Can Democracy Be Successfully Exported by Force? Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer

Promoting freedom will eventually lead to peace. That is the saying that everybody has heard in their lives. Modern leaders of democracy nowadays often insist that it has arrived at the highest and the most stable position of all times, thus claiming the generalization of democracy throughout the world. In June 1982, President Ronald Reagan presented a commentary to the British parliament, in which he advertised that “governments founded on a respect for individual liberty exercise restraint and peaceful intentions of their foreign policy. He then, perhaps unaware of the contrast, announced a crusade for freedom and a campaign for democratic development” (Santos 2014, p. 1).

A lot of developing countries are committed to enhancing and intensifying democratic rectitude in their government organizations. This image has led to the active actions of the leading democratic countries, the USA, in particular in order to enhance democracy in other nations. This idea was strongly emphasized by George Bush in his speech during the inauguration in 2005.

However, despite the fact that diplomatic means were the first intentions of propagating democracy, the military occupation became an essential part of consigning ‘freedom.’ It is well known that during the time of its existence, the USA repeatedly tried to export democracy by the use of military force; for all that, the consequences were quite diverse. Some of the intentions of exporting democracy were put into practice in West Germany, Japan, and Italy, to be more distinctive. On the other hand, they failed wretchedly in some countries, such as Vietnam, Cuba, etc. The diversity of results led to a heightened concern among policymakers whether military involvement can guarantee the imposing and establishing continuous democratic foundations.

The new millennium has been opened by two violent and fundamental wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both of them were advocated by the government of the United States with several assertions. The most important cause of the military invasion of the USA is self-defense: the United States invaded Afghanistan in order to exterminate the core of terrorist foundations, and the troops in Iraq were obliged to demolish the purported weapons of mass destruction. However, lately, another intention was added: in extension to an established motive, the government of the United States was trying to inflict a change in leadership of the country and impose democracy.

Now the question arises: is democracy a product that can be exported from the countries that are more developed than the receiving nation? Under what circumstances is it attainable and justifiable to enhance democracy in developing countries? There are the representatives of the democratic community that consider this system of government, the one that works for every nation. However, they forget that the whole society consists of a diversity of countries with their settled government system.

In this paper, we will try to establish whether democracy can be enforced not. Moreover, this paper will argue over the export of democracy by developed countries, the United States, in particular, in a social, cultural, economic, and professional context. The essay consists of three parts: the first one will observe the policy of the United States concerning the enforcement of democracy. The second part of the paper overviews the consequences of the American invasion of Iraq; the final section suggests the traditional and nonviolent methods of democracy export.

American Policy towards Democracy Export

Almost instantly, after the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, the American international program of democratic implementation has changed dramatically. According to the new President, “the liberal internationalist strategy that had prevailed in the previous government was no longer appropriate to represent the international aspirations of the American people” (Santos 2014, p. 2). The approach of Clinton implied that the military force of the United States is not the blueprint for building a healthy and amicable world order, where the dissemination of democracy would be the foundation of the government (Russett 1994).

However, the new President Bush did not share the views of the former President regarding the establishment of a powerful array of multilateral institutions. The strategy of Clinton was strongly disapproved of interconnecting with countries overseas and making an attempt in nation-building and democratic interferences. The campaign program of George Bush included a more judicious approach towards using the military powers; moreover, the new presidential candidate insisted on the reduction of interventionist and peaceful attitude concerning the constitutional interests of other nations.

The government of the United States started a military operation in Iraq in March 2003, while the part of American troops was still in Afghanistan. The USA was planning to end the regime of Saddam Hussein and to reinstate it with liberal democracy; moreover, the establishment of democracy was believed to have beneficial side effects on other countries of the Middle East. The anti-terroristic operation, much as the military invasion of the USA to Iraq in January 1991, went almost perfect and was virtually unopposed. As expected, the Army of Iraq was trained insufficiently; moreover, the level of equipment was much lower than the one of the American army, which had always been one of the most martially equipped and impeccably trained in the world.

The outcome of the operation was entirely expected: the regime of Hussein was overthrown on April 16, 2003; that was the day when the President made an appearance on public and announced that Iraq was now a liberal country. Despite the fact that the military operation regarding the initial goal was a success not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, the situations in both countries remain not fully resolved and continue to derive. Even now, at the moment of writing this paper, the conflict is too complicated to predict whether the Army of the United States would eventually manage to create a renewed government policy with liberal democracy. In my opinion, it would take no less than several years in order to make conclusions about the outcome of the whole operation. Spontaneous outbreaks of militants all over the country indicate that the attempts of the American army to establish changes in the policy of Iraq are met with persistent intransigence, even despite the fact that the regime, which prevailed in the past, was overturned almost without any difficulties as far as possible. The militants that were mentioned above are now the center of opposition in Iraq, thus indicating that there is no longer a pivotal foe opponent. Moreover, both human and financial expenses turned out to be extensively greater than commencing forecasts.

Iraq after American Intervention

In this section, we will provide an analysis of the outcome of the current intervention of American military force in Iraq. The following criteria will be discussed: the level of economic development, ethnic and religious variety, the occurrence of democracy preceding the invasion, the new aspects of industrial expansion, the forecast towards civil war, and the capacity of democracy after the American interference.

The American intervention in Iraq was driven by three aspects: the elimination of Saddam Hussein, who was the current dictatorial leader of the country, and his existent government along with him; the selection and intrusion of a new commander; and the renewing the image of the USA in a government building. It should be noticed that unlike in Afghanistan, the United States proclaimed the forcing of democracy one of the initial inclinations in order to breach the premises of the country. Moreover, after the military force revealed there were no weapons of mass destruction in the country, the government of the USA began to heighten the importance of exporting democracy to Iraq. In relation to that, George Bush proclaimed a doctrine after September 11, where the democracy was delineated as an ultimate mechanism towards terrorist destruction.

Religious and Ethnic Variety

Iraq has always been torn by profound ethnic and religious differences, although the country managed to keep its national unity throughout history. The majority of Iraqis is represented by Muslims, which is more than 95 percent of the population as a whole. The Muslim community, however, is not a single entity: 60 percent of the commonwealth is Shias, and the remaining part is represented by Sunnis. Extra 5 percent stand for religious minorities along with Christians.

There are several major ethnic differences, as the country is divided into two parts: Arabs form the dominant part of the society by 80 percent, their residence is mainly in the central-south part of Iraq. Kurds represent an ethnic minority and account for 20 percent of the population; they live primarily in the northeast of the country.

Despite the small number of the population, the Sunnis kept the political power and military force in their hands from the reign of the Ottoman Empire. This archival preponderance transformed into various advantages like social privileges and monetary abundance to the Sunnis in comparison with other representatives of society.

Due to the minority of the population, the Shias were always expelled from fraternities of authority and social predominance. As a result, the representatives of this part of the population forced to transform their exasperation to the brutal and destructive policy during the reign of Saddam Hussein. On the contrary, the current government of Iraq was never approved by the Kurds; they organized uprisings against the central government and Bagdad in particular. The government of Saddam Hussein repressed the rebellions without remorse, even involved the usage of chemical weapons. In 1991, The USA and England provided assistance in creating an independent locality of the Kurds – the Iraqi Kurdistan. “It follows from the above that the meaningful, deep political cleavages in Iraq are defined along ethnic-religious lines, constituting three main contending groups: the Sunnis, the Shias, and the Kurds” (Santos 2014, p. 19).

The Economy before the Intervention

The monetary funds of Iraq were damaged significantly by several wars that occurred from the 1980s to 1990s. Moreover, the UN Security Council enforced penalties in the country, and the Iraqi Kurdistan declared economic independence from Iraq. All this combined brought a drastic critical situation in the economy of the country, which had a terrible impact on the public services and led to the destitution of the middle class (Ōmae 1995).

