Sunday, August 24, 2008

What is this all about?

I've gotten a number of emails essentially asking how this all works. Below is a quick review, but I'd encourage you to review the sample chapter.

The DPM will use all those environmental conditions to predict an individual’s Democratic Proclivity score. It is certainly true that Democracy needs a conducive environment to flourish. As I collect Proclivity scores from people around the world, I’m also collecting self-reported environmental data. When I put the model together, I will correlate the actual Proclivity scores with environmental data (both self-reported environmental data and more objective data). Eventually I should be able to predict based on environmental data how likely it is that one individual will support a democratic rule of law, speak out against democratic reforms, actively participate in democratic coups, etc.

Of course I believe that we can manipulate certain variables to artificially increase Democratic Proclivity (e.g. Conditioning Democracy—creating positive democratic experiences for people; democratic education—teaching correct democratic practice and theory; etc. etc.)…

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Condition Georgia?

As Georgia has grown more Westernized and leaned closer and closer to the leaning tower of NATO, many analysts think that Georgia's people were believed, erroneously, that they lived under the shadow of NATO's veil of protection. Now of course it has been made clear that the protection of the West extended not far beyond angry rhetoric. Not quite part of the liberalized elite circle, but not terribly far from it, Georgians must no doubt be suffering from a biting disappointment.

In a burgeoning democratic state, the support of the people for Democracy might likely be on the fringe after such a disappointment. It is not hard to imagine how disappointment might turn to bitterness, doubt, and potentially anger. Is this "mission critical" time to (re)capture the hearts and minds of a beacon of Caucasus Democracy? I believe that, indeed, this might represent an opportunity to put into action a Civil Psychology mission to Condition Democracy in the nation...

Any thoughts?

P.S. the picture is of marauding Russian warrior statues above the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg

Greg's Warnings

Thanks to Greg in Sweeden who sent me a great email regarding both operational information and thoughts about the major project concepts!
On SORM-2 "...It is a sort of equivalent to the Echelon system in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All ISPs, by law, must give all encryption codes to the FSB and a number of other law enforcement agencies..."

Greg (an expert on Russian media) also warned me that Russians "hate" the word Democracy: "So much so that in the 2003-4 election cycle it disappeared from the rhetoric of most of the parties. The party that stuck with the democracy message was decimated in the elections. It has been used and misused for a while now, there is an association with the 'Shock Therapy' economic programme, which has deeply hurt many ordinary Russians. They hate the word, prior to this democracy was more associated with the ability to consume, buy and choose goods and services."

I wonder whether my research will support this line of thinking... I question whether an analysis of the state-controlled media can accurately reflect the feelings of individuals (especially with the heavy misuse of the word). I think that the DPS analysis of Democratic concepts independent of the word "Democracy" will be especially critical here.

Overcoming the SORM-2 system might prove challenging. I suppose that much is dependent on whether the ISP gets tagged to be checked. They can't possibly review ALL of the data being sent on Russian servers,

could they?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia's Conflict of Interest-Georgia

The Black Sea silhouettes some of the Balkans' most beautiful raw nature. The gateway to the Mediterranean provides natural resources—everything from a ssplendorous beach environment to sustenance—to the oil-rich surrounding area. Now the idyllic waterway shadows a nation in turmoil, a region of growing uncertainty, and international trouble ahead. Not more than 700 miles from my earlier destination of Kazan and only a few miles from the tourist mecca, Sochi, Georgia has exploded into the international spotlight. It’s neighbors Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia; an arm’s reach from Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Romania, and the Ukraine. Suffice it to say that the area is in the middle of a strategically important, hotly contested region.

Now with the burgeoning number of scholars, diplomats, students, and professionals reading the blog and emailing me, I will address the issue a little bit on the blog for everyone. You can get the latest updates (and really great links) from the Georgia Ministry of Foreign Affairs blog. This has proved a reliable source of direct information from Georgia amid possible cyberattacks. With everything happening so fast over there, I most want to focus on one thing: the conditions for Russian people to accept the actions of their government. Things are getting scarier in Russia. Have you heard any Russian media criticizing the Russian response to Georgia? I have not—and I’ve looked and asked around. A lot. No criticism from Russian NGO’s or from any other Russian source. I do not find this surprising for today’s Russia, but this is important to recognize. No matter how united any Western Democracy stands on an issue, there is always some public criticism. But Russia has no independent media and no independently elected governors. Perhaps we are witnessing some of the first internationally visible signs of this.

What’s more, there is little clamoring for more openness. The government under Putin has consistently moved more authoritarian, and the Russian people have put up with it. There are very few elements of modern Democracy left in Russia. The country may call itself a Democracy, but there are fewer and fewer political structures to support this. Without public demand, independent media will never return to Russia. Without a nation of high Democratic Propensity (conditions which promote citizens’ Democratic Proclivity), I believe the nation will continue to revert. Without citizens who desire Democracy, Democracy will not return. It doesn't seem like Russian universities are helping, but what’s certain is that there is more scariness to come as power shifts more in the hands of the few.

It starts now—although it never should have stopped—Russia needs democratization. Democratization is a battle inside the minds of people as much as it is a battle over the presidency or a capital city. Democracy needs a guerrilla warrior and guerrilla tactics in an area overcome with non-democratic circumstances. And before you question the desires of Russian people, do not let racism take hold of you: Russian people are not somehow a different “class” of people that want entirely different things than other people. Underlying all of our differences is a common desire—the desire for freedom and peace.

P.S. the picture is "The Death of Socrates" found in a St. Petersburg art museum

Current Reading and Responses

Publicly responding to a few email comments: I've added the Psychohistory link and I'm interested in the potential contributions of this line of research to the DPM. Also I've added the Political Psychology Research, Inc. link. They have some very interesting publications. Now you can review the complete sample chapter. This should answer a lot of questions I've been posed. If you still have questions, consider posting them as comments instead of emails so everyone can hear the answers.
If you are interested in helping to administer the DPS, please email me. I'm trying to establish enough scores for a baseline.
In a couple days I will offer a lot of criticism of the current attempts (by the IRI, Pew Center, and others) to measure any kind of Democracy "endorsement."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Worldwide Readers: Conditioning Democracy

The Conditioning Democracy readership is growing daily. Many of you have responded to the emails I've sent you, and many thanks for your expressions of support. And for those that have not yet responded: I've contacted you based on your demonstrated expertise and potential interest in Operational Psychology for Civil Society. Remember the blog is only highlighting the development of this project; for detailed information or to participate in this project email me. So a quick shout-out to the readers in Canada, Peru, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Romania, Israel, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Russia, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and 20 states of the USA!

I want to reduce the length of the DPS. But first I will have to gather DPS scores from a large number of people across the world. I'll establish a baseline of Democratic Proclivity scores of individuals in strong democracies. Then I'll look for strong correlations within the scale and eliminate redundancies…

Mastering the Mission Challenges

Now I want to give you some operational challenges I've run into in Russia's Operation Civil Elixir. All Deliberative Democracy missions for the purpose of Conditioning Democracy share many challenges for Conditioning Democracy. In Russia I battled with one of those—language and cultural differences. Few people anywhere speak English, and outside of major tourist centers like Moscow and St. Petersburg, even fewer. I realize that the operational psychologist with native-level understanding has a significant advantage. But the second-best option I felt was a carefully-trained native data-collector and facilitator. Fortunately, I have much experience training facilitators (for more on why facilitated discussion is absolutely essential to operations, see the sample chapter)… Of course, there are a wide variety of challenges in training facilitators with little democratic experience in an environment that discourages the development of democracy. For instance, successfully teaching a young Russian facilitator to balance a conversation—particularly between the sexes & between older and younger participants—proves akin to teaching a new language. Besides language, challenges include relating democracy concepts with DD programs, promoting programs for increasing participation, maintaining DPS improvements over time, institutionalization of DD programs (and many others).

Administering the DPS is crucial to mission success. In order to measure the success of a DD program, you've got to measure proclivity before and after participation. Currently the DPS is 15 pages long. So I must convince people who are already putting time and potentially safety on the line by participating in Deliberative Democracy to fill out this questionnaire. Twice. Not an easy task. Exporting scores out of the country is another challenge, but one more easily overcome with Google docs… I worry about the monitoring of internet activity: is it better to use a privately-owned computer at a flat or an internet cafĂ©. All the internet is state controlled but still this question depends at least partially on another question: which to fear more—the FSB or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? In any case, small-scale work done on a tourist visa I doubt will attract much attention in Russia. Looking ahead to other countries—Cuba, Iran, China, etc.—I worry more.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Finding the Center (w/ pics)

To understand what it's like for people in a country, you usually look for the middle: What's the median income? What's the average living conditions? What is the typical job? So from one extreme--densely-populated St. Petersburg--to the other--rural village life--I recently found a more middle-of-the-road Russian city, Cheboksary.

