The man who declared the ‘end of history’ now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy -National Post

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In the early 1990s, just after the end of the Cold-War, Francis Fukuyama argued that we had reached the “end of history”. He was not saying the world was coming to an end, but instead that liberal, capitalist democracy had emerged as the only accepted form of government. Fascism had been discredited by WWII and communism discredited by the collapse of the USSR. The liberal model was, so to speak, the last man standing.

His argument was controversial at the time. Many saw it as simple self-congratulatory American rhetoric. Others, like Samuel Huntington argued the new world order would be dominated by a clash of civilizations.

Now Fukuyama is himself questioning the future of liberal-democracy. Much of his concern is due to the election of Donald Trump. However, the problem is deeper then this, according to Fukuyama, and more widespread.

In part he argues it is a long-standing problem in American politics where “the Republican Party has gerrymandered districts and established what amounts to de facto one-party rule in parts of the country.”

In part, it is also globalization, which produces “internal tensions within democracies that these institutions have some trouble reconciling,” he said. Combined with grievances over immigration and multiculturalism, it created room for the “demagogic populism” that catapulted Trump into the White House.”

It is also present in Europe, where he argues the EU is “unraveling” and right-wing nationalism is on the rise.

He certainly is not arguing that liberal democracy is doomed, but his ideas about the nature of the international system have certainly changed:  “Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

The man who declared the ‘end of history’ now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy

 

 

The Surprising Science of Cease-Fires: Even Failures Can Help Peace -1New York Times

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No one expects the current ceasefire in Syria to last very long or provide a long-term solution to the conflict. However this article suggests that ceasefires agreements like the present one are still important:

  • “One of the best predictors of a peace agreement’s success is simply whether the parties had prior agreements, even if those earlier cease-fires failed. Not even a war’s duration or its intensity can so reliably predict a peace deal’s outcome. Neither does the poverty or ethnic diversity of the combatants.”

Ceasefires, even if they don’t last can create what the article refers to as “virtuous cycles”, wherein the parties build a degree of trust by making reciprocal concessions. If transgressions are also punished, they also learn that cheating on agreements is counter-productive. Together, these two dynamics shape the preferences of the parties making a lasting settlement more likely.

Of course, if handled poorly, the opposite lessons may be learned. If defection is widespread and inconsistently punished, then the parties learn that cooperation does not pay and cheating may actually pay-off. This result can be thought of as a “vicious cycle”.

Two points come to my while reading this article. First, the logic is very consistent with rational choice/game theory. The parties are rational actors responding to the contingencies in their environment and playing iterated games is extremely important. Second, There may be some issues with causality here. Perhaps settlements are not more likely because there are more ceasefire agreements, but instead ceasefire agreements are more likely because the conflict is winding down. If this argument is true, then it is the wider conditions in the conflict that are driving events, including the number of ceasefires and whether or not they create virtuous cycles or viscous cycles.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/09/16/world/middleeast/another-cease-fire-in-syria-it-could-matter-even-if-it-fails.html?referer=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FxZiLWXMT6P

 

2016: World military spending resumes upward course, says SIPRI -SIPRI

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The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database is now accessible http://www.sipri.org.

A few highlights from this year’s report:

  • World military expenditure rose by 1 per cent in 2015. The first increase in military spending since 2011.* The increase reflects continuing growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states. The decline in spending in the West is also levelling off. At the same time, spending decreased in Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, the global military expenditure picture is mixed.
  • The United States remained by far the world’s biggest spender in 2015, despite its expenditure falling by 2.4 per cent to $596 billion. Among the other top spenders, China’s expenditure rose by 7.4 per cent to $215 billion, Saudi Arabia’s grew by 5.7 per cent to $87.2 billion—making it the world’s third-largest spender—and Russia’s increased by 7.5 per cent to $66.4 billion.
  • Military spending in North America and Western and Central Europe has been decreasing since 2009……     …….US military spending was down by 2.4 per cent in 2015, a much slower rate of decline than in recent years. This was the result of measures passed by the US Congress to partially protect military spending from previously agreed budget deficit-reduction measures. US military spending is projected to remain roughly level in real terms in 2016.

