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Democracy doesn't stop terrorism

Democracy doesn't stop  terrorism

Are we losing the global war on terror? The shocking numbers contained in a new State Department terrorism report released Monday suggest that victory may be receding from view. And contrary to the Bush doctrine, the surprise culprit is democracy itself.
More than 14,000 terrorist attacks took place in 2006 - a 29 percent increase over 2005 - killing or wounding 58,000 people. Forty-five percent of the attacks, the State Department says, took place in Iraq. Last year, Afghanistan experienced a 50 percent rise in terrorist attacks.
State's numbers were compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center, the federal government's knowledge bank on international terrorism. The NCC data is an imperfect metric, but it paints a bleak picture - bleak enough to prompt us to revisit a fundamental policy question: What if the war on terror's architects grossly misread the terrain upon which we fight?
Two-pronged approach
Since September 11, 2001, our approach has emphasized two policy instruments, namely pre-emption and democratization. In his April 19 speech on counterterrorism policy, President Bush reiterated the view that, "The best way to protect us is to deal with threats overseas."
"Forms of government matter ..." Bush stressed. "Therefore, I have put as part of our foreign policy an aggressive plan ... to help people live in liberty."
What if U.S. President George W. Bush is simply wrong, and exporting democracy does not stamp out terrorism? We need to consider the discomforting possibility that, in truth, terrorism is an unavoidable by-product of democracy.
Democratic government requires the citizenry to accept, peacefully, that their individual views will not necessarily carry the political day. The plethora of religious and ideological grievances that characterize Middle Eastern political culture ensures that many do not accept defeat gracefully. Instead, they pursue a violent path to power.
The fact that the campaigns to democratize Iraq and Afghanistan have worsened the terrorist threat should come as no surprise. In recent years, strong evidence has accumulated to suggest that conventional wisdom on this issue is dead wrong. Democracy does not have a pacifying impact on a population.
A new study published in the scholarly journal Conflict & Terrorism illustrates the severity of the implications for current counterterrorism policy. James Piazza, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, provides an exhaustive analysis of 19 countries over a 21-year period, in which he finds that the more politically liberal Middle Eastern states, such as Egypt, are actually more prone to terrorist activity than Middle Eastern dictatorships.
Terrorism experts
Piazza's intensive research confirms earlier investigations of the relationship between terrorism and democracy conducted by terrorism experts, William Eubank and Leonard Weinberg, co-authors of the forthcoming interesting book, "Democracy and the War on Terror."
Eubank and Weinberg find that stable democracy and terrorism go hand in hand. Hence, terrorism is far more likely to occur in democratic settings than in any of the alternatives.
Therefore, Middle Eastern countries that undergo regime change are more likely to experience terrorism than countries that do not. Furthermore, Eubank and Weinberg find that both the perpetrators and victims of those attacks are usually citizens of the same democracies.
For the moment, however, let us accept the Bush administration's premises that, first, we are in an actual "war" against the terrorists and, second, we can win this war in a measurable sense.
Given his criteria, U.S. President George W. Bush needs to recognize a deeply unpleasant battlefield reality, one documented by his own State Department. In addition to its potentially liberating effects, his democratization project to date has made the world a more, rather than a less, terrifying place.
Patrick Basham is director of the Democracy Institute and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.


Updated : 2021-05-09 22:47 GMT+08:00