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June 23, 2008


Chris Williams

"'International community' (yuk)"

- now that's a good counter-hegemonic meme.

Paul C

You're correct that the solution is to prevent dictatorships arising in the first place - prevention is always better than cure, after all - but we should also develop better ways of supporting those inside the country whose politics we believe will serve their people better. The international attention lavished on Darfur is wasted partly because the rebel groups don't appear to be necessarily better than the government in key areas like human rights; the lack of similar attention on Zimbabwe, where it would have had more effect, is a little distressing.


"The problem is that dictators select their own populations, by killing democrats or sending them into exile."

Most dictators have only a slight demographic effect. Probably a bigger effect is the destruction by the dictator of institutions designed to restrict the power of the ruler.


"The more necessary is intervention, the less likely it is to succeed, because the most savage dictators select against democrats more ruthlessly."

Some of us are waiting for you to factor Nazi Germany into this rather neat little concept. Once you've done that, maybe you could have a shot at Japan?

Chris Williams

Neither of those were interventions against dictatorship: they were interventions against expansionism and aggression. Other dictators (Stalin, Franco, Salazar, the Sauds) had a fine time of it through the 1940s.

Democracy Loving Economist

I will be packing my bags for Zimbabwe the day ZANU goes. I just hope they give me back my passport.

My experience of countries elsewhere in Africa is that even with the return of democracy builders and the exit of totalitarian fascists (for that is what many African leaders are)- it is really difficult to shift economies based of patronage - around which entire cultures are based.


Shuggy - in addition to Chris William's point, I imagine Mr. Dillow was avoiding invoking Nazi Germany to help us all steer clear of Godwin's law.



One of my lecturer's described the neo-cons as the armed wing of oxfam. new meme - just cos we're 'western' doesn't mean we can solve everyone's problems.


Why would this be glossed as a problem for liberal interventionism? Surely it's the same, or even more of a, problem for people who think that intervention is always wrong, that democracy, rule of law etc. will emerge naturally over time?


"Neither of those were interventions against dictatorship: they were interventions against expansionism and aggression. Other dictators (Stalin, Franco, Salazar, the Sauds) had a fine time of it through the 1940s."

Mentally filed under 'missing the point' - yours being, it seems, some boring point about Western/liberal inconsistency, which doesn't alter my point. Redux:

"As a result, the longer and more brutal is the dictatorship, the harder it will be to establish democracy afterwards."

I think Nazi Germany qualifies as a 'brutal dictatorship' by most people's definition.

See, I can do patronising too. I get paid for it, as a matter of fact.

Chris Williams

? I wasn't making a point about liberal inconsistency, merely that the Allies in WW2 weren't intervening to save the poor oppressed masses, they were defeating their enemies in order to stop them invading other countries. Rebuilding democracy (or in Italy and Japan, 'democracy') was not the raison d'etre but a necessary end to the job. So the cases compare very badly indeed with the archetypical 'liberal invention' case which Chris D was discussing, where the victims are purely internal, and the wars are from the realpolitik perspective wars of choice.

As for your second point, remember that the Nazis only got 12 years at the mike. Japan was also more plural in the 1920s than it became in the 1930s.


A superb illustration of your undocumented assertion is, of course, Portugal.


On the efficacy of intervention by the US, we've at least got this:


Chris Coyne shows that for the US, it's been successful only about 20% of the time, Germany and Japan being obvious.

Quick summary, the latter point very Hayekian:

1) Lack of percieved legitimacy

2) Lack of knowledge of informal institutions

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