On December 13 and 14, 2011, The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, in cooperation with Academic Exchange Israel, hosted its first international conference on “The Causes and Consequences of Democracy: Regional and Global Perspectives.” Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Dayan Center, welcomed everyone for coming, and stressed the importance of holding an international and interdisciplinary conference during a time in which democracy and religion are creating tumultuous change in the world.
Models of Democracy and its Alternatives:
Professor of International Relations at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Prof. Charlie Kupchan, began the conference with his paper “Alternative to the Western Way.” Kupchan posed the question: When we enter a world that is more diffuse, will we see a singular track or a multi-track approach to modernity? Kupchan argued that for the first time in history the world is taking on a global dimension. No longer will traditional political homogeneity based solely on Western values and institutions dominate, but rather the world is starting to become more conscious of multiple renderings of modernity. Kupchan attributed this global phenomenon to three factors: the changing role of the middle class, culture, and a changing international setting. Kupchan emphasized the turbulent and uncertain stage the global community faces vis-a-vis the idea of global modernity. What we are presently witnessing, he argued, is an increasingly multicultural world.
Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center, Prof. Ofra Bengio, followed by discussing her paper “Turkey and Iraq: Models of Democratization,” which explores whether the Turkish or Iraqi model of democratization may be applied to post-revolutionary Arab regimes. Prof. Bengio stated that, to the Arab World, the American-imposed democratic model in Iraq is frightening. Arabs equate the Iraqi model of democracy with civil war and instability, and noted the consequent rejection of this model in the Arab World. On the other hand, Prof. Bengio noted that the Turkish model offers proof that democracy and Islam are not contradictory. The Turkish model has become successful, and uses a formula which Turkey, as well as the United States, hope new Arab leaders may implement in post-revolutionary states. However, neither Islamists nor Liberals in the Arab world are enthusiastic about the Turkish model. Islamists reject the secular notion of the Turkish model and Liberals fear the external influence Turkey may gain in Arab countries if they implement this form of government. “It is not possible to transplant one system of government to a different country,” Bengio stated. Arabs want their own authentic government and want to create their own model that encompasses their Islamic roots.
Discussion following this panel concentrated on the influence of Prof. Kupchan’s statement that culture matters. While the general consensus was that culture plays a large role in rising states’ paths to modernity, debate arose on the scale it plays and to what extent culture can be measured. Prof. Stephan Haggard, of the University of California, San Diego, challenged Kupchan’s notion that the world used to follow a Western notion of globalization. Haggard claimed that the world has always been diverse and that it is not necessarily becoming more so. The change that the world is going through is due to a changing power balance, in large part as a result of the material decline of the United States.
Religion and Democracy:
Dr. Matti Steinberg, of Haifa University, presented his paper entitled, “My Community Will Never Agree Upon an Error: Islamic Fundamentalism’s Contrasting Notions of Democracy,” which examined the Islamic Fundamentalist doctrines of the Global Jihad (GJ) and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Using Max Weber’s paradigm of “ethic/morality of responsibility” and “ethic conviction” Steinberg drew conclusions on how both the GJ and the MB function.
The Global Jihad movement is founded upon the basic principle of the Shahada which says, “There is no God other than Allah.” The GJ sect interprets this to mean that the first and foremost pre-condition of the Islamic religion is the rejection and utter denial of any loyalty to ancient and modern idols, be it concrete images or abstract ideas; ideas which include nationalism and democracy along with its accessories, such as elections, man-made constitutions, and civil rights. Based on this analysis, the GJ ideology becomes totally incompatible with democracy, since the only sovereignty is the sovereignty of God – not of the people.
