[irtheory] Kurtz -- Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint

Francis Boyle fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
Sat Apr 19 19:49:31 PDT 2003

Marlon Brando played him in Apocalypse Now. fab.
Francis A. Boyle
Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820
fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
(personal comments only)
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From: "Francis Boyle" <fboyle at law.uiuc.edu>
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Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2009 1:42 PM
Subject: Re: [irtheory] Kurtz -- Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint

> Is he related to Joseph Conrad's protagonist in Heart of Darkness? fab.
> Francis A. Boyle
> Law Building
> 504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
> Champaign, IL 61820
> 217-333-7954(voice)
> 217-244-1478(fax)
> fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
> (personal comments only)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "R. A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com>
> To: "Clippable" <rah at shipwright.com>
> Cc: <irtheory at yahoogroups.com>; <fork at xent.com>
> Sent: Saturday, April 19, 2003 12:56 PM
> Subject: [irtheory] Kurtz -- Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint
> > <http://www.policyreview.org/apr03/kurtz_print.html>
> >
> > Policy Review, No. 118
> > Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint
> >
> > By Stanley Kurtz
> >
> > Although the united states is the preeminent power in the world, we are
> not yet an empire. Notwithstanding periodic foreign interventions and our
> considerable international influence, we have not used our military to
> secure direct and continuous control over the domestic affairs of foreign
> lands. If anything, the United States has avoided empire. We have
> the draft, reduced taxes, cut defense spending, and eschewed
> nation-building. Only recently, we were accused of ³abandoning²
> in the wake of the Soviet departure from that country. Today, Afghanistan
> may be the germ of a new American imperium.
> >
> > Iraq forces the imperial question. In the aftermath of an Iraqi war, it
> may suffice to install a friendly autocracy, withdraw the bulk of our
> forces, and exert our influence from afar. Yet some have called for more.
> From voices within the administration like Deputy Secretary of Defense
> Wolfowitz, to policy intellectuals like Richard Perle, to esteemed
> like Bernard Lewis, many have argued that only a democratic transformation
> of Iraq, and eventually of the larger Arab world, can provide long-term
> security against terrorism and nuclear attack.
> >
> > In an important address in February, George W. Bush lent his voice to
> chorus. In no uncertain terms, the president affirmed that ³the world has
> clear interest in the spread of democratic values,² not least because
> nations do not breed the ideologies of murder.² The president invoked the
> examples of American-led democratization in post-World War ii Germany and
> Japan, and he pointedly rejected the claim that Arab nations are incapable
> of sustaining democracy. What the president did not say, yet gently and
> ambiguously implied, was that so deep a cultural change would require
> America to occupy Iraq in force and manage its affairs for years to come.
> >
> > Could such a venture in democratic imperialism be harmonized with our
> liberal principles? Even if so, would it work? Is it possible to bring
> liberalism to a society so long at odds with the values of the West?
> >
> > All of these questions were posed and answered, both in theory and in
> practice, during Britain¹s imperial rule of India. Three great British
> thinkers, Edmund Burke, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill, not only
> philosophized about liberal imperialism; they lived it. Burke helped force
> major reform of Britain¹s early imperial system, while John Stuart Mill
> succeeded his father James as the ³chief examiner² in the London
> headquarters of the British East India Company.
> >
> > Burke on one hand and the Mills on the other founded the two competing
> moral and administrative schools of thought on the British Empire. Burke¹s
> colonialism was conservative, respectful of indigenous practices and
> and insistent on the highest standards of stewardship. The Mills were
> skeptical, even contemptuous, of traditional practices and elites; they
> determined to force a democratic social transformation. Neither approach,
> turns out, was able to operate independently of the other. If we find
> ourselves shouldering an imperial burden in Iraq or beyond, we shall want
> study the wisdom < and the folly < of Burke, the Mills, and their
> disciples. Far more than America¹s post-World War ii occupation of Japan,
> the British experience in India may be the key precedent for bringing
> democracy to an undemocratic and non-Western land like Iraq.
> >
> >
> >
> > From India to Iraq
> >
> > British imperial India might seem an unlikely model for an American
> occupation of Iraq. American rule in Iraq would ideally be a successful
> time-limited experiment in democratization. Yet the British governed
> sections of the Indian subcontinent for nearly 200 years. The earliest
> period of British colonial rule was marked by extreme exploitation and
> neglect. Once colonial government was placed on a sounder footing, even
> best-intentioned policies of dedicated and sympathetic administrators
> frequently went awry, leading to serious social disruption. Midway through
> the Raj, the British harshly suppressed a violent rebellion, leaving a
> legacy of suspicion between ruler and ruled. The aftermath of rebellion
> ushered in the later phase of empire, which was marked by an ideology of
> racial superiority, continued exclusion of Indians from the higher levels
> the civil service, and a growing independence movement that was opposed
> consistently, sometimes violently, by the British. If anything, therefore,
> the British experience in India might best be viewed as a model of what
> to do in Iraq.