Citizens of Cheboksary, capital of the Chuvash Republic, affectionately describe their city as "a very big village." There are very few international tourists here, and both the Russian and Chuvash spirit bind the half-million residents of Cheboksary together. "I see friends every day I go for a walk and every time I shop on the other side of town," a girl told me. Here there is a strong middle, and everyone seems to be together in it. Across Russia now I have begun to see evidence of a strong middle-class. Whatever the numbers say, people in general have access to a wide range of goods and services like America or Western Europe. And similarly, most people may not be able to afford every want and desire, but more than hope for dreams to come true, they are confident that they will get what they want and have everything they will need. This, of course, is relatively new for Russians, and something like the Green Acres family, sometimes Russians persistently desire familiar relics more than modern comforts. Take one ride on the sardine-packed Soviet-era trains and this becomes immediately apparent...

Despite warnings from many Russians now that people in Russia "can't afford" to help strangers, I have noticed a plethora of evidence of civil society in Cheboksary. Below I have two pictures: one of a shopping center
inside which there was a box (second picture)
for donations to support a church. And there was even money inside!

Healthy democracies need a strong middle, and I think that Democracies actually create and maintain their own middle. Can't wait to see what the numbers say the middle thinks about Democracy!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Democratic Village (w/ pics)

The Russian countryside dominates the landscape of the nation. Summer's massive forests, vast green plains, and interwoven waterways starkly contrast the concrete jungle of bustling metropolis centers like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Villages dot this tremendous countryside like cayenne pepper on ice cream and jettison both city conveniences and Western comforts. Some villages without electricity, all without plumbing. The toilet is a hole in the ground. Enter a village banya [transliterated], a separate tiny log building next to the log house. Inside you smoke and steam the sweat from your body to take a shower; use a small pot to pour water on yourself and to rinse your mouth after brushing your teeth (if you choose to do so). The water comes from an open (and rusting) 55 gallon metal drum. There are no shops nearby, so look to the garden for your food. Don't mind the worms, "they're extra protein," I'm told. But let go of your Western preconceptions of luxury--this life is comfortable for the villagers, and it was even comfortable for me. The villagers are friendly and the cuisine delectable. The summertime Russian village vaguely reminds me of the homeyness of Southern country. Certainly this life differs from city life, and we must consider this common yet alternate lifestyle in democratization planning.

More than simply consider the village alternative, I think Civil Psychology Operations can thrive in villages. Somewhat autonomously run, whole villages might be persuaded to utilize and institutionalize Deliberative Democracy. With a widespread level of participation: results could be more quickly implemented, and outcomes should be more appealing to the entire population. The operational challenges are different, but I feel that I have recognized many of them now. The firsthand village experience from an American perspective leaves me confident that I can also overcome them with the ideas that I have developed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Democracy Next to Godliness (w/ pics)

I spent the morning reconnoitering in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tartarstan. A bastion of the Tatar culture, it's a notable departure from Orthodox-culture dominated areas of Russia. Islamic fervor is palpable as the cupola of mosques touch the sky. Arabic and Tatar flood the shops and streets, and even beggars wear Tatar-Islamic clothes. Here in Kazan, Russia melds the cultures of West and Middle East into the gridiron of the suitably unique region. American style crams the Mega-Mall with products in high Russian demand; inside traditional Middle-Eastern hookah lounges blend with Russian cafes and stores, marketing wares in as many different languages.

I spent much of my time with an English-speaking girl, who described Kazan to me in a heavy British accent from a modern Russian's perspective. "Russia is a big place, so of course there must be room for many religions." I remember this phrase in particular because it struck me--only 20 years after state-enforced atheism, there is a sentiment of religious accommodation. Where did this come from?

I imagine that Kazan will likely contain some of the most interesting data. The region calls itself a Republic--the Republic of Tatarstan--but how democratically do people behave? How do people relate their faith, a long imperial tradition, a deeply-rooted culture, and a communist past to a continuing democratic transition? How do they perceive democracy handles the problems associated with the practice of many religions in one big Russia? And what do the people feel is the future of Democracy in the region? O and one more--if Islam works with democracy here, could this area be uniquely suited to function in such a way or could Arabic countries adopt similar structures?