Steinberg contrasts the idea of GJ with doctrine of the MB, which is based on the concept of da’wa – reaching out to the public sphere. Looking at Weber, the MB can be seen as an organization that attempts to strike a balance between the adherence to the values needed to establish an Islamic state but also, towards the needs of Egyptian society as a whole – be it to devout or secular, Christian or Muslim. In short the MB, which gains its power from the bottom-top, has a much larger and more diverse population to satisfy. Steinberg believes that the need to appease the masses may force the MB to commit to more democratic beliefs. Thus, Steinberg argues the MB can be influenced and compatible with democracy.
Discussion of Steinberg’s beliefs were met with debate from Moshe Dayan Center Senior Researcher Fellow, Prof. Meir Litvak, who stated that, thus far, the MB has failed to follow democratic principles, which makes him skeptical that the MB will turn a new leaf once elected. Prof. Steinberg replied by saying that since the MB will not form a coalition with the Salafists they will be forced to create a coalition with the liberal Egypt Bloc, which will possibly force them to adhere to democratic principles in order to maintain their balance between Egyptian society and Islam.
Economic Roots of Democracy:
Prof. Stephan Haggard of the University of California, San Diego, presented ideas from his paper “Inequality and Regime Change: Democratic Transitions and the Stability of Democratic Rule,” in which he examined the “Third Wave” of democratization and questioned whether inequality and distributive conflicts are a driving force in the transition to democratic rule, and if unequal democracies are more likely to revert back to authoritarianism? Prof. Haggard concludes that other mechanisms, including intra-elite conflict and calculations, as well as international factors need to be taken into account when examining “Third Wave” countries.
Relating these ideas to the Arab Spring, Prof. Haggard stated that the protests in the Arab World have a strong element of redistribution, but there are still many unknowns, particularly in Egypt. Egypt is headed for a lot of economic trouble. The IMF estimates that Egypt’s GDP will need to grow three percent per year just to curtail the rising unemployment rate. Competing parties in Egypt will need to deal with these problems and the winning coalition must prove that it can accomplish this economic feat.
Haggard also emphasized the uncertainty of the future landscape of the non-Muslim Brotherhood, non-Salafi political horizon in Egypt. Understanding how leftist parties will evolve will be critical when examining the formation of a new coalition in Egypt. Equally critical is the question of turnover and incumbency. Will Islamist parties be willing to give up power if they lose in future elections? While the future of Egypt has us asking many questions, it is clear that not only political reforms, but also policy reforms will have to be made in formation of the new Egyptian government.
Prof. Lisa Blaydes, of Stanford University, examined how women fare under Islamic rule. For her paper, “How Does Islamist Local Governance Affect the Lives of Women? A Comparative Study of Two Cairo Neighborhoods,” Prof. Blades conducted a case study in two demographically similar neighborhoods of Cairo, Bulaq al-Dakar and Imbaba. Both neighborhoods are characterized by poverty, overcrowding and a general absence of state actors and services. The Islamic group Al-Gama’a al-Islamia (IG) attempted to establish local governance in both neighborhoods, but only succeeded in Imbaba. Prof. Blaydes used these two neighborhoods to compare how women fair in both Islamic and secular local governances.
Prof. Blaydes’ case study involved distributing a comprehensive health report to 600 women in Imbaba and 600 women in Bulaq. The results of the report suggested that women in the Islamic governed neighborhood of Imbaba enjoy higher levels of prenatal care, fewer home births and lower fertility rates than their statistically matched secular counterparts in Bulaq al-Dakrur. Contrarily, women in Imbaba were no more likely to drop out of school or be subject to female circumcision, or early marriage than women in Bulaq. However, Christian women living in Imbaba reported being subject to various forms of physical intimidation and violence. This data would suggest that Islamist local governance has the potential to produce positive outcomes for women as a result of the depth and breadth of services offered, but that in the case of Christians and, perhaps, also secularists living under Islamic control, increased acts of violence and intimidation contributed to sectarian tension.
In countries where religion is integral to culture, Islamist parties will have an easier time delivering social services over secularists, an observation that was agreed upon by Prof. Litvak, Prof. Maddy-Weitzman, and Prof. Blaydes. The Islamist parties’ success usually comes at the expense of leftist parties, as even the educated elite support the Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. These comments came in response to Prof. Haggard’s posit that Islamic parties power stems mainly from their ability to deliver better social services.
