This post is the last part of a short series reflecting upon Democracy, especially its link to war, in the framework of current events (Syria, Egypt, the “Arab Awakening,” the European and American opposition movements). If you have missed the beginning, the first post can be read here and the second one here.
In this post we shall finish investigating the second level of analysis of the Kantian framework, i.e. how states in their relationships with one another and also with their citizens should behave in their pursuit of democracy and if this leads to war or not, as could happen in the case of Syria, and finally look at the third level, humankind.
The states in their relations with one another and in their relations to their citizens (2)
Having to face the difficulty to pursue democracy in a war-prone and unlawful international environment, despite the imperative necessity to try solving this problem in terms of international law (see last post), states having embraced democratic principles might be tempted to intervene in the affairs of other states to push them on the democratic path.
Such an action is what is decried by Morgenthau as sentimentalist, and dangerous, because it is blindly committed to a single moral value. From it stems one of the three failures of liberalism “in guiding foreign policy outside the liberal world” that Doyle identified: “imprudent vehemence.” Such covert or open interventionism does not respect the democratic principles. The 5th preliminary article of Perpetual Peace is very clear about it:
“5. No state shall forcibly interfere in the constitution and government of another state” (p. 96)
Even without this article, how might a state genuinely committed to “negative freedom” (a freedom limited by the freedom of others so that “the freedom of each can coexist with the freedom of all the others.” see post 1 ft 8) interfere with the freedom of others? Such interventionism is despotism not republicanism. Furthermore, states that find themselves on a less advanced stage of democracy or not committed at all to its principles, would resent acutely this despotism, grow insecure, and walk the “path of war” all the more easily that they have no institutional restraints, as, for example, show the perpetual tension and crises between DPRK and most of the world. If such war-prone failures of liberal states are evident, they do not stem from a pursuit of democracy but from a lack of pursuit of its principles.
The second failure Doyle underlined, “careless and supine complaisance”, is denied by the active pursuit of democratic principles, which implies, as seen above, a real commitment to international law and its enforcement.
Note that immoral economic actions from democratic states, either in the sense of intervention, or in the sense of careless complaisance can produce similar effects in terms of rising insecurity and calcification of differences. This might account partly for the third failure described by Doyle as “the moral ambiguity of the liberal principles which govern the international distribution of property.”
The difficulties met by those states who truly pursue democracy must not be underestimated. As Russett points out, “Non-cooperative strategies typically force cooperative strategies to become non-cooperative.” The failure of the appeasement policy of Great Britain and France towards Hitler’s Germany, and the final recourse to war is an example of this phenomenon. As a matter of fact, a true obedience to democratic principles threatens those states that deny their rights to their “subjects,” because a doubt is cast on the legitimacy of their attitude. It is not the legitimacy of the state, per se – except if acting purely from expediency – which is questioned, but the way state power is exerted.
The door is open here to more future wars for the short and medium term: on the contrary from individuals, a state cannot use passive resistance if aggressed or witnessing aggression as it has to protect the life and freedom of its own citizens, as well as the principles of international rights.
This explains why the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 was a conundrum for the international society of states: all, including Russia and China, knew that an action that was questioning international law (“since 1968, Syria has been a party to the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of War, better known as the Geneva Protocol.” (Zilinskas, National Interest, 6 August 2012) and thus order, could not be allowed to remain unsanctioned. However, the absence of direct evidence regarding the perpetrator, as well as the existence of two governments representing Syria in terms of international legitimacy (Bashar al Assad on the one hand for Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, and, on the other, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces recognized by many Arab and Western nations) made any armed intervention almost impossible internationally, as one side or the other would then look at it as an aggression on Syria, that would in turn need to be sanctioned, leading potentially to a world war. Hence, the use Russia made of US Secretary of State Kerry’s comment, transforming it in a practical and actionable – however complex and difficult – strategy, according to which “the Bashar al-Assad regime could avoid a strike by “agreeing to give up his chemical weapons” (for a resume see Gordon and Lee Myers, New York Times, 9 September 2013, among others), was an extremely smart move, which took the whole international order out of a very dangerous quagmire. Arab and Western nations will certainly pay the utmost attention to the way the whole matter is handled, all the more so because any international document signed with one side of the Syrian conflict, here the Bashar al-Assad regime, could enhance anew its international legitimacy.
The hope to reduce these wars linked to the duty states have to intervene in some cases, is to see the non-democratic states embracing democratic principles. This will be caused either by the fear rulers have to be overthrown, if the state is Hobbesian, or by the cosmopolitan forces, as we shall see below.