> >
> > The British Raj does indeed represent a useful countermodel for any
> American venture in Iraq. Yet the experience of India under the British
> by no means entirely negative. In fact, the very movement of Indians to
> themselves from British rule was a product of British influence. Above
> the British cultural legacy explains why post-independence India took a
> democratic turn. Nor was the emergence of Indian democracy an entirely
> unintended consequence of British imperial domination. Despite the many
> problems and conflicts of empire, several critical threads of British
> imperial policy were intended to bring about eventual democratic self-rule
> in India. When India finally did attain independence and democracy, it was
> in no small part due to those policies.
> >
> > But why look to India at all when we have the American occupation of
> as a model? That occupation was a successful and short-lived American-run
> venture in the democratization of a non-Western autocracy. Why not simply
> repeat the formula? The problem with the Japanese precedent is that the
> post-World War ii transformation of Japan was far less radical than meets
> the eye. Japan, after all, was already substantially modernized, else it
> would not have been able to challenge us militarily. Industrial might and
> efficient, modern bureaucratic apparatus were keys to Japanese success,
> during and after the war. And although World War ii Japan was far from
> democratic, military rule was actually a diversion from a long Japanese
> history of experimentation with government along Western and democratic
> lines. In comparison to Iraq¹s ethno-religious factionalism, moreover,
> is culturally homogeneous. So American efforts to impose a democratic
> constitution on Japan succeeded because they rested on a set of economic,
> social, and historical prerequisites, all of which are virtually absent in
> Iraq. 1The British, on the other hand, transformed a country with no
> democratic tradition into one of the more successful democracies in the
> non-Western world. This Indian experience more closely resembles the
> challenge we shall face in Iraq than does the example of post-World War ii
> Japan.
> >
> >
> >
> > Democratic gradualism
> >
> > How, then, did the British bring democracy to India? ³Very slowly² is a
> large and important part of the answer to that question, although this is
> not an answer Americans want to hear. Yet it is something we need to
> remember. Authentic democratic development is slow < a lesson easily
> forgotten by a nation that was, in important respects, democratic from the
> start. Again, the example of post-World War ii Japan, which rests on a
> and too-little-known history of indigenous experimentation with democracy,
> misleads us into thinking that supervised elections and imposed
> constitutional changes can, by themselves, suffice to introduce democracy
> a non-Western country.
> >
> > Until the 1830 s, British imperial policy in India was one of minimal
> interference with the indigenous social system. With a shockingly small
> number of British soldiers and administrators governing a land of many
> millions, the British had no desire to undertake potentially disruptive
> reforms of Indian society. Most British administrators were ³Orientalist²
> inclination. That is, they were devoted to the respectful study of Indian
> culture. Orientalist scholarship served as the foundation for a policy of
> government by means of indigenous elites. In formulating that policy, the
> Orientalists drew on Edmund Burke¹s social conservatism < his respect for
> the wisdom of tradition and for the local aristocracies that serve as its
> custodians.
> >
> > As a prominent disciple of the liberal utilitarian philosopher Jeremy
> Bentham, James Mill became the leader of a reformist liberal opposition to
> the Burkean Orientalists. As chief examiner of the British East India
> Company, he drafted the memoranda of instruction that were sent to India
> during the 1820 s and 30 s. (Although Mill drafted the memos, and was
> influential, he did not have final authority over their contents.)
> >
> > It was the liberals¹ education policy that successfully laid the
> groundwork for India¹s modern and democratic future. The Orientalists
> to subsidize the advanced study of indigenous languages. The liberals, on
> the other hand, were determined to create a class of English-speaking
> Indians. Precisely because there were too few British administrators to
> govern India¹s vastness, the assistance of a corps of English-speaking
> Indian clerks was required. Yet liberal administrators were looking for
> something more than bureaucratic assistants. Their hope was to mold a
> of Indians that was modern and liberal in outlook, a class that could
> eventually govern India on its own.
> >
> > That is exactly what happened. Liberal administrative victories over the
> Orientalists in the 1830 s set up a system of English education that
> eventually produced a small but influential bureaucratic class of
> Indians. Although a more conservative administrative policy of indirect
> through indigenous elites eventually returned (under the dual blows of
> failed land reform and the Indian Mutiny of 1857 ), a small but productive
> system of English-language education remained sacrosanct throughout
> rule. By the 1880 s the growing class of English-educated Indians, frozen
> out of higher administrative positions, was agitating for a larger role in
> government. At that point, administrative liberals returned to power long
> enough to devolve a limited share of control to local representative
> assemblies on which Indians could sit. These English-educated Indians, who
> populated the bureaucracy, the courts, and the local democratic
> formed the core of India¹s movement for independence.
> >
> > The British, of course, went back on their promise of eventual
> self-rule, forcing Indians to seize their independence through a
> decades-long campaign of agitation and resistance. Yet the educational
> policies set up by liberal British administrators 100 years before
> independence had laid the foundation for democratic self-rule in India.
> >
> > Another key contribution of liberal and reformist British administrators
> to independence was the construction of an all-India communications and
> transportation network in the 1850 s. An efficient national postal
> telegraph system, and railroad network were all laid down in that decade.
> course, this network increased the efficiency of British military and
> administrative control over the subcontinent. Yet the new infrastructure
> also generated a national consciousness among Indians, who had not
> previously seen themselves as members of a single society. In particular,
> the English-educated Indian bureaucratic class was brought to awareness of
> its shared identity, values, and grievances by the new networks of
> communication. Thus was born the idea of a modern, independent, and
> democratic Indian state.
> >
> > The lesson in all this is that a slow process of English-medium
> in modern and liberal ideas has the potential to transform a traditional
> non-Western society into a modern democracy. (Because of its status as the
> world¹s lingua franca, by the way, even Sweden now makes English a
> compulsory second language.) To work, such an education needs to be
> by actual experience in legal, administrative, and legislative
> constructed along liberal lines. India¹s English-speaking bureaucratic
> made up only 1or 2percent of the population. Yet that class was sufficient
> to manage a modern democracy and slowly transmit modern and liberal ideas
> the larger populace. So the route to modernization is not a direct
> transformation of the traditional social system, but an attempt to build
> a new and reformist sector.
> >
> > Several problems with this scenario as a model for a postwar Iraq are
> immediately apparent. For one thing, it took just over 100 years to move
> from the establishment of English-language education in India to
> independence and democracy. We don¹t have that kind of time in Iraq, where
> our purpose is to liberalize the culture quickly enough to undercut the
> growth of terrorism and anti-Western ideologies. Of course, after an
> outburst of liberal enthusiasm, the British did everything in their power
> prevent their Indian subjects from attaining democratic self-rule. In
> contrast, since our national safety depends on establishing a successful
> liberal society in the Arab world, we have no reason to delay. Ideally, we
> could see good results in the time it takes to educate a single
> >
> > That is still a long time. And we live in an era of nationalism. British
> rule actually created Indian nationalism, and in many ways the Raj
> for its survival on the initial absence of nationalist sentiment. Yet Arab
> nationalism has been a force to reckon with since just after World War i.
> fact, the British themselves took over Iraq in 1917-1918 and initially
> to govern it directly. But by 1920-1921 , an Arab nationalist rebellion
> forced the British to abandon direct rule and install a friendly and
> monarch instead. By the same token, any American attempt to govern Iraq,
> to supervise the education and training of a liberalized bureaucratic
> class, is sure to generate Arab nationalist resistance. So even if the
> democratizing lessons of British imperial India might work in principle,
> will we be able to implement them in practice?
> >
> > There are at least two possible solutions to the problem of Arab
> nationalist reaction < the Iraqi immigrant returnees and what we might
> ³blended rule² (a combination of direct and indirect rule). The Iraqi
> returnees, who have lived in the West and imbibed its culture for years,
> already be a class of modern and liberal citizens who can help to govern
> reform their society. Unfortunately, the evident divisions in the ranks of
> the returnees suggest the ongoing power of traditional regional, ethnic,
> religious loyalties among them. Nonetheless, the returnees may provide a
> sufficient number of relatively liberalized Iraqis to jump-start the
> long-term process of cultural change.
> >
> > The other question is whether, after an initial period of military rule,
> America can devise a way of exercising influence in postwar Iraq that is
> something less than classic direct imperial rule, yet something more than
> the ³Orientalist² policy of indirect rule through traditional elites. (The
> latter policy might create a stable Iraq but will not produce a democratic
> Iraq.) This is a delicate and complicated question. To create a
> and liberal bureaucratic elite in a country where no such class exists,
> Westerners will be needed to run the schools and to serve as model
> administrators and judges. While the returnees may be able to help here,
> substantial American or Western involvement in the administration and
> staffing of a reconstructed Iraq will almost certainly be essential to any
> hoped-for democratic transformation. The question is, can that kind of
> intimate American involvement take place under the umbrella of an Iraqi
> government?
> >
> > Even if we can reduce the process of generating a liberal,
> Western-educated, and modernizing bureaucratic class to a generation, and
> even if we can do so without provoking excessive cultural backlash, we
> face the reality that authentic democracy takes time to develop. Holding
> democratic elections in a fundamentally illiberal environment invites
> conflict, Islamist or secular dictatorship, and the same round of military
> coups that eventually brought Saddam Hussein himself to power. This
> that a period of quasi-imperial, and therefore undemocratic, control might
> be a necessary prerequisite to democracy itself. That brings us to another
> critical lesson of the British experience in India < the paradoxical
> compatibility between imperialism and democracy.
> >
> >
> >
> > A failed reform
> >
> > James mill¹s theory of social change was straightforward: Replacing
> priestcraft and local despotism with wholesome government would quickly
> sweep away irrational prejudice. Educate the populace, make them secure in
> their property, govern them well, tax them lightly, and their economic
> habits will be transformed to resemble those of enterprising British
> citizens.
> >
> > Mill¹s attitude toward indigenous Indian elites was diametrically
> to that of the Burkean Orientalists. Where the Orientalists looked at
> Hinduism¹s sacred texts and saw legal subtlety and literary brilliance,
> saw barbaric punishments and wild-eyed myths. For the Orientalists,
> priests were the leading caste of the land whose understanding should be
> taken by administrators as the key to prudent rule. To Mill, on the other
> hand, brahmans were the ultimate embodiment of sinister priestcraft <
> wielding abstruse rituals and extravagant tales to keep the masses
> and docile.
