Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, argues that democracy is unleashing inter-ethnic conflicts around the world, including in Iraq.
When sudden democratisation gives voice to this previously silenced majority, opportunistic demagogues can swiftly marshal animosity into powerful ethno-nationalist movements that can subvert both markets and democracy. That is what happened in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and most recently Bolivia, where weeks of majority-supported, Amerindian-led protests resulted in the resignation of the pro-US, pro-free-market "gringo" President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In another variation, recent confiscations by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of the assets of the "oligarchs" Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky - all well-known in Russia to be Jewish - were facilitated by pervasive anti-semitic resentment among the Russian majority.
Iraq is the next tinderbox. The Sunni minority, particularly the Ba'aths, have a large head start in education, capital and economic expertise. The Shiites, although far from homogeneous, represent a long-oppressed majority of 60-70%, with every reason to exploit their numerical power. Liberation has already unleashed powerful fundamentalist movements which, needless to say, are intensely anti-secular and anti-western. Iraq's 20% Kurdish minority in the north, mistrustful of Arab rule, creates another source of profound instability. Finally, Iraq's oil could prove a curse, leading to massive corruption and a destructive battle between groups to capture the nation's oil wealth.
Chua points out that the government of Indonesia, once it became democratic, nationalized $58 billion dollars worth of assets formerly owned by Indonesian Chinese. The result is stagnation of Indonesia's economy with high unemployment, poverty, and the rise of extremist movements. Will similar calamities befall Iraq? Since I favor placing empirical evidence ahead of ideological beliefs when setting policy I think the rational response to the situation in Iraq is to split the country up into 3 countries where there is a single dominant overwhelming majority in each country with more trust of its own members. More arguments for that approach here.
Chua is unwilling to build on her observations to either explain why there are market dominant minorities or to explain what ought to be done about preventing the development of the conflicts that inevitably come from having market dominant minorities. Paul Craig Roberts argues that Chua misses obvious conclusions about US immigration polices and about US foreign policy that can be drawn from her observations.
Certainly the U.S. government and the IMF should take care not to export policies that worsen ethnic conflicts, but the more powerful conclusion to be drawn from Chua’s material—a conclusion that Chua studiously avoids—is that the U.S., Europe, the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand should immediately cease and desist from reconstructing themselves as multi-ethnic societies. Accentuating ethnic conflict abroad is stupid, even criminal, but it is insane to import unassimiliable ethnic groups into Western countries, thus replicating in the West the Third World conflicts that Chua so terrifyingly describes.
That property rights and one man-one vote democracy don't always mix well would not have surprised Aristotle, Edmund Burke, or Alexander Hamilton. Yet many Americans who call themselves conservatives have forgotten this.
One reason: we are one of the fairly small number of lucky countries with "market dominant majorities." We can have our cake (capitalism) and eat it too (democracy) because our majority group is economically quite competent.
America's perpetual trouble has been a less-productive black minority. Black-white economic inequality is not a problem that America is going to be able to solve any time soon. But, due to our market-dominant majority, our country is rich enough to live with it.
In contrast, if our current mass immigration system is allowed to continue, America will become just another country with a market dominant minority. Through government policy, we will have inflicted upon ourselves the kind of ugly society seen in most of the rest of the world.
Also see Vinod on Amy Chua's work.
Proclaiming that all ethnic and racial groups should all be equally economically successful will not make it happen. Less successful groups will inevitably resent more successful groups and will therefore act politically, whether at the ballot box or by other means, to express their resentments. Any society whose most successful groups become a smaller fraction of the population is one that is going to have more strife, more crime, more use of government to seize assets from the most successful groups, less civility, and less trust. The debate over this problem and its implications for and foreign policy - especially for immigration policy - has now reached the leftish mainstream in the UK with David Goodhart's Prospect article about Great Britain becoming too diverse being republished in the Guardian. Anthony Browne, Environment Editor of the London Times, has also played a role in bringing a skeptical look at immigration into the mainstream of British political debate. But that debate is still taboo in The New York Times and other legitimizers of elite liberal-left discourse in America. This taboo also has the effect of making US foreign policy in places like Iraq dangerously naive as the assertion of unversalist beliefs about how we can all just get along in democratic capitalistic utopians obscures the much uglier truths about why the world's problems are so much less tractable.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 February 29 01:35 PM Mideast Iraq Democracy Failure|