Democratic Realism

democratizationPursuing successful processes of democratization and safeguarding open societies is a wide-ranging task that crucially requires learning from mistakes of failed democracies and failed processes of democratization alike.

1. Constitutional Monarchy

Democratization is by no means an easy process; constitutional monarchy is however a factor that strongly correlates with successful democratization whether the process of democratization has merely significantly progressed or actually led to the full introduction of liberal democracy. Egypt had successfully undergone decades of careful liberalization and democratization under the supervision of the country’s pro-democratic constitutional monarchy; efforts which sadly came to nothing following Gamal Abdel Nasser’s (1918-1970) Soviet-sponsored military coup d’état of 1952 and the subsequent abolition of constitutional monarchy and the country’s emerging parliamentary democracy in 1953.

The reason why constitutional monarchy is so conducive to liberalization and democratization is because constitutional monarchy encourages responsible government as the constitutional monarch if acting and being empowered appropriately may at any time when recognized as necessary unseat a prime minister who can thus not become a dictator. Constitutional monarchy also provides for division of power as the essence of division of power is legal serial supervision, i.e. in common parlance checks and balances, meaning that every institution exercising state authority is under the supervision of yet another state authority.

Constitutional monarchy if appropriately exercised (as liberal democracy generally) thus ensures that those in exercise of day-to-day authority under law are structurally supervised by yet others in position of authority. Italy is a case where the constitutional monarchy failed to prevent the establishment of the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) as King Victor Emmanuel III (1869-1947) unseated Mussolini only in 1943 after Italy had fared very badly in WW2. The Italian monarchy was subsequently unseated in a popular referendum in 1946 due to this very serious systemic failure to exercise appropriate and timely supervision over the government and its exercise of executive power.

It could be argued of course that the history of monarchy has a long pedigree of tyranny and monarchy could obviously with some justification be accused of essentially being aesthetically tasteless in constituting what used to be derogatively known as so called ‘idol worship’. However, pro-dictatorial monarchies should obviously not be confused with pro-democratic monarchies just as pro-dictatorial republics should not be confused with pro-democratic republics. Also, presidential dictatorships are electoral monarchies in all but name, yet without the essential external supervision over executive government as provided by constitutional monarchy. A functioning constitutional monarchy is not only highly conducive to liberalization and democratization but is also essential as an impediment to tyranny. A pro-democratic, highly popular constitutional monarchy crucially, typically lends popular legitimacy to comprehensive, yet gradual societal processes of liberalization and democratization.

Constitutional monarchy may however certainly fulfill an important role for liberalization and democratization in current non-democracies and semi-democracies in presidential dictators retiring to a supervisory position whereby they legally become constitutional monarchs.

There are essentially two types of dictators; there are those that are completely ideologically opposed liberal democracy and then there are those who actually support liberal democracy as the best political system but regard its introduction as unrealistic in their own countries due to the vast majority of popular opinion not supporting liberal democracy and in instead sympathizing with anti-democratic, even totalitarian political ideologies. Transforming pro-democratic yet non-democratic and semi-democratic republics into constitutional monarchies and emerging parliamentary democracies is however very feasible indeed and will prove most conducive indeed for the responsible pursuit of liberalization and democratization in non-democracies and semi-democracies around the world.

2. Liberalization and Democratization

Modern political history is full of failed – whether actual or attempted – democracies that reverted into dictatorship as happened in Europe in the 1930s and those failures have since taken place in countries around the world. It is therefore absolutely vitally important to learn from the modern political history of those very historical failures which were all preventable indeed.

There are essentially two types of attempted democratization; namely democratization from above and democratization from below. Successful democratization however requires gaining popular support for the comprehensive introduction of liberal democracy without which principled anti-democrats will probably be elected to government. Constitutional monarchy is however the most effective and proven form of democratization from above since this provides emotive public legitimacy for the governmental pursuit of the gradual introduction of liberal democracy.