> >
> > The Orientalist administrators feared that by displacing indigenous
> elites, James Mill¹s policy of radical reform would provoke a revolt. Yet
> Mill was confident that any prejudice in favor of tradition, self-rule, or
> indigenous elites would fall away once the populace perceived the social
> economic benefits of Britain¹s modernizing policies. In Mill¹s utilitarian
> theory, the mind was a tabula rasa that could quickly be shaped, and
> reshaped, by changing external influences. Tradition, in this view,
> for little.
> >
> > In practical terms, James Mill¹s strategy, which was eventually taken up
> by a generation of liberal administrators in India, centered on land
> For Mill and his followers, the key to social progress in India was to
> undercut the power of reactionary local elites by deeding land to
> peasants. Once these peasant cultivators had secure ownership of their
> market forces would take over, and spontaneous economic development would
> rapidly follow. This formula for modernization is not unlike that favored
> today by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto.
> >
> > Yet in early nineteenth-century India, liberal land reform was a dismal
> failure. 2Reform did indeed undercut the traditional system of village
> self-rule and did also initiate a limited market in land. Yet the spirit
> British economic enterprise did not follow. Instead, the local economy
> remained stagnant while the collapse of the traditional village political
> system put new demands on already strained British administrators.
> >
> > The failure of liberal land reform was a vindication of sorts for the
> Orientalists. Yet they, too, had misjudged the situation. Even the
> Orientalist administrators had favored a policy of limited reform in the
> districts under their control. While they had no intention of undercutting
> indigenous elites, the Orientalists did sponsor surveys that recorded who
> worked the land. In doing so, the Orientalists meant only to verify that
> traditional village leaders were not unfairly exploiting peasants < or
> deceiving the British < as they collected taxes on the government¹s
> Yet the unintended effects of the Orientalists¹ land surveys were almost
> disruptive of the traditional system of ownership and political control as
> the more intentionally radical reforms of the Millian liberals.
> >
> > Although the upshot of reform was to parcel out control of land to
> individuals, and although the traditional politico-economic leadership of
> the village was greatly unsettled thereby, fundamental Indian patterns of
> caste and ³joint family² association remained strong. The notion of
> collective property ownership among kin, while disrupted in its details,
> remained pervasive, whatever the technical system of title-holding. With
> bonds of traditional kinship and caste relatively unbroken, a shift toward
> capitalist enterprise was anything but automatic. Nor did either the
> Orientalists or the liberals have a very clear understanding of the real
> social underpinnings of the system they were (unsuccessfully) toying with.
> >
> > The lessons of empire, then, include a caution to democratizing
> Western economic and political habits are not simply waiting to be
> by a few simple legal reforms. The real barrier to modernity in the
> non-Western world lies in the pervasive and recalcitrant structures of
> everyday life < structures few Westerners understand. In India, the key
> barriers to modernization are the joint family system and caste. The
> counterparts in Iraq are the patriarchal family system, the bonds of
> and tribe, and related conceptions of collective honor. 3Traditional
> practices like these can sometimes adapt themselves to modernity. Yet a
> direct attempt to overthrow these structures is difficult to manage and
> unlikely to succeed.
> >
> >
> >
> > Competing administrative schools
> >
> > It is superficially true that Burke and the Orientalist administrators
> inspired by him advocated rule consistent with indigenous principles,
> whereas the liberals inspired by James Mill favored democracy for all. On
> closer inspection, however, one can see how both schools of thought
> a program of Westernizing reform and each had a healthy respect for the
> cultural barriers to modernization.
> >
> > For England and India alike, Burke was an advocate of gradual reform
> within the context of time-tested institutions. In Britain, that meant
> slow on the expansion of suffrage while encouraging a concept of
> in the public interest among Britain¹s aristocratic office-holders. It¹s
> easy for a modern American to dismiss these conceptions as outdated, but
> history largely vindicated Burke. Britain developed slowly and peacefully
> into a modern democracy, while the democratic radicalism and upheavals of
> the French Revolution (which Burke famously condemned) led to decades of
> turmoil and dictatorship. Both schools understood what modern Americans
> forget: that too-rapid democratization in the absence of cultural
> prerequisites can be dangerous.
> >
> > In the 1780 s Burke sought to reform Britain¹s growing empire in India.
> 4The early years of British rule featured much economic exploitation as
> as general neglect of the population¹s elementary needs and interests. The
> East India Company¹s conduct outraged Burke, who saw in rule by transient
> and commercially minded outsiders the ultimate contradiction of true
> stewardship < rule by those who live among and understand the habits and
> interests of the people.
> >
> > Burke¹s opponents claimed that, since Indians were in any case
> to being ruled despotically, a measure of British despotism was both
> necessary and justified. To reply to that argument, Burke made himself
> one of the first European experts on a non-Western culture. Burke
> successfully established that Hindu and Muslim law rivaled Western law in
> sophistication, and argued that such a people was just as entitled to the
> rule of law and just stewardship as the people of England. Interestingly,
> the founder of modern conservatism was Britain¹s sharpest internal critic
> imperial abuse.