While Saddam Hussein was the leader of the country, the material regarding the economy of Iraq was a concern of national protection. Therefore, the economic information for the period of Hussein’s reign is more than perilous: “the Economist Intelligence Unit (2014) estimated the Iraq Gross Domestic Product in 1989, around 39 billion dollars. After the imposition of the UN Security Council penalties, this index went down more than 70%. Iraq’s GDP recovered significantly in the period between 1996 and 2000, increasing from 10.6 to 33 billion dollars, respectively, only to decrease again until the year of invasion” (Santos 2014, p. 20). Nonetheless, the state of the economy in Iraq during the military intervention of the United States differs significantly from said above.

Previous Democratic Experience

Iraq has never been a democratic country before; therefore, it had no involvement in the process of democracy until the American invasion. There is a research, which conducts information about the rate of liberty in the world: “the Freedom House every year measures liberty, based on free and regular elections, civil liberties, and political rights. It provides an index that ranges from 1 to 7, where one is attributed to the 20 freest countries and 7 to the worst non-free countries” (Santos 2014, p. 21). According to the data of the Freedom House in 2002, Iraq obtained the index of 7. Moreover, there is the Polity index, which determines the rate of “democracy in all independent states with more than one million inhabitants, evaluating competitiveness, transparency, and level of participation in the political regimes. It ranges from 10 to -10, where 6-10 is attributed to democracies, -5 to 5 to anocracies and -10 to -6 to autocracies” (Santos 2014, p. 22). Due to the fact that Iraq was a country led by a constant dictatorship between 1980 and 2003, it obtained the index of -9.

Years of the dictator regime of Saddam Hussein and no previous experience with democracy can become a serious obstacle in the way of successful export of American democracy.

The Outcome of the American Intervention

The economic performance of the country during the military occupation advanced on the whole; however, it has not improved enough in order to enhance the Gross Domestic Product per capita of Iraq. According to these indicators, Iraq remained on the list of the most indigent countries on the planet, on the 141st place, to be precise. That mentioned above leads to the conclusion that economic efficiency, even improved, is not able to eliminate or at least flatten the ethnic-religious diversities.

Furthermore, the American intervention helped to advance the overall condition of democracy throughout the country by enforcing certain actions of liberalization. Nonetheless, Iraq still cannot be distinguished as a democratic nation. The Freedom House claims that “by the Polity index Iraq is now an anocracy (3), which is still a long way to democracy. Moreover, the indexes show invasion an improvement from 7 to 5.5 since the American, so Iraq is still considered a non-free country” (Santos 2014, p. 22).

Almost instantly after the military of the United States left the country, the brutal intramural conflicts escalated. The frailty and insecurity of the new government led to the renewed confrontations between different ethnic and religious groups. The level of civilian victims almost reached the mark of 8000 accidents; this had returned the country to the position of 2008 when Iraq was facing a civil war. ISIS, which is short for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has claimed responsibility for these accidents with civilians.

ISIS is an immense concern not only for America but for the whole world. This jihadist movement was established in April 2013 by Sunni mutineers; it operates not only in Iraq but also in Syria. ISIS appears to be a fundamental resistance grouping; it comes from Al Qaeda and is characterized by the same brutality and violence.

The government of Iraq is not able to handle the situation with ISIS accurately, as the terrorists are currently capturing the substantial cities near Turkey and Syria. Some claim that the crucial ambition of the movement is to turn the area between Bagdad and Syria into a caliphate. Given the fact of the ISIS threat to the Islamic world, Iran, along with the United States declared that they would send a military force in order to help the renewed central government of Iraq to deal with the radical terrorist movement.

According to estimates by the Watson Institute for International Studies, which were published in 2013, the American government has invested about 3 trillion dollars in the Iraqi conflict so far. Moreover, the Defense Department notifies that “the government kept between 150 and 200 thousand troops in Iraqi territory along the years of occupation” in the name of exporting the democracy. Nevertheless, all efforts of the American government to implement the working democratic system were unsuccessful. The historical fractures between diverse ethnic and religious groups are too diversified and are tearing the country apart, but, on the contrary, providing for national unification.

