Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? Great-Power Realism, Democratic Peace, and Democratic Internationalism

Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? Great-Power Realism, Democratic Peace, and Democratic Internationalism

Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? Great-Power Realism, Democratic Peace, and Democratic Internationalism

Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy? Great-Power Realism, Democratic Peace, and Democratic Internationalism

Synopsis

As each power vies for its national interests on the world stage, how do its own citizens' democratic interests fare at home? Alan Gilbert speaks to an issue at the heart of current international-relations debate. He contends that, in spite of neo-realists' assumptions, a vocal citizen democracy can and must have a role in global politics. Further, he shows that all the major versions of realism and neo-realism, if properly stated with a view of the national interest as a common good, surprisingly lead to democracy. His most striking example focuses on realist criticisms of the Vietnam War.

Democratic internationalism, as Gilbert terms it, is really the linking of citizens' interests across national boundaries to overcome the antidemocratic actions of their own governments. Realist misinterpretations have overlooked Thucydides' theme about how a democracy corrupts itself through imperial expansion as well as Karl Marx's observations about the positive effects of democratic movements in one country on events in others. Gilbert also explodes the democratic peace myth that democratic states do not wage war on one another. He suggests i

Excerpt

The government itself, which is the only mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable [with the standing army] to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

(Henry Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”)

It is easy to say—and often is said—that we cannot have tolerable relations with the new revolutionary regimes. the problem is that our anti-communist paranoia has made it impossible to find out. We do not know whether Mao's declared interest in a relationship with the Americans in the 1940s or Ho Chi Minh's were sincere. and the reason we don't know is that we never tried to find out. Those who reported it was a possibility were hounded out of the foreign service because of our suspicion and fear of communism. the legacy of that era brings to mind Ivan the Terrible's practice of murdering the bearer of bad news. We are more civilized than that: we have been content simply to ruin people's careers.

(J. William Fulbright, The Price of Empire)

This poisonous thing I'm trying to describe is [a] characteristic way of dealing with criticism. It used to be enough to brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away. Now we need only to call him a liberal. Soon “moderate” will be the M word, “conservative” will be the C word and only fascists will be in the mainstream.

(E. L. Doctorow, Brandeis commencement, May 21, 1989) . . .

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