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Saving Lives, Enriching Life: Freedom as a Right, and a Moral Good was published in January 2001 only on this web site. It is the keystone of the ideas and findings here regarding national poverty, famine, genocide and mass murder, and war. It should be the first stop for those who wish to study or survey this site's documents.

Eliminating Democide and War
An Alliance of Democracies*

R.J. Rummel

Democratization is the most practical and empirically proven solution to war and democide
----This web site

There is a feeling among many that since democide (genocide and mass murder) and war have always been with us, they always will be; that such violence is in our bones, part of the human condition. After all, year after year, as far back as one wants to look in history, some part of the world has suffered war or genocide. And even today this is going on in many countries or regions, such as in the Sudan, Burma, China, North Korea, and the Middle East. For democide alone, during the last century about 174,000,000 people were murdered by government, over four times the some 38,000,000 combat dead in all the century's domestic and foreign wars.

Nonetheless, I believe there is much hope to eradicate war and democide. Consider that from the perspective of the 18th Century, slavery also looked to the humanist as democide and war do to us today: an evil that has always been part of human society. But now slavery is virtually ended, and eventually the same may be true of war and democide. Why this is true and how to foster this end to democide and war is the subject of this essay.
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There are many complex considerations and theoretical issues to the problem of war and democide. There are the questions of general and immediate causation, and of aggravating and inhibiting conditions. There are the practical questions of how to gather timely intelligence about them and inform decision makers about what is known, how to influence the political process through which intervention against democide is decided, and how to give democide and war elsewhere the required prominence in the complex of perceived national interests. And with regard to intervening to stop democide, there are the questions concerning the national mix of the necessary troops, their weapons, and the rules of engagement.

Many of the answers to these questions will fall into place if we recognize three facts and one practical necessity that cuts through the jumble of questions and problems involved. The one fact is that democracies by far have had the least domestic democide, and now with their extensive liberalization, have virtually none. Therefore, democratization (not just electoral democracies, but liberal democratization in terms of civil and political rights and liberties) provides the long run hope for the elimination of democide.

The second fact is that democracies don't make war on each other and that the more democratic two governments, the less the likelihood of violence between them. Not only is democracy a solution to democide, therefore, but globalizing democracy is also a solution to war. That the world is progressively becoming more democratic, with from 22 democracies in 1950 to something like 120 democracies today (about 88 of them liberal democracies), makes it increasingly likely that in the long run the twin horrors of democide and war will be eliminated from human society.

The final fact is that democratization is central to the national interest of all these democracies. A fundamental national interest of a democracy is peace--the avoidance of war--and international trade and prosperity. What is the best way overall to avoid war and promote prosperity in the long run? Through the promotion of democratization, since creating democracies will also create natural allies, and democracy is itself engine of wealth and prosperity.

Of course, preventing democide elsewhere is also in the humanitarian national interest of democracies. But this is not an essential interest as is the avoidance of war and promotion of prosperity, which is also tied into democracy. That promoting democracy serves all three ends--humanitarian, peace, and prosperity, should give us even more hope about eventually eliminating democide. I should add that democratization is well recognized by democracies as a national interest, and many democracies are involved in providing aid of various kinds to potential or new democracies, and helping to create the related institutional infrastructure in them.

And the practical necessity is this. We must recognize that the United Nations is inadequate to the task of humanitarian intervention to stop democide, and the promotion of democracy. The simple reason is that so much of the decision making of the United Nations and its relevant agencies involves representatives of the regimes that have been or are involved themselves in making aggressive war or murdering their own people. The powerful thugs of the world actually control or can veto much of what the UN does or can do. A complete list of such regimes would involve almost all authoritarian and totalitarian member states, but for example Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, China, Indonesia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Colombia, etc.

For this reason, I argue that the democracies must set up a parallel international organization like NATO, but now including all democracies, and perhaps called the Alliance of Democracies. It would act as a driving force of democratization in and outside of the UN. Within the UN it could be a democratic political party, acting like all political parties do in democracies, and in cases when the United Nations when the UN is paralyzed in cases of democide, severe repression, or aggression, it could intervene outside of the UN.

