Email Print

R.J. Rummel, scholar of democide whose pro-Bush writings and democratic-peace theorizing have received some attention on this blog (1, 2, 3, 4), now takes aim at Ivan Eland of the Center on Peace and Liberty at The Independent Institute over an article Eland wrote. The problem? Eland “well shows the inadequacies of libertarian thinking on foreign policy” and Eland’s critique of democratic-peace theory has “so much here that is wrong” that Rummel feels as though he’s “grading a sophomore’s essay on foreign policy.” Indeed, as Rummel insists, “the evidence is solid that democracies do not go to war with each other.” (Emphasis mine.) And, as I pointed out about the democratic-peace theory, if you find any counterexample, like World War I, the democratic-peace theorists will simply protest, “that’s not a democracy!” As an example, Rummel says, “Germany in World War I was not a democracy in foreign and military affairs.” Well, I suppose if you define a “democracy” as a government that is not aggressive, “anti-democratic,” and at odds with other democracies in “foreign and military affairs,” it is categorically and tautologically true that democracies don’t fight other democracies. See Eland’s new book, The Empire Has No Clothes, (review by Karen Kwiatkowski here), which has a great chapter analyzing and discrediting the various schools of democratic-peace theory. Also see Rothbard and Hoppe on the importance of not falling into the trap.
Rummel addresses Eland’s points in an odd manner, agreeing and yet disagreeing. In responding to Eland’s point that “newly minted democracies go to war at greater frequency than more autocratic states,” Rummel says, “If you count all war equally, such as involvement in the Boxer Rebellion, or the invasion of Panama, or Grenada, with World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and so on, then this is correct. But, it is a ridiculous way of assessing the involvement of democracies in war. Rather, if you take account of the importance and totality of a war by counting killed, then democracies fight far less violent wars than do nondemocracies.”

I don’t get it. If we don’t count the greatest conflicts of the 20th century, in which “democracies” were quite violent, aggressive and murderous, then we can say that the lesser wars between autocracies render those non-democracies to be more violent? How is World War I, World War II, or Vietnam a “far less violent war” than those typically conducted by two-bit dictatorships?

I do respect the work done by Rummel in the past, but his belief that the Bush administration is some sort of engine of liberty does not add up. Iraq is not a “democracy,” nor is it any better off right now than it was before. Afghanistan is not a “democracy” nor has it been liberated. Nowadays, Rummel seems to have lost much of his libertarianism. How else would you explain his condemnation of Seymour Hersh for the journalist’s heroic exposing of the Bush administration’s vicious warmongering on Iran, and the Bush plans to widen the war? Rummel says that Hersh is “aiding the enemy” and giving the enemy “aid and comfort.” Hersh is guilty of “treasonous revelations.” Unfortunately, in Rummel’s view, “they won’t be dealt with in these terms by the Department of Justice. And, virtually nobody in power will have the political guts to call this treason treason. Apparently, what is needed is a few more 9/11s for the major media to realize fully that we are at WAR.”

3:08 pm on January 20, 2005