> >
> > Burke sometimes hinted that, through a process of gradual and unforced
> reform, Indians might someday supplement their own customs with the full
> advantages of British liberty. Yet, as would later be true of the Mills,
> Burke had a limited understanding of the actual structures of Indian life.
> The caste system, for example, was for the most part opaque to him.
> Nowadays, students of Burke tend to push his criticisms of empire even
> further. If Indians had sophisticated law and were entitled to genuine
> stewardship by an indigenous elite, why have empire at all? But Burke can
> pushed in the other direction as well. If non-Western societies are much
> further from the blessings of liberty than Burke dared imagine, then why
> undertake a more radical program of reform?
> >
> > This was the question posed by James Mill in his rejection of the
> Orientalists¹ preference for rule through an indigenous elite. Yet John
> Stuart Mill made a lifelong effort to transcend the dichotomy between
> and his father < between the indirect rule favored by the Orientalists and
> the radical reformism of the liberals.
> >
> > John Stuart Mill famously suffered a mental breakdown as a result of his
> father¹s authoritarian and unbalanced rearing. James Mill raised his son
> John in isolation from all but a few family members, personally taught him
> Greek by age three, Latin by eight, and a demanding course of
> university-level material (including the history of India) throughout
> childhood. Religion, music, and art were intentionally excluded from young
> John¹s curriculum. In effect, John Stuart Mill was a guinea pig in a great
> utilitarian experiment in child rearing. By excluding all ³irrational² and
> traditional influences, James Mill hoped to create a perfectly rational
> ³reformed² human being, just as he hoped to create a reformed and rational
> India.
> >
> > Just as John Stuart Mill was advancing, under his father¹s influence, at
> the East India Company office, his mental breakdown hit. 5To save himself
> from the feeling that he was incapable of normal human emotions, John
> Mill secretly began to read the romantic poets. That led him to Samuel
> Taylor Coleridge¹s conservatism. Less well-known is John Stuart Mill¹s
> growing interest, at just this time, in the administrative theories of the
> Burkean Orientalists, which were built around the same sort of respect for
> tradition found in Coleridge. Just before and after his father¹s death,
> began to throw his weight behind the Orientalists¹ policies of rule
> indigenous elites.
> >
> > Eventually, in his administrative policies as in all aspects of his
> thought, John Stuart Mill sought a synthesis. Having abandoned his
> doctrinaire reformism, Mill was able to shift as circumstances demanded.
> With the advent of the great transportation and communications projects of
> the 1850 s, Mill moved back into the reformist camp. Yet while many
> reformist administrators < his father above all < thought the actual
> participation of Indians in government was unnecessary to modernization,
> Mill always advocated participation in imperial administration by
> elites. In effect, this view was a synthesis of the Orientalist position
> (with its respect for the role of indigenous elites) with his father¹s
> authoritarian reformism. By the time he wrote Considerations on
> Representative Government (1861 ), Mill had worked out his system of
> gradualism < an attempt to split the difference between his father and
> Burke.
> >
> > John Stuart Mill¹s administrative shifts reflected a larger rhythm of
> change in the history of British India. The balance between reformism and
> relatively indirect rule constantly changed. Burke¹s early reforms brought
> necessary respect for indigenous interests after a period of British
> exploitation and neglect. Decades of stable rule eventually made reformist
> administrative experimentation possible. Out of that period of reform came
> English-language education. Yet the reformers went too far. After the
> failure of their land reforms (which played a role in provoking the revolt
> of 1857 ), a policy of indirect rule through indigenous elites returned,
> punctuated by the liberal reforms of the 1880 s that devolved a measure of
> power to local assemblies.
> >
> > The lesson in all this is that there is no single correct way of
> democratizing Iraq. Some elements of the Bush administration prefer to
> through traditional Arab elites, while others remain intent on relatively
> rapid democratization. (No doubt, both positions are considerably more
> nuanced than this.) So the nucleus of two competing administrative schools
> for a postwar occupation is already in place. Only time will tell how to
> plot a course between the two approaches.
> >
> > Consider the problem of Iraq¹s traditional tribal areas as a specimen of
> the coming administrative challenge. A truly modern and democratic Iraq
> require a state with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. That means
> in the areas where rifle-bearing tribesmen still rule, the populace will
> eventually have to be disarmed. Yet, in the early phases of the
> it will be necessary to work with the tribes, not against them, to
> consolidate the new government¹s control. It will take time to educate and
> train a modernizing and liberal elite. Eventually, patronage through tribe
> and kin will have to be stamped out in favor of an educational and
> bureaucratic meritocracy. In the meantime, some cultivation of traditional
> leaders and some accommodation of traditional kinship-based patronage will
> have to be tolerated. Inevitably, there will be contradictions in policy.
> The overall pace and direction of that policy needs to be guided by
> circumstances, not by simple doctrine. John Stuart Mill¹s administrative
> flexibility and synthesis is the model.
