Talk:Dictators and Non-Democratic Governments

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--Pyrrho 00:42, 21 Nov 2004 (PST) Interesting, well, I love the substance of the debate, being, "what constitutes a democratic state" and there is definitely an argument from a progressive point of view that there are no such states really in existence but also good arguments pointing out that makes the definitions trivial and essentially pointless. Pointless in that it would be a useless definition to attempt to use it to discriminate one state from another if no states apply.

Ohwilileke has acknowledged this by categorizing in lists that differ by type and "amount" of democracy. The sections in this page which imply both degree and type of deviation from a "perfect" democracy.

Well, personally, I suggest the solution lies in working from the ThinkTank page created here: Oppressive Regime Lists. Notice that I used the word "oppressive" exactly with this philosophical dilemma in mind. I named it many things, starting with the word "dictator". I realized a while ago that I was out of date on my dictators... it was a new world, Pinochet was long gone, more or less. And I was also struck by how many oppressive regimes, indeed, empirically evident dictatorships, like Belarus is looking, were proud to claim they were democracies. It's all the rage, evidently, so well known is the art of the crooked election I suppose, and evidently, so effective. There is a suggested methodology there, very short, implying we vote for who is on these lists.

But this also implies (I just mean to me) the purpose is to education/re-education someone like me… just how bad is this or that government. And also, civil wars and chronic unrest.

I think I may be siding a little bit with the idea that the lists on this page need to be broken out to support the voting system, pages like this becomes articles on the qualitative issues and progressive attitudes toward the various type of list, and also act as indexing which ties the separate lists together in a whole expression. The product is a statement on oppressive regimes from *very* to *everyone-does-it* from a progressive viewpoint.\

PS: The voting format we should use, I think, should be based on the one in the page where we vote for the "featured story"...Feature Article Candidates as we are planning software that will tabulate votes of this sort for us... though it's easy for now to count the few votes on any single page issue. Since the software isn't here yet, feel free to improve the format if nec.

Monarchies With More Than Symbolic Power: Both Malaysia and Thailand (which you did not include) are constitutional monarchies. So far as I am aware, the King of Thailand actually has more potential power than the nominal ruler of Malaysia. Both countries, I think, currently should be counted as functioning democracies. Moreover, to the extent Malaysia may be less free than Thailand, I believe it is not because of the presence of a monarchy but rather due to the conduct of the governing party.

Ohwilleke 14:19, 9 Nov 2004 (PST) You could go either way in each case. I omitted Thailand because the monarch his intervened very infrequently and done so when he has, as in the recent violence there, from the bully pulpit rather than by acting himself. Malaysia is a close call which could go either way. It is notable because the King is elected from a number of hereditary leaders who exercise very substantial power at the provincial level.

Countries That Rule Substantial Number of People Without Full Democratic Rights: I don't think this is a useful category. Sudan is anyway a dictatorship. Arguably, Fiji is a disfunctional democracy; alternatively, it might be regarded as being in transition. In my view, notwithstanding the legitimate issues you raise, the other named countries are all democracies and including any of them in a list of "Dictators and Non-Democratic Governments" devalues the listing.--One of the people 13:36, 9 Nov 2004 (PST)

Ohwilleke 14:19, 9 Nov 2004 (PST) I think this category is very useful. There are a number of cases which are notable for omitting the democratic rights of large numbers of people and quite frankly Israel is probably the most serious offender in the category, which I would guess is one of your concerns about that category. In Fiji the distinction is between simply intimidating the minority which would be a disfunctional democracy, and changing the rules formally so that half the population can't vote, which is what happened, so that it is pretty good fit. Your point on Sudan is well taken and I will fix it.

One of the people 19:25, 9 Nov 2004 (PST) Let me try to be more precise. The category itself may have utility, but not as a sub-category of "Dictators and Non-Democratic Governments." Perhaps it deserves a separate entry in dkosopedia. But unless we require perfection -- which would radically reduce any listing of democracies, with all their faults Germany, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States are democracies.

Germany: Whatever we may think of its citizenship laws, how does a law that does not automatically grant birth citizenship to the children of non-citizens make the country not a democracy?
Israel: If Israel were asserting sovereignty over the Occupied Territories, then I would agree with you that the Palestinians' lack of voting rights in Israel would mean that that country is not a democracy. As an occupying power, however, it does not have an obligation to grant such voting rights. (So far as I know, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are illegal under international law. Again, however, this does not go to the character of Israel as a democracy or not.) Within the State of Israel itself, I would like to see your evidence that a "large proportion" of Arab residents of Israel are denied either citizenship of voting rights.
Japan: While I don't know much about the extent of the problem, I would like to see your evidence of its extent and your reasons for concluding that Japan, therefore, does not count as a democracy.
Switzerland: What are the reasons for using Switzerland's citizenship laws to classify it as not being a democracy?
United States: In addition to the questions posed above, do we really want dkosopedia to classify the U.S. not being a democracy?

Ohwilleke 20:14, 9 Nov 2004 (PST) With regard to the entries on Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the citizenship aspects of the U.S., this doesn't make them "not democracies", but it does call attention to the serious problem of having a significant numbers of permanent residents are kept out of the democratic process. A lack of birthright citizenship isn't much of a problem during eras when there is virtually no immigration; but when a large percentage of your permanent population is affected, it starts becoming a problem. If a place like Kuwait ever gets democratic institutions, it will be a crisis, as only a small percentage of the people who live there are actually Kuwaitis. If you live in a place like Denver or Los Angeles or Texas, where a large percentage of your population is made up of non-citizens, it is a big deal. (Interestingly, not all countries require citizenship to vote. The EU now allows non-citizens to vote in local elections, and New Zealand allows permanent residents to vote in all elections).

Again, in the case of Israel, the question is not whether it is a democracy or not. The question is more complex than that. If you are an Israeli citizen, clearly, from your perspective it is a vibrant and healthy multiparty democracy. But, it has a serious flaw. Its "occupation" has been seriously criticized in international law, and when you are going on four decades of "occupation" that definition stops ringing true, particularly from the perspective of progressives who care about things like democracy and think that justice and democracies are key components to resolving world problems. It doesn't look temporary any more when its gone on for four decades and there is no end in sight. The bottom line is that there are 3 million plus people who are ruled by Israel who don't have a say in the government that rules them and don't like it. There is no other genuine democracy in the world where that many people are denied a say in the national government by the government that rules them, despite the fact that they are unhappy with the situation. This is particularly true in light a studies such as one released from a Harvard scholar today which note that terrorism is strongly associated with places that are both lacking in democracy and not overwhelmingly totalitarian. As the Palestinian Territories do not have anyone Israeli or Palestinian who has total control a la the Soviet Union, this points to a lack of democracy is being a major driving force behind the violence there. More precisely, elections create legitimacy in the eyes of those entitled to vote. Hell, this effect is so strong that even governments like Saddam's Iraq and the USSR diligently held elections because they work to produce legitimacy even when there is only one guy on the ballot. This failure undermines the legitimacy of the Israeli government (not that it had much to start with in their eyes) and makes Israel seem like a legitimate target to those disenfranchised.

As far as the "large proportion", this comes from radio reports (NPR mostly) and first hand knowledge of the fact that in even in many Israeli Arab families some members have citizenship, while others do not. Obviously a specific percentage would be better and when I (or you) find one, inserting it would be great.

One of the people 20:38, 9 Nov 2004 (PST) The overarching problem is that we are discussing a subcategory in an entry entitled "Dictators and Non-Democratic Governments." None of the countries now under discussion has a dictator or a non-democratic government.

Regarding Israel -- which probably should be discussed in a different venue -- unless you can adduce better evidence regarding the situation within the country I respectfully suggest you don't have enough to carry your claim. As a regular reader of Ha'aretz and supporter of the New Israel Fund and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, if there were such a problem, I think I would be aware of it. As for the Occupation, whether or not, in the absence of a peace agreement fulfilling the requirements of UNSCR 242 and 338, the Occupation (as distinguished from particular policies or practices) reasonably can be said to be unlawful, I don't think a generally accepted case can be made out that Israel is not a democracy.

