EgyptAlso the Egyptian case shows some misunderstandings and failures of democratic foreign policy: After having supported the Mubarak regime without significant critique through decades, many western countries were fascinated by the upcoming of a seemingly democratic opposition (Arab Spring). A large part of the opposition in Egypt, particularly in the rural areas of the country, however, oriented itself rather by islamistic than by democratic patterns, such as rule of sharia instead of human rights, absolute power of clergymen instead of participation, norms of Umma instead of an effective state. Consequently the islamistic movement, led by the muslim brothers, assumed power. That is, one typ of autocracy (Mubarak regime) was followed by another type of autocracy (islamists) - with negative effects on economy and democracy, such as unequal position of women, and loss of liberties. Footed on a broad social aversion against the islamistic regime particularly in the urban population and the army, military forces got the power back in a mixture of public resistence and a military coup.In this process, the formula violence against the own people has obviously been interpreted in an arbitrary way, dependent on the individually given preconditions of power: While in the first phase Mubarak and his companions had been accused of having used violence against the participants of the demonstrations, under Assisi the top and the body of muslimbrotherhood were accused of exactly the same. All in all the figure seems to be handled in an instrumental way from both autocratic sides. This process has until now not been understood by western actors that identify democratic parties with parties that are successful in somewhat free elections without analyzing programs and behavior of those parties aside of elections. That’s why there is low space to influence the current Egyptian government under Assisi, that is simply considered as a new dictatorial system. In contrast, the Assisi government should be considered as the currently given capacity to avoid a totalitarian islamistic rule. This capacity itself should be intensively observed and supported with regard to respecting and protecting human rights, pluralistic procedures and an effective state.TurkeyAlso in Turkey grave conflicts and an increasingly autoritarian style of government have taken place. Since summer 2013 president Erdogan has been criticized regarding his brutal defeating of diverse oppositional movements as well as of massive corruption. The public communication however, has so far not been dominated through the formula of violence against its own people, and no civil war has begun - a great chance for developing democracy in this influential country between Europe and Middle East. In spite of some undemocratic exercises by Erdogan, there are some hints for a better democratic representation, such as better opportunities to represent Kurdish interests and cultural forms in Turkey.UkraineIn contrast to the turkish case, the figure of violence against the own people played significant roles in the Ukraine crisis 2013/2014. This culturally torn country has a lengthy history of conflicts between the Great Russian ideology on the one side and the Ukrainian nationalism on the other. While during the last decades a certain degree of state monopoly on the legitimate use of force had been developing, the so-called Maidan revolution broke this monopoly: Indeed, the Maidan processs from November 2013 to February 2014 started as a series of mighty popular demonstrations within demands of democratic communication; but it changed its character to become insurgery violence up to February 2014. In this process, the ruling Russia-friendly government of president Janukovic was accused to exercise violence against the own people - the fundamental argument for oppositional groups to arm itself and to occupy central places and state buildings. Consequently both sides handled public demonstrations violently - with dozens of deads. That’s why the following replacement of Janucowic’s government by a new interim government got no Ukraine-wide accepted legitimation. Instead, boosted by the aggressive Russian propaganda, so-called pro-russian forces, partly camouflaged Russian forces, occupied Crimea and following central parts of the Donbas region in East Ukraine. Since April 2014, the Ukraine government has been trying to get back the control over the occupied regions by military forces - occasion for Russia’s president Putin and the (pro-)russian propaganda to blame now the Ukraine government to exercise violence against the own people - an obvioulsy insincere accusal while Russia is sending camouflaged troops into Eastern Ukraine. The meanwhile happened popular vote in two Eastern Ukrainian teritories should not be considered to be instruments of democracy or self-determination: Under arms and without any neutral control, no vote that deserves to be called democratical has been conducted. In the contrary: Sofar we know from former polls in the Eastern Ukraine, there has been a majority for staying within the Ukraine. That’s why the (pro-)russian occupation does not only violate formal international law; it also sharply contradicts with democratic demands.On May 25, a presidential vote took place in Ukraine. Although the Donbas region - because of the war-like behavior of the pro-russian separatists - could nearly not be included in this vote, there is now an elected president of the Ukraine. It is up to all involved parties to find a pragmatic way that respects the sovereignty of the Ukraine and the particular interests of the Russian population, such as a federal constitution and a friendly reglementation of the socio-cultural variety including the acceptance of the Russian language as second official language in parts of Ukraine.ChinaSince June 4, 1989, Chinas communist state party is object of endurant international accusals of having exercised violence against its own people. The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led popular demonstrations in Beijing which took place in spring 1989 and received broad support from city