> >
> >
> >
> > Liberal imperialism?
> >
> > Debate over the governance of postwar Iraq pits democratizers against
> realists. Realists are skeptical about the prospects for cultural change
> the Arab world, warning that democracy will create ethnic strife and
> despotisms. Partisans of democratization, on the other hand, are willing
> take risks to achieve the sort of deep-seated cultural change that might
> finally put an end to regimes that harbor, sponsor, or generate
> In this view, it takes democracy to make democracy. Only by actually
> choosing their own governments < then living with the imperfect
> of those choices < can a people learn the meaning and necessity of
> responsible elective behavior.
> >
> > These opposed views often exist simultaneously within the same
> administration. For example, Thomas Carothers has highlighted
> within the democracy promotion policies of Presidents Ronald Reagan and
> George W. Bush. 6After lavishing effort on the construction of a credible
> electoral process in El Salvador, the Reagan administration covertly
> funneled money to assure the victory of its favored candidate, Jose
> Duarte. The current administration is encouraging democracy among the
> Palestinians while also making clear that it considers the reelection of
> Yasser Arafat an unacceptable outcome. And at the moment, the
> is trapped between its democratizing rhetoric and the growing crisis in
> Venezuela, where the popularly elected but anti-American government of
> Chavez holds sway. This sort of problem could confront us in an Iraq that
> only formally democratized.
> >
> > Part of the difficulty here is that our democratization debate is
> on a false dichotomy. Skeptical realists highlight the danger of holding
> elections in an illiberal environment. Democratic imperialists insist that
> faith in our values demands that we risk a shift to an electoral system in
> the Arab world. But what if a policy that eschews immediate elections is
> simply a bow to illiberal realities, but itself reflects an understanding
> and affirmation of authentic liberal democracy? After all, no less a
> than John Stuart Mill articulated just such a policy of democratic delay.
> >
> > After more than two decades¹ experience as a leading liberal voice
> the British East India Company, Mill warned in Representative Government
> against premature elections in societies lacking the cultural
> of democracy. Unless electors actually understand and embrace liberal
> constitutional principles, said Mill, representative institutions quickly
> degenerate into tyranny and faction. According to Mill, a government
> of bringing democracy to an illiberal society will have to be in some
> ³despotic.² In other words, after warning against the dangers of too-rapid
> democratization, Mill defends the necessity of an enlightened colonial
> despotism as a route to the long-term liberalization of relatively
> ³uncivilized² societies.
> >
> > Mill¹s thoughts on colonialism are not a favorite subject of his
> contemporary readers and admirers. When Mill¹s views on colonial
> democratization are examined at all, Mill is usually excoriated for his
> imperialism, his alleged betrayal of liberal principles, and his cultural
> bigotry. Mill does deserve criticism for his condescension toward, and
> limited understanding of, non-Western societies. Yet, in general, the
> complaints are unfair.
> >
> > In Representative Government , Mill was grappling with a fundamental
> problem of British democracy, a problem little appreciated by modern
> Americans. America enjoyed near-universal white male suffrage from the
> start, but throughout the nineteenth century, Britain and other European
> nations struggled mightily with the question of how far to extend the
> franchise. This was not a straightforward matter of equality and justice
> entailed the potential destruction of democracy itself by means of a
> popularly supported despotism. France had several times fallen victim to
> just such a despotism, and this was much on the minds of liberal democrats
> like Mill.
> >
> > From the start, American democracy was premised upon its relative social
> equality and its widely educated public. Europe¹s class divisions, its
> unlettered peasants, and its ill-educated workers meant that universal
> suffrage could quickly and easily lead to despotism. So Mill¹s cautions
> about too-rapid democratization applied not only to India, but to England
> well.
> >
> > Yet Mill was indeed a liberal. If he saw legitimate limits to proposals
> for universal suffrage, he was also a leader of the movement to extend the
> franchise as quickly and as far as prudently possible. And despite his
> approval of an enlightened colonial despotism in India, Mill was a
> of the liberal administrative policies that did in fact eventually lead to
> Indian democracy. For example, Mill was well aware of the tendency of the
> new Indian communications and transportation infrastructure to generate a
> national consciousness and to lift the concerns of individuals beyond
> localities and toward the broader public good. For this reason, Mill
> strongly supported these reforms when they were playing out and clearly
> alludes to them with approval in Representative Government .
> >
> > More important, in Representative Government , Mill lays out, more than
> years before the fact, the governmental reforms of the 1880 s that
> eventually did lead to independence and democracy in India. Speaking
> broadly, without mentioning any particular country, Mill argues that the
> to democracy in relatively ³uncivilized² colonies is the construction of
> local democratic assemblies that do not compete with the central power but
> are ³auxiliary² to it. Representative Government was well-known to
> administrators and surely helped set the pattern for the liberal reforms
> the 1880 s. Those who reproach Mill for his involvement in colonialism
> seldom acknowledge that Mill actually supported and helped to author many
> the liberal colonial policies that did in fact bring democracy to India.