We are already on the road to such an organization. In Warsaw last June there was a Community of Democracies Ministerial Meeting--the first worldwide gathering of democracies--that issued the Warsaw Declaration. The 110 signatories to the Declaration agreed to promote democratization and recognized "the universality of democratic values." For those interested, see the official web site of this new Community of Democracies. Much progress toward democracy is being made and increasingly democratic leaders are recognizing that democracy is not only the in their national interest, but also crucial to them. In this there is the greatest hope of eliminating the evils of war and democide.

My proposal for an Alliance of Democracies has provoked a number of questions, the most important of which I will try to answer.

Q. Really, how can you be sure that you have identified the long run cause of democide as dictatorial power, and the solution as democracy?

A. All the statistical analyses and references are on my web site. For example, see Chapters 16-23 of my Statistics of Democide. . But, one doesn't need fancy statistical methods to establish this. Just mentally run through the major killers, such as the Soviet Union, Communist China, Nationalist China, Nazi Germany, Militarist Japan, Communist Vietnam, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, and so on and on to the lesser domestic demociders, such is Iraq, Syria, Iran, Burma, etc.

Q. Where did you get this idealist stuff about democracy being a solution to war?

A. My original field of research was on the causes of war, and I can write with some certainty that quantitative research in the field has well established that democracies have never (or virtually never, depending on how a few exceptions are defined) made war on each. This is now called the democratic peace, and if you are curious about it either go to the democratic peace theme page, or links on this site. Or search the web for the phrase "democratic peace".

Q. Well, then how do you define a democracy regarding your findings that democracies have virtually no domestic democide or don't make war on each other?

A. One source is the Freedom House ratings of each nation's civil liberties and political rights. For statistical purposes, see how I did this in Chapter 17 of Statistics of Democide, or in the Appendix to my Saving Lives, Enriching Life. But, there should be little argument as to which nations are the central liberal democracies (need I list them?). It is only at the margins that one can argue over definitions. Are, for example, Turkey, Russia, and Colombia really democracies? I would argue that they are electoral democracies, not liberal in terms of human rights, but that it really doesn't matter. Power's relationship to democide is on a continuum--the more power, the more democide. Even the marginal democracies are less likely to commit democide than, say, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, China, North Korea, etc.

Q. Yes, but who is to choose what is a democracy for purposes of membership in the Alliance of Democracies?

A. Why, the members themselves. Democracies can well choose fellow democracies and this should be up to the membership. I imagine that nations will ask to join, and whether accepted will be up to a committee of experts that will assess their democraticness, and recommend membership or not for vote of the whole alliance. Nothing strange here. This is the way international organizations work.

Q. Okay, why ignore the UN and form this Alliance in its place?

A. The UN should not be ignored. An Alliance of Democracies would have the most votes in the General Assembly, and the United States, Great Britain, and France have vetoes in the Security Council. However, communist China has a veto, as well as does Russia, a non-liberal democracy and supporter of the two notorious demociders Iraq and Iran. Moreover, many nondemocratic members of the UN are dictatorships who have murdered thousands, and in some cases millions, of their citizens, and made aggressive war on their neighbors. The UN is therefore generally frustrated in its ability to deal with aggression and democide, or to foster democratic human rights. Nonetheless, the UN must be the first resort. The newly formed UN caucus of the democracies should be strengthened along the lines of a political party, so that it can act in the UN as does a political party in a democratic legislature. This means establishing a leadership, stands on issues, submitting resolutions, etc, but especially using its power to further human rights, and to get UN support for the decisions of the Alliance of Democracies. And whatever actions this Alliance would take against democide should be as a supplement or complement to UN action, or final alternative to the UN's failure to act.

I must point out that I'm a strong supporter of the UN for many reasons, and there are many common interests between all nations, whether ruled by thugs or not, that must be worked out in the UN. But not high among these common interests is fostering global democracy and effectively eliminating democide and aggression.

Q. What is the basis of your argument that the UN is inadequate?

A. Consider the Brahimi Report of the United Nations. In 2000 the Secretary General of the UN convened a panel of experts to review the UN's peace and security efforts. Its was led by Lakhder Brahimi, the former minister of foreign affairs of Algeria. The resulting Brahimi Report was a very negative critique of UN peacekeeping operations and military interventions and characterized them as repeated failures. I believe that one of the main reasons for this failure is that the membership of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is made up of many authoritarian states and military dictatorships. I believe an Alliance of Democracies can do much better.

