Dr. MAXINE ISAACS (Lecturer, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University): We will be done at 7:00. My name is Maxine Isaacs and I’m going to moderate today’s session on the Council on Foreign Relations discussion of Democracy: Is It for Everyone?
I was going to start out this afternoon with a long, shaggy dog story that I’d figured out about comparing this distinguished panel with Les Gelb dining alone, so I did a little bit of research and discovered, to my dismay, that Les Gelb has never dined alone. So I’ll go straight to the business at hand.
Before I introduce this panel, I would like to talk to you briefly about the procedures for this afternoon. We’re on the record, which is not the common practice here at the Council, but we’ve got some reporters with us and so we’ll be on the record for a change. Each of our panelists will make remarks, speaking briefly, five to seven minutes. I’ll be a very tough moderator. And then we will follow with your questions. The meeting will end, as I said, at 7:00 sharp. I’ve been asked to ask you to please remain until 7:00 so that you don’t disrupt the proceedings by walking out.
Very briefly, just to set the stage for today, I wanted to say that when you think about this topic, it’s difficult to get your arms around it, and I think there are many reasons for this. One is that it’s a question whose answers defy ideology and ideological classifications. It’s an issue about which the theory’s probably clearer than the practice. It’s an issue that appears to be about other countries but has a lot to do with ourselves. It’s an issue that blurs some of the distinctions that we’ve become accustomed to, such as the distinction between politics and economics, but it makes distinctions that some of us may find unfamiliar, such as between liberal democracy and electoral democracy. And, as you’ll see, it’s an issue that draws many of its lessons from history, but which cannot be fully appreciated without grasping many historical contradictions.
I cannot imagine a better group of people to help us understand how to think about this issue today than our distinguished panel. You’ve got their biographies, and I won’t go into detail. I’ll just introduce each of our panelists briefly.
Our first speaker this evening will be Professor Samuel Huntington. He’s the Albert J. Weatherhead III university professor at Harvard and the director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and the Center for International Affairs, and that’s just the first two sentences of his bio. He’s the author of numerous books and articles, I think most recently The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.
Our second speaker will be Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, whom most of you know, and contributing editor of Newsweek magazine. He’s the author of a new book, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role. He’s a scholar, an educator, a prolific writer, and commentator.
And finally, we will hear from Carl Gershman. He’s the founder and president of the National Endowment for Democracy. He, too, is an author, a scholar, and a diplomat.
So, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our panel. Professor Huntington.
Professor SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON (Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor and Director, John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University): I guess the first thing I have to do is get my notes right side up, which I just did.
Thank you very much, Maxine. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to meet with you and to discuss this topic, democracy: Is it for everyone? I think the answer to the question is no, not yet, but it certainly is for more people than it used to be. Undoubtedly, the single-most important political phenomenon of the late twentieth century has been the expansion of democracy in country after country around the world. And by democracy, I am talking about electoral democracies—let me make this clear—which I define as a political system whose most powerful decision makers are selected through relatively fair, honest, periodic elections, in which candidates can freely compete and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote.
And by that definition, the number of democracies in the world has gone up very, very substantially in the past few decades, from about 40 or so back in 1970, to 66, according to Freedom House, in 1988, to 117 now. There has been, obviously, a big expansion of democracy, and this, I think, has been caused by a variety of factors, which I won’t go into now, and the expansion also has, in considerable measure, been worldwide, has affected every part of the world.
Now there is a heavy concentration of democracies, obviously, among wealthy countries and among those who, if you’ll pardon the phrase, I would say were part of Western civilization. But at least one democratic regime, I think, exists in every major civilization or culture in the world.
Well, let me just address two major points here. First of all, what is happening to democracy as it spreads around the world? I think it is becoming more variegated. I was at a meeting of a couple of hundred executives of Andersen Consulting a short while ago. They were discussing globalization and how American corporations could adapt to operating in the global economy, and the one message I came away with from that meeting was that corporations globalize successfully by localizing successfully in individual countries, and a natural consequence of globalization is localization.
And it seems to me this is what is happening to democracy. As it spreads around the world, it is taking on different forms and is acquiring different characteristics in different countries. Now Fareed will classify many of these as being illiberal; certainly liberal democracy is pretty much restricted to Western countries or countries heavily influenced by the West. I guess I’m a little bit unhappy, Fareed, to think that all the others are necessarily illiberal; I guess I prefer to call them simply non-liberal. But it does seem to me we’re having a major multiplication of the types of democracies in different societies and cultures.
Second, democracy, it seems to me, at least in the way in which I’ve defined it, is simply a way of constituting, limiting and changing governments. There is often a tendency, however, to see it as something much more, as the introduction of democracy will bring about peace, equality, prosperity, harmony among nations and classes and so forth. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that governments produced by elections can be inefficient, corrupt, shortsighted, discriminatory, can pursue aggressive nationalistic policies and pursue ruinous economic policy. Democracy is no guarantee that other good things will happen, although they may.