The American military force failed to discipline and equip the troops of Iraq before leaving the country entirely. As a result, the historical fractures mentioned above led to even more destructive and potent deployment of the conflict. Instead of exporting democracy to Iraq, America has brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Liberalism and Democracy

Democracy and liberalism have their differences; however, they are closely connected with each other. According to Plattner (1998), “Liberal democracy, which is what most people mean today when they speak of democracy, is indeed an interweaving of two different elements, one democratic in a stricter sense and the other liberal” (p. 175). In the collocation ‘liberal democracy’, the word ‘liberal’ relates mostly to the means of executing the democratic power. Mostly, it is restricted to two main fundamentals: constitutional laws and human rights (Baylis, Owens and Smith 2013).

It is believed that there is no distinct explanation of the word ‘liberalism’ (Howard 2008). Liberalism depicts the whole picture that includes individual independence, private property, assistance in politics, etc. There are several directions of liberalism, all of which can be used as a strategy of exporting democracy (Burchill et al. 2013).

Liberal pacifism is considered to be an end product of cooperation between capitalism and democracy, which leads to peace. In order to fully understand the purpose of liberal pacifism, it is necessary to acknowledge that solely war profiteers and aristocrats are able to take advantage of various conflicts. “No democracy would pursue a minority interest and tolerate the high costs of imperialism. When free trade prevails, ‘no class’ gains from the forcible expansion: foreign raw materials and foodstuff are as accessible to each nation as though they were in its territory. Where the cultural backwardness of a region makes normal economic intercourse dependent on colonization, it does not matter, assuming free trade, which of the ‘civilized’ nations undertakes the task of colonization” (Doyle 1986, p. 1158).

Some researchers consider liberal imperialism the best way to establish a nation; however, this nation would be ready for expansion and averting the oppression (Hoffmann 1995). “If the United States is sincerely committed to helping the poorest countries in the world, the easiest way to accomplish this is not foreign aid, it’s not money, and it’s not sending humanitarian assistance abroad. It’s not sending military troops abroad. It is allowing poor people access to the well-established markets” (Doyle 1997, p. 247).

In conclusion, having observed the case of exporting democracy to Iraq, we can notice that the government of the United States has invested a lot of effort, monetary, and people resources into this operation. However, the means of exporting democracy are controversial, as the same approach was successful in other cases (Italy, Japan, and Germany). The success of the operations mentioned above led to the stimulation of military invasion, despite the fact that the peaceful approach showed corresponding success as well (Shabnam 2013). All of these contradictory exigencies lead to the completion that exporting democracy by military invasion is not a solution for democratization.


Baylis, J, Owens, P & Smith, S 2013, ‘Liberalism’, in T Dunne (eds), The globalization of world politics, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 186-200.

Burchill, S, Linklater, A, Devetak, R, Donnelly, J, Nardin, T, Paterson, M, Reus-Smit, C & True, J 2013, Theories of international relations, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Doyle, M 1986, ‘Liberalism and world politics’, American Political Science Review, vol. 80, n. 4, pp. 1151-1169.

Doyle, M 1997, Ways of war and peace: Realism, liberalism, and socialism, W. W. Norton & Company, New York.

Hoffmann, S 1995, ‘The crisis of liberal internationalism’, Foreign Policy, vol. 98, n. 4, pp. 159-166.

Howard, M 2008, War and the liberal conscience, Hurst Publishers, London.

Ōmae, K 1995, The end of the nation state: The rise of regional economies, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Plattner, M 1998, ‘Liberalism and democracy: Can’t have one without the other’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 77, n. 2, pp. 171-180.

Russett, B 1994, Grasping the democratic peace: Principles for a post-cold war world, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Santos, M 2014, Is it possible to export democracy by the use of force? Military interventions in Iraq and Libya, The University of Brasilia, Brasilia.

Shabnam, N & Dey, R 2013, ‘Can democracy be exported?’ State University of Bangladesh, vol. 4, n. 1, pp. 17-23.

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