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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:01 am 
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broken iris wrote:
stip wrote:
a slightly longer, but still real quick response since i am heading off to class

Democratic transitions are messy and take time. It took the United States three iterations and a civil war, numerous riots, rebellions, bloodshed, murder, and 70+ years to work the kinks out. It is going to be even harder in an area where the secular political traditions and organizations were largely suppressed by strongmen supported by the democratic west. Democratic politics requires strong civil organizations, and in many of these countries the only game in town is currently religious ones. Of course those groups will dominate right now (either in terms of electoral politics or in terms of general social influence). They're often the only game in town. That doesn't mean that there aren't other traditions and groups that can be encouraged, developed, or built. But they're not there yet. Expecting them to be fully functioning, fully stable democracies within a year or two is nuts.

Of course it is also possible that these countries may democratically CHOOSE to be religiously conservative (as many parts of our country unfortunately choose). That doesn't make them undemocratic. It may not make them allies, and it won't make them philosophically liberal (which sucks), but I'm much more concerned about those trends and tendencies at home.


Yeah, so you are right, I was wrong. Technically, democracy is nothing more than people voting.


And who are we to question the results of that process unless Stip disagrees with it?

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:02 am 
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broken iris wrote:
stip wrote:
a slightly longer, but still real quick response since i am heading off to class

Democratic transitions are messy and take time. It took the United States three iterations and a civil war, numerous riots, rebellions, bloodshed, murder, and 70+ years to work the kinks out. It is going to be even harder in an area where the secular political traditions and organizations were largely suppressed by strongmen supported by the democratic west. Democratic politics requires strong civil organizations, and in many of these countries the only game in town is currently religious ones. Of course those groups will dominate right now (either in terms of electoral politics or in terms of general social influence). They're often the only game in town. That doesn't mean that there aren't other traditions and groups that can be encouraged, developed, or built. But they're not there yet. Expecting them to be fully functioning, fully stable democracies within a year or two is nuts.

Of course it is also possible that these countries may democratically CHOOSE to be religiously conservative (as many parts of our country unfortunately choose). That doesn't make them undemocratic. It may not make them allies, and it won't make them philosophically liberal (which sucks), but I'm much more concerned about those trends and tendencies at home.


Yeah, so you are right, I was wrong. Technically, democracy is nothing more than people voting.


well democracy is just people voting, but democracy as a moral ideal is a lot more complicated. My point is just that people expecting full blown, fully functional and modern liberal democracies springing up out of nowhere is absurd. Ours didn't, after all, and we were more effectively primed for it. My reaction was to the 'welp, they didn't get it right immediately so they (a-rabs) must not be capable of self government undertones to some of these posts'

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:03 am 
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LittleWing wrote:
broken iris wrote:
stip wrote:
a slightly longer, but still real quick response since i am heading off to class

Democratic transitions are messy and take time. It took the United States three iterations and a civil war, numerous riots, rebellions, bloodshed, murder, and 70+ years to work the kinks out. It is going to be even harder in an area where the secular political traditions and organizations were largely suppressed by strongmen supported by the democratic west. Democratic politics requires strong civil organizations, and in many of these countries the only game in town is currently religious ones. Of course those groups will dominate right now (either in terms of electoral politics or in terms of general social influence). They're often the only game in town. That doesn't mean that there aren't other traditions and groups that can be encouraged, developed, or built. But they're not there yet. Expecting them to be fully functioning, fully stable democracies within a year or two is nuts.

Of course it is also possible that these countries may democratically CHOOSE to be religiously conservative (as many parts of our country unfortunately choose). That doesn't make them undemocratic. It may not make them allies, and it won't make them philosophically liberal (which sucks), but I'm much more concerned about those trends and tendencies at home.


Yeah, so you are right, I was wrong. Technically, democracy is nothing more than people voting.


And who are we to question the results of that process unless Stip disagrees with it?



That is not an argument I have ever made, ever would made, or is even semi plausibly derived from anything I've ever said

you could save yourself a lot of time if instead of just posting text you just used :waah:

you could indicate the intensity of your :waah: by the number you use.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:03 am 
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Have you ever been to the Middle East Stip?

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:08 am 
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LittleWing wrote:
Have you ever been to the Middle East Stip?


I have, but as part of a cruise vacation, so not really.

Before you go down the road you are about to travel, have you ever worked for an educational institution? If not, I would advise you to stop commenting in the teaching/education thread?


Have you ever worked for a financial institution? If not I'd stop posting in the various financial threads.

Are you a doctor or do you work for a health insurance provider? If not I'd stop posting in the healthcare thread.

You do own guns, so you're good to go there.

Your personal experiences, while potentially interesting and possibly illuminating, remain your personal experiences, and probably not the basis for broad sweeping generalizations.

Or did I misunderstand where you were going with this?

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:23 am 
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stip wrote:
LittleWing wrote:
Have you ever been to the Middle East Stip?


I have, but as part of a cruise vacation, so not really.