And I think there is a tendency among people to assume that other good things will happen and that democracy won’t have unhappy consequences. Now our distinguished president of the Council, Les Gelb, many years ago wrote a piece in which he attacked the identification of democracy with elections. The immediate provocation of that was the election of Mr. Gamsakhurdia as president of Georgia. And one can understand that concern. And shortly thereafter, in early 1992, of course, the Algerian military canceled the election that the fundamentalist party was going to win.
It seems to me, however, that it is unfortunate to sell out elections, and I think it was most unfortunate that that election in Algeria was canceled; of course, the result has been years of civil war with 60,000 or more people killed. And it strikes me as totally outrageous that, at the present time, there is this deafening silence in our government concerning what is, in effect, a coup d’etat in Turkey. And no one seems terribly concerned about that, where an elective government has been forced out of power; its leaders have been indicted or put in prison. And instead, what are we doing? We are lobbying the European Union to let Turkey in. It doesn’t seem to me that’s the way to promote a democracy.
And I think we have to confront the fact that, in this world, elections will produce results which don’t necessarily make us happy and may produce anti-Western governments, illiberal governments, ones that we will find it very difficult to deal with, including, when they are weak and resting on fragile coalitions, governments which will insist on 11 percent rather than 13 percent and will go off and explode nuclear weapons.
Finally, let me just, in underlining this particular point, say that I think this sort of caution concerning democracy is particularly desirable because of the very widespread assumption that, if other countries will simply democratize, if we can encourage them to move in that direction, they will be friendly and cooperate with us. And this assumption, it seems to me, underlies the thinking of virtually everybody on every side of the China debate. If only we could make China democratic, they would be so much more easy to deal with. Maybe they would be, but on the other hand, it is not hard for me, at least, to conceive of a democratic China being a China which is highly nationalistic, in which politicians competing for office appeal to Chinese nationalism and find it worth their while, in terms of votes, to do that sort of thing and to denounce the United States.
So while I’m all in favor of promoting more democracies, I think we ought to do it in a realistic way, with our eyes open. Thank you.
Dr. FAREED ZAKARIA (Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs): I was given some instructions about the mics, and I think I’m supposed to bring them closer. If this short-circuits something, we’ll find out.
I wanted to begin my talk by starting about 100 years ago, in 1895, to be precise. Just as we approach our own rather colorless faire de siecle, it’s worthwhile remembering how glittering the last faire de siecle was supposed to be, particularly in cities like Vienna, a great, glittering, imperial metropolis, particularly renowned for its cafe society, where Viennese intellectuals got together in a kind of prominent intellectual conversation.
At one such cafe in the fall of 1895, Sigmund Freud smoked a cigar. Being Freud, the cigar was not just a cigar; it was symbolic of something else. It was a symbol of the triumph of liberty against democracy. What do I mean by this? In 1895, Vienna elected as its mayor a virulent anti-Semite called Karl Lueger. Franz Joseph II, the emperor, decided, in his capacity as keeper of the city’s constitutional liberties and particularly of its minorities’ constitutional liberties, that he would not respect the election, that he would not swear in Lueger as mayor of Vienna. And the Viennese intelligentsia, which had for the most part been virulently anti-monarchist, discovered now that it sided with the monarch against the people.
The reason I begin with this story is to point out that this tension between what I call constitutional liberalism and democracy is an old tension. It tends to re-emerge or reoccur during periods of rapid democratization. It happened in the 1890s; it happened in the 1920s and 1930s; and it is happening now in the post-1989 wave of democratization, because democratization hits a wave of countries at very different stages of economic institutional development, in some of which it mixes with constitutional liberalism and in others, where that tradition is absent, it doesn’t do so well.
The distinction I’m making is very simple, but difficult sometimes to recognize, because in the West, the two traditions have been so closely intertwined. It is, of course, between democracy—that is, elections, for the most part, as Sam defined them—and constitutional liberalism: the entire tradition of individual rights, separation of powers, the rule of law, protections on property, speech and expression, etc.
I would argue that, when you see the world today and you look at the variety of democracies in parts of Asia, Africa, and even Latin America, what you see is a kind of wholesale democratization that is leading to certain very specific and identifiable tendencies: the centralization of power, the consequent abuse of authority, the deprivation of individual rights and very powerful incentives for politicians to campaign and then act on the basis of group solidarity, ethnic interfighting, nationalism, and often international conflict.
It is worth pointing out, for example, that in the last two weeks, on the subcontinent, both in India and in Pakistan, the democratic incentives have been toward belligerency. That is to say that, in both cases, it was an elected politician appealing to a particular constituency that caused them to take on these kind of hypernationalist policies; in the Indian case, of course, with five nuclear tests. The Pakistani prime minister has made it very clear that he feels that he faces a very powerful political electoral incentive to respond, and Mrs. Bhutto, the leading opposition leader, has made it quite clear that, were he not to respond, she intends to make this the leading political issue for the next election.
