• Democracy
    A Review of Rachel Kleinfield’s "A Savage Order: How the World’s Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security"
    By Nicholas Borroz In A Savage Order: How the World’s Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security, Rachel Kleinfield explains why some societies are plagued by internal violence, how such violence undermines state functions, and how societies can restore order. Kleinfield, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, thoroughly examines the devastating effects of violence in places as varied as Baltimore, Tajikistan, Mexico, and the state of Bihar in India. Kleinfield starts off with an explanation of the problem. She then describes case studies where societies have managed to reduce levels of societal violence. Finally, she offers recommendations for how to help troubled societies achieve security. Early on, she describes her book as a “blueprint for action”—a resource that can help societies escape deadly cycles of perpetual violence. The book’s critical takeaway is that nonwar, intrasocietal violence has vast consequences that can be as severe as the impacts of war. Kleinfield makes a compelling case, based both on statistical evidence and on anecdotes from her extensive travels and research. Although war receives more attention in headlines, she argues, intrasocietal violence triggered by corrupt elites is in many ways as serious a modern scourge. In the first and second parts of her book, Kleinfield identifies five factors that explain how violence can become normalized and how citizens and governments can combat such normalization. First, governments trigger the spread of violence by politicizing security forces to the point of making them inept and brutal. Second, changing norms, triggered by politicians and other elites accepting and even encouraging violence, begin to pervade society; she notes that when corrupt politicians enable criminal activity, everyday people lose their inhibitions and start partaking in the violence. Third, members of the middle class allow the spread of violence, or in some cases they combat it; they are often not as affected as poorer members of society and can thus allow violence to fester, but when they do become mobilized they can wield significant resources to curtail violence. Fourth, “dirty deals” are often necessary evils to reduce intrastate violence; temporary agreements with violent groups give governments the space to make lasting improvements in maintaining law and order. Fifth is that an escape from endemic violence, and from the consequent polarization of society, is only possible when governments and civil society work closely together. She argues that both government initiatives and social movements must work in tandem to achieve success. Kleinfield ends her book with recommendations to readers in relatively secure countries for how to help other societies wracked by violence. Her recommendations fall into three broad areas: training leaders and educating populations in peace-building; incentivizing intrasocietal peace deals to include provisions that will prevent future outbreaks of violence; and fixing issues in developed countries that perpetuate violence in the most troubled societies—for instance, opaque financial systems that can allow criminals to move funds without scrutiny, or foreign aid that may inadvertently support violent groups. The book is very erudite and a pleasure to read, full of detailed reporting. She ranges widely in the instances she examines of violence spreading within societies. While this makes for an entertaining and educational read, Kleinfeld’s approach also makes the reader sometimes wonder if the situations she describes are similar enough to make for effective comparisons. For instance, Kleinfield frames her study as looking at democracies, but she does not satisfactorily define what she means by democracy. She of course alludes to what a democratic order looks like—citizens “having a voice,” for instance. But nowhere does she come out and succinctly state what distinguishes a full-fledged democracy from a semidemocracy/hybrid regime or an outright autocracy. The ambiguity sometimes bubbles to the surface, when she discusses Mexico, for instance. She uses Mexico early on as an example of when dealmaking between politicians and criminals undermined democratic advances, but she then questions whether Mexico is a legitimate democracy. At the end of the book she excludes Mexico when recapping successful “recivilizing” democracies. Did she exclude it because it is not a democracy or because it was unsuccessful in curbing violence? Given her background, Kleinfield surely has a definition for democracy in mind, but her lack of a definition in the book muddles some of the analysis. If she is interested in explaining how violence rises and falls inside of democracies, then this implies a relationship exists between political systems and violence; in other words, what holds true for violence inside a democracy may not hold true for violence inside an autocracy. But if the type of political system matters, then why does Kleinfield discuss Tajikistan? It seems that this country—which she describes as decidedly nondemocratic—would not have much applicability in comparisons to democracies. Later on, she compares Mexico and Sicily. But she implies the latter is part of a secure democracy, so are the two cases really comparable? Kleinfeld also compares entire countries to portions of countries. She applies her arguments about the causes of societal violence to Colombia, and also to subnational entities like Bihar state in India and Sicily in Italy. Are they comparable? Given that one of Kleinfield’s key arguments is that governments can trigger the spread of internal violence, are there differences in the scope of violence triggered by national governments, state governments, and local governments? Another point regarding Kleinfield’s take on governments is that it is unclear when a government’s abuse of violence becomes coordinated enough that some threshold has been passed; at this point, the problem is no longer individual opportunistic politicians but a coordinated effort of politicians and other actors destabilizing societies. How does one tell when a sufficient level of internal coordination is happening among politicians and other elites, sparking the normalization of violence? Particularly since such coordination is often illicit, surely evidence is hard to find. How does one find this evidence? What does it look like? Although these questions may sound abstract, they have serious implications for Kleinfield’s argument. Without identifying clearly the threshold at which individuals politicians’ criminality and acceptance of violence sparks intrasocietal violence, one can argue individual corrupt politicians do not pose a serious threat to the stability of society. Overall, A Savage Order is a detailed, rich, and informative read that raises as many questions as it answers. It leaves the reader more aware of a dire problem and with a sense of what its underlying causes are. A Savage Order will spur interested readers to make further inquiries into how to solve intrasocietal violence. Nicholas Borroz is an international business doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland.
  • China
    Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 26, 2016
    Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week. 1. South Korea tells China to back off on THAAD. This Wednesday, Jeong Yeon-guk, South Korea’s presidential spokesperson, said that the decision to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system was “a matter to be decided in accordance with security and national interests.” The statement was in response to Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong’s unusually brash comments that the deployment of the system “could destroy bilateral relations in an instant.” THAAD is an anti-ballistic missile system designed to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their terminal phase. The United States and South Korea are considering the system’s deployment on the Korean peninsula in response North Korea’s continuous development of nuclear and missile capabilities. If deployed, THAAD would complement the existing Patriot system in Korea to provide a layered defense against incoming missiles. Given the limited capacity and the terminal-phase interception design, THAAD, by itself, would not affect China’s nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis the United States. Given the potential for dual use of THAAD to monitor missile launches from both North Korea and northeastern China, Beijing perceives potential introduction of the system as initial steps by Washington to build a broader, regionally integrated missile system aimed at China. China’s nuclear arsenal needed to deter multiple countries (the United States, India, Russia, and even North Korea in the future) is relatively small and is based on a flawed triad of bombers that will never reach the United States, vulnerable land-based missiles, and nascent submarine-based capabilities vulnerable against U.S. nuclear submarines. China still has no right to meddle in South Korea’s sovereign decision-making with regard to national defense, particularly when Beijing is enabling Pyongyang’s development of its nuclear and missile capabilities. 2. Xi Jinping visits state media. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Xi Jinping, also the president of China, visited the Beijing offices of official television station China Central Television (CCTV) last weekend, where he gave a speech on “news and public opinion work,” CCP code for propaganda. Xi also spoke with staff at CCTV America, the state TV station’s English-language branch in the United States. Party media responded in full force, launching a veritable avalanche of articles exhorting Chinese to “study the spirit of Xi’s important speech,” “grasp the proper political direction,” and “be innovative in increasing the quality of public opinion work.” The message is clear: the Party comes first, truth comes second. 3. Plane crash in Nepal kills twenty-three. A small plane crashed in Nepal on Wednesday, killing all twenty-three people on board including two foreign nationals and two children. Operators lost contact with the Tara Air flight eight minutes after it took off on what was supposed to be a nineteen-minute flight. After the army was alerted to sightings of the crash, rescue teams later found the wreckage in the western district of Myagdi, a mountainous area around 130 miles from Kathmandu. Though hampered by both bad weather and difficult terrain, rescuers managed to recover all twenty-three bodies by Thursday. Investigators believe that an avalanche the day before, which blanketed the area in a huge dust cloud, could have caused the accident, although weather conditions at the flight’s origin and destination were both favorable and the flight was cleared for takeoff on Wednesday. Today, another small plane carrying eleven people crashed in a field in the mountains of Kalikot district, also in western Nepal. Two have been reported dead, and investigations of the cause are still underway. This week’s fatal crashes are the fourteenth and fifteenth that Nepal has suffered since the turn of the century. In 2013, for safety reasons, the European Union banned all Nepalese planes flying to its territory. 4. Chinese investor buys Australian dairy company. The sale of Australia’s largest dairy farm, Van Diemen’s Land in Tasmania, was approved after consideration by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board. Lu Xianfeng, a Chinese billionaire who runs the investment firm Moon Lake Investments, purchased Van Diemen’s Land. The deal, worth $200 million, is expected to create up to ninety-five new jobs in Tasmania and will require Moon Lake to adhere with local tax laws. The acquisition generated controversy in Australia over food security and the effect it could have on dairy and infant formula prices. A 2008 scandal involving tainted milk powder in China led demand for foreign formula to soar, and some Australians worry that much of the milk produced by Van Diemen’s could now be shipped abroad. The sale of the Australian dairy farm comes at a moment both when Chinese firms are increasingly looking to acquire agricultural assets abroad and of growing concern over Chinese acquisitions of American companies. 5. Tajikistan discusses bailout package with the IMF. Tajikistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are currently discussing a possible bailout program for the country worth as much as 500 million dollars. Tajikistan is Central Asia’s poorest country and is suffering economically now more than ever due in large part to Russia’s recession. As of mid-week, the Tajikistan government had not yet decided whether to make a formal request for assistance from the IMF but their leadership was quoted as saying it was “in a dialogue with the fund.” Tajikistan’s economic troubles indicate the ripple effect of collapsing commodity prices worldwide, especially for oil. While Tajikistan itself is not oil rich, it benefited from the Russian oil boom as an estimated half of Tajikistan’s working-age men flocked to Russia for oil-industry jobs and sent money back to their families in Tajikistan. According to the IMF, such remittances account for 45 percent of the country’s GDP. The U.S. dollar value of those remittances fell by 32 percent between January and June of 2015. A report released by the IMF regarding the economic situation in the country calls for swift action by Dushanbe—the Tajik capital—and a gloomy outlook for what is to come. Bonus: Guide dogs a rare breed in China. This week, the kidnapping and subsequent return of Qiaoqiao, a Chinese guide dog, drew a great deal of attention to the current state of guide dogs and the visually impaired throughout the country. Although by one count there are at least 12 million visually impaired people living in China, guide dogs only number between seventy and one hundred, ten of which reside in Beijing. The city temporarily allowed the use of guide dogs during the 2008 Paralympic Games, but the country as a whole did not legally permit them in public places until 2012. Training the dogs, which can cost upwards of $20,000 a year, has proven prohibitively expensive. Nearly 300 visually impaired people in China have submitted applications for guide dogs, but the waiting period is more than a few years because of the lack of availability. The country’s first and only guide dog training center has eighty dogs currently in training and twenty more puppies expected to be starting soon.