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Testing The Limits Of "The Blueprint."

In recent weeks, the world has seen a subtle domino effect of pro-democracy demonstrations, some more meaningful than others.

Heartened by the march of freedom around the world, dissidents living under fear societies are now asserting themselves. When opposition groups are supported by the international community, particularly the American president and his administration, there is very little (short of physical brutalization of the opposition) that an unrepresentative government can do to halt the inertia of democracy.

Click for larger map (a sizeable .pdf):

There is an arc of tyranny spanning across much of the globe, and notwithstanding the amazing progress of freedom over the past few decades, the most important work remains ahead of us. Freedom House explains (.pdf):

At mid-century, there were 22 democracies accounting for 31 percent of the world population and a further 21 states with restricted democratic practices, accounting for 11.9 percent of the globe’s population.

By the close of our century liberal and electoral democracies clearly predominate, and have expanded significantly in the Third Wave, which has brought democracy to much of the post-Communist world and to Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa. Electoral democracies now represent 120 of the 192 existing countries and constitute 62.5 percent of the world’s population.

The progress over the past few decades has been stunning, there is still much work that remains. But, as President Bush noted in his Second Inaugural Address:

We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

The idea that the arc of tyranny is dangerous to world stability and therefore must receive a sturdy shake-up, an injection of liberty, from the United States, has transformed American foreign policy from one of strict adherence to realpolitik and stability for its own sake, to a more moral, long-term outlook. In the short run, America can buy off dictators to support our geostrategic aims, but that kind of policy leads to dependence and resentment over the long run, breeding extremism and hostility toward the U.S.

The Bush Doctrine, then, transformed long-standing American foreign policy operations. America is now betting on democracy as the cure for what ails the arc of tyranny.

As President Bush continues his drive for democracy all over the globe, critics of that policy believe that a potential side-effect of free elections is a democratically-elected extremist government, populated by America-hating fundamentalists and jihadis. The United States, then, would have created a monster. A legitimate government, of the people, which promptly diverts the full resources of the state to sponsor terrorism, or perhaps even institutes Shar'ia law, would be a nightmare for America and a significant setback to the advance of freedom around the world.

In Lebanon, for example, the American left quickly declared that, if Syria leaves Lebanon, Hizbollah would fill that power vacuum and make things far worse for the United States than the status quo.

"Way to go, Smirky McChimpHitler, you idiot..." was the attitude of pundits like Molly Ivins and Juan Cole on the day of Hizbollah's sizeable rally in Beirut.

Fortunately for lovers of freedom, the few hundred thousand strong Hizbollah rally in Beirut was dwarfed by well over a million of liberty-loving Lebanese just days later.

For the American left, which is now almost utterly devoid of any kind of moral clarity or idealism, bad news and setbacks in countries struggling for freedom prove their point that the "neocons" are a bunch of lunatics; good news in places like Lebanon might mean that Bush was right all along on that whole "spread of liberty" thing. Many of today's left-wing intellectuals seem pathologically reluctant to accept that the world can change for the better because of American words and actions; freedom spreading in the Middle East and elsewhere under (or, even worse, BECAUSE OF) a Republican president does not compute.

Publius Pundit offers some keen analysis on just how difficult democracy (a process, not an event) will be in Egypt, a nation percolating with fundamentalism, much of which is incited by the official media of the Mubarak regime (as we've noted here).

Publius Pundit's Kirk H. Sowell explains the stakes in Egypt:

...if there is a free election and the Muslim Brotherhood does win, the world could face its first democratically-elected terroristic government - since 1933.

Much of the spread of democracy depends upon a sort of still-being-drawn "blueprint." This "blueprint," which we've commented on here, here, here, and here, is not one-size-fits-all, nor is it codified. Right now, "the blueprint" is in BETA testing; the bugs are still being worked out.

But some of "the blueprint" is somewhat intuitive:

1. There must be a peaceful opposition force committed to the cause of free and fair elections.

The opposition cannot simply want to take power for themselves under the same rules, they must be committed to structural reform.

2. The opposition must effectively brand and market its cause to the people.

At demonstrations, it is a good idea to have a unified color and/or slogan, as well as attractive women, kids, and families on display for the international media.

3. The international community must support, if only rhetorically, the cause of the opposition.

Gene Sharp, in "Bringing Down a Dictator," describes more of "the blueprint," and factors that increase success:

* The clear determination of the issues and the selection of achievable objectives and careful assessment of the conflict situation, including the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides and then the dependencies between the two sides;

* Wise planning of how the non-violent is to be conducted; that is, the development of a realistic strategy for the conflict in the face of the opponents — people also talk about strategy, but not everybody who does knows much about it.

* Building on the strengths of the non-violent group in focusing their action on the weaknesses of the opponents, which are really there, believe it or not, especially relating the dependence of the opponents on the non-violent group, which is at present makes the opponent subject to the influence of non-cooperation.

* Aggravating pre-existing weaknesses of the opposing group, because they're never as strong as they tell you they are;

* Ability and willingness of the non-violent group to act in a disciplined way and to apply the planned strategy despite the opponent's repression, which among other things means non-violent discipline, but not passivity, discipline in continuing resistance.

* And, lastly, the action in accordance with the knowledge of how non-violent struggle operates and what makes it succeed and fail, and there are others. But probably the most difficult of these factors for groups to achieve is the development of a wise strategy for the struggle.

"The blueprint" worked wonders in Ukraine last year, following a rigged election in which the old, corrupt regime remained in power at the expense of reform-minded candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's new Prime Minister believes "the blueprint" is worth giving a shot in other countries. In a recent interview, she told Ukrainian and Georgian journalists:

I am sure that your president and our president will share the wonderful experience of our revolutions with other nations that would also like to live in freedom.


Another challenge to "the blueprint" could come in places like Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Bahrain, Iran, and elsewhere.

The challenges include everything from a lack of international media attention, to a disorganized opposition, to the brutality of the regimes. Some freedom-loving groups may not be fully aware of the blueprint or have the resources to implement it. Some opposition groups, such as Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, may not really desire freedom at all.

The United States may not yet have the resources to devote even adequate rhetorical assistance, let alone "blueprint" training, to dozens of democratic movements in diverse cultures, all around the world, simultaneously.

Democracy requires the respect for the rule of law and a long-term commitment to fairness and reform; this "fourth wave" of democratization we're seeing has the potential to usher in the dismantling of the arc of tyranny, leading to a higher level of global peace and prosperity than ever imagined. As key cogs in that purple arc, such as Iraq, emerge into the light of free markets and free people, neighboring populations will assuredly demand and assert liberty for themselves.

But we must also be aware that there will be setbacks along the way, and one major setback has the potential to derail the string of ongoing successes. Keeping the inertia of democracy going is the responsibility of free nations everywhere.

WILLisms.com will continue to follow "the blueprint" where and when we see it, so stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 March 2005 12:10 PM


Staying tuned! I hope you read all of Gene Sharp's work. It's basically what the entire organized resistence movements are based on in eastern Europe.

Posted by: Robert Mayer at March 28, 2005 11:37 PM

I came to your site accidentially, but found it very good to read. Thanks.

Posted by: uma at March 31, 2005 02:54 AM