So the question then becomes, how do you get stable liberal democracy, the kind of democracy we like? Well, it seems fairly clear that there is an overwhelming correlation between development and democracy, economic development and democracy. One can go into this in greater detail, but it has been observed by scholars like Seymour Martin Lipset and Sam Huntington, and test after test refines but basically upholds that single correlation; secondly, political institutions and the rule of law, and finally, a kind of Madisonian system that constrains particularly central authority.
Now in the West, in general, these things, these three pillars, if you will, have tended to precede democracy; that is, they came, in many cases, by the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth century, and democracy really comes in the late nineteenth and twentieth century.
One note on my use of the word `development,’ and that is the role of capitalism in this, because sometimes this view is caricatured to mean a sort of authoritarianism plus capitalism leads to democracy, to which I say the caricature is actually pretty accurate, which is to say, capitalism does an enormous amount, because capitalism, in a way, is both responsible for economic development but also for a certain institutionalization of individual rights and for the empowerment of civil society against the state.
Recall that when the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers first coined the term `civil society,’ they were using it to describe private business activity. They were using it to mean private firms that were able to build a buffer against state power. So I think capitalism has a historic role in this regard. Obviously, it has downsides, but I want to emphasize, historically, the ability of capitalism to break the power of the state in a way that has been, in the West, conducive to liberal democracy.
Finally, the policy consequences; I hope it is clear what I mean by this, but let me spell it out. It is that elections are not the be-all and end-all of liberal democracy. Sometimes they can be the wrong step; sometimes they can be premature, as I think they were in Yugoslavia. The shape and the nature of the election is as important as the timing. I think we would all agree, for example, that to hold an election one month in Indonesia might not be the most sensible way to go about a power transition at this point, even though it is important for there to be a power transition.
Secondly, the gradual liberalization of society is, I think, more important than instant elections. It is a much longer-term process. It is a process of institutional reform and economic reform. Naturally, it must go side by side with democracy, but in many cases, what tends to happen is it gets left behind; democracy tends to be a more sensational project. Look at what has happened in Haiti, for example. We went there, held elections, left; every serious human-rights report, every serious journalist who has been there, says the situation there is probably as bad, if not worse, than it was before, but we have kind of lost interest in it because, hey, we held elections.
And finally, the need for power sharing and constitutionalism, properly understood in its Madisonian sense, which is the ability to create governments where ambition counteracts ambition, federal structures where regional governments are empowered. South Africa, for example, is a very good example where, because of strong regional governments, you have created a disincentive, if you will, for certain groups like the Zulus to try, you know, to wager a kind of rebellion or civil war or to create an ungovernable situation at the center.
I want to end with just two sort of specific implications, just to make the idea somewhat more concrete, and that is to take the president’s recent trip to Africa and what is going on in Indonesia.
The president’s trip to Africa; he visited very few democracies. In fact, I think Mandela may have been the only elected president he visited; I may be wrong about that, but certainly there were not many. And the administration has generally been supportive of what are called a new group of leaders in Africa. For this, he has been criticized by all the three major newspapers, as well as several political figures. My argument would be that the president is, in fact, doing the right thing, that people like Museveni in Uganda, Ethiopia and Aritria are, in fact, liberalizing governments, that were you to force them to hold an election tomorrow, it would accomplish virtually nothing and that, in fact, you would lose whatever leverage you have for long-term liberalization.
And finally, Indonesia, as I mentioned, is a case where clearly, a power transition needs to take place, but it would seem to me that it makes much more sense to focus, in the short term, at least, on somebody who can keep the country together and prepares it for democracy by liberalizing its institutional structure by ‘denepotizing’ the society, if such a word exists.
So with those two examples, I hope I make clear that the argument is not an argument for authoritarianism, tyranny, or generals; it is an argument to mediate, check, and buffer democracy so that, in this age of democracy, you save it from its worst and most destabilizing elements.
Mr. CARL GERSHMAN (President, National Endowment for Democracy): Well, I think we might have a debate on that; sure. We’ll see.
Both the champions and the opponents of the idea of democratic universalism find evidence to support their arguments and the recent period of democratic expansion that Sam Huntington has called the ‘third wave.’ For the champions of universalism, the unprecedented speed and the global scope of the expansion powerfully demonstrates that all people in the world, regardless of their history or culture, had the capacity for democratic self-government. Even if democracy is weaker in some regions than in others, there is none where it has not established at least a foothold, thus demonstrating its universal potential, if not its actual realization.
But for the opponents of universalism, the illiberal character of many of the third-wave democracies in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere is proof that democracy as we know it, liberal democracy with safeguards protecting individual and minority rights and constraining the power of government, is possible only in Western or Westernized societies. The latter view is based upon the belief that certain preconditions must exist before a country can become a stable, liberal democracy. Such preconditions, as we’ve heard, include a high level of economic development, the existence of autonomous social classes and groups, the rule of law and a culture of tolerance.
Where democracy is attempted in countries that lack these preconditions, it fails or becomes distorted. Among the illiberal features it can assume are personalistic and unchecked executive power, ineffective parties, a venal judiciary, limited press freedom, the marginalization of the lower classes, and widespread violence and corruption. The implication is that it is better, first, to prepare the ground before trying to establish a democratic system.