Prospects for Democracy in North Africa and Middle East:
Principal Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center, Prof. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, discussed his paper, “The Prospects and Limitations of Democratization in North Africa: Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya,” explaining that for a long time North Africa was not a place where democratization was talked about. In the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, however, Tunisia and Libya are embarking on a journey to establish a new constitution, Morocco has initiated a series of proactive reform measures, and Algeria has discussed implementing similar reforms.
Prof. Maddy-Weitzman currently views the situation in Tunisia as being on a path of more genuine democratization and Islamization. In the words of Amitai Etzioni, the likely political outcome of Tunisia will be a kind of “Islamocracy,” which combines democratic institutions and an active civil society, with some influence of Islamic law and norms on political and social life. Practicing a type of soft Islam that is more open to democratic pluralistic policies, Ennahda, the current ruling party in Tunisia, is one example of an Islamist political party whose actions will illustrate whether or not an Islamic government can be democratic.
In Morocco, King Mohamed VI and the operators of his state apparatus have been sufficiently proactive in their responses to the rumblings of the people. The King embarked on a slow transition to liberalization ending some of Morocco‘s most notorious human rights abuses, expanding space for civil society, allowing for more political opposition, and the creation of a new constitution that draws upon pluralistic order.
Moreover, the Moroccan king’s ability to remain in power is also attributable to the distinct geographic integrity of Morocco that dates back more than 1200 years. Morocco’s religious homogeneity and linguistic configuration, and a ruling dynasty of more than 350 years, whose legitimacy is based on claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad has granted Morocco a degree of stability. However, at this point it is still unknown whether the King’s modernizations will be enough to retain favor among the Moroccan people.
Looking to the future, Prof. Maddy-Weitzman sees Algeria as the next prime candidate for upheaval. Algeria, unlike Morocco, has not been proactive in the reform process, and the public’s grievances are numerous and genuine.
In Libya the new National Transition Council (NTC) will face the enormous challenge of establishing legitimacy and learning how to govern and build institutions which can channel, contain and integrate a variety of societal demands. The country is awash in weapons that tribal and factional militias will be reluctant to give up. There is significant Islamist sentiment in the NTC and across the country in which the centrality of the Shari`a in the new Libya that has already provoked controversy. At this point, it is hard to imagine elections (scheduled to take place in eight months) that will being carried out in an orderly fashion. Of course, an additional factor to take into consideration with regard to the new Libya control of the country’s oil resources, which will be critical to any regime’s success.
Prof. Meir Litvak, discussed the prospects for democratization in Iran in his paper, “Prospects for Democratization in Iran.” Iran has been largely unaffected by the upheavals of Arab Spring despite suffering from all the socio-economic issues of other Middle East countries. This may be attributed to Iran being one of the most modern countries in the Middle East; it has more women enrolled in universities than men, it has 28 million people exposed to the Internet, and there is a large young and secular population. According to Litvak, the Iranian regime also benefits from some sort of political stability, with approximately 30 percent of the population supporting the government. In combination with techniques of repression, populism and nationalism, the Iranian government has remained stable. Also, the majority of people in Iran who desire reform is not calling for a new government, but rather is in favor of maintaining an Islamic Republic. Litvak emphasized the role that fear plays in the Iranian culture. It is the number one country in executions per capita and tightly controls the Internet with cyber police.
Prof. Litvak also pointed out the one reason revolt that not reached Iran was because as of now there are no guarantees that a new revolution will succeed, and that this government is still a better alternative to other possible outcomes.
