Jeane Kirkpatrick – advancing democracy ‘with modesty and pragmatism’

Advancing democracy is neither ideological missionary work nor a form of political engineering, but a long-term commitment that demands pragmatism, statecraft and strategic patience.  Jeane Kirkpatrick knew that.

Widely-known for her celebrated distinction between authoritarianism and totalitarianism, she “wanted to be sure that efforts to aid people working for freedom and democracy were made with modesty and pragmatism, recognizing that democracy cannot be imposed from without but must grow, over time, from within,” writes Carl Gershman, in a Wall Street Journal review of Peter Collier’s “Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick” (right) – “a gracefully written and nuanced biography that captures both the significance of Kirkpatrick’s achievements and the complexity of her thought and personality.”

As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “she became what Mr. Collier calls ‘an improbable superstar for the administration,’ defending America in an arena that many Americans had come to see as a hostile forum,” notes Gershman:

Her voice resonated not only in America—a New York truck driver, seeing her crossing Fifth Avenue, pulled down his window and yelled, “Give ‘em hell, Jeane!”—but also abroad. Mr. Collier reports that when she visited the Soviet Union in the 1980s during the height of glasnost, the Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov approached the American delegation saying “Kirkpatski, Kirkpatski, which of you is Kirkpatski?” When Sakharov found her, he seized her hands and said emotionally, “Your name is known in every cell of the gulag.”

Kirkpatrick “changed U.S. behavior in the U.N. in fundamental ways,” writes Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy:

She deployed her team of political appointees in all U.N. committees (I was assigned to the Third Committee, which deals with human rights) so that the U.S. would speak with a common voice, instructing them, as Mr. Collier correctly points out, not to clear their speeches with the State Department bureaucracy. She also insisted that the U.S. treat the U.N. “like a political operation in Chicago, where tough deals cut on the basis of enlightened self-interest trumped the theater of idealistic rhetoric.” To give the U.S. some political leverage in lobbying on resolutions, she worked with Congress to get legislation passed linking a country’s votes to its receipt of foreign assistance. “We notice,” she declared, “we care, we remember.”

“It is little wonder,” Mr. Collier writes, “that when she saw the momentous changes leading to 1989, she often couldn’t believe her eyes.” 

Instead of battling the left, as she had in the past, Kirkpatrick found herself clashing with some of her erstwhile neoconservative allies, whom she believed were too zealous in the pursuit of a global democracy agenda in the new unipolar world of the 1990s. Kirkpatrick, according to Mr. Collier, chose to stay behind “with a vigilant pragmatism resting on the bedrock belief, rooted in her middle-American upbringing, that we make things better in this world with great difficulty and make them worse very easily.”

……..As she said in her last book, “Making War to Keep Peace” (2007), she favored an approach that balanced security and democracy, “the twin goals of our foreign policy.” Kirkpatrick left the Democratic Party because she felt that it had lost this balance, and at the end of her life she feared that the administration of George W. Bush had as well. Mr. Collier notes her reservations about the Iraq invasion, but also her wish to treat disagreements with neoconservative friends as “a family matter.”

….Collier is correct in noting that this period was but a footnote to the larger story of her life. It was, he writes, the story of a woman “who had so well prepared herself by a lifetime of exacting study, strenuous encounters in the public square and deep concern for the fate of her country that when she was unexpectedly invited onto the center stage of history she was able to play her part with brilliance and lasting effect.”

“Kirkpatrick was not as much a political leader as she was a model citizen, a woman from the heartland who helped shape the time in which she lived,” Gershman concludes. “It is encouraging to know that our society can produce such citizens, but we’d have more confidence in the country’s future if they were not so rare.”


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Egypt poll produces ‘worst-case scenario’

The first round of Egypt’s presidential election has produced the “worst outcome” for the country’s democratic prospects, observers suggest, with a result that leaves the country at a “terrible crossroads.”

Preliminary returns appear to confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq will advance to next month’s runoff poll.

“It’s probably the worst outcome of the election I could have imagined,” said Hisham Kassem, a veteran publisher and democracy advocate:

Sitting on his living room couch in his Cairo apartment, Kassem’s body language said it all. He looked like he’d been punched in the gut. Kassem admitted that this result, the Brotherhood’s man versus Mubarak’s man, comes as a complete shock.

“I don’t think I can vote in the run-off. I don’t want ever to think I gave my voice to either of the candidates,” Kassem said.

The result pits the two most illiberal candidates against each other in a contest that is likely to polarize Egyptian politics.

“Results compiled Friday from all of Egypt’s 27 provinces show the two in a very tight race, with Morsi in the lead with 25 percent of the votes,” Associated Press reports:

The results have Shafiq, who served as ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, close behind with 24 percent. That sets the stage for a deeply divisive runoff vote June 16-17 for Egypt’s presidency.

Morsi and Shafiq are the country’s most polarizing candidates, each loathed by significant sectors of the population. A head-to-head match between them is the most heated imaginable scenario.

“In my view, it reflects the defeat of the bright side of the revolution, the romantic side,” said Abdel Moneim Said, director of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies,. “In the end, we will have to choose between two forces that believe in ideological dominance and hierarchical politics. Neither are democratic or liberal.”

He said he believed Mr Morsi would prevail in the run-off because he would draw the support of the Islamists who voted for other Islamist candidates in the first round. He predicted many liberals would simply abstain in the second round because neither of the front-runners represented the revolutionary principles that led to the uprising.

The outcome was “perhaps the most polarizing and therefore dangerous result possible” and could spark unrest, said Elijah Zarwan at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. