April 2, 2004

Peceny Discusses Gunpoint Democracies

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Prof. Mark Peceny, political science, University of New Mexico, gave a lecture yesterday entitled “Building Democracies at Gunpoint.”

Peceny, who said he originally wanted to call the lecture “Building Half-Assed Democracies at Gunpoint,” talked to a group of about 30 people, primarily graduate students, about the effect that military intervention has on establishing democratic governments. The lecture focused on current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of the United States and other liberal countries that are trying to set up democracies in foreign nations.

Peceny started off the lecture by asking the audience if they were convinced that there would be an effective democratic government set up in Iraq in the next four years. No one in the audience responded. Peceny then preceded to ask if anyone thought there would be a democracy in five or seven years. The room stayed silent.

“Something about U.S. military intervention promotes skepticism among citizens,” Peceny said.

One issue that Peceny touched on was why the United States and other countries claim to be interested in promoting free elections and democracies, but instead seem to have more materialistic motives.

Peceny said that U.S. citizens do not like seeing other people’s human rights abused. When the U.S. government intervenes to establish free elections and a democratic state in troubled nations, there is more public support.

In addition, Peceny said America has a specific strategic plan — the best way for the U.S. to build allies is to build strong, stable democracies in other states. Peceny also added that America is a leader in the free world.

“What makes us a distinct country in history is our commitment to liberation,” Peceny said.

He said that the United States’ reasons for intervening in Afghanistan are rooted in the Sept. 11th attacks and hopes of capturing Osama Bin Laden while adding that oil, protecting Israel and concern of weapons of mass destruction are the governments’ motives behind the war in Iraq.

“Liberation and bringing freedom to Iraq might have been secondary to material interest,” Peceny said. Peceny, who’s talk was based on years of research and statistics, said there is little correlation between intervention and democracy. Few times does military action by a liberal state lead to a stable democracy.

He acknowledged that with the upcoming presidential election, the amount of military forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq is dependent on who is in office in the next few years.

Peceny said that if President George W. Bush remains in office, the military will stay and finish the job that has been started, while if Democratic candidate John Kerry becomes president, it is uncertain what will happen in these affected countries. The lecture concluded with a quick question and answer session in which Peceny clarified some of his points, and got a chance to hear students’ opinions.

“We hear about lectures like this all the time,” Daniel Kinderman grad said.

Kinderman said that yesterday’s lecture did not directly relate to what he is studying, but attended the talk because of his concern about the current state of the world.

Peceny’s lecture was one in a series sponsored by the Peace Studies Program.

Archived article by Amanda Kizer
Sun Contributor