“Do not ask for transparency from others unless you have provided transparency to them.”—Anderson’s Golden Rule of Transparency(1)
This issue of IJWP has articles on three different topics: Transparency in government, competition for energy resources, and peace in the Qur’an.
Transparency is a major issue for all social institutions, not just government, because it is an essential aspect of legitimacy in an age where there are many large, complex, and impersonal social institutions. In the family, the most basic social institution, transparency is not a serious issue because the interpersonal relationships are so close that everyone knows what everyone else in the family is doing. If little sister is sick, Dad loses his job, or big brother drives home in a new Mercedes, it is difficult to hide this information from other family members. The same is true in small towns, like my hometown, which had a population of fewer than 300 people. When I delivered the newspaper to nearly every house, and stepped into nearly every kitchen on Saturday to collect for the paper, I knew who was sick, who was on welfare, who was distraught, and who was cheating on their spouse. This “natural transparency” does not exist with the impersonal relationships in large cities or modern bureaucratic social institutions, whether they be governments, corporations, or churches. Impersonal distance creates opportunities to hide secrets in a church, to defraud government programs, to cheat on mortgage applications, to use corporate revenues for private purposes, or to engage in insider trading.
Conflicts are produced when great powers or international organizations draw arbitrary state boundaries over areas occupied by tribal and national cultural groups. When this happens, homogeneous groups that have lived together for many generations, and that have had their identity formed by shared values and laws suddenly find themselves divided and forced to live with other tribes or national groups that hold different values. Imposed abstract state boundaries divide natural nations, disrupting normal interactions, and even separating families.
Such divisions are particularly evident in post-colonial Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where Europeans drew administrative districts on maps over areas of land without much thought about the national self-identity of the peoples living in that territory. Such divisions are the cause of much anguish, strife, and even genocide in our world. The process of absorbing different national groups has followed conquests throughout history, and leaders of empires often left local rulers with some autonomy that honored the local values and customs. Today we are particularly aware of the after-effects of European colonization of Africa and Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries because, as Europeans withdrew, the states left behind were composed of non-natural cultural groupings not predisposed to live peacefully together. Continue reading →
This issue examines three states where there is political instability; Xinjiang province, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Xinjiang province is in Western China bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The largest ethnic group in the region is the Uyghurs, a Muslim group found in Central Asia, but Han Chinese are the majority in the cities. As in the case of the Tibetan Buddhists, tension exists between the Uyghurs, who do not feel they can freely practice their culture, and the Han Chinese who are increasingly populating the region.
Since 9/11, the Chinese have convinced the U.S. to label the Uyghur separatist organization, ETIM, as terrorists, based on their proximity to the Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan and supposed links to Al Qaeda. The first article, by Christopher Cunningham, asks whether the Uyghurs are a terrorist threat or whether Beijing has preyed on the international fear of terrorism to suppress the religious freedoms of an indigenous nationality that is defending its right to self-determination. He concludes that Beijing has likely overstated its case and the U.S. supported Beijing’s attacks on the Uyghurs to garner support for its own war on terror against Al Qaeda. Continue reading →
This issue looks at the thorny problem of how social ideals and rationally grounded moral principles can guide the structures and institutions of governance. This is no small feat in our age of political realism, power politics, national self-interest, and the general temptations of power and money. Washington DC lobbying, US elections, geopolitical nuclear politics, suicide bombing, and corrupt governments around the world are all signs that rational principles, such as those framed in the US Constitution, are failing to guide social policy. Rather we see power and money being used to dictate social outcomes biased towards those who have wealth or political power.
Our first article, by Leon Miller, begins by noting that the entire field of peace research is based on the premise that scientific research and humanistic values should be applied to institutions and structures of governance. This field is indebted to the Enlightenment emphasis on reason, the vision of Immanuel Kant outlined in Perpetual Peace, the communication ethics promoted by Karl-Otto Apel and Jurgen Habermas, the peace research writings of Elise Boulding, the economic theories of Kenneth Boulding, the political science of Quincy Wright, and the social theory of Johan Galtung. These figures played a prominent role in the interdisciplinary worldview of the International Peace Research Association and peace research centers like the University of Michigan.
This issue focuses on the “Arab Spring” after a year has passed and three regimes in the Arab world have been toppled by waves of popular protests begun on December 18, 2010, when a Tunisian man in a remote village immolated himself. These changes are born out of frustration and idealism, and fuelled by new forms of communication like cell phones and the internet. However, the future of these countries is uncertain as there is not a clear plan for how the replacement regimes will deliver the freedom and economic development that protesters seek.
