War and Democratization: Legality, Legitimacy and Effectiveness

Book Review o the book War and Democratization: Legality, Legitimacy and Effectiveness Edited by Wolfgang Merkel and Sonja Grimm, and published in 2008
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Edited by Wolfgang Merkel and Sonja Grimm published in 2008, Price £75, pp226.

War symbolizes the regression of human conduct while democracy marks the progression of humanity. Democracy promotion is linked to peace building effort since historical times. The editors of this volume consider the imperative of outside actors' material, institutional and emotional assistance in promoting and consolidating democracy. Divided into nine chapters, the editors give equal importance to integrate internal and external actors' efforts towards democratization and offer both empirical  and theoretical cases from various continents-Europe, Latin America, East Asia and Eastern Europe--during different periods (1970s, 1980s, 1990s etc).


The book offers four modes of democracy promotion: enforcing democratization, using military intervention to restore elected government, humanitarian intervention and democracy through war. The USA's involvement in various countries and its four mechanisms for democratization during various time-frames of countries such as West Germany, Austria, Japan, Grenada, Panama, Dominican Republican, and Haiti illustrate some examples. In mode four, democratization is mainly carried out through unilateral and multilateral actions. The book differentiates between the humanitarian and democratic intervention, examine all four modes and their legitimacy while focusing on the difficult modes, especially third and four. Obviously, democracy promotion has contributed to strengthening democratic units like bureaucratic administration, political institutions and state building, assuming that they eventually contribute to the democratization and peace building.

Are all these external interventions moral and based on legitimate principle? This book analyzes various aspects of war and democratization from different angles and asks a bunch of questions: Are these types of interventions legitimized by international law? Does democratic war result in durable peace? How does just war define democratic intervention? What is the experience of democratization through external actors? Scholars analyze these questions and draw convincing conclusion that one should understand the context of the country to apply the four modes for generating the best effect on democratization. Intervention without understanding the circumstance can lead to failure. Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq are such examples. The successful examples of democratization in Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Italy and Japan can be mainly attributed to contextual learning.

The book discusses democratization through various lenses: empirical, normative and political ethics and analyzes the assumptions developed by scholars like Kant and Johan Galtung, as the utility of these assumptions has not diminshed. It provides examples of several military interventions from 1946 to 2002 by the US, the UK and France respectively and reveals the fact that small democratic countries do not go to war though some examples militate this. Indo-Pakistan war, South Africa and Rhodesia's intervention on Botswana, Ecuador and Peru prove that "democracies also wage war against democracies." It argues that wars contribute to democracy. Examples of Panama, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate this. The instability of "imposed democracy" provides the reason for internal democratization of countries. The intervention can relapse later into war as it does not legitimately ensure democratization. Similarly, regional democratic countries become prone to unsustainable political development if fear and mistrust govern their behavior. This also shows the limitation of international laws on defensive war, humanitarian intervention, democratic intervention, ethics of just intervention, Jus Ad Bellum, Jus in Bello, Jus Post Bellum etc.

A close nexus exists between democratization and war. The book reflects on the historical efforts to promote democracy and provides an account of the US. It brings the efforts from Woodrow Wilson to various presidents-- Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush and believes that the democratic intervention has been translated as US imperialism. Democratization and war in international relation often exhibit contesting perceptions in shaping the real world's democracies stemming from the analysis of neo-realist as well as liberal scholars such as Mansfield and Snyder, Ward, Huntington and Gleditsch. One group of scholars believes that democratization leads to war. To some extent, the cases presented here support the hypothesis but their views are not applicable to all circumstances of all countries. The results are mixed. The other group of scholars suggests the need of an integrated model to broadly understand the nature of national democracy within the scope of international politics. 

The externally induced democratization bore success in regimes such as Italy, Germany and Austria. Likewise, external parties have supported African, Latin American, South-east European and Middle East countries for democratization by providing the necessary material and nonmaterial resources. It begs a question: Why post-World War II democratization were successful while the current post-war democratization often failed? The book offers strategies to foster democracy by ensuring human rights, rule of law, economic development and nation-building. All the four models of democratization have been used in West Germany, Japan, Austria, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Cambodia, Mozambique, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guatemala, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite external actors' socio-political and emotional help, democratization has been largely unsuccessful due to maladjustment of ethno-minorities, security vacuum and inability of leadership to muster sufficient authority and legitimacy.

In the early period, external interference was openly welcomed and seen as legitimate which led to the success story. Local actors supported the democratization effort of external actors. However, external military means is not an effective and sustainable tool of democratization.  Democratic ethos has to be internalized by the society. Post-cold war democratization effort fostered humanitarian interventionism. Still, military interventions were also carried out in Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia, Bosnia, etc. But, they were combined with humanitarian efforts, peace building and peace enforcement, the examples being Congo, East Timor and Cambodia. The book argues that the causes of civil war are generated by the link of trivial dispute to macro conflict on diverse issues and their mutually reinforcing cycle. It presents the advantages and disadvantages of external actors' intervention and formulates typologies of wars as well as obstruction they create for democratization. The problems created by the efforts of the external actors bring more chaos in the country in conflict as legitimization of violence becomes a part of political culture which in turn fosters counter-violence. The failures of peace can be seen due to these reasons. First, peace building is seen as "imperial interest" in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq. Second, the peacemakers themselves do not feel secure. Third, the external actors fail to capture the dynamics of societies and undermine the legitimacy of statehood. For successful democratization, the external efforts should work as facilitator rather than imposer of exogenous ideas and values unsuitable to local conditions. 

The book talks about democratization and transitional justice. The post-conflict measures cannot go forward unless stabilization measures are applied. But, the history of transitional justice and mechanism for reconciliation have to be linked with the standards of globalizing transitional justice, global norms and global politics, law and state. It, however, asks a question whether traditional justice matters in the modern context. The discussion on democratization, state building and war are situated along the cases of Serbia and Croatia which shows the nexus between democratization, state building and war and also analyses issues like change of regime, early structure of transformation and causes and result of the war.

The book also deals with conflict resolution through democracy promotion, as democracy seeks a middle way and offers an opportunity for compromise. It brings out the role of OSCE in Georgia's case as positive outcome despite unsettled and "unconsolidated democracy." It argues that internal factors such as lack of political will and internal coordination among institutions contributed to the ineffectiveness of the OSCE. The book stipulates that external efforts of democratization have to do some pre-homework such situation analysis, interest-positioning of all actors, their relationship with the needs and demands of various forces and role of facilitation in conflict resolution. The response to Georgian crises involved many of these factors. Democratization of a dependent state is a critical challenge as the present case study of Afghanistan demonstrates. International community exerted powerful effort to create democratic framework in Afghanistan after intervention. Despite some positive influence, externally-induced democratization has led to further insecurity and political tension. The conflict was between exclusion and inclusion of various armed forces including warlords.

The US prefers parliamentary democracy to strong executive and also understands the difficulty of promoting parliamentary democracy in the Islamic world. A dependent state carries many features like weak political party, party clientalism, corrupt election system and weak autonomy of government vis-à-vis donors. These factors create constraints for fostering democracy. The high level of national control now in Afghanistan marks the symbol of partial modernity, not democracy as the rigging of elections illustrates. The book argues that the parliament in Afghan can not negotiate much economic and military transfer with foreign donors like the executive branch. Here, the book argues that international community made Afghanistan dependent in the name of promoting democratization which proved to be counter-productive.

The last chapter presents the perils and promises of democratization. The UN intervention through the United Nation Transitional Authority in East Timor and Cambodia has contributed to post-conflict peace building and democratization. The process, however, is lingering as the UN is still facing numerous challenges. The case studies of both the countries are carried out in terms of legitimacy, nature of transitional authority, institution building and democratic initiatives. In each case, role of transition management by interim government is the key factor. The result in East Timor appeared to be more positive than Cambodia, as in the former case the Indonesians left smoothly. The UN led interim government also left a lesson that effective interim government can be a solution to stabilize civil problems, achieve political stability, create democratic framework and increase civility in society. The lack of its effectiveness can hold the possibility to relapse the country into civil war.

The book is well-written and timely. It is especially useful to those who are interested in democratization, international relations, conflict resolution and peace building.