There are two important contemporary examples of democratization from below, the first being Somaliland and the second being Rojava or Western Kurdistan which is also known as “Syrian Kurdistan”. Both Somaliland and Rojava are de facto independent and have relied on structures of people, tribe and clan for successfully gaining broad-based popular support for comprehensive societal processes of liberalization and democratization.

Organized, nominal majority religion and associated ultra-conservative, often anti-democratic political movements have typically served as a reactionary force and an impediment indeed to liberalization and therefore also to democratization. This has been the case throughout the history of liberalization and democratization but is especially obvious today in Islamdom. Nevertheless, the attempts by liberal democracies to financially encourage the growth of civil society in Islamdom have been met with limited and quite mixed success.

First, much of those funds provided, including from the international aid organization of the US Democratic Party have been diverted to financially support intrinsically anti-democratic movements that are part of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s largest and most dangerous Islamist network. This is clearly indeed as if secularist countries in Islamdom were to support Neo-Nazi organizations in Europe.

Provision of support for anti-democratic movements is obviously in and of itself an impediment to successful liberalization and democratization and has even sadly given democratization a bad reputation in the Arabophonie. The support provided by liberal democracies to nascent pro-democratic movements in Islamdom has however importantly been successful to some degree in helping nurture the re-emergence of liberal intellectual elites in Islamdom. This has crucially also been enhanced by the digitalization and therefore also increasing globalization of open society worldwide.

3. Kleptocracy

Most dictatorships are simply kleptocracies where the stealing of national resources by the ruling political elite is legitimized by nominal reference to either religion, ideology or both. Why do kleptocrats steal? They do so because they have the opportunity to do so with impunity. Yet, traditionally in monarchies there is no sharp distinction between the personal property of the monarch and national resources. However, constitutional monarchy comes with a strong value system intended to prevent tyranny indeed.

Sharia law in Islamic empires prior to being superseded by Euro-Christian imperialism thus served the function of helping prevent tyranny by legally limiting the exercise of executive power by the Muslim ruler who had to abide to a universal law (i.e. sharia law) that he had certainly not devised himself. Furthermore, he had in practice little choice but to attentively listen to the concerns of powerful tribal leaders represented in the Islamic advisory parliament, the Shura Council. Ulama (singular Alim) namely the authoritative scholars of Islamic law similarly limited the power of the ruler in their judicial and scholarly capacity of developing Islamic law. There was thus a trilateral division of power not entirely dissimilar to the much later American constitutional system. The Muslim ruler like the American president was an electoral monarch albeit elected for life and the legal system and the parliament (which remains largely advisory in the US as well due to the presidential veto power) provided checks and balances on the exercise of executive power.

However, the strength of the American constitutional system lies not only its Franco-British political values (as historically emerged in those two historical monarchies) but also in its division of power into many hands through decentralization and division of power, also known as checks and balances, meaning serial supervision among authorities of state power. Decentralizing American federalism, the constitutional division of power and America’s Franco-British political value system (as developed in the French and British monarchies) have indeed successfully limited the powers of American presidents and therefore prevented descent into dictatorship. Yet American political history shows that too much power is concentrated into the hands of the president in the American system, also the US president tends to become overly dependent on advisors and therefore also become sort of politically isolated from the rest of the country.

Although all political systems with a powerful elected executive presidential office are ultimately modeled on the American presidential office, these political systems do tend to descend into renewed authoritarianism due to concentrating far too much power into the hands of the elected president which in turn makes the political system dysfunctional. There are so many cases of democratically elected presidents who due to impatience with the corrupt and kleptocratic civil service provide themselves more and more powers in order to be able to rule efficiently and they therefore incrementally turn into presidential dictators. However, once they have become presidential dictators, they become dependent on the very kleptocrats they sought to control in the first place as the kleptocrats become the very political power base for the presidential dictator.