Before you go down the road you are about to travel, have you ever worked for an educational institution? If not, I would advise you to stop commenting in the teaching/education thread?


Have you ever worked for a financial institution? If not I'd stop posting in the various financial threads.

Are you a doctor or do you work for a health insurance provider? If not I'd stop posting in the healthcare thread.

You do own guns, so you're good to go there.

Your personal experiences, while potentially interesting and possibly illuminating, remain your personal experiences, and probably not the basis for broad sweeping generalizations.

Or did I misunderstand where you were going with this?


I was just wondering if you had ever been the middle east. That's all.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:31 am 
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You know Stip, I could be completely off the mark, but I typically get the feeling that you derive your political opinions from a complete absence of experience.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:09 am 
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My personal experiences do not cover the range of political and social and policy and philosophic issues I have opinions about. As is the case for, well, every human being ever. For instance, you do not shy away from criticizing Obama, even though, if we're going to base our thoughts on personal experience, it is really only Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Bush Sr/Jr who have the grounds to do so.

On the other hand my opinions are almost always based on the research and considered thought of people who do have experience, or chronicle the aggregate experiences of many people who do (which is what is really important). Because the problem with personal experience is that it is unique to the person and anecdotal. It is potentially useful in an illustrative fashion, but because of its uniqueness, not necessarily a good basis for making larger claims.

I am (I believe) normally pretty careful in also indicating, when i am advancing an opinion, throwing up a disclaimer when it is an issue I am not well read in, to indicate that any conclusion I am drawing is both tentative and much more open to challenge.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:22 am 
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That kind of leaves you open to selection bias though. I was simply wondering if you had been there AND still carried these opinions that go well with the Skepticism thread if I do say so myself...

You are more than free to think what you want of a place you've never directly experienced.

I have, on many occasions, especially during the wars, stated that everyone should be able to comment on the military. And I never wrapped myself around the whole, "I'm in the military and I know all about it, so you can't criticize it."

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:26 am 
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LittleWing wrote:
That kind of leaves you open to selection bias though. I was simply wondering if you had been there AND still carried these opinions that go well with the Skepticism thread if I do say so myself...

You are more than free to think what you want of a place you've never directly experienced.

I have, on many occasions, especially during the wars, stated that everyone should be able to comment on the military. And I never wrapped myself around the whole, "I'm in the military and I know all about it, so you can't criticize it."



There is always a risk of selection bias. But there's always a risk of experiential bias as well, as someone's personal direct experience is unique to them and not necessarily accurate grounds to base a larger impression on. If my wife cheated on me that would obviously sour my experience of marriage, but it doesn't mean all spouses cheat, and I should be wary of drawing that conclusion.

The key to any of this stuff is being willing to question whatever conclusions you've drawn, being open to other arguments, and trying to make sure that the stuff you are reading is of high quality in the first place. Obviously the more comprehensively you've studied something the more confident you can probably be about your opinions.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:32 am 
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I've spent nearly two years of my life in various Middle Eastern countries, and I hate it when people say, "you were there, what do you think?".

I'm pretty sure there are people who study Mid-east politics/economics/religion that have never been there that are far more educated and knowledgeable about the region than I ever care to be.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:33 am 
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I think I added an extra period in that first sentence. Sorry.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:44 am 
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I was really enjoying that post until the extra period.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:59 pm 
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is this somehow the jews fault?

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:00 pm 
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stip wrote:
broken iris wrote:
Yeah, so you are right, I was wrong. Technically, democracy is nothing more than people voting.


well democracy is just people voting, but democracy as a moral ideal is a lot more complicated. My point is just that people expecting full blown, fully functional and modern liberal democracies springing up out of nowhere is absurd. Ours didn't, after all, and we were more effectively primed for it. My reaction was to the 'welp, they didn't get it right immediately so they (a-rabs) must not be capable of self government undertones to some of these posts'


No one but the US Government and the talking heads on TV think the democracy works just like it does in the US as soon as people get purple dye on their index fingers. But there are people, myself included, that believe that there are certain cultural prerequisites to a functioning (liberal, pluralist) democracy that did not exist in the Arab Spring countries prior to the introduction of democracy there, chief amongst them being a separation of church and state. This is not a consequence of them being "a-rab", whatever that means, but a consequence of Islam being better at directing political structure than any of the other major religions in the world.

Now you can say that we ('Merica, fuck yeah) did not get it right for the first few decades either and suffered some of the same issues, and I would agree, but the American Revolution, French Revolution, etc, happened in a world that was radically different than what we have today. Post WWI technology, information systems, communication systems, and weaponry mean that the consequences civil wars are not isolated to the countries experiencing them and thus nations that assume leadership roles, such as the US, need to step back and ask if a country is ready for the societal burdens of liberal democracy before supporting revolutions in countries that don't meet the pre-reqs. We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies and constant interference in other country's internal business is one of the reasons America's reputation around the world has gone to shit.