More details and links to the annual report can be found at:

http://www.sipri.org/media/pressreleases/2016/milex-apr-2016

I Love the U.N., but It Is Failing -NYTimes

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Here is a rather scathing review of UN operations by Anthony Banbury, the former United Nations assistant secretary general for field support. He lambastes the bureaucracy in particular:

  • “If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”

He also criticizes the way peacekeepers are deployed:

  • “Peacekeeping forces often lumber along for years without clear goals or exit plans, crowding out governments, diverting attention from deeper socioeconomic problems and costing billions of dollars”
  • “the United Nations decided to send 10,000 soldiers and police officers to Mali in response to a terrorist takeover of parts of the north. Inexplicably, we sent a force that was unprepared for counterterrorism and explicitly told not to engage in it. More than 80 percent of the force’s resources are spent on logistics and self-protection. Already 56 people in the United Nations contingent have been killed, and more are certain to die. The United Nations in Mali is day by day marching deeper into its first quagmire.
  • But the thing that has upset me most is what the United Nations has done in the Central African Republic. When we took over peacekeeping responsibilities from the African Union there in 2014, we had the choice of which troops to accept. Without appropriate debate, and for cynical political reasons, a decision was made to include soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and from the Republic of Congo, despite reports of serious human rights violations by these soldiers. Since then, troops from these countries have engaged in a persistent pattern of rape and abuse of the people — often young girls — the United Nations was sent there to protect.”

 

Russia’s Syria pullback: A catalyst for peace? -BBC

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“Vladimir Putin’s decision to pull much of his forces and air power out of Syria took the world by surprise. But it really should not have.
He has done exactly what he said he would do when he staged his surprise intervention nearly six months ago.
At that time, he said he had two goals: To stabilise the situation of the Syrian government, and to prepare the way for a “compromise political settlement” of a crisis that is now five years old.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35815064

Vladimir Putin’s pledge to withdraw at least part of his forces from the Syrian conflict has been taken by many as a hopeful sign. The logic is simple enough: Putin has stabilized the situation for the Syrian government and now he wants to extract himself from a messy conflict while demonstrating to the world that Russia still has clout by delivering his Syrian client to the bargaining table. Without Russian support, the argument continues, the Assad regime will realize it cannot win and therefore accept a settlement.
Maybe this will happen, maybe not. There are two problems with the argument. First, the Syrian opposition is still demanding a transitional process which involves guarantees that Bashar Assad will step down. This is probably something Assad will only do as an absolute last resort. Second, Putin may not have as much leverage as he thinks. While the Russians can credibly tell Assad that they have no intention of helping him retake the entire country, it is clear that Moscow is committed to the regime’s survival. Knowing this, Assad may feel that he can hold out for the deal he wants, one where he gets to stay in power. While Putin may not like it, the costs of turning his back on the regime now would be too high.

So far, this seems to be the calculation Assad is making. The Syrian government has already announced that it will not participate in direct talks with the opposition. (see: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35820823)

The situation as it stands, demonstrates the often complex power dynamics between patron states and their clients. Even if the patron is much more powerful and much richer, and even if the client is really desperate, if the patron is committed to the survival of the client they may not have that much influence over its actions.

Freedom in the World: 2016 -Freedom House

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Freedom House has released its 2016 global summary. As usual, the results were not good. However Tunisia has made the list of “Free” states. A rare bit of good news from the region.

“These developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

  • The number of countries showing a decline in freedom for the year—72—was the largest since the 10-year slide began. Just 43 countries made gains.
  • Over the past 10 years, 105 countries have seen a net decline, and only 61 have experienced a net improvement.
  • Ratings for the Middle East and North Africa region were the worst in the world in 2015, followed closely by Eurasia.
  • Over the last decade, the most significant global reversals have been in freedom of expression and the rule of law.”