Being the most powerful person in a country is an interesting psychological experience similar to consuming cocaine and it is psychologically difficult for an elected president to give up such a position of authority without being politically compelled to do precisely so such as through elections in a liberal democracy. Former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak (b. 1928) must despite his advanced age in his last years as dictator been one of the most coveted males in Egypt in therefore millions of Egyptian females masturbating while fantasizing about being seduced by the president himself. However, once he lost his official position he probably mostly disappeared from the nocturnal fantasies of Egyptian females. This illustrates how difficult it is for a presidential dictator to resign and how his position becomes part of his personal identity and self-understanding and yes presidential dictators are all males as this is a male psychological problem indeed related to normatively excessive production of testosterone. Appointing presidential dictators as constitutional monarchs is hence an excellent, indeed perfect way of resolving this political conundrum of presidential dictators being psychologically addicted to power and desiring to stay in power for life as they will indeed stay in charge while at the same time gradually permit a devolution of power whereby authority is gradually in a reversible and transparent manner transferred to democratically elected public representatives.

Kleptocracy in Islamdom is the most important factor that in recent decades has served to undermine popular support for secular forms of government in those countries and tragically therefore gave rise to immense popularity for that synthesis of traditional political Islam with European totalitarianism that is Islamism which unlike historical Islamic empires advocates totalitarian forms of government as Islamism is strongly influenced by and syncretized with Nazism and Communism. However, systemic kleptocracy in dictatorships as ruled by totalitarian ideologies has also undermined domestic support for those forms of government in those countries. The Soviet Union at the time of its dissolution in 1991 was essentially an empty shell in ideological terms whereby belief in Communism had mostly been supplanted by systemic theft by those in authority with opportunity to steal state resources with impunity. Kleptocracy in Iran has similarly turned Iranian Islamism into an empty shell of systemic kleptocracy with almost no remaining popular support.

Kleptocracy is thus both a defining characteristic of most dictatorships including in North Korea (which practices monarchic succession and despite its Communist ideology openly advocate Nazi-style racial purity) yet is also the main factor that leads to the downfall of dictatorships in modernity. These forms of government practicing systemic theft are enabled precisely by the absence of the very institutional supervision of government as provided by constitutional monarchy.

A properly functioning constitutional monarch however operates according to extremely high ethical standards and the constitutional monarch needs to know precisely when to intervene and not to intervene. There are no precise rules determining this and so a very high level of good judgement is required indeed. A properly functioning and appropriately empowered constitutional monarch is indeed a guardian of freedom, democracy, open society, individual dignity and the rule of law. Constitutional monarchy is precisely needed when the democratic system of government is threatened, becomes dysfunctional and/or the rules of state fail to ensure what is essential indeed. A properly functioning constitutional monarch is therefore indeed the guardian of the guardians.

In fact, there is no need for any elected presidents whatsoever and especially not powerful executive presidents as elected presidents are simply electoral kings/queens and powerful executive presidential systems have furthermore in most cases where it has at some point been tried sadly led to renewed descent into dictatorship and kleptocracy. Although it is certainly true that liberal democracy is not without dysfunction – nearly all dictatorship are most severely dysfunctional indeed.

4. Democratic Solidarity

In order to survive, liberal democratic open societies need to practice political and military solidarity towards each other. No liberal democracy must ever be neutral or indifferent when another liberal democracy is threatened. However, this essential solidarity needs to be extended to non-democracies and semi-democracies seriously and genuinely so committed to incremental liberalization and democratization. Democratic solidarity is thus a matter of intent on the part of government; hence governments that truly and genuinely believe in liberal democracy must practice political and military solidarity among themselves.

Non-democracies and semi-democracies committed to the gradual, yet serious introduction of liberal democracy need however put together careful national plans for the essential transition in their own countries. These processes must be carefully planned and certainly not left to chance or exposed to reckless risk.