Or maybe it's all just food prices.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:49 pm 
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broken iris wrote:
stip wrote:
broken iris wrote:
Yeah, so you are right, I was wrong. Technically, democracy is nothing more than people voting.


well democracy is just people voting, but democracy as a moral ideal is a lot more complicated. My point is just that people expecting full blown, fully functional and modern liberal democracies springing up out of nowhere is absurd. Ours didn't, after all, and we were more effectively primed for it. My reaction was to the 'welp, they didn't get it right immediately so they (a-rabs) must not be capable of self government undertones to some of these posts'


No one but the US Government and the talking heads on TV think the democracy works just like it does in the US as soon as people get purple dye on their index fingers. But there are people, myself included, that believe that there are certain cultural prerequisites to a functioning (liberal, pluralist) democracy that did not exist in the Arab Spring countries prior to the introduction of democracy there, chief amongst them being a separation of church and state. This is not a consequence of them being "a-rab", whatever that means, but a consequence of Islam being better at directing political structure than any of the other major religions in the world.


Well it is certainly true that we need to accept that the democracies that emerge from these countries may be more religiously oriented than hours, but you are also certainly downgrading the potential for modern pluralist democracies in these countries, in part because all the post WWI modern communication technologies, etc. make it harder to maintain a closed religious theocracy. What those regions need is time and support for civil organizations to grow and mature and offer a countervailing presence to religious conservatism. They may not be successful, obviously. But it's a bit early to call the experiment a failure.


broken iris wrote:
Now you can say that we ('Merica, fuck yeah) did not get it right for the first few decades either and suffered some of the same issues, and I would agree, but the American Revolution, French Revolution, etc, happened in a world that was radically different than what we have today. Post WWI technology, information systems, communication systems, and weaponry mean that the consequences civil wars are not isolated to the countries experiencing them and thus nations that assume leadership roles, such as the US, need to step back and ask if a country is ready for the societal burdens of liberal democracy before supporting revolutions in countries that don't meet the pre-reqs. We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies and constant interference in other country's internal business is one of the reasons America's reputation around the world has gone to shit.


you're certainly right in that we need to ask ourselves whether or not we want to invest time and resources into this stuff, and balance moral and strategic obligations. But not all interferences are created equal either. The decline in US soft power is not related to our support for fledgling democracies.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:08 pm 
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broken iris wrote:
We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies...


You don't REALLY think that we get involved in these things because of a "moral obligation", do you?

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:46 pm 
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track12 wrote:
broken iris wrote:
We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies...


You don't REALLY think that we get involved in these things because of a "moral obligation", do you?

see -- most of Central Africa

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:52 pm 
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Rebar wrote:
track12 wrote:
broken iris wrote:
We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies...


You don't REALLY think that we get involved in these things because of a "moral obligation", do you?

see -- most of Central Africa


Oh, certainly the US (and others) DO sometimes help for purely humanitarian reasons (although often not nearly enough). But I don't see the relevance to a discussion of the Arab spring.

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 Post subject: Re: The Arab Spring
PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:57 am 
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track12 wrote:
Rebar wrote:
track12 wrote:
broken iris wrote:
We have no moral obligation to support fledgling democracies...


You don't REALLY think that we get involved in these things because of a "moral obligation", do you?

see -- most of Central Africa


Oh, certainly the US (and others) DO sometimes help for purely humanitarian reasons (although often not nearly enough). But I don't see the relevance to a discussion of the Arab spring.

Moral obligation is certainly part of it. "National interests" are fuzzy, and their determination is driven by various forces: business interests, academics, pundit/elite opinion, politicians, unelected officials (military and civilian), public opinion; all of which are mediated by institutional structures (political and economic), the structure of the international system and threats present within it (or the perception of these), and business cycles.

If we look at the intervention in Libya, what factors and actors played the largest roles? I'd argue they were elite opinion, elected officials (on both the right and left), and unelected civilians. Gates (Civilian but DoD) didn't think Libya represented a core national interest. Samantha Powers (civilian unelected official) seemed to have an influence, promoting the responsibility to protect, a moral imperative. A number of pundits and academics argued similarly. Additionally, some said we needed to stop Qaddafi to show other dictators they couldn't just crush rebellions--to make sure the Arab Spring could flourish and to make other dictators think twice before using force against protestors, which combines a strategic logic with a moral one (since dictatorship is bad, helping civilians overthrow it in more places is good). This was accompanied by analyses of the viability of an intervention. Many analyses noted the favorable conditions for a NATO air campaign that could minimize civilian casualties as well as risk to NATO forces.

Ok, you might ask: If the moral case was so compelling, why haven't we intervened in Bahrain or Syria? We depend on Bahrain for a naval base in the Gulf, and here strategic imperatives overruled moral ones, especially given US troops in Iraq through the end of 2011 and continued high tensions with Iran (and we probably did worry about Iranian influence taking hold in Bahrain if the regime fell). As for Syria, this is something I wrote a while back on the difficulties of intervention in Syria, and I think a lot of it still stands as valid, even if in a more ideal world it would be nice to help overthrow Assad.

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