Vital Signs

Democratizing Germany: A Success Story?

To justify war for the establishment of democracy in the Arab world, neoconservatives have referred specifically to Germany as the test case to prove that democratization by war and occupation can be successful.  Apart from the fact that there may be some relevant cultural and historical differences between the Arab/Muslim world and Germany, there are some basic theoretical reasons why democratization by military occupation is more likely doomed to failure, if measured according to its proclaimed goals.

Military occupation with the aim of establishing and safeguarding democracy cannot escape the Jacobin dilemma, even if it is only detectable in certain circumstances: Radical democrats, the Jacobins, against whom the U.S Constitution was drawn up, assume that the majority is antidemocratic; accordingly, in order to make the people safe for democracy, they attempt to establish a dictatorship, which is “democratic” because of the “democratic values” it wants to foster.  In a similar fashion, a democratizing state has to resort to measures that are usually considered undemocratic.  Democratization by military also tends to operate on the assumption that the states concerned—the occupying and the occupied—share an identical interest, which amounts to a nearly totalitarian neglect of the idea of freedom, from which the concept of a genuine democracy as a constitutional order is derived. ...

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