This is certainly how Western democracy evolved, as Fareed said: the development of liberal institutions and limited party contestation before the introduction of full political participation. But if this sequencing was possible in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is hardly a viable option in the present era of global communications, expanding educational opportunities, rising political consciousness and expectations, and internationally recognized norms of human rights and democratic governance.
Efforts today to restrict political participation, even if done in the name of modernization and eventual liberalization, inevitably require restraining liberty, thereby sharpening the contradiction inherent in the idea of liberal autocracy. Not surprisingly, no liberal autocracies exist today, aside from a couple of microstates, nor is there any evidence to show that autocracies do better at modernization than democratically elected governments. At the same time, there is a high correlation between liberty and democracy, even between liberty and so-called illiberal, otherwise known as electoral, democracy.
To the extent that there is broad participation and the accountability that regular elections impose, there is also likely to be better governance and fewer human-rights violations. There are exceptions to this rule, but in most of the world, including in most of Africa, government is manifestly more repressive and corrupt when it is less democratic, which is to say, less accountable to the people through regular, free, and fair elections.
The reasons for this are self-evident. Elections, if they are reasonably free and fair, require respect for certain basic freedoms, among them freedom of speech, association, and press. Moreover, the political space that exists by virtue of such elections allows political and civic groups to organize and to fight for more space and more accountability. The process itself offers citizens the opportunity to gain experience and confidence, much as Tocqueville understood the role of political associations in our own young democracy, as large free schools where all the members of the community go to learn the general theory of association.
Democracy is not a system that comes into being all at once after liberal institutions and practices have been secured. It comes about gradually, through a step-by-step process, by pressing out the boundaries of what is politically possible and building upon what Larry Diamond has called the democratic fragments that exist in preliberal polities. The fragments are smaller in pseudodemocracies than in electoral democracies, Diamond’s way of distinguishing countries where elections mask and legitimate authoritarian domination from those where competition is reasonably fair. The fragments are smaller still in countries that dispense even with the fiction of formal elections, yet even in such authoritarian systems, there are democratic fragments that may eventually generate breakthroughs to higher levels of democratic possibility.
As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski suggested before the great events of 1989, even crushing defeats, such as in Hungary in 1956 or in Poland in 1981, represent the stored experience of a nation’s struggle for freedom, which is the foundation upon which future struggles can be waged. What was true for Hungary and Poland can also be true for China and Burma. Understanding democratic development as a gradual process of struggle and growth offers a perspective that is at once more dynamic, more realistic, more inclusive and more hopeful than the rather static idea that we should wait for the preconditions to be right.
From such a perspective, liberal democracy may still seem a distant goal, but the path forward is clear, since it begins where one is and not where one would like to be, and it is accessible even to those who have the longest way to travel. Each small gain becomes a precious victory, and great breakthroughs, such as the passage from an authoritarian system to an electoral democracy, are recognized as such, and not derided as insufficient or even pernicious. Not least, such a perspective validates the sacrifices made in the struggles against dictatorship and against the many other obstacles that stand in the way of democratic development.
The view described here is the conscious or unconscious outlook of every effective democratic activist that I have known. Where it is not sufficiently understood or widely enough shared is in the established liberal democracies of the West, but that’s a problem that’s best left for a different debate. Thank you.
Dr. ISAACS: OK. We’re ready to open it up for questions. Please wait for the microphone to reach you. I think we have a couple people in the back with mics. When you ask your question, please stand; state your name and affiliation before your question and, as always, please keep your questions concise. No double questions; one question to a customer. We’d like to have as many questions and answers as possible. Somebody want to start off? Do we have a volunteer? Yes, please.
QUESTIONER: Professor Huntington said that, in his judgment, democracy provides no guarantees whatsoever that things are going to get better, and gave a lot of very vivid examples of how they could or could not get better, regardless of whether it is democratic governments or not. But then later on, you said you were in favor of promoting democracy, and I was wondering how you connect those two statements. Why are you so in favor of promoting democracy, given that you feel that it doesn’t, in any way, shape, or form, necessarily promote the types of changes that you think are desirable?
Prof. HUNTINGTON: Well, I think you sort of overstated my view, because first of all, the point I was making was that I don’t think instituting a democratic system of government is necessarily going to guarantee greater prosperity, greater equality, elimination of ethnic conflict or the solution of a lot of other social problems and ills. I’m not saying it’s impossible for democratic governments to do that; I’m just saying that it’s no guarantee. And what I was protesting was the implicit and sometimes the explicit argument that people make or assumption they make that democracy is going to necessarily introduce lots of other good things.
And I think democracy is desirable for two reasons; one, it provides order and a mechanism for incremental change, and it provides a way of removing from office political leaders who have turned out to be total flops. It also, I think, is one way—not the only way, and Fareed has elaborated several others—of protecting liberty in a society. And I, I guess, would agree with Carl that violations of liberties are much less likely if you have a democratic system of elected officials who are going to have to run for re-election.