Indeed, democratic realism refuses the dichotomy between idealism and realism in foreign policy and puts the survival of open society everywhere first above other considerations of state interest.  Democratic realism is therefore precisely the commitment to very high standards of ethics in democratic statecraft in opposing both the naivety of reckless idealism and the cynicism of reckless realism.

5. Office for the Protection of Constitution

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) is a German domestic intelligence service without executive powers and so BfV agents are not even permitted to bear arms or arrest anyone. However, they do collect information on domestic enemies of open society and deploy intelligence agents to infiltrate existential enemies of open society operating in German society.

This institution was developed in post-WW2 West Germany as a mechanism to ensure that the country would never again descend into dictatorship. Indeed this institution has served and serves a critical role in protecting German liberal democracy and an Office for the Protection of the constitution is in fact very much needed in every liberal democracy.

Indeed, an Office for the Protection of the Constitution should also help make sure that civil society indeed does its job and that the democratic order is not threatened by existential enemies of open society whether domestic ones or foreign intelligence agencies of dictatorship setting up front organizations and infiltrating civil society as has been done in Europe by the clerical Saudi Islamist intelligence agency known as the “Muslim Brotherhood” and before them similarly by Nazi German and Soviet intelligence services.

It is vital indeed that an appropriately empowered Office for the Protection of the Constitution is closely supervised and should in a constitutional monarchy answer to and also be given instructions by the constitutional monarch. A constitutional monarch should largely exercise authority through the Office for the Protection of the Constitution itself.

6. Successful Transition to Liberal Democracy

It is essential and vital indeed to learn from historically failed processes of liberalization and democratization. There is however a number of factors that are essential in making first liberalization and subsequently democratization succeed.

Constitutional monarchy: The importance of the responsible supervision of executive government by constitutional monarchy can hardly be overstated for the responsible pursuit of liberalization and subsequently incremental democratization.

Culture: Liberalization and democratization needs to be early on anchored in communal, cultural power structures such as clan, tribe and people.

Decentralization: Making sure that power and authority are constitutionally divided on many hands is an important element in making sure that democratization does not lead to renewed descent into dictatorship and kleptocracy. Powerful presidential systems are essentially quite dysfunctional to varying degrees in constituting absurd concentrations of power and should all therefore be abolished.

Democratic borders: Relevant states with relevant borders, meaning usually linguistic statehood are therefore an important element in making the transition succeed as the population needs a sense of enlightened solidarity among themselves so as to make the transition to liberal democracy succeed indeed.

Democratic standard: Emerging democracies must certainly respect and tolerate those who seek liberal democracy yet this toleration ought not be extended to existential enemies of open society that on principle are ideologically and/or religiously opposed to liberal democracy.

Democratic solidarity: Countries committed to maintaining and/or introducing liberal democracy must act with utmost solidarity towards each other.

Gradual progress: Liberalization and democratization need to come in stages whereby success in one stage needs to be ensured and carefully verified before proceeding to the next stage in the process.

Guardian of Guardians: Constitutional monarchy is an important factor in ensuring public political legitimacy for the process leading to full introduction of liberal democracy as well as preventing the return to dictatorship and kleptocracy.

Open Society: Nurturing and supporting civil society in non-democracies and semi-democracies are an important element in ensuring a successful transition. Yet, government financial support for civil society abroad must always be temporary precisely so as not become neo-colonial in nature. Some Western countries unfortunately use their financial support for civil society abroad as a political lever for influencing the politics of those countries. This is clearly unethical, counterproductive and harmful indeed and financial support must obviously be limited to those organizations and movements that are ideologically completely loyal to the supremacy of the sovereign exercise of liberal democracy.

Serial supervision: Different state institutions should legally supervise each other in a serial manner as is largely already done in liberal democracies, yet constitutional monarchy is an important element in ensuring checks on the power of the government itself in the narrow sense of the word. Federalism and decentralization are indeed spatial, geographic forms of serial supervision.

Time factor: The process of transition needs be allowed to take its time and must not be unduly accelerated in therefore minimizing the very real risk of process failure.