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2016

 

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/the-map-that-shows-most-and-least-free-countries-in-the-world-a6869861.html

The methodology for a study like this is of course extremely important. How you ask the questions and what questions you ask will have a big impact on your findings. This is particularly important when you are trying to measure ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. A partial description of Freedom House’s methodology is below. There is a link to the full description below that:

“Freedom in the World uses a three-tiered rating system, consisting of scores, ratings, and status. The complete list of the questions used in the scoring process, and the tables for converting scores to ratings and ratings to status, appear at the end of this essay.

Scores – A country or territory is awarded 0 to 4 points for each of 10 political rights indicators and 15 civil liberties indicators, which take the form of questions; a score of 0 represents the smallest degree of freedom and 4 the greatest degree of freedom. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4). The political rights section also contains two additional discretionary questions……

Political Rights and Civil Liberties Ratings – A country or territory is assigned two ratings (7 to 1)—one for political rights and one for civil liberties—based on its total scores for the political rights and civil liberties questions…..

Free, Partly Free, Not Free Status – The average of a country’s or territory’s political rights and civil liberties ratings is called the Freedom Rating, and it is this figure that determines the status of Free (1.0 to 2.5), Partly Free (3.0 to 5.0), or Not Free (5.5 to 7.0) (see table 3).

Trend Arrows – A country or territory may be assigned an upward or downward trend arrow to highlight developments of major significance or concern….

Electoral Democracy Freedom in the World assigns the designation “electoral democracy” to countries that have met certain minimum standards for political rights; territories are not included in the list of electoral democracies. According to the methodology, an electoral democracy designation requires a score of 7 or better in the Electoral Process subcategory and an overall political rights score of 20 or better. Freedom House’s term “electoral democracy” differs from “liberal democracy” in that the latter also implies the presence of a substantial array of civil liberties. In Freedom in the World, all Free countries can be considered both electoral and liberal democracies, while some Partly Free countries qualify as electoral, but not liberal, democracies.”

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world-2016/methodology

 

Pre-Westphalian IR -Medievalists.net

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Here are two blog entries focusing on international politics in pre-Westphalian Europe. The first provides a realist balance-of-power analysis of of the city states and principalities of Europe in 1423, with military power based on the number of horseman each region could muster, and annual income measured in ducats, a currency worth slightly more than the Canadian dollar:)

The Power of Medieval States – A Report from the Year 1423

Map of Europe in 1430, created by Lynn H. Nelson

 

http://www.medievalists.net/2016/01/23/the-power-of-medieval-states-a-report-from-the-year-1423/

The second article is more in depth, and offers a more constructivist analysis by the author of Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades, Andrew Latham. While the first article suggests the continuing logic of realism across the ages, this article suggests parallels between the “identity-interest complex” of the Crusades and that of Islamic extremism.

Medieval Geopolitics: An interview with Andrew Latham

“My analysis of the crusades demonstrates how a distinctively religious “identity-interest complex” made possible the religious wars of the late medieval era.  This is a very specific historical case, to be sure, and I have endeavored to present it as such.  But there is no reason to suppose that the argument that religious identities (along with all of their entailments) cannot and do not motivate individual and collective actors on the international stage just as powerfully today as they did a millennium ago.  Indeed, as the works of scholars such as Olivier Roy and David Cook convincingly demonstrate, historical and contemporary Islamist political violence – to take one particularly salient example – is both made possible and motivated by a particular religious identity and its associated political project. Like the crusades, this violence cannot be convincingly explained by recourse to the “hidden logic” of the mode of production, the transhistorical logic of self-help under anarchy, or “second image” dynamics that explain violence in terms of the war-prone pathologies of certain actors on the international stage.”

http://www.medievalists.net/2013/12/06/medieval-geopolitics-an-interview-with-andrew-latham/