Do we really want a situation in which we alternate in deleting and restoring this section of the entry? Why don't you follow my suggestion of creating an entirely new entry?


The discussion on Israel is grossly flawed. The idea that the Palestinians are living in occupied territory is valid. The idea that the history of the area began in 1967 is not. The implied concept that leads to the flawed conclusion is that the Palestinians are purely victims, waiting only for an opportunity to live freely in their own land. That is simply absurd. They remain "occupied" for a very simple reason- refusal to accept peace on any terms other than the utter eradication of Israel. I can't think of a single other example in which a sovereign nation is invaded without provocation, occupied for decades, threatened with complete annihilation, wins back land, is continuously threatened with destruction, and somehow is the villian.

The Arab nations attacked Israel in 1948. At that time Jerusalem was an international city, available to all peoples and all faiths. From 1948 to 1957 the different Arab nations occupied much of original Israel and controlled Jerusalem, and nobody complained about the "occupation." During that time Jews were not allowed into Jerusalem and Jewish holy sites were grossly desecrated. In 1967, as the Arab nations again girded for war, Israel struck first. It won. It took back lost territory and much more. It also took Jerusalem. Moshe Dayan, on the day the Isrealis entered the city, turned control of Muslim sites over to Muslims, and so it remains to this day.

Then, and only then, did anybody discover "Palestinians." They really came to the forefront, not as a result of the "occupation," but as a result of "Black September," their eviction from Jordan after a failed attempt to take over the Hashemite regime. But they now exist, and must be recognized. However, they can only expect recognition when they first recognize the entity from which they demand same, and that is Israel. Israel offered peace, time and again. It was rejected in favor of war.

What is the best example of Israel's democracy? The switch from Barak to Sharon. Israel, after Oslo, thought peace was possible. They elected a man to make peace, Ehud Barak. Arafat rejected not only peace, but negotiations, in favor of war. What did the democracy do? It elected a man to respond, Ariel Sharon. And what will Israel do the SECOND the Palestinians are ready to make peace? They will throw Sharon out and elect a peacemaker. To argue that Israel is nondemocratic because it is nonsuicidal is nonsensical.

Ohwilleke 20:06, 10 Nov 2004 (PST) With due respect, both One of the People, and Dhonig, your views regarding the matter are decidedly pro-Israel, in the case of Dhonig to the point of being polemical. Your creditentials, One of the People, undermine your credibility, because they indicate a strong commitment to a particular faction in the struggle, rather than enhance your point. This is not, like Wikipedia, a neutral forum, although Wiki principals of dispute resolution apply, i.e. delete-resore wars are not acceptable conduct on this Wiki. This is a progressive wiki, and that point of view is deeply divided between concerns about Israel facing the risk of losing its existence to outside influence and about mistreatment of Palestinians. As such, it should try to take, while not precisely a neutral view, certainly an even handed one.

With due respect, I don't think that you, One of the People, seem to understand that I am not saying and that the entry does not say that Israel is not a democracy. What it says, perfectly accurately, is that it is a Democracy for some, which excludes a great many people from the democratic process and quite frankly, whether or not international law (to the extent that such a thing has meaning in the real world) says so or not, there is something deeply troubling from a democratic perspective about a nation that has disenfranchised more than a third of the adults in the territory it controls (assuming about 6 million Israeli citizens). I could be amenable to creating a new entry which has the same heading as the category now including the US, Japan, Israel, etc. as the current one with a cross reference where the heading is in this entry, if that would make you feel better about it.

