The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Bhutto–one more thing….


January 7, 2008

I was listening to the International Hour of the Diane Rehm Show Weekly News Round-Up on podcast while jogging yesterday, and I heard David Ignatius (as noted previously, a friend of Bhutto’s from their Harvard days…) make an interesting point.

He said that we in the US tended to see Bhutto as the future of democracy in Pakistan in large part because she seemed like one of us. Educated at Harvard, fully conversant in Western culture, history, and politics, darling of the media and political establishment, she charmed nearly everyone in Washington she met. But, in practice, she was not all that democratic. She was yet another example of dynasty politics, coming from a great feudal family of Pakistan. She had named herself chairperson of the PPP for life, and was dogged by corruption scandals from both her terms as PM.

His remarks reminded me of the continuing importance of Ido Oren’s critique of the Democratic Peace theory.
Oren concluded that:

The claim that democracies do not fight one another is not about democracies per se; it is better understood as a claim about peace among countries conforming to a subjective ideal that is cast, not surprisingly, in America’s self-image. Democracy is “our kind,” and the coding rules by which it is defined are but the unconscious representations of current American political values. These values are elastic over time, and their historical change is influenced by America’s changing international circumstances. The normative standards embodied in the present definition of democracy were selected by a subtle historical process whereby standards by which America resembled its adversaries have been excluded, while those that maximized the distance between America and its rivals have become privileged. In the process, not only has the perception of friends and adversaries changed, but so has America’s own self-perception. Democracy, therefore, is not a determinant as much as a product of America’s foreign relations. The reason we appear not to fight “our kind” is not that objective likeness substantially affects war propensity, but rather that we subtly redefine “our kind.”

Bhutto was “our kind” in Pakistan.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.