Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, said that his political model for the state could only be achieved in small countries. Precise as ever, he stated that in countries larger than Jamaica his model of rule of law would not hold the population in lock-step. His remark tells us two things about promoting development: First, no model can be universally applied to non-democratic states; second, only with exceptionally tight control can democratization be slowed to a crawl. Promoting sequencing promotes leaders like Lee Kuan Yew; men whose goal is to maintain law and order with no dissent. Thomas Jefferson claimed that dissent is an integral part of good government. If so, the much lauded anti-democratic model of development is a step in the wrong direction.
As Thomas Carothers argues, the dream is sequencing: that a benevolent elderly sage will gracefully lead his country to democracy, and like Nelson Mandela, relinquish power come the end of his term in office. A quick glance around the world reveals the fallacy of this method – Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak imposes strict and narrow limits on political activity in the interest of control and security all the while promising democratic reform. Soon his son Gamal will take the reins of the dynasty. Two case studies of the process sequentialism prioritizes are the Democratic Republic of the Congo first under Patrice Lumumba, then Mobutu Sese Seko, and the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, then Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. These two are clear examples of a state trading democratic institutions for rule of law – a trend not sought by democracy-promoters.
There are even `exceptions’ that prove to be the norm – most widely heralded is South Korea’s slow, `steady’ democratization. But this transition was more similar to the populist overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines than the sequentialist dream of democracy evolving out of rule of law. South Korea’s gradually more liberal dictators Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo succumbed to public pressure, eventually leading to the presidency of Kim Young-sam.
South Korea, the Philippines, Democratic Republican of the Congo and Egypt show what follows from prioritizing rule of law above democratization. The contrasting example of Mandela respecting the democratic norm of relinquishing power shows us much about the legitimacy of a regime, both to domestic and international observers. Vladimir Putin’s `dictatorship of law’; today faced by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is a pertinent example of this trend in action. It does not lead to democracy, and, as the International Relations Club’s U.S. Foreign Policy Debate addressed this afternoon in White-Gravenor, it achieves neither security nor development.
andela relinquishing power set a powerful example across Africa, one that resonates across Botswana, Mauritius, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. The latter two, formerly British colonies, are examples of how post-colonial transitions to independence function as democratic transition processes. The British, unlike the Dutch and French, were fond of creating democratic institutions in their colonies. People’s assemblies like the Indian National Congress were emblems of British benevolence; they believed their role was not purely to subjugate but also to civilize. To the British, it was key that democracy was operative so that upon becoming independent, the new states could function successfully.
The Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines and Algeria are all examples of colonial transitions in which a state attained independence without a long-running democratic framework ready to take over. Unsurprisingly, they all fell to military rule or cult of personality authoritarianism. One can argue that the colonial experience of India is case-in-point for sequencing, but to do so is to ignore the historical narrative. The former Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten, oversaw the transition, as we would call it today, with greater Indian autonomy and finally, a British departure. Cases like Egypt under Mubarak are different because Mubarak will not leave office within his term limits.
Sequencing neither works as a process towards democracy, nor as a guarantee of civil society under political stability. It has a high frequency of resulting in repressive authoritarianism, as modern Russia shows, particularly with violations of human rights, as Anna Politkovskaya’s death frighteningly reveals. The example of India’s democratization is arguably a glimmer of hope, but as Lee Kuan Yew’s point about the Singaporean model shows, no example can be universalized into a typology that both serves all circumstances and fits them well. As the United States undertakes its first quadrennial diplomatic review we must bear in mind what priorities are most needed. Eschewing the full gamut of state responsibility for strategic effectiveness and results now only means a sloppy job and further strife.
Udayan Tripathi is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at udayanthehoya.com. The Internationalist appears every other Tuesday.”