Causes of the Arab Spring:
Moshe Dayan Center Senior Research Fellow, Prof. Asher Susser, explored the causes of the Arab Spring in his paper, “The Turmoil in the Arab World: Alternative Analytical Paradigms.” He argued that the Western World failed to recognize what he calls the “otherness of the other.” That is, the West did and does not understand that Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, etc., uphold different sets of cultural values. Susser emphasized that religion plays a huge role in the lives of most Arabs, especially Egyptians, a reality that is truly difficult for most Westerners to conceptualize. He argued that secularism in the Arab World has been in retreat for some time. The failure of 20th century Arab Nationalism and Arabism caused many to look for other unifying forces. Susser believes that tribalism, sectarianism, and Islam are the new rising powers in the region.
Susser also raised the point that anyone who asks if Islam and democracy are compatible is asking the wrong question. Rather, the question should be: Are religion and democracy compatible? There will be an inherent battle between the conceptions of democracies, which is based on the sovereignty of man, and the conceptions of religion, which are based on the sovereignty of God. For a religious government to be a democracy it must follow four problematic tenets: 1) the non-application of the Shari’a as the legal system and the acceptance of its secondary status to the legislation of a democratically elected legislature, 2) gender equality, 3) religious equality, and 4) freedom of thought, speech, and the freedom from religious belief. In Susser’s words, “if any of these rules are violated, then the individuals in charge may be very nice people, but they would fail to be leaders of a purely democratic nation.”
Consequences of Democracy for International Security:
Prof. Jessica Weeks, of Cornell University, examined the influence of authoritarian regimes in international conflicts in her paper, “Strongmen and Straw Men: Authoritarian Regimes and the Initiation of Internal Conflict.” She looked at the extent to which different authoritarian governments led by “Strongmen,” “Boss,” “Junta,” and “Machine,” are willing to use violence in international conflicts. Factors demarcating status quo: the costs of fighting, the costs of losing, and the cost of winning, implicate that the most violent of all authoritarian regimes are Strongmen, followed by Boss, Junta, and then Machine. The results of this study suggest that unconstrained authoritarian military leaders are most likely to go to war, while constrained civilian authoritarian governments are the least likely to go to war.
In fact, Prof. Week’s data showed that Machine governments are even, slightly, less likely to go to war than a democratic government. The framework introduced here not only helps us understand how authoritarian regimes vary in their conflict behavior, but also opens new avenues for creative theorizing about how domestic institutions affect both preferences and constraints, which combine to affect states’ foreign policy behaviors more generally.
In discussion, the participants pondered how authoritarian governments may function differently depending on which region of the world they are located. Litvak questioned how proxy institutions play into an authoritarian regime’s desire for war. Prof. Weeks explained that regionalism made little difference in her findings, and that while proxy institutions were not included in this case study, their involvement would be very interesting to study in future examinations of authoritarian regimes.
The final presentation was given by Prof. Michael Tomz, of Stanford University. In a joint paper written with Prof. Weeks, “An Experimental Investigation of the Democratic Peace,” Tomz explored the theory of shared democracy bringing about peace. A case study was conducted in which both American and British citizens were polled to see if they would be willing to use armed forces to stop a country that is pursuing the production of nuclear weapons. Participants were asked about their willingness to attack the country if it was another democratic country, versus if it was a non-democratic country. Prof. Tomz looked at four facts: How threatening the opponent is, how costly the fighting would be, the likelihood of success, and the morality of using force. The results showed that in the U.K. about 34 percent of those polled favored military action against a non-democratic country while only about 21 percent supported military action against a democratic nation. In the United States, about 53 percent favored an attack against a non-democratic nation, while about 42 percent favored an attack on a democratic nation. The case study also measured the importance of other factors such as threat, cost, success, and morality in a country’s decision to attack another nation. However, Prof. Tomz pointed out that these factors came secondary to democracy. Thus the conclusion was that democracy plays a strong role in whether or not a country should be attacked.
In opposition to Tomz and Weeks’ findings, Kupchan pointed out that the democratic theory says that democracies do not go to war with one another, not that they would be less likely to do so.