Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fit for Democracy vs. Fit through Democracy

former CIA political analyst

A 277-page U.N. report published in late July–you know the kind, overflowing with tables, charts, and obscure acronyms–turns out to be more useful and valuable than most other books I’ve read in the past few years. Unfortunately, few people will hear about it and fewer still will read it. The Bush administration has ignored it and undoubtedly hopes nobody will read it. The administration will probably be lucky. In the days following publication of the document, the nation’s foreign policy cadres have been churning wildly over the Bush administration’s views on Iraq, Sharon and Arafat, terrorism, and preemptive war. Even most of us rebels who see Bush’s views on these issues as appallingly deformed obsessions will not want to focus on other matters such as this very important report. Nevertheless, here is one small effort to do so.

The title of the U.N. document in question is Human Development Report 2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World. It is well written, definitely not the turgid boilerplate you might have expected. It will tell you how the U.S., other national governments, and the presently muddled world governance institutions of the U.N., IMF, World Bank, and WTO, are screwing up the further spread of democracy and justice.

The U.N. has published “human development” reports fairly regularly since 1990. They have usually emphasized economics, health, literacy, and environment as major factors influencing social change. The report for 2002, however, concentrates on the contribution that an expansion of real political democracy might make to human societies around the globe, and the problems, difficulties, and pitfalls facing such an expansion.

The “Director and Lead Author” of this year’s report is Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, a Japanese national who has, sometimes gently and sometimes bluntly but always brilliantly, criticized U.S. anti-democratic foreign policies around the world. The report gets away with such brazenness by carrying a disclaimer by the U.N. Development Program’s administrator, who labels it “an unapologetically independent analysis aimed at advancing the debate on human development. As such, it is not a formal statement of U.N. policy.” Earlier reports in this series have contained statements that they do not represent the official views of the U.N., but rarely have they been so direct in their transgressions of political correctness. “Unapologetic” is indeed the right word.

The dominant U.S. philosophy–or religion perhaps–emphasizes that democracy results automatically from free markets, free trade, and an ever-expanding plethora of things one can buy and consume. “Democracy needs nothing else”, is the claim. The underlying dogma rests on three assumptions:

First, that all, except perhaps for the physically or mentally disabled, can progress from dependence and poverty into the middle class through their own efforts.

Second, that one should simply ignore evidence to the contrary, which in any case only benighted liberals believe, and

Third, that many countries are simply not “fit for” that other kind of democracy–the kind in which elections are important and in which a principal objective is to move closer to one-person-one-vote rather than one-dollar-one-vote. Such political democracy is seen in any case as unnecessary by supporters of the newer, and in their view better, consumer democracy.

Without explicitly defining such false notions as having originated in the U.S., Fukuda-Parr and her team devote much of this book to rebutting them and demonstrating the efforts various developing nations are making, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to move closer to the true one-person-one-vote concept of democracy. A quotation from Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen prefaces this part of the book. Sen writes–

In earlier times there were lengthy discussions on whether one country or another was yet “fit for democracy”. That changed only recently, with the recognition that the question itself was wrong-headed: a country does not have to be judged fit for democracy, rather it has to become fit through democracy. This is truly a momentous change.

Now that’s a skillful, nicely low-key but pointed slap in the face of the world’s most arrogant government–a government that seeks to make a new colony of Iraq, to dominate other nations, and to extend this domination for the benefit not of its average citizens but rather in the interests and for the profit of the corporate structure that controls most of its politicians.

The rest of this U.N. report lays bare other areas where developing nations might have made more progress toward meaningful democracy over the past decade. But the U.S. has often hindered such progress in the belief that it was harmful to Washington’s own drive for global hegemony. For the same reason, the U.S. government has opposed proposals to introduce more democracy into international institutions such as the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization.

With respect to the U.N. Security Council and the undemocratic veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members, the report spells out how, over the past 25 years, the U.S. has used the veto more than any other permanent member. A table in the report also makes clear that in the past decade the U.S. has issued most of its vetoes in support of Israel against the Palestinians–a subject not directly related to U.S. global hegemony. These vetoes are, however, yet another example of arrogant disregard for democracy by the U.S., since they encourage Israel to continue its 35-year occupation and expand its colonization of territories inhabited by three million Palestinians to whom Israel grants absolutely zero democratic rights.

To repeat, this U.N. report is a very fine piece of work that will give readers a better understanding of the state of democracy around the world than anything else this reviewer has seen in recent years. Fukuda-Parr and her team deserve high praise.

[You can download the complete report from http://www.undp.org, or you can buy it from Amazon for $22.95 plus S&H. The actual text is only 122 pages long, with an Overview or executive summary taking up the first 12 of these pages. My advice: skip the Overview and read the other 110 pages. ]

Bill Christison joined the CIA in 1950, and served on the analysis side of the Agency for 28 years. From the early 1970s he served as National Intelligence Officer (principal adviser to the Director of Central Intelligence on certain areas) for, at various times, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa. Before he retired in 1979 he was Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, a 250-person unit. His wife Kathy also worked in the CIA, retiring in 1979. Since then she has been mainly preoccupied by the issue of Palestine.

Other CounterPunch articles by Bill and Kathleen Christison:

Bill Christison: Disastrous Foreign Policies of the US Part 3: What Can We Do About It?, July 8, 2002

Kathleen Christison: The Story of Resolution 242, How the US Sold Out the Palestinians, June 28, 2002

Kathleen Christison: Israel and Ethics, May 11, 2002

Bill Christison: The Disastrous Foreign Policies of the United States, May 10, 2002

Kathleen Christison: Before There Was Terrorism, May 2, 2002

Bill Christison: Oil and the Middle East, April 6, 2002

Bill Christison: Why the War on Terror Won’t Work, March 5, 2002

 

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Cesar Chelala
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail