Lessons in Forced Democracy
By Shankar Vedantam
September 17, 2007
"Democracy always has skeptics," Bush said. "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were proved wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia."
Since 2003, Bush has rarely mentioned the Philippines. But as the nation debates Gen. David H. Petraeus's recent report on the state of the Iraq war, a new study by political scientists Andrew Enterline and J. Michael Greig shows that the president ought to revisit his analogy.
Bush got some of his historical facts wrong, but his analogy turns out to be unintentionally accurate -- the Philippines is an excellent example of the risks, stakes and odds of imposing democracy on another country. By contrast, the oft-cited success stories of Japan and Germany turn out to be outliers.Enterline and Greig's as yet unpublished study is a detailed examination of 41 cases over about 200 years where one nation has tried to impose democracy on another. As Washington debates the success of the recent U.S. "surge" in Iraq, the study offers a sobering glimpse of the big picture -- not the odds that the Iraqi insurgency will go up or down, but the odds that a stable democracy will emerge in the country.
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