residents, exposing deep splits within China's political leadership. The protests were forcibly suppressed by hardline leaders who ordered the military to enforce martial law in the country's capital. The crackdown became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre as troops with assault rifles and tanks inflicted casualties on unarmed civilians trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, which student demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks. Due to the lack of information from China, many aspects of the events remain unknown or unconfirmed. Estimates of the death toll range from a few hundred to a few thousandThe appraisal of the occurences on June 3/4, 1989, has been fiercely contested between Chinese government on the one side and oppositional groups and the international public on the other: While the public perception focuses on the peaceful character of demonstrations, the government has been condemning the protests as a counter-revolutionary riot, and has prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events since. This rigid strategy of the communist state party was so far successful as no civil war has developed in China, and the absolute power of the communist party keeps on being stable. On the other side, there is a big bunch of challenges for rapidly modernizing China, such as increasing socio-economic inequalities, big environmental problems, and corruption, that foreseeably can only be met on the way of a more open discussion.For the international community, Chinas relative stability opens up some chances of endurant critique and stimulative incentives to give more plurality and freedom in the country. To use these chances is an endurant political task of high significance.ThailandAlso the recent military coup in Thailand may be analyzed with references to the arguing pattern of violence against the own people, blaming the military regime as undemocratic. It should be taken into consideration, however, that the two big political movements in Thai politics, the red and the yellow movement, have not been able to organize a functioning democracy. That’s why the military rule is not the main reason of current democratic failure in Thailand. Rather it is a bad consequence of a broad political failure wherein both political sides claim the absolute priority for themselves - quasi autocratically excluding practical chances of democratic decision-making.
Violence against the own people?A stereotype thinking pattern leading to civil warVolker von Prittwitz (June 20, 2014)
Rwanda is considered to be the darkest point in the history of United Nations: Already shortly after the assassination on april 6, 1994, it was clear that a disaster was looming. A civil war was going on in the country - and now president Habyarimana, a member of the majoritarian race, the Hutus, had been shot over Kigali. But what happened in the following hundred days, went far beyond anything what could be imagened: 800.000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a murderous blood frenzy. The tragedy in its full extent, however, became possible because the United Nations, the USA, France, and Belgia did not take heed of early warnings. Even more: The UN withdrew most of their soldiers in the region as soon as the genocide just had begun.Reflecting this catastrophic failure and the massacre of Srebrenica in 1995, wherein UN troops did not prevent the killing of more than 8000 bosniaks by Serbian military, concepts of humanitarian intervention were discussed in an increasingly intensive manner. According to these concepts, national sovereignty should be bound to responsible behavior of the ruling government towards its own people. If a government breaks this norm, as it was the case in Ruanda 1994, coordinated international action to prevent a humanitarian disaster should be explicitly allowed. While this discussion had been related to official UN and state activities, meanwhile the formula violence against the own people has entered the political debate also in social movements and the public: Is a government confronted with the public accusal of exercising (illegitimate) violence against its own people, an oppositional movement may feel legitimated to occupy state institutions, up to arming itself against the ruling government. This figure, that not seldom marks the transition to civil war, is the issue of this article. First I deal with the question whether oppositional movements feel right to consider themselves as actors in the spirit of democracy. Democracy and ViolenceDemocracy sometimes has been considered to be a free battle for power. As appropriate the association between freedom and democracy is, see for instance the right of free opinion, the right of free coalition, or the liberty of press, the association between democracy and a military battle falls short because of one fundamental point: Democracy has to transform different individual preferences in jointly accepted results. That’s why the involved parties have to strictly respect each other as legitimate political actors - a fundamental difference to any military or war-like proceeding. This political process is footed not only on participative procedures, such as inclusive, free, and fair elections, but also on protected human rights as well as on a state that is able to effectively enforce democratical decisions. A cornerstone of democracy in this understanding is the state monopoly on the legitimated use of force: Only if the involved parties interact without violence and respecting pluralistic norms and procedures, democracy can exist. That’s why we have strictly to differentiate between forms of public demonstration and forms of occupation respectively civil war. While the first ones constitute vital democracy, the second ones destroy it. Indeed, there is a space of interpretation, for instance regarding techniques of public demonstration, such as the demonstrative blockade of public traffic; but the main borderline between communicative protest and one-sided occupation is clear.The democratic state has, vice versa, to protect the liberties of its citizens as far as possible: So the government must not forbid demonstrations or restrict other protected liberties without compelling reasons that itself can be juridically contested. That’s why we talk about democracy as a free state that guaranties pluralistic liberties for all citizens but that is able to defend itself against occupation and attacks of its institutional footings. In that meaning, democracy is a double-sided order. In vital democracies according to this pattern, illegitimate violence by state actors should be an exception that should be punished and avoided in the best possible way. But what about situations wherein ruling actors do not feel themselves bound to human rights and democratic procedures? That is often the case in transitional systems between democracy and autocracy, in pure autocracies, particularly totalitarian systems, as well as in anomic structures. Is it legitimate and sensible to try to resist illegitimate violence by arming an opposition in such cases? May this way of proceeding called democratic opposition? Of course yes, may some discussants say: Democracy with its elements of human rights, participation, and effective state is an order of universal value, and any opposition against another political system therefore is legitimated. And there are some positive examples of successful military actions against undemocratic systems, particularly the Second World War whereby the totalitarian Hitler-Regime and the aggressive Japanese military regime could be defeated, starting point for an transformation to democracy in these countries. Also the Argentinian Junta had to retreat after the lost Falkland war against Great Britain. In recent history, the so-called Arab Spring seems to be an example for a revolutionary transition from autocracy to more democratic structures. A crucial argument in all these campains went and goes: The ruling government uses violence against its own people - see violence against social minorities, above all Jews, used by the Hitler Regime, violence against social minorities by Saddam Hussein, violence against the political opposition in Syria, violance used by other Arab dictators. Therefore the ruling autocratic system seems no longer legitimate to rule and has to be replaced, either by peaceful change or, if necessary, by using violence against it. As self-evident this argumentative figure seems to be, it implies some contradictions:1.The fundamental logic of violently occupying a system is the logic of war. This logic corresponds with autocratic thinking and feeling. By using it against an autocratic system, this system will feel confirmed in its way to see and to handle political problems. 2.A strong authoritarian system cannot be replaced on this way without a long and intensive war. The costs of such a war might be much higher than the wins gettable by overcoming the authoritarian system.3.If an autocratic system is too strong to be conquered, the strategy of one-sided occupation against it may backfire to all existing attempts of getting democracy. The situation may get worse than before.4.Cases that confirm the strategy of war against autocracies are exceptions. The usual way of transforming an autocracy to a democracy goes by endogene development and learning processes. If we look at some cases of current international policy, we may learn even more about the issue.SyriaThe upcoming of the Syrian civil war has been stimulated by the simple perception of the process as a conflict between an autocratic dictator and the democratic opposition: Because Assad reacted on single violent acts out of this opposition with enforced violence, he was publicly accused of exercising violence against the own people. In the consequence, oppositional groups felt legitimated to take up arms against Assad, and the Assad regime, that before had managed a balance of very different socio-cultural groups in Syria through decades, rapidly passed over to military strategies against the terrorists.Meanwhile some groups are understanding that their behavior was wrong in the first months of the process; but now they are sticking in the mess and seem to have no alternative to keep on fighting. The main financiers of the war have been Saudi-Arabia and Katar on the one side, Iraq and Russia on the other side. But particularly the western states, led by the USA, have to confess that their - rhetorically democratic - policy including sending weapons and money stimulated the cruel war, that up to now produced about 160.000 deads and millions of other victims. Autocratic parties, particularly groups around Al-Khaida, have been strengthened by the process. Democracy, in contrast, is more far away than ever in Syria - a disastrous result of international policy.
Violence against its own people is a thinking pattern that often gets dramatic significance for the transition from the logics of politics to the logic of war. That’s why the accusal is, even if to a certain degree reasonable, highly precarious as long as a government is militarilly and politically dominant. Furtherly the formula is highly arbitrary and has been often used in an instrumental way according to the currently given relations of power.Therefore a war-like, so-called revolutionary, transition from an autocratic to a democratic systems is only probable by distinct inequality in favor of the democratic system. Otherwise the pursued course of civil war, in the contrary, gives additionly rise to autocratic tendencies and structures.
That is: Responsible democratic policy is not identical with democratic rhetoric. It rather consists in taking the consequences which certain kinds of action may have in consideration. The accusative figure violence against its own people therefore should be used much more carefully than usually done. The main path to democracy is the path of positive evolution, fostering capacities and using chances. It is not identical with a supremacy of bargaining in any situation; it rather goes to favor constructive communication, to offer chances for all involved parties, and to respect jointly accepted rules and procedures.
IPAInstitute for Political AnalysisProf. Dr. Volker von Prittwitz