> >
> > Of course, Mill is chastised for his embrace of the civilizational
> characteristic of nineteenth-century British thought. It is true that
> like his father, was mistaken to dismiss Indian culture as ³barbarian.²
> it is important to understand why Mill was mistaken. Neither of the Mills
> had a clear or satisfactory conception of what made Indian society tick.
> They judged India by British yardsticks and found it wanting. In doing so,
> the Mills did indeed misjudge a complex, graceful, and sophisticated
> system < one with great strengths as well as great weaknesses.
> >
> > Yet once our problem becomes the democratization of a non-Western
> John Stuart Mill¹s seemingly dated framework is surprisingly modern and
> relevant. It can certainly be argued that traditional Arab society is far
> more appealing, and far less oppressive, than its detractors realize. But
> the extent that the export of democracy becomes our goal and standard,
> Mill¹s warnings about precipitous reform in the absence of cultural
> prerequisites, his plans for eventual success, and even his ranking of
> societies by their relative readiness for democracy make a great deal of
> sense.
> >
> > The lesson here is that due caution about the rapid importation of
> full-blown democracy to illiberal societies is entirely compatible with
> faith in, and even promotion of, liberal principles. Because of our unique
> social history, Americans think of democracy in universalist and
> rights-based terms. John Stuart Mill, however < like Edmund Burke and
> de Tocqueville before him < was keenly aware of democracy¹s social and
> cultural prerequisites. We cannot and should not return to the nineteenth
> century¹s ignorant and simplistic ranking of societies on a single
> evolutionary scale. Nor can we govern Iraq with the arrogance and
> of the nineteenth-century British. Yet the problem of a postwar occupation
> of Iraq is rather more similar to the challenges faced by Mill than to any
> experience with which Americans are familiar. For that reason, we would do
> well to learn from Mill¹s cautious, thoughtful, and in many ways
> program of democratization. Mill¹s belief in democratic gradualism was not
> only realist; it was also liberal.
> >
> >
> >
> > A just empire?
> >
> > Talk of empire is discomforting. Even if it might be possible to isolate
> and extract the most liberal and beneficial lessons of the British
> experience in India, can any empire, however benign, be counted morally
> just? To venture an answer to that question, we would do well to consider
> the moral arguments surrounding European colonialism.
> >
> > Much of the debate over the moral status of European colonialism turns
> economic questions. Colonialism¹s defenders stress the lasting investment
> productive forces made by the colonizer on behalf of the colonized.
> of colonialism highlight transfers of wealth from the colonized country to
> the seat of empire. In a sense, as David B. Abernathy notes in his recent
> and very useful moral assessment of European colonialism, each side in
> debate accepts the ethical premises of the other. 7That is why
> critics play down investment, while colonialism¹s defenders play down
> transfer. In these terms, the British experience in India was clearly one
> which the investment of productive forces was high < with the improvements
> in transportation and communication sponsored by liberal colonial
> administrators like John Stuart Mill looming particularly large.
> >
> > Yet the debate over the moral status of colonialism is bedeviled by
> dilemmas. Take the problem of the ³counterfactual.² Defenders of empire
> assume that the economic and political development stimulated by European
> rule would not have occurred in the absence of colonialism. Yet, by
> to the example of Japan, critics of colonialism claim that, if left to
> own devices, most conquered countries would have modernized even without
> European rule. I have argued that the Japanese example is the exception,
> the rule. But since the counterfactual (i.e., what would have happened
> without colonialism) is formally unknowable, it is difficult to reach
> agreement on this issue.
> >
> > And unlike calculations of investment or profit, certain critical moral
> criteria may be impossible to compromise or modulate. Implicitly, both
> in the colonialism debate agree that contempt for the race, cultural
> practices, or historical accomplishments of a colonized people is
> deplorable. But while some instances of European rule may have been more
> less bigoted than others, even the fairest and most respectful instance of
> colonial rule may be inherently humiliating to the colonized. That may
> explain why defenders of colonialism have almost nothing to say about
> complaints of humiliation. That silence may indicate implicit moral
> agreement with the critics of empire, an affirmation of the one
> argument of colonialism¹s critics.
> >
> > On the question of democracy, the tables are turned. Here the
> critics of colonialism affirm by their virtual silence the power of a
> seemingly unanswerable moral argument. Contemporary scholarly accounts of
> colonialism, for example, have plenty to say about the way in which the
> British rationalized their possession of empire as a way of bringing
> liberalism and democracy to India. However, few scholars dare acknowledge
> that, for all the problems, British rule did in fact make India¹s modern
> democracy possible. What are we to make of the fact that one of the key
> British ³rationalizations² for empire turned out, in large measure, to be
> true?
> >
> > Our commitment to political autonomy sets up a moral paradox. Even the
> mildest imperialism will be experienced by many as a humiliation. Yet
> imperialism as the midwife of democratic self-rule is an undeniable good.