On an operational note--my new friend tells me that Kazan can be a dangerous place for foreigners. I don't doubt her as I creep ever ever closer to the Middle East. I have a few ideas for mission techniques, however, and I have completed the electronic form for recording DPS data online worldwide.

Why Build Foreign Democracies?

Strong Democracies support the national security not only of the United States, but of the whole world. I'll explain this in terms of psychology: most people are in many important ways fundamentally similar. Natan Sharansky' book, The Case for Democracy, outlined an argument for freedom that relied on this belief. Essentially, people everywhere want the same things: peace, security, satisfaction, etc. Free societies will support these ends because people can act toward achieving what is in their best interest. Wars are truly not in the general interest of people. Free societies are safer because people will choose to be safe. When confronted with a simple choice between death and life, in a free society people will choose life.

I can already hear everyone shouting at me: "But they're different! If those people are free, they will all want war--they'll want the destruction of the United States and all the civility and culture of the West!" This doomsday scenario is actually a perfect example of the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). Look it up on Wikipedia. Don't feel bad if you feel this way, but you are not looking at the whole picture. We all have a tendency to overemphasize the role of the person and under-emphasize the power of the situation. It's impossible to judge what people who are living a fear-based society would do if they were living in freedom. But why would you jump to the conclusion that they are somehow fundamentally different from us? I think people see themselves in a wholly separate manner from the way they see anyone else. Just assume with me for the moment that other people want the same things from life that you do. They want to survive, they have fears, they want to succeed, they want some modicum of happiness, etc. What would the world look like? Probably very similar to the world that we already live in, right? People are placed in different situations. It's hard to imagine someone who would want an ultimately different set of goals in life. And everyone wants to be free. And everyone wants to be safe. And war does not fit into this picture at all. Free societies support everyone's security.

Aside from our own collective security, some have mentioned that strong liberal Democracies have a moral duty to spread liberal Democracy to other countries. I find this argument weak so I won't go there. But you certainly can.

And aside from both of those, liberal Democracies support the progress of science, industry, and economic development. If you think these are bad, then A) I feel sorry for you, and B) ignore this argument and take one of the above. Free societies liberate the innate creativity, ingenuity, and curiosity of humanity. This is what fosters development in these areas.

Proposing "Conditioning Democracy"

After nine years in the Gulag, Natan Sharansky might have conclusively refuted the self-evident nature of inalienability of Liberty in the USSR. Instead, he emerged triumphant, voicing the universal appeal of freedom in his seminal book, The Case for Democracy. With the moral clarity of America at stake, Sharansky writes about the inevitable rise of freedom and Democracy with moral authority like Andrew Jackson spoke about Manifest Destiny and like Karl Marx wrote about Communism: people in every country yearn to be free, and non-democratic governments prohibit this freedom. However with growing resentment toward the War in Iraq, criticisms of the expenditures of the United States on democratizing foreign countries have grown vociferous. The United States is past due for an policy overhaul: Americans want to maximize the impact of every resource allocated to promoting Democratic initiatives. John Prados’s Safe for Democracy identifies five tools that the United States has utilized to promote Democracy: behavior examples, diplomacy, economic sanctions, military force, and covert operations (propaganda). Each of these tools relies on Sharansky’s argument in a large measure for their success; each tool requires that people yearn for their own Democracy.

“Conditioning Democracy” proposes Democratic Propensity Theory to shape the much-needed policy overhaul. With a unique focus on individual endorsement of Democracy, “Conditioning Democracy” relates psychological principles to Democracy initiatives. The United States is missing a sixth tool from its toolbox: conditioning people for Democracy, creating the yearning for freedom from within individuals. Exposing individuals from emerging Democracies to successful Democratic deliberation experiences increases the individual’s propensity for Democratic government. Conditioning Democracy proposes policies that incorporate professional “operational” psychologists into missions that “condition” denizens of emerging Democracies, whole communities at a time, to accept the potential both for participation in Democratic government and Democratic rule of law. If policy-makers consider the evidence that I will present in “Conditioning Democracy,” new policy should both more efficiently use resources and perhaps also save lives.