Dr. ISAACS: Does anybody else want to comment before we go? OK. Next question, please.
QUESTIONER: I’m Deborah Buran, an attorney here in New York. I had the opportunity to be an International Affairs Fellow of the Council and was given the opportunity to work at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development several years ago. That institution, as you know, has linkage, unlike other development institutions, so that their programs and support are to be linked towards countries that are advancing democracy. When Mr. Attali, Jacques, left the bank and de Larosiere joined the bank, de Larosiere dismantled a group of political scientists who had been set up by Mr. Attali to evaluate how these different countries of operations were actually advancing democracy. What do you think the U.S. government policy should be today, with respect to the EBRD’s role in advancing democracy in those countries?
Dr. ISAACS: Fareed, do you want to take that?
Prof. HUNTINGTON: I hope somebody else is going to answer that.
Dr. ZAKARIA: Sure. Well, I did not realize Jacques Attali had instituted this program. My sense was that he spent a great deal of time building marble hallways, but I guess there was some money spent on people like us, so I applaud it. But I think, more seriously, it seems to me that what governments should focus on are a variety of measures by which good government is increasing around the world and, in particular, in those countries, and particularly, the degree of liberalization, both economic and political. It seems to me that one of the fundamental goals of government should be the protection of individual liberty, and to the extent that democracies are doing that, well and good. To the extent that they are not, I think that they shouldn’t get a pass because they’re democracies, you know, which has happened, in particular in the EBRD’s case with regard to a place like Slovakia.
So I think that part of what is going on here is the sort of very powerful, legitimizing force that democracy has where, because you hold elections that are relatively free, you are able to abridge certain rights that, frankly, would be more difficult to do if you were a dictatorship, because the international spotlight would be on you. I don’t disagree at all with Carl that dictatorships are more likely to do it; I’m simply pointing up a somewhat neglected phenomenon in international life, which is democracies that do.
Mr. GERSHMAN: Well, I’m not sure that that’s the question. In other words, you’ve sort of turned it, once again, against electoral democracies or being soft on them. I would also say that if countries that happen to have elected governments violate human rights in such a way that this could be rectified through certain kinds of international attention, that it definitely should be and they shouldn’t get a free pass. But I don’t think that really was the question. I mean, I think it’s very important that if you have an institution like that and other institutions that it take into account the degree to which governments adhere to certain fundamental principles regarding human rights and democratic governance in the world.
I’m not saying that you need a heavy-handed policy, where you come down with a sledgehammer on every government that violates that; but one thing that governments can do—there are a lot of things they can’t do, but one of the things they can do, and also international lending institutions, is to build in certain incentives in the international environment toward the respect for human rights and good governance. I think all that Fareed has done is he’s amended that to say yes, and it’s not enough just to have elections, and I would applaud that.
QUESTIONER: I used to roughly oversee Gershman’s work at the NED in Washington. I’d like to explore the foreign policy, external policy dimensions of democracies, and really, I’m making a comment, but I’ll put a question mark at the end of it, the usual gimmick here. Sam has said that democracy doesn’t guarantee peace, etc. I don’t think anyone would claim that. The issue is—I’d like to put it to any of the panelists—aren’t the odds better that if you have an open political system and a democracy that that government will be less aggressive, that that government is less apt to produce refugees, that that government is less apt to practice terrorism? And isn’t this a hardheaded reason, pragmatic geopolitical reason, to promote freedom abroad as well as the more idealistic dimensions?
Dr. ISAACS: Professor Huntington.
Prof. HUNTINGTON: I think the answer is yes. Democratic governments are less likely to do those things, but it doesn’t mean they will never do them, because one can very easily think of democratic governments that have been aggressive and that, in one way or another, have terrorized portions of their population.
Dr. ZAKARIA: If I could just add; I mean, it’s a very interesting question, because the relationship between democracy and peace is a very interesting and controversial one, partly because there have been so few consolidated democracies in the history of humanity and so many more wars that one isn’t quite sure, you know, how much of it is accounted for, for example, by just the peace of the Cold War; that is, no war. But it does appear that, when you look carefully at what people mean by democracies seeming to be more responsible internationally, that if you scratch beneath the surface you’re talking about liberal democracy and you’re talking about the liberal dimension of politics.
That is to say, when Kant talks about liberalism and peace—he was the first one to make this connection—he talks about separations of powers, institutional checks on the authority of the central decision maker, respect for individual rights, etc. Kant actually believed that democracies were more war-prone because they were more subject to what he called passion. The passion of the people could get out of hand, and surely when you look at Yugoslavia, which is a country where you have basically had an electoral dynamic that has put, you know, a nationalist against a hypernationalist, and in general, the hypernationalist tended to win, you do see the potential for that dynamic.
So when you see democracy without any of the restraining liberal institutions and norms, it doesn’t look as responsible as stable.
