to get a yawn from Obama and the main task of his security team to leave Afghanistan ‘with honor’ and not allow the rest of the world not screw itself up too much. Their discussion about other grow economical democratic nations (say Brazil) seems way off in terms of their positions. These countries are not interested military actions because their history is full of them with colonial power invasions and/or a variety civil war dictators. These countries have the results of other countries interference.

#2 Comment By CK MacLeod On January 21, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

One difficulty in figuring out what any of these arguments mean or can mean is the confusing use of the terms “liberal” and “democratic.” In the post, the terms are used completely interchangeably, even where the contradiction between different types of democratism is a point of emphasis. It is not just a terminological annoyance, but a real problem that the “crusading democratist” ideology is not very sincerely “democratist.” It tends to be economically liberal or neo-liberal before it is anything else, though it is still democratic enough, or liberal-democratic enough, to ask sooner or later for plebiscitary ratification of a constitutional system emphasizing inalienable rights. These last are treated as ends in themselves of very high moral worth, but also happen to be very useful economically and otherwise, since they carry with them a freight of legal assumptions and possibilities. Generally speaking, a “rule of law state” is a state “we can do business with,” and a state that intends to do business. Even carried to a neo-imperial extreme, the expansion of this liberal democratic zone does not have to be a mainly military affair, though the foreign policy “realist” movement does not appear to have thought through the role of U.S. military predominance in the total system.

#3 Comment By Pliny On January 21, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

“What bothers the authors about so many of the rising democratic powers is that their governments refuse to subordinate their respective national interests to a crusading democratist ideology. ”

… maybe, but given that you’re talking about Indyk and Kagan, you can be fairly sure that the real problem is that the emerging countries aren’t big supporters of Israel.

#4 Comment By Ken T On January 22, 2013 @ 7:52 am

Could it be that these “rising powers” are against interventionism because they realize that they themselves could easily become a target of the same interventionism? I’d call that enlightened self-interest.

#5 Comment By James Canning On January 22, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

Robert Kagan seems to have forgotten that Brazil and Turkey worked out a resolution of a good part of the nuclear dispute with Iran. And Kagan and the other neocons, did their best to block it.

#6 Comment By James Canning On January 22, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

Should we remind Robert Kagan that he promoted the interest of the so-called “reformers” or Greens in Iran. No, I should say he pretended to promote their interests. In fact, he hurt them.

The “reformers” in Iran foolishly attacked the proposed nuclear fuel exchange (part of effort to resolve nuclear dispute with Iran).

#7 Comment By James Canning On January 22, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

Pliny – – You put your finger on important aspect of the equation.