> Liberal imperialism is thus a moral and logical scandal, a simultaneous
> denial and affirmation of self-rule that is impossible either to fully
> accept or repudiate. The counterfactual offers a way out. If democracy did
> not depend on colonialism, we could confidently forswear empire. But in
> contrast to early modern colonial history, we do know the answer to the
> counterfactual in the case of Iraq. After many decades of independence,
> there is still no democracy in Iraq. Those who attribute this fact to
> American policy are not persuasive, since autocracy is pervasive in the
> world, and since America has encouraged and accepted democracies in many
> other regions. So the reality of Iraqi dictatorship tilts an admittedly
> precarious moral balance in favor of liberal imperialism.
> >
> > The British Empire was far more successful than other European empires
> bringing democracy to the colonized < India being the most impressive
> example. Combine successful democratization with the massive investment
> British made in the infrastructure of their prized colonial possession,
> the British imperial experience in India clearly ranks as one of the most
> legitimate and successful colonial enterprises. Yet the British showed
> racial and cultural contempt for Indians and systematically excluded
> from the higher ranks of the civil service. So the intrinsic humiliations
> empire were compounded by the realities of British rule in India. That
> deplorable fact must rank high in any contemporary moral accounting.
> >
> > Presumably, American rule in Iraq would be relatively free of the racial
> and cultural bigotry that so marred British rule in India. It would also
> feature substantial American investment in moral and material
> infrastructure. And the very purpose of American rule in Iraq would be to
> create the authentic democracy that we know has been impossible to
> in our absence. So by commonly agreed-upon criteria, an American imperial
> interlude in the Arab world would be as just as it is possible for such an
> inherently ambiguous undertaking to be.
> >
> > Yet the deeper legitimacy of an American imperial adventure in Iraq
> rest on a consideration entirely absent from debates over the morality of
> European colonialism. Both sides in the colonialism debate agree that
> empires ought to be judged according to whether they help or harm their
> subject populations. That is because European empires were established
> aggressively and opportunistically. These empires were defensive only
> insofar as they were fending off encroachments by the other European
> (No small concern, by the way.) Yet, in the broadest sense, an American
> occupation of Iraq would be motivated and justified as self-defense. The
> dual advent of nuclear proliferation and terrorism has made the creation
> an authentic democratic culture in the Arab world essential to the
> of the West.
> >
> > In this sense, the real moral analogue of an American occupation of Iraq
> is our postwar occupation of Japan, whose defensive purpose was the
> democratization and demilitarization of a defeated foe. The Japan analogy
> may be flawed as a pragmatic model for democratization in Iraq, but its
> moral status is a significant precedent. The key difference is that
> democracy to Iraq will take longer than it did for Japan. But while that
> not a morally insignificant fact, it is ultimately more a difference of
> practice than of principle.
> >
> >
> >
> > Lessons
> >
> > As a way to encourage democratization, an extended American occupation
> Iraq would be just policy. Would a long-term occupation also be wise
> That is the more difficult question. Since democratization will be more
> lengthy and difficult in Iraq than in postwar Japan, America will have to
> marshal its will and resources for a stressful and challenging enterprise.
> If the Iraqi returnees turn out to be poor democratizers, or if America
> finds it difficult to exercise great and lasting influence without quite
> seeming to do so, the chances of an Arab nationalist reaction or internal
> American divisions are high. Certainly, one reasonable response to this
> scenario is refusal to engage in a long-term occupation at all.
> >
> > Yet the argument for a venture in democratic imperialism is also strong.
> In the long term, it may be our best insurance against the deadly and
> ever-spreading combination of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
> Particularly in the early stages, such a venture should concentrate on
> building up a modernizing and liberal class through education. An end-run
> around traditional structures will be more successful than direct assault.
> Someday, however, the time for a limited assault will come. Shifting
> administrative strategies are a feature of successful democratic
> imperialism. Only circumstances can dictate the balance between relatively
> indirect rule and reformist transformation.
> >
> > Above all, should America undertake an extended occupation of Iraq, the
> dichotomy between realist caution and reformist liberalism will have to be
> transcended. Authentic democracy develops slowly. The trick is to
> electoral experiments on the local level while still keeping hold of
> national power. Gradualism is not a betrayal of democratic principle. On
> contrary, it is an insight bequeathed to us by the founders of liberalism
> itself.
> >
> > Notes
> >
> > 1See Stanley Kurtz, ³After the War,² City Journal (Winter 2003).
> >
> > 2For an account of the failure of British land reform policy, see Ann B.
> Callendar, How Shall We Govern India? (Garland Publishing, 1987).
> >
> > 3See Stanley Kurtz, ³ Root Causes ,² Policy Review 112 (April-May 2002).
> >
> > 4The best account of Burke¹s dealings with India is Frederick G. Whelan,
> Edmund Burke and India (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996).
> >
> > 5For an excellent account of Mill¹s work at the British East India
> and its role in his personal and intellectual development, see Lynn
> Zastoupil, John Stuart Mill and India (Stanford University Press, 1994).
> >
> > 6Thomas Carothers, ³Promoting Democracy and Fighting Terror,² Foreign
> Affairs (January-February 2003).
> >
> > 7David B. Abernathy, The Dynamics of Global Dominance (Yale University
> Press, 2000), 387­407.
> >
> >
> > --
> > -----------------
> > R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
> > The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
> > 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
> > "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
> > [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
> > experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
> >
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