Mr. GERSHMAN: Well, let me just say one word. You know, again, it’s all a matter of degree, and I think it’s a mistake to assume that nationalist extremism, populism and demagogy can’t exist in a democracy and can’t be appealed to by somebody who’s trying to run for office in a democracy. I actually think it’s much more dangerous in an authoritarian country, where somebody is trying to maintain some kind of very illegitimate and fragile authoritarian rule by appealing to these kinds of passions. If we can agree that liberal democracy and peace go together, the question is: Is an electoral democracy a democracy which is not fully liberal but which has a multiplicity of parties and different groups? Can that contribute more toward peace? Does it have more checks and balances built into that system than an authoritarian system that lacks it? And I think on the whole it does, though I think it’s a mistake to try to paint, you know, elections as something which is going to, you know, bring in the millennium.
Dr. ISAACS: OK. We’ve got a question right here, by the window, please.
QUESTIONER: Following on the previous gentleman’s question, India has had an election, and the leading party in the coalition has come in, and as they said they would do for many years if they got in, they have exploded five nuclear weapons. I think the ballots were honestly counted, and it was certainly a hard-fought election. Should the U.S. government response to the Indian five weapons tests, beyond what’s required by law, of course, take into account that India democratically decided to do this?
Mr. GERSHMAN: All right. They’re so generous in letting me answer this question. Look, I think the India question raises a much larger issue, which is our relationship with India, which is a democracy and which we have never taken India very seriously, in terms of being a democracy. I think what these explosions do, these tests do, is I think it opens up the whole question of U.S. relations with India in the context of a region where you have India, as neighbors, two countries that are not democracies which are, in the case of China, especially, nuclear-equipped against India. I think, rather than try to sanction India right now in a way that, I think, could further contribute to tension in the region, we should open up the whole question of how to establish a new relationship with India in this new period, based upon the fact that India is a large country, it is a democracy. And to the degree that we don’t do that, I think we’re just going to contribute to the nationalist resentments in India which, I think, fueled the current crisis.
Ms. ISAACS: Yes. Question in the front row, please. Good. Please, go ahead.
Unidentified Man: ...(Unintelligible).
Prof. HUNTINGTON: Well, I think the proper response to what has happened in India certainly is to take into consideration the fact that India is a democracy and, as I suggested in my remarks, it seems to me one of the reasons why those explosions took place was that you have a weak coalition government and a minority party that obviously wants to build popular support and apparently, so far, at least, has been extraordinarily successful in building popular support.
Secondly, I think it is necessary, even though India is a democracy, to recognize that there are lots of things that make the relations between the United States and India very difficult. And we had a conference up at Harvard a few months ago, where people came from the major countries, regions of the world, and discussed the attitudes of their political intellectual elites towards the international system and use of force and so forth and so on. And one of the things that came through loud and clear at that meeting was the seething resentment under the surface, in large part, in so many parts of the world about the United States. We’re the superpower and people don’t like that.
And this came through particularly clear in the paper prepared by our scholar from India, and I’ll quote two sentences to you. He talked about the different divisions in the Indian elites, the Gandhians and this, that and the other thing, but he said, “For all Indian elites,” and I’m quoting, “the United States represents the major diplomatic and political threat. On virtually every issue of concern to India, the U.S. has veto or mobilizational power, whether it is nuclear, technological, economic, environmental or political matters. That is, the United States can deny India its objectives and can rally others to join it in punishing India,” end quote.
Well, no; not end quote. “The sins of the West, Indians believe,” he went on to say, “are power, hubris and greed,” end quote. And I was in India a short while ago, and this message came through loud and clear. And so I don’t have any solution for this, but I think a policy of ‘hands off’, [audio loss] neglect might be the wisest one as far as India is concerned. (end of side one)...
QUESTIONER: The Council just recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. When it was being founded, we were at the end of the first wave of democratization; it was still a minority political regime, in world terms. Now it’s, I think, essentially over a majority, at this point. When the Council celebrates its 150th anniversary, what percentage of the world will be democratic and who, if any, will remain in the authoritarian camp?
Dr. ISAACS: Volunteers?
Prof. HUNTINGTON: I’ll say a larger percentage of the world will be democratic 50 years from now.
Prof. HUNTINGTON: I’m not going to say how, exactly what percentage or who will and won’t be. But I guess I will say one other thing: There will be some non-democratic regimes.
Dr. ISAACS: The current percentage is—What?—60 percent?
QUESTIONER: 54.8 percent or some such thing.
Dr. ZAKARIA: Well, President Clinton said that a majority of people now live under democratic governance, and The New York Times, with its usual precision, checked it out and found that, yes, indeed, about 55 percent did. So he was accurate in saying that. I would say you will probably have more people living under increasingly democratic regimes; that is, more competitive, more plebiscitary, more direct democracies. And you will also see a consequent rise in illiberalism; that is to say, you will see many of the safeguards, constraints and institutional buffers that have kept democracy safe also being eroded.
Dr. ISAACS: Jack.