Dhonig, I can only say that your description of the situation goes beyond simply stating the situation in favor of one party to the point of being flatly inaccurate. Palestine, as a historical entity, certainly preceded 1967, and there are plenty of victims on both sides of this conflict to go around. It is one thing to say that there was no such thing as a Palestinian identity in the 1800s, and another to say that it didn't exist in the late 20th century. Certainly, "original Israel" was no more real in 1948 than the Holy Roman Empire was in 1848. It was a political idea that had ceased to have a real existence for centuries, but which existed the imaginations of some people who cared deeply about that political idea. While the reasons for creating Israel are highly understandable, to an extent unpredecedented in history, a group of people who come en masse into someone else's land, take over and stay, are also not, corporately at least, innocent victims, either in the case of the formation of Israel or in the foundation of settlements in the Palestinian territories. This is true, even if many individuals (e.g. new immigrants sent to settlements and children born there) aren't personally culpable. Kicking someone out of their own country and taking over that country is aggresive behavior. Certainly, Palestinians were removed from places they lived with force and threat of force by the early Zionists and had their property seized without compensation in many cases, which has spawned grievances that are now intractable (the notion of a full right of return in simply impracticable given the fait accompli of Israeli control). Certainly, there have been gross abuses of human rights by the Israeli government directed towards the Palestinians in recent history. Certainly, Palestinians are governed, by force, by a government they had no say in electing and didn't consent to in any constitutional sense. One can argue that human rights don't matter when you are facing suicide bombers on a regular basis, and it is an understandable view, but also a highly conservative one not shared by progressives generally or even in any large number. Ariel Sharon's personal past, by many credible accounts, includes a serious war crime that lead to the slaughter of large numbers of people. And, support for Israel in U.S. politics has waned somewhat from prior peaks primarily because of deep held concerns about Israel conduct, by ordinary Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and ordinary Europeans, who are acting simply out of generalized humanitarian concern.

The Israelis and Palestians are both there now. The most important thing is that a solution be found that works. Sharon realizes that in making a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza without obtaining concessions and despite opposition from his own party. There are other leaders on both sides who realize that too. But, the attitude that the Palestinians are wholely at fault while the Israelis are wholely innocent, that the Palestinians deserve a denial of their democratic and personal rights or that Israelis deserve to be blown up by suicide bombers, is the reason we have an insane bloody war going on there right now.

Respectfully Disagree

Sorry if you find my point of view polemical, but your diatribe fails to persuade. You failed to address a few basic points:

1. The nation of Israel, as recognized by the United Nations in 1948, was attacked by the Arab states.

2. The result of that attack was the "pre-1967 borders" of which you are so enamored.

3. Jews were barred from entering Jerusalem, and ancient Jewish tombstones were used to build latrines on the Wailing Wall.

4. The position you advocate is a demand that Israel surrender its security and any bargaining power it may have unilaterally to a group of people sworn to its destruction. That's not progressive, it's utopian.

Believe it or not, I am not a fan of Sharon. I would like to see two nations existing side by side. If I had ANY reason to believe the Palestinians were willing to acknowledge the existence of Jewish holy sites and permit access to them, I would be in favor of mutual control of Jerusalem. But so long as the Palestinians foment for utter eradication, and deny the existence of the ancient Temple, you are simply demanding unilateral suicide.

Your arguments about historical Zionism, and displacement of Palestinians, shows more about your biases than your grasp of history. The Ottoman Turks controlled the entire region from the 16th century through WWI. The area now considered Palestine saw its first significant Jewish immigration in the 1880s, and at the time was sparsely populated. There was certainly some back and forth between Jewish immigrants and a large number of Arab immigrants of the same time period, running through '48, but neither side has a monopoly on truth in that story. Ultimately, after a series of divisions that repeatedly reduced the land that would be the Jews, the UN partitioned Palestine based upon the location of the Jewish and Arab populations and kept Jerusalem international. Here's the map- partmap3.jpg

That partition worked to keep the Jewish areas Jewish, and the Arab areas Arab. This pretty much puts the lie to the whole displacement theory, and demonstrates that the intent was the eradication of the Jewish State. Until that intent is gone, Israel can be expected to do nothing less that protect its people.

One of the people 21:44, 10 Nov 2004 (PST) The entry is entitled "Dictators and Non-Democratic Governtment." Ohwilleke: If we agree that Israel, with whatever problems it has, is a democracy, then it does not belong in this entry of the dKosopedia. This is not to say that Israel is fault-free. Rather, I am saying that a discussion of problems or defects of democratic states belongs in a different entry than one devoted to non-democratic states.

Second, what is it about my "credentials" undermining my credibility?

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