By G.L.J. Jacobs on 2016-12-29 in Papers,
The paper below is a thought experiment based on Heinlein's Starship Troopers. The views in this paper are not necessarily my views, but rather an attempt to find arguments for Heinlein's ideas on the military state and limited democracy.
A striking trend in contemporary world politics is the apparent erosion of political unity in so many different places. In recent years, there has been a decline of national democracy in Europe (Armingeon & Guthmann, 2014). In the MENA region, we’ve seen the upheavals of the Arab Spring and the continuing bloodbaths in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. In Europe, support for the European Union continues to drop, Great Britain may vote to leave it, and Scotland might still decide to exit the United Kingdom (Walt, 2016). Recently I argued that the European Union seems to unintentionally coerce opposition parties into using democratic tools for their anti-EU agenda (Jacobs, 2016). Overseas in the United States, a level of bitter partisanship not seen for many decades has arisen, the two main political parties are themselves deeply divided. What can explain this struggle in our peaceful governments?
In 'Arguing about War' Michael Walzer (2004) continues the ongoing debates on Just War, which he defended in 'Just and Unjust Wars' (1977). Of particular interest is his take on Clausewitz’s famous line: "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means."[i] The line, in addition to being provocative, also seems obviously true to Walzer, and he argues that the claim is equally obvious the other way around: politics is the continuation of war by other means (2004, p. ix). I have come to accept the dichotomy of politics and war as a truism, and consider them as equal, and by doing so argue that our governments, be it national, be it international are not peaceful.
In this essay, I seek to address some problems of the decline in democracy and its relation to politics and war. The first problem to address is one of erroneous definition, with how we contemporarily define 'peace', and in turn the antithesis 'war' and derived from war, 'force'. I will address the problems derived from the fallacy that comes from the unwillingness to call things by their name, and offer a constructive note by offering a possible solution: citizenship in the military republic, a variation on citizenship theory; that hypothetically would be able to address these issues.
The Fallacy of Peace
If there ever was a time in history when "peace" meant that there was no fighting going on, I have yet been unable to find out about it. Cynical perhaps, but it seems we have never known peace, and probably never will. Rather "Peace", by its common understanding is a condition in which one does not pay any attention to (military) casualties which do not achieve page-one, often politicized, lead-story prominence, meanwhile at the same time people are fighting for their liberties one way or another somewhere on the globe. The illusion of peace of the liberal state, of which the past seventy years or so on the Euro-Atlantic continents is often used as the prime example[ii], as led to a misunderstanding of war and peace, in particular, made evident by the rise of pacifism and liberal democracy.
In liberal democracy, the theory of liberalism argues that it is the Kantian constraints (Kant, 1970): democracy; international trade; and membership to international organizations that brought about the absence of full-scale war (Kant, 1970; Russet, 2016)[iii]. In light of the dichotomy of politics and war, I argue that war is still present. War is controlled violence, the intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force, with purpose. The purpose is to support your government's decisions by force. To draw a kinetically metaphor, the purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him . . . but to make them do what you want them to do. Force is not limited to kinetic force. In modern society kinetic force tends to be limited, in fact, it is far away from our daily lives.
I equate force with power and authority and as such I will focus on political power, the most significant and dangerous form that force can take. It is the means by which all the different pursuits, including the pursuit of power (the ability to act, to force), are regulated. "Political power protects us from tyranny . . . and in itself becomes tyrannical" (Walzer, 1983, p. 281). It is because of this duality that it is so much desired and so endlessly struggled for. Much of this fighting is unofficial, like guerrilla skirmishes of everyday life through which we (ordinary citizens) defend or struggle to revise the boundaries of the various distributive spheres. To vote is then to ultimately wield authority; it is the supreme authority from which all other authority derives—the franchise, the right to vote, is force, naked and raw, the Power of the Rods and the Ax. Whether it is exerted by ten men or by ten billion, political authority is force.
When applying this understanding of the dichotomy of politics and war, Putnam's two-level games[iv] between domestic and foreign interests, or three or even four level games when applied to the IOs sketched out by Russet, are not at all different from war in the early twentieth century, but the way we engage in exercising force is greatly different. War never changes, warfare does[v]. The absence of classical warfare has lead to the misleading assumption that we have peace and as such has lead to a rise in pacifistic movements. The problem with pacifism (and to an extent that of modern democracy) is that civilians do not understand that their cherished liberty comes from sacrifice, the tree of liberty must be refreshed. Pacifism does not accept Jefferson's proposition and thus is a beautiful lie believing that the tree does not require manure. If pacifism is a beautiful lie, then realism is the ugly truth. In between these two extremes we find Just War Theory, a decent attempt to strike a balance between the two extremes, but fails to justify any form of violence as early as the writings of Augustine[vi]. To prosper as we did in the past event years, a projection of military might is required. Our seventy-year "peace" came forth of the military projection and hegemony of the United States. If we were to decide to move to a complete pacifistic system, abandoning our military relation with the US, soon (say about next Wednesday?) another breed[vii] moves in, kills off the "we ain’t a gonna study war no more”.