Mr. GERSHMAN: I think that some of the countries that are now electoral democracies, I believe, with time, will make it into the camp of the liberal democracies. Where you’re going to have problems: I don’t think it’s very difficult to look at the world today, and the Islamic world and Africa, countries which are poor, countries which are, as I suggested, furthest from the traditions of liberal democracy as we know it, are where you’re going to have the slowest progress.
Dr. ISAACS: OK. Right here.
QUESTIONER: I wanted to ask Fareed a question. I think it may have been my inference, but I thought you were raising a far, far more controversial or provocative thought here, which there’s perhaps this obsessive concentration in the post-Suez Canal U.S. foreign policy on elections, rather than on the institutional development of these countries; that perhaps we contributed unwittingly to the postponement of their full-fledged entrance into Western liberal society, and that perhaps now we should, carrying it a step farther, as a policy prescription, perhaps, focus much more on the economic system, such as the IMF is doing in Korea and Indonesia and Thailand: no-crony capitalism, free trade, join world organizations which then have second-round effects, and that we still, because of the legitimacy that an election gives a government, makes us impossible, then, to take or to force perhaps some of these other reforms through.
Dr. ZAKARIA: Well, I should have said it, but I was intending to be fully as controversial as your questions suggested. Yeah, I do believe that liberalization, in effect, has two legs, it seems to me. One of them, very importantly, is economic liberalization, which is the one you mentioned. The other one is political legal liberalization, and that is to say, a kind of good-governance liberalization. You have institutions that protect individual rights, that administer law, contract, etc., fairly.
Sometimes you do get regimes that do one but not the other. Suharto is actually a good example. Even though, you know, everybody now denounces the crony capitalism, it is worth pointing out that this is a guy who, by adopting, broadly speaking, market-oriented policies, took his country from about a per-capita GDP of $100 to a per-capita GDP of $3,500, or at least that’s what it was before the recent devaluation; it’s probably $2,500 now. But he didn’t do very much on the institutional liberalization, and that is, in a way, the tragedy of Indonesia now, which is you’re ready for a political transition; you know, like Moses, he took them so far. But he’s deinstitutionalized the country in way that you don’t have an easy transition point.
Dr. ISAACS: Does anybody else want to comment before we go to the next question? OK. In the back, please. Right there.
QUESTIONER: Oscar Menon. I’m a journalist. Mr. Huntington just touched on the thought that the question might seem to be about others, but in the end, it’s about us. And would anyone on the panel care to address the question of democracy in the United States? While on the one hand there is a very vital democratic process in this country, on the other hand, you also have the influence of big money, you have Kenneth Starr and you have a situation where the presidency of the United States has essentially been under siege ever since Kennedy’s assassination. So, given these facts, how would you assess the democratic health of the United States?
Prof. HUNTINGTON: Well, let me start off by saying I think the situation of democracy in the U.S. is not as good as it should be. It certainly, it seems to me, to have been more vigorous in the past, and I think you put your finger on some of the problems. I think the major problem is the extent of which political competition now has become increasingly competition among candidates or between candidates rather than between parties, and the parties have tended to become service organizations for candidates. And, of course, the tremendous impact of television, not just in terms of the influence on the voters, but the big influence of television is the tremendous demand for money, and that’s what has made fund-raising such a central preoccupation.
Just from glancing through the newspapers day by day, it seems to me our president now probably spends more time fund-raising for his party than any other single activity. And I don’t know that any of the bills in Congress are going to remedy that. It seems to me very probably there may have to be some more drastic action, such as provision of public funds for campaigns, or at least for television.
Dr. ZAKARIA: I would just add one thing, which is that, I mean, I agree with much of what Sam said. Many of the institutional constraints, again, that I said, you know, guided democracy, if you will, in Suharto’s phrase, are being eroded. I mean, you have gone from a situation where candidates were once reflections of parties, and now parties are, in a sense, reflections of candidates. In California, you have dispensed with parties almost altogether, and you simply have candidates and public polling and, you know, you get a candidate who is created by public polls. And so, you know, you have inevitably very rich candidates who can, in effect, finance their own candidacies without, really, the need of any political apparatus that generally has been part of what mediated and created broader agendas, you know, split differences and, you know, politics in the traditional sense of the word.
Mr. GERSHMAN: Just a couple of very quick points. I think it was the abolitionist Wendell Phillips who said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and obviously we can’t take our democracy for granted. One of the advantages of democracy is it does have built into it a way to correct problems, because it’s an open system, but that requires, obviously, citizen participation, citizen attention. I don’t think a commitment to international democracy means that one is not concerned about the problems here at home. The commitment to democracy needs to be seamless.
Dr. ISAACS: Question right here in the middle. Yes, gentlemen with the bow tie.
QUESTIONER: I’d like to address another problem. Mr. Zakaria, you said, in passing, that economic development promoted democracy. I am very concerned that unbridled global economic development may have exactly the opposite effect, and I wonder if any of you would like to comment on that.