Human beings being what they are, morally autonomous but also self-interested, rational but also emotional and above all fallible, how can democratic states protect themselves from a slow and insidious fall towards a lessened commitment to democratic principles, as well as from being used and abused by “political moralists” (“i.e. one who fashions his morality to suit his own advantage as a statesman”), with disastrous consequences for interstate relationships and for the democratic principles themselves? Democratic states must also pursue democratic principles internally. As democratic principles are grounded in the freedom and moral capability of the individual, states must help their citizens develop these capabilities. They must contribute to educate them and give them the possibility to progress toward an “enlightened” state. “Political moralists”, as well as those who believe that individuals are untrustworthy and sinful, have no (real) interest in promoting such public right to enlightenment. Yet, ultimately, they do not have much choice: as seen previously, to promote a “Hobbesian world” is to allow oneself to be overthrown by force. This casts an interesting light on ideas and theories of “neo-medievalism”. For example, fortified neighborhood in California or elsewhere, where people begin to refuse to pay their taxes, the widespread internal violence – including rising inequality, economic insecurity and poverty – known by democratic states, the multiple protests movements, can be seen as stemming from a genuine or willed forgetfulness by the states and their citizens of the democratic principles.
The cosmopolitan level
This is the level of humankind. Here are located the reasons for progress, the sense of history, the notion of providence and of “nature’s secret design,” as all of them concern humanity as a whole.
First, Kant assumes – and hopes – that there is an aim for the existence of the human race. This is the “cosmopolitan goal,” i.e. the development of all natural capacities. Because this goal exists, because nature has a purpose, nature will have a purposeful activity:
“Although we are too short-sighted to perceive the hidden mechanism of nature’s scheme, this idea may serve as a guide to us in representing an otherwise planless aggregate of human actions, as conforming, at least when considered as a whole, to a system.”
Second, the human species can only progress towards this goal if “an internally and externally perfect political constitution” (i.e. embodying perfectly the democratic principles) is implemented.
Thus, to achieve its goal, Nature will compel us through its mechanism to enter such a constitution. Henceforth democracy is also pursued at the cosmopolitan level. The absence of war stems from the cosmopolitan goal and both are the reasons for the pursuit of this perfect constitution: At the stage of warfare and strife, human beings develop their survival capabilities and only these. Now, the goal is to develop all natural capacities, therefore humanity must reach a stage where war and strife will disappear.
Doyle distinguishes two dynamic paths toward the realisation of this perfect political constitution: the transnational and international paths.
The transnational path is incentive. It includes trade, free communication between human beings, and right to hospitality. Through this cosmopolitan transnational process, non-democratic states will become more and more inclined to embrace democratic principles because of the advantages they procure, especially in the domain of economic development and trade.
The international path is punitive. It operates through war, death and subsequent fear and insecurity. Nuclear deterrence is an example of this punitive systemic force: Human beings have not been wise enough to stop armament races and have increased their destruction power to such a tremendous level that they can now destroy the planet and its species. Nature, by allowing them to create such a power of doom compels them to be wiser, more respectful of others, to obey international laws. Through nuclear deterrence, might becomes wrong.
At each level of analysis, the pursuit of democracy, a real democracy meaning respect of democratic principles and not respect of elections or any superficial attribute, is the key to progressively avoid future wars. However, this path is fraught with difficulties and walking it is a slow process. As human beings are free and morally autonomous, it is ultimately their choice to determine the length and the challenges of their path toward a peaceful future.
 Mac Elroy, Morality and American Foreign policy, p. 24-25.
 Doyle, Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs , p323
 See Doyle Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, quoting Hume p 323 and development pp.337-338.
 ibid p323; and development pp. 338-343. The study of International Political Economy in the light of a normative theoretical framework should be an interesting axis of research.
 Russett, Grasping the democratic Peace, p. 33
 Doyle , Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs p324-325
 It cannot be a global return to embracing non-democratic principles because this would negate the moral autonomy and freedom of human beings.
 Kant, Perpetual Peace, Appendix I, p. 118.
 this is the policy adopted by the modern liberal school, see Mc Elroy. Morality and American Foreign Policy. p.10.
 see Pierre Hassner, “Beyond the Three Traditions: the Philosophy of War and Peace in Historical Perspective,” International Affairs, 1994, 70, 4, pp. 753-754
 Kant, Idea for a Universal History, 9th Proposition, p. 52. This can be seen as an optimistic – but logical in its argument – answer to the distressing eternal question of “Why are we on Earth?”
 Kant Idea for a Universal History, 8th proposition, p.51.
 ibid., see also Kant, Perpetual Peace, First Supplement, pp. 108-114.
 see Doyle Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Second Addition p. 351.
 For this right, see Kant, Perpetual Peace, 3rd Definitive Article, pp. 105-108