Roger L. Simon

Who's Afraid of the Neocon Wolf?

I don’t mean Wolfowitz. In this case, I mean Max Boot, author of A Democratic World Is No Neocon Folly, which appeared in the LA Times (reg required) and the Financial Times. Boot’s argument goes to the heart of the division in the current presidential campaign. (That heart is largely obscured by partisan mud, but it’s there.) The split is between those who believe in the export of democracy first (Bush) and those who don’t (Kerry). The arguments on the nay side range from the unsophisticated or racist (Arabs can’t handle democracy, etc.) to the seemingly more advanced (economic development must come before democracy). Boot takes on the second, more intelligent, reason with social scientific research:

Anyone seduced by these arguments would do well to peruse two important studies conducted by scholars with impeccable liberal credentials. The first is a new book called “The Democracy Advantage,” written by Joseph Siegle, a former humanitarian aid worker; Michael Weinstein, a former New York Times editorial writer; and Morton Halperin, a former staff member of the ACLU and the Clinton administration who now works for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. They’re hardly neocons, yet in a synopsis of their book published in Foreign Affairs they make a powerful case for democracy promotion.

Siegle, Weinstein and Halperin puncture the myth that democracy works only in rich nations. In fact, many poor countries have freely elected governments (think India, Poland and Brazil) while some rich ones (think Saudi Arabia and Singapore) do not. Far from economic development being necessary for democracy, they argue that democracy promotes economic development. Free countries grow faster than their more repressive neighbors. They also perform better on social measures such as life expectancy, literacy rates, clean drinking water and healthcare. And they are less prone to armed conflict.

A link to the Foreign Affairs article is here. I also urge all to read the Boot article. It’s worth the registration rigamarole. (hat tip: Catherine Johnson)

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson’s essay for today is not unrelated. It begins with a quote from Clemenceau: “War is a series of catastrophes that results in victory.”