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


notajungian said...

Are you going to Georgia? Will you provide some insight to just how democratic the "state" is?

Conditioning Democracy said...

I would consider it, but first I have to find out whether I can. I have a Russian passport in addition to my American one, and I wonder whether this would be enough (but I doubt it)... I will of course keep everyone up to date.

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.