Dr. ZAKARIA: Well, I am not. I mean, I recognize the problems that development brings, but I think that, by and large, you know, as I said, if you look at a country like Indonesia, to go from $100 per-capita GDP to $3,500 means that you have increased the average life span, you have stopped children from dying from malnutrition and early childhood diseases, you have created more hygienic conditions for people’s daily health and humanity. I think that wealth has many problems, but I think that to tell people who live in those kinds of situations of dire poverty that, you know, because capitalism or growth has complications, they should somehow, you know, continue to live in squalor, I think, is the wrong message.
I think that what we should do is, side by side with promoting development, to try and mitigate some of the very real downsides that it has. But, you know, I don’t think that that should lead to, you know, a desire to slow down the process of globalization which, after all, has been the most powerful way of raising average per-capita GDP in most developing countries in the world.
Mr. GERSHMAN: The Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi recently spoke here, and she made a rather hopeful observation about this which I would share with you, which is that the globalization, the technological revolution, has had the effect in Morocco and elsewhere in that region, she thought, of empowering the civil society and weakening the power of authoritarian governments. So I think, in the end, we may see this having a positive effect.
Dr. ISAACS: You’ve got the last question.
QUESTIONER: You seem to think that nationalism is much more to be feared from China under democracies as under the present system. I totally disagree with that, because I think it is the fig leaf in which every autocrat finds comfort. And it is that, I think, we have to worry about in foreign policy with China. And the other part of that is, I think—Will you all comment on?—if you see a split in generations. I think the orderly, you know, economic development and then liberalization and then elections is in the ideal world where everybody can wait. But I think the youth of this world are not going to wait.
Prof. HUNTINGTON: Well, on your second part, I think whether the youth wait or not will depend upon, in large part, what governments do and how governments act. And I don’t think youth, or students in particular, are necessarily going to be the central force for change in the coming years, and not necessarily a force for positive change. They may be, but that isn’t certain.
Secondly, on the question of nationalism and democracy, again, let me emphasize, I’m not saying that democracy will necessarily lead to more national assertion. All I’m saying is that it won’t necessarily prevent that, and it seems to me we have lots of cases of democracies where a popular passion has been aroused because the electoral process and the competition has that effect. There also, you might say, is this study done by John Schneider and others which makes the argument on the basis of historical data that democratizing countries are particularly prone to war, more prone to war than either stable dictatorships or stable democracies.
Now you can—some people have argued about the data analysis and so forth, but that, again, is a plausible idea. And certainly, as I say, democracy, it seems to me, is no guarantee against national assertion. And autocracies, obviously, are often assertive, too. And all I’m saying is both can’t do bad.
Mr. GERSHMAN: If I could just have 15 seconds on that. I think there is a relationship between democracy and legitimacy, that democratically elected governments have more legitimacy and, where they’re not, they have to find other ways to be legitimate. In the past, the Chinese Communist government had Marxism as its form of ideological legitimization, but that no longer exists, and they even recognize that this is bankrupt. I think the only way to go is either they are going to seek legitimacy by appeals to nationalism, and therefore use nationalism as a way to get a kind of false legitimacy, or to go through democracy. I think, therefore, if they do not have democracy but have a government that doesn’t have that kind of legitimacy, they will seek to be demagogic and more nationalistic than otherwise.
Dr. ZAKARIA: On the China issue, I actually had meant to mention this. I think I differ somewhat with Sam, who said that, you know, everybody seems to think that democratizing China would be good, but maybe you’ll still end up with a very difficult situation. I think one is confusing two issues there. One is the rise of China as a great power, which will certainly pose problems for the United States, no matter what kind of regime you have, just for sheer economic and military reasons. I, for one, would be much more comfortable; I would be willing to bet we’d have an easier time with a fat, bourgeois, liberalizing China than with a nasty, authoritarian one.
I am not absolutely convinced that, you know, a democratic China, meaning it in a, you know, Yugoslav sense, that is, a country that has held elections and periodically elects, you know, a leader, would necessarily be better. I’m sure that, as I say, a fat, bourgeois, liberal China, or at least I would be willing to bet, would be easier to deal with.
Mr. GERSHMAN: Can’t we have a lean democratic China?
Prof. HUNTINGTON: What are the chances for a liberal China?
Dr. ZAKARIA: Liberalizing? Well, I think it actually is happening right now. And on the question of, you know, do we have the time? Will the youth wait as a member of—What?—generation X, Y, or something like that? I feel like I’m qualified to speak on this, but really, what I would say is, I don’t know. I think you raise a very real question, which is: Will people be willing to wait during some of these rough transitions? But if the answer is they’re not, we’re still doomed. In other words, if the trends I’m pointing to are real, the fact that people won’t wait doesn’t, you know, mean that we should encourage it. In many ways, you could make the case that Africa prematurely democratized after colonialism in the ‘50s, you know, and you had disasters as a result. I think that if there isn’t a more staggered or sequenced or complex path of democratization, and if it simply happens in a kind of hurly-burly indirect fashion because nobody will wait, well, perhaps, you know, that means that you can’t stop it, but it certainly doesn’t suggest that the consequences won’t be tragic.
Dr. ISAACS: Thank you for a fascinating discussion.