As we know from the results of the United States and French Revolutions, replacement regimes can take very different courses. In the United States, the Founders scoured the lessons of history to devise a constitution that created checks and balances on power, a constitution that limited the role of government and gave ultimate control to citizens, yet limited the bounds of popular control to prevent citizens from harming themselves by “mobocracy.” In France, idealism divorced itself from the lessons of history and sought to create a new regime based on reason. However, since most of human evolution involves non-rational values that have evolved over centuries, it was a shallow and idealistic government that did not protect the people from either revolutionary excesses or mobocracy. Continue reading →
This issue of IJWP contains three articles that reveal some of the toughest challenges to peace that relate to imbalances in power, imbalances in wealth, and imbalances in the treatment of individuals and groups.
Our first article, by Nasreen Akhtar, is an analysis of Pakistan-US relations that, in many respects, complements the article on “The Obama Administration’s Strategy in Afghanistan” in the September 2011 issue of IJWP. It presents a Pakistani perspective on the challenges Pakistan may face when the United States and its allies withdraw from Afghanistan. The states occupying and attempting to stabilize Afghanistan share no common borders with it and thus will not be subject to cross-border insurgencies if they withdraw. Continue reading →
Rule of law is necessary for the order, stability, and peace of any nation.Without rule of law there is anarchy in which gangs, warlords, and conquerors compete for control to establish their own rule of law. As Augustine of Hippo said,
Even while waging a war, every man wants peace; whereas no one wants war while he is making peace. And even when men are plotting to disturb the peace, it is merely to fashion a new peace near to the heart’s desire; it is not because they dislike peace as such. It is not that they like peace less, but their own kind of peace more. And even when secession is successful, its purpose is not achieved unless some sort of peace remains among those who plotted and planned the rebellion. (City of God, Bk. XIX, Ch.12)
The “peace” of a ruler is seldom the “peace” of the ruled. While many people can be “pacified” by a ruler who gives them a measure of wealth or freedom, people generally seek self-determination. Most people consider rule by a conqueror as an occupation and oppression, and not peace. They do not want to spend their lives serving the whims of the most powerful person, making him rich and happy at their expense. Continue reading →
As the Soviet empire collapsed around 1990, there was great hope that the many peoples whose national identities had been suppressed would get their own nation-states. The ideal of a nation-state as the normal form of society has been emblazoned on Western consciousness since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. However, a “nation-state” implies a “culture on a territory” and in Europe today there are few, if any, territories with homogeneous cultures. This was especially true of both the former Yugoslavia and the former USSR, where there were many migrations and intermarriages under the umbrella of secular socialist regimes.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union, many small territories have sought their independence as nation-states, some of these are Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. These regions are called “frozen conflict zones” because of their unsettled status since 1992. They operate somewhat autonomously within states. Continue reading →
This issue of IJWP contains articles on three different topics, Chinese economic growth, politics in Turkey, and Zionism.
The first article, “Re-Interpreting the ‘Chinese Miracle’” by Xingyuan Feng, Christer Ljungwall, and Sujian Guo seeks to explain the phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy over the last thirty years. Naturally, other societies will want to learn how the Chinese have accomplished this growth. They argue that existing explanations do not do justice to the topic, and that the lenses through which analysts have viewed China’s economic development have generally been too narrow to fully explain the phenomenon. The authors argue that a combination of piecemeal “social engineering” and “spontaneous order,” as theorized by Hayek, were responsible.
This issue of IJWP focuses on democracy: how to establish it and its relation to violence. We continue from the September issue’s last article “Internal vs. External Requisites of Democracy” by Kunihiko Imai with two additional research articles related to democracy.
The first article, by Gary A. Stradiotto and Sujian Guo, is on “Transitional Modes of Democratization and Democratic Outcomes.” This is particularly significant for people who make plans to implement democracy, since how democracy is implemented, and by whom, is very important in determining whether a democracy will survive ten years or longer.
While the conclusion that democracies work best when they are created out of cooperative transitions, rather than by imposition, may seem common sense, many of today’s leading countries and international organizations still try to impose democracy on people living in non-democratic societies. Perhaps this research will help bolster arguments against many of the efforts by global elites to impose democracy through regime change or as a criterion for receiving international loans or assistance. Democracy is something that people have to feel they own, that they control, and that allows them to pursue an unfettered life. Continue reading →