Then consider the composition of the UN Human Rights Commission. As everyone knows, in 2001 the United Sates lost its membership in this premier UN organization for hearing human rights appeals and fostering human rights around the world. The commission has 53 members. Who will now be on it? Cuba, China Libya, Syria, Sudan (yes, Sudan), Vietnam, Saudi Arabia (that paragon of female enslavement), Qatar (another one), Pakistan (yes, this one also), Liberia, Kenya, Burundi, and many others that repress human rights. Any so called human rights commission that has three communist members, plus murderous dictatorships and absolute monarchies, is a sham. But it is the way the UN has to operate. An Alliance of Democracies--of governments that observe human rights and rarely, if ever, in modern times have murdered their citizens--can do much better.

Q. If the Alliance acts independently, what would it do regarding democide?

A. This would involve five things: preparation, diplomacy, show of strength, public relations, and seizing opportunities. As to preparations, we know where democide is now happening and is most likely to flare up. Just to name a few nations where a sudden democide in the tens or hundreds of thousands is likely: Sudan, Zaire, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, and Colombia. There should be contingency plans worked out by the members of the Alliance before such democide occurs. And there should be in place a NATO type military organization of combined Alliance forces. This then can deploy to prevent or stop democide or aggression in line with a UN resolution, or because of the UN's failure to act.

Concerning diplomacy, this would involve the usual thing--emergency conferences, dispatch of diplomats to the offending government, warnings, threats, and so on.

But diplomacy must be backed by strength. Any such Alliance must be credible so that a thug government planning democide must consider that it may have to fight the forces of the Alliance, be defeated, and its dictators tried before an international court for genocide, crimes against humanity, or aggression. The first successful intervention by the Alliance will establish this (this has already been helped even by the imperfect, ad hoc, on-again, off-again, actions regarding Serbian democide). But beforehand the alliance flexes its military muscle, it must show that the diverse democracies that comprise the Alliance can work together and have in place a military second to no non-democracy. Any potential democider surely must note that the most powerful countries of the world, including the only super-power, are members of the Alliance and make up its military arm.

Public relations are essential to the success of the Alliance. Here is the stumbling block, and where the Alliance must involve the community of pro-democracy organizations and activists, as well as anti-war and anti-democide scholars, writers, students, practitioners, and observers. Supporters of the Alliance must communicate not so much to democratic leaders (who most likely are already aware of what is happening and is needed), but to the media and through them to democratic voters about democracy and democratization as a solution to war and democide. On democide especially, it is important to communicate how much democide there is and has been in the world (note that the overwhelming majority of people believe that the Holocaust was by far the largest democide of the last century and was virtually unique in being a well-planned government and administered genocide), and how it is planned and carried out. Alliance supporters must show why democracies should act as an alliance, why democracy is a long run solution, and particularly, why intervention is a matter of national security and human welfare.

On the preparation and intervention side, supporters of the Alliance also must show what happens in democide when it occurs. Much like Jews have done so successfully with their Holocaust, supporters should passionately describe what democide is like, provide the stories of survivors, communicate the terror and fear involved, organize protests and demonstrations; circulate petitions; and give speeches. Most powerful of all, supporters should show pictures of those about to be murdered, the dead and dying, the piles of bodies, and so on, as anti-war activists have done so well for war dead. I have tried to do some of this through this web site (see, for example, photos of democide) and although limited in hits (about 80,000 in two years), it is having some impact (to see this, search the news groups for the unique web site term "democide"). This is ultimately a political campaign for all of us who want to end war and democide. Our aim must be to educate the public and get them involved, for without such support and pressure from the public, it is unlikely that an Alliance of the democracies, really of democratic leaders beholden to their voters, will do what is necessary.

Finally, supporters of an Alliance must be ready to seize opportunities. What I have sketched above is something that is not going to happen overnight and through a one-time conference. It will grow and accrete, as all world organizations do, through the needs and dangers met in one crisis, democide, or another. This is understandable, for we are dealing with the values and interests of many nations, leaders, and interest groups, always in a precarious balance of power that democratic leaders are loath to upset. What I am trying to establish then, is a direction of action, a port towards which, despite the vicissitudes of wind and wave, the ship of a democratic alliance can tack. In other words, as we must intervene ad hoc to end new democides, or as there are new conflicts or violence with the thugs of the world, we should use these events and crises as opportunities to tack towards the development, enhancement, or redefinition of such an alliance, and most important, the creation of new democracies. We should be ready for this. One way is through plans for post-intervention strategies to help democratize a government after the defeat the its democide or aggression. This would be a great opportunity to promote democracy, and to eventually create a new candidate member of the Alliance. After all, if the democide or aggression is not to reoccur, the best solution is democratization.

Q. How can a heavily partisan organization like such an Alliance legally and morally justify its coercive and military actions.

A. Lacking action by the UN, what other nations could act cooperatively to create a moral and collective international will? Surely, not Somalia, Sierra Leone, North Korea, Sudan, Burma, Iraq, Iran, Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi, or China. The only nations that meet the international criteria for human rights and reflect the will of their people are the democracies. They are the only systems that institutionalize social justice (justifying this is another essay). So they are partisan. That partisanship is to the good, as is the partisanship of the police in stopping gang murder.

Q. I don't know, isn't it morally necessary to act under UN authority?

A. Words are often vague and mushy abstractions when it comes to human catastrophes like democide. They can be our enemies and obscure what should be painfully clear. In democide and war we are talking about what is usually hundreds of thousands of people being killed in combat or murdered by a gang of thugs called a "government," quite possibly millions, and the emotional devastation of many times more survivors. All those so murdered in the last century alone would head to toe circle the earth about four times. This can't go on. We must stop it. Because the ones doing the killing and their allies are members of the UN, it too often is unable to act or fails in doing so. Thus, the alternative call for an alliance of nations that do not war among themselves and commit little domestic democide, if any.

The intervention in Somalia, largely by the US, is an example of why one should keep in mind the final human result and not let a ton of abstractions distract from this. Now, there has been much written by foreign policy experts and commentators about the regrettable lose of American lives, the Somalia's unresolved political anarchy, and unimproved human rights. And especially that the US pulled out with its tail between its legs. Yes to all this, but the around 1,000,000 human lives were saved from starvation and related diseases. In this light, the intervention was an incredible, unappreciated, successful intervention.

Q. Given all the cultures and values in the world, is not the argument that democracies occupied the moral high ground implausible?

A. No. They are the only political system incorporating human rights at their core, don't make war on each other, and the majority liberal democracies among them commit virtually no domestic democide. Look at it this way: Is not freedom of religion more moral than its suppression? Is not freedom of speech more moral than its denial; freedom to organize unions, political parties, private schools, etc., more moral than their disallow? And is not the freedom to vote leaders out of power more moral than a dictatorship? Liberal democracy is the only political system that gives its people all these freedoms and thus does have the moral high ground. Then, look at this in a different way. If one wants to be inclusive, which gangs of thugs does one include? Again, Sudan, Iraq, Burma, and so on?

Q. Although democracies have done some great things, they have also shown support for and complicity in democide. Does not this undermine their claim to the moral high ground and the righteousness of such an Alliance?

A. True, democracies have done bad things. I have my own list of what my country (the US) has done that I very much opposed and regret, and a variety of policies that I want changed. But we should not let the desire for excellence drive out the good that can be achieved. Democracies, with all their blemishes and faults, with all the "terrible" things they have done, are now the best hope of humanity for a peaceful and democide free world. Fundamentally, the major virtue of democracy is that we as citizens can change the policies we don't like and throw the bastards out of power. Over half the world's population wishes they could do the same, and many are murdered for believing this.

Moreover, a difficulty in conceptualizing an Alliance of Democracies is the mental lock many have on the US and Europe as comprising most democracies. There were as of 1999-2000 about 120 out of 199 states that were democracies, some 88 of them liberal democracies. The Alliance, then, would largely would be made up non-European democracies, and many former colonies. Just to name some of the liberal democracies that would not be bullied by the European members or the US: Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, Philippines, Marshall Islands, Palau, Taiwan, Botswana, Jamaica, Panama, India, Armenia, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Surinam, etc. There are many more I could add, but the point should be clear: an Alliance of Democracies would be a very large body in which European nations would be a small minority. Moreover, since it would consist entirely of democracies, I have no doubt that it would operate on democratic principles, much like a democratic legislature.

Q. Come on now, doesn't the democide, imperialism, and international crimes of the US really defeat your proposal for an Alliance?

A. This is answered above, but the question also logically suggests one in return. Since the UN is after all a formal alliance of nations, why if the US membership in an Alliance of Democracies would defeat its purpose, does not the presence in the UN of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, China, Cuba, Burma, Syria, and so on, defeat reliance its peace-making, human rights purposes?

Q. Is not independent military action against a UN member illegal? Conversely, would intervention by the Alliance be legitimate?

A. All kinds of actions taken by states without UN approval are legal under international law. The right to self-defense, for example, or the right to intervene to protect one's citizens or property, which incidentally, is one excuse for intervention to stop democide that can be used. In any case, if there is no international law to justify intervention to stop democide, then such should be invented through the process of intervention. Note that one source of international law is the behavior of states--and actual intervention could then be such a source for new law. But really, sufficient international law already exists. There are the Genocide Convention; Geneva Accords; Human Rights Conventions and treaties; the precedents established by the various war crimes tribunals; the norms governing Crimes Against Humanity; related resolutions of the United Nations; and the rules governing the judicial scope of the international Court at the Hague.

Moreover, how we conceptualize the demociders is crucial to the idea of legitimacy. The relevant simile is that the government usually carrying out the democide is like a gang of thugs that have descended on a group of hikers, stealing their possessions, raping some, and killing others. If there is no international law allowing these thugs to be stopped, captured, and tried before an international court, then Natural Law provides the justification.

Q. Criticizing the UN for inaction is not the pretext for unilateral or partisan action. Does not the Alliance need consensus and persuasion, not might and political arrogance, to set the example of what may constitute acceptable human conduct?

A. Here also, if an Alliance of Democracies saves millions of lives from democide, and it is arrogant to do so, then so be it. I'll go for the arrogance. Whenever an appeal to the international community or UN is made, or the assertion that we should bring in all nations in a collaborative effort, it must be kept in mind what governments would have to be involved--dictators, tyrants, murderers, thugs. Now, some non-democracies are ruled by nice people who use their power to try, in their view, to benefit their people. Former King Hussein of Jordan was one. But they are a small minority.

Of course, as I already have argued, democracies should not act alone in all cases. To stop or prevent a particular democide, democracies may consult with and solicit the help of moderate non-democracies bordering the nation in which democide will or is occurring, or seek a covering UN Security Council resolution (regarding which a democratic caucus in the UN will be useful). I am, however, arguing that the Alliance should be the center of gravity for such action until the United Nations is truly made up of an effective majority of democracies, and act alone if necessary to save tens of thousands, and possibly a million or more human lives.

Q. What would be the institutional structure of the Alliance?

A. The basic idea is that the Alliance comprise virtually all democracies, which as noted would not only be the majority of nations, but also the most powerful and wealthiest among them.

Now, there is a danger in over defining, over elaborating the organization of such an Alliance. As with all international organizations, its initial organization and "constitution" would be a compromise between conflicting interests, and which then would evolve as the Alliance deals with one crisis or intervention after another.

We can say, however, that since the Alliance will be made up of democratic countries, its members doubtlessly will infuse the working of the Alliance with the norms of their democratic cultures: negotiation, compromise, tolerance, respect for law, restraint on police power, and reluctance to use force. In practice this would mean a strong inhibition against any military intervention unless actual democide or aggression has begun. But as evidence of preparation for such democide or aggression accumulated, I imagine that the Alliance would warn and threaten, and take diplomatic action short of force to forestall democide. But, and this is of prime importance, the Alliance would prepare to intervene immediately if democide did begin.


*Published in the International Journal of World Peace, Vol. XVIII, No. 3, p. 55ff, 2001

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