As the US supports warlords in Ukraine, its absurd theories of democratization collapse into folly.
In all International Relations (IR) classrooms throughout the English-speaking world, something called the democratic peace theory is taught. The theory holds that countries are less likely to go to war if they are democracies, and that installing democratic regimes is therefore the path to peace and security in the world. Paradoxically, the theory is more often applied to justify wars than to end them.
Democratic peace theory is a large part of the underlying rhetoric behind the United States’ commitment to “democratization” in the world’s conflict zones, particularly the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. While the US supplies arms to dictatorships it falsely labels “democracies,” it works to overthrow governments that were actually democratically elected.
Hurling feeble accusations that truly elected rulers are sliding into autocracy, the United States continues on a slippery slope of its own by arming some of the world’s most sordid military dictatorships. It is astonishing that anyone can really be convinced by their reasoning.
In Ukraine, the United States proved its hypocrisy more clearly than in any other relationship it managed to strap together. Its initial cause for involvement in Ukraine was about “democratization.” Accusing democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych of sliding into autocracy, the United States favored violent protests to overthrow this regime in the name of US-guided democracy.
Yet, for all its theories about democratization, look what the US did to Ukraine. Now, we have a good part of the country in a state of insurrection against the central government, and a military dictatorship using tanks, and even white phosphorous and cluster bombs against its own people.
The US “democratization” of Ukraine has failed, achieving the opposite of the values it claimed to be spreading. Rather than valid elections, we have this absurd tin-plated dictatorship in Kiev, reliant on foreign military support, desperate to silence critics, beat up any political opposition, and ban all valid opposition parties. Such actions are a true slippery slope to autocracy, worse than anything that the United States ever accused the previous regime of committing.
In Ukraine, the United States has carried out a total U-turn from supporting democracy to justifying military dictatorship. If nothing else does, this should prove to everyone that the United States is concerned least with democracy or freedom and most with installing dictatorial strongmen to back up its military dominance in each region.
If the best that billions of dollars allocated for “democratization” in Ukraine can produce is a dictatorship, it is hard to see why anyone could accept liberal foreign policy theories justifying this dictatorship. For all its talk of democracy and stability, the US-led NATO alliance is unwilling to grant either principle even in Europe, and is solely concerned with protecting despotic rulers and the presence of its armies.
Just examine how quickly the United States changes its mind about which country is a democracy and which country is a dictatorship. If they bring a dictatorship to power, they call it a democracy. If a country elects leaders they disapprove of, they call it a dictatorship. Arbitrary reasoning is used, in either case, to suggest the US-backed dictatorship is on track to democracy, or the elected regime is on a slippery slope to autocracy. In certain cases, the US insists democratically-elected rulers step down or be removed because of their alleged autocracy. Meanwhile, the same US defends far more explicit dictatorships around the world and insists they are necessary.
A regime that clings to its military might and its ability to sanction, threaten and blackmail other states has no principles. The US government’s consistent failure to observe any principle, its unparalleled penchant for breaking its promises and shirking the values and peace guarantees it claims to uphold, shows the true face of a regime that can only survive by placing the whole world in shackles.
Even in recent times, the US is accused of sliding into autocracy and police state structures by its own people, as the protests and unrest in recent days demonstrate. Will the world be lectured about laws, principles and human rights by a regime that lacks even the most basic appearances of democratic legitimacy on its own soil? Will we be informed about our “security” by this capricious band of thugs, killers and dictators who call themselves the “world’s only superpower”?
The reason the democratic peace theory has failed is that it has no scholarly merit. The theory is not democratic, peaceful, nor is it even a valid “theory” of International Relations. It is a propaganda package, designed to justify US-led wars and coups around the world on so-called news networks, bringing the new wave of dictators to power on the back of a tank from Cairo to Kiev. In each of these cases, the United States sang a hollow song of democracy, before changing tune to speak of the sovereignty, international recognition and military backing of the dictatorship.
There are limitless criticisms of the so-called democratic peace theory, although none of them can compete with the evidence in recent years of this theory’s ultimate failure. Throughout the world, the democratic peace and liberal national development models are but the newest iteration of what Kipling called the “White Man’s Burden,” simply dressed in new political clothes to avoid the obvious racist overtones. The French also called this the mission civilisatrice, or civilizing mission. Whether done in the name of spreading Christianity, or the more modern idol of “democracy,” it remains as dangerous, arrogant, and destabilizing as its racist origins betray.
No matter its pretext, cultural imperialism does not export peace to anyone’s shores, but war.
The idea that America’s militancy and aggression for “democracy” restores security is the great lie of our time. It is the one that must be most challenged, as we revise the structures of knowledge. The rhetoric of power and cultural supremacy must be ousted, that we may be free to pursue intercultural understanding and peace between civilizations.