A second lesson derived from the rise of pacifism is called the "Vietnam syndrome," derived from the Vietnam wars (1946-54; 1955-75): "that we should not fight wars that are unpopular at home and to which we are unwilling to commit the resources necessary for victory" (Walzer, 2004, p. 9). Here again, the Kantian restriction of democracy comes into play. Democratic leaders who fight a war are held responsible, they risk being voted out of office - especially if they lose, or the war is long or costly (Russet, 2016). The lesson here, unlike Walzer illustrated, is not that we should not fight these wars, but that the democratic system is not fit to make decisions on matters of war. Civilians do neither have the information nor the feeling of duty required to decide whether or not we 'should' fight war, and because of the democratic cycles (four years in most countries) we are unable to commit properly to long-term engagements as the humanitarian interventions in the past two decades have shown.[viii] Furthermore, politicians - those who were given the authority to wield force in our name, are afraid to make their hands dirty (Walzer, 1973), and prefer career over duty (Russet, 2016, p. 75), or transcend down a slippery slope due to the limitations of liberalism (Luban, 2005).
The Military Republic
A solution to the illustrated failures of both civilian voters and politicians is the military republic[ix]. The military republic would be a militaristic form of limited democracy, where full citizenship can only be gained through military service. The voting franchise is limited to full citizenship, who acquire suffrage through service, and they are the only ones allowed to held public office. So Robert A. Heinlein's Terran Federation is born[x]. This is, I think, an attractive form of governance, but I have not yet explained just why it is attractive in light of the earlier illustrated.
There exists a paired duality; the converse of authority is responsibility. Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority, and responsibility, must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. It is exactly this unbalance that causes the contemporary crisis of democracy. To allow irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold an individual responsible for anything he or she does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The contemporary unlimited democracies are unstable because their citizens are not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority. No attempt is made to determine whether a voter is socially responsible to the extent of the literally unlimited authority endowed upon the individual. If the voter votes the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead and responsibility will then be forced on the voter with self-destructive nature. This argument goes for both direct and indirect democracy, both are a tyranny of the masses in their own way. Noble as it is, the democratic experiment is failing because the people have been led to believe that they can simply vote for whatever they want and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears. A misinterpretation at best, entitlement confused with desert, a form of hubris at worst. One may then instead consider a meritocracy: the pursuit of science, however despite its social benefits, science in itself is not a social virtue; its practitioners can be humans so self-centered as to be lacking in social responsibility. (Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, 1983, p. 135)
In the earlier discussion on the dichotomy of politics and war, it became clear that we still require someone to wield power - as Walzer has put it "there never has been a political community that did not engage its collective strength - its capacity to direct, regulate, pressure and coerce in this project. The use of political power has not, until the past thirty or so years been controversial. The building of fortresses, dams and irrigation works; the mobilizations of armies; the securing of the food supply and of trade generally all these require coercion. The state is a tool that cannot be made without iron. And coercion, in turn, requires agents of coercion." (1983, p. 68) If not for unlimited-indirect or direct democracy, and not for meritocracy, who are then these agents of coercion?
As Walzer illustrates in his defense of pluralism, the claim to monopolize a dominant good constitutes an ideology. Aristocracy is the principle of those who lay claim to breeding and intelligence. Divine supremacy is the principle of those who claim to know the word of God. Meritocracy is the principle of those who claim to be talented (Walzer, 1983, p. 12). But neither lineage, nor intelligence, nor divination nor talent should be a claim to the monopoly on force. In both Pascal (1961, p. 96) and Marx (1963, pp. 193-94) we find that personal qualities and social goods have their sphere of operation. So what is then the qualities needed to operate in the sphere of coercion?
Earlier I dismissed the idea of meritocracy, for those with talent are not necessary those of social virtue. Nevertheless, the idea of meritocracy has some contribution to make to the idea of the military republic. The principle that underlies the idea of meritocracy in the minds of most of its supporters is simply this: that offices should be filled by the most qualified people because qualification is a special case of desert (Walzer, 1983, p. 135). What then would be the qualification, the desert, that should bring about the possibility to take office? According to William Galston's influential account, responsible citizenship requires four types of civic virtues: (i) general virtues: courage; law-abidingness; loyalty; (ii) social virtues: independence; open-mindedness; (iii) economic virtues: work ethic; capacity to delay self-gratification; adaptability to economic and technological change; and (iv) political virtues: capacity to discern and respect the rights of others; willingness to demand only what can be paid for; ability to evaluate the performance of those in office; willingness to engage in public discourse (Galston, 1991). The health and stability of a democracy depend, not only on the justice of its basic institutions, but also on the qualities and attitudes of its citizens (Kymlicka, 2002, p. 285). The quality we are looking for then is 'duty'.
In the military republic every voter and officeholder is an individual who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage, and by doing so has had the opportunity to develop civic virtues. No distinction is made between gender, race, creed, sexual preference, social background - the only requirement is the willingness to serve, an individual choice. In addition to its intended purpose of growing civic virtue, it may as well be a solution to multiculturalism, integrated citizens into a common national culture promoting mutual understanding, trust and solidarity through the process of service they all go through. A citizen accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic, defending it with life, a civilian does not, either because they are unwilling or because unable to comprehend this personal responsibility. In the military republic the distinction between civilian and citizen is not a cause for issue as such both are exactly where they should be, the citizen in the political public sphere, and the civilian in the economic private sphere.
The noblest fate anyone can endure is to place the own mortal body between a loved home and the war's desolation (in both the kinetic and political sense). Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part...and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live. Social responsibility above the level of family, or at most of tribe, requires imagination-- devotion, loyalty, all the higher virtues -- which individuals must develop themselves; if they have them forced down, they will 'vomit' them out. In turn, the state must give the opportunity to serve.
To propagate the idea of the military republic, while an exploration or continuation of citizenship theory, is challenging due to it invoking images of militaristic regimes - in particular of fascist regimes in the early twentieth century. Nevertheless, both the fallacy of peace and the military republic deserve exploration in their own right. If the fallacy of peace is not addressed the fall of liberal democracy will surely come. What form of government, whether it be a military republic, will arise in its place is unclear, but I fear that, if it does not include a form of civic virtue, the future is going to be dark indeed.
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[i] Translated from German "Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln" (Von Clausewitz , 1976).
[ii] Somehow when speaking about the 'seventy years peace' internal strife is disregarded, thus 'The Troubles' in Ireland (1960-1998), 'The Cyprus issue' sparked by the 1974 Cypriot coup d'état (1974-today), the 'Basque Conflict' in Spain (1959-2011) and the 'Yugoslav Wars' (1991-2001) are disregarded.
[iii] While Russet addressing it in a few lines, he fails to give proper credit to the bipolar world between 1945 and 1990 in which nuclear deterrence and US hegemony allowed us the freedom to build up a liberal democracy, international trade and IOs.
[iv] For a full explanation of the Two Level Game see Robert D. Putnam. ‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games’, International Organization, (42), Summer 1988: pp. 427-460.
[v] Scholars have argued that war in fact did change in the post-cold war era, featuring a new "type of organized violence" that, Mary Kaldor describes as 'New Wars' (Creveld, 1991; Holsti, 1995; Kaldor, 1999; Duffield, 2002; Rodin, 2006). I argue instead to acknowledge that new principles of war are no longer "using armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to one's will" but rather are "using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one's interest" (Liang & Xiangsui, 1999). See also Hoffman, F. G. (2009). Hybrid vs. Compound War, The Janus choice: Defining Today's Multifaceted Conflict. Armed Forces Journal , 44-45.
[vi] For a complete analysis of Just War see Walzer, M. (1977). Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New york: Basic Books and Sorabji, R. (2009). Just War from Ancient Origins to the Conquistadors Debate and its Modern Relevance. In R. Sorabji, & D. Rodin, The Ethics of War. Shared Problems in Different Traditions (pp. 13-29). Farnham: Ashgate. For the contemporary debate on variations such as Ius Post Bellum see Allman, M. J., & Winright, T. L. (2010). After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice. New York: Maryknoll and for Ius ad Vim see Brandt Ford, S. (2013). Jus ad vim and the just use of lethal force-short-of-war. In F. Allhoff, Routledge Handbook of Ethics and War. Just war in the twenty-first century. New York: Routledge.
[vii] Be it Vladimir Putin's Neo-Imperial Russia; Recep Tayyip Erdoğan post-Kemalist Turkey; or the terrorist movement Da'esh.
[viii] The results of the acquired syndrome are clearly visible in the failed interventions in the last decade of the twentieth century in Rwanda (1990-93; 94); Somalia (1992-95); Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-95); Kosovo (1998-99) and the unstructured involvement in Afghanistan (2001-14) Iraq (2003-11) and Libya (2011).
[ix] As in 'civic republicanism', the term 'republicanism' is not a reference to the Republican party in the United States, but as Kymlicka illustrates, is intended to evoke images of the city-state republics (polis) of classical Athens and Rome or Renaissance Florence, which are widely believed to have successfully encouraged active and publicly spirited citizenship (Kymlicka, 2002, p. 294). However, it is not to be confused with the antlike communism urged by Plato under the misleading title The Republic.
[x] See Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers (G.P. Putnam's Sons edition, New York, 1959)-a brilliant piece of social science fiction that forecasted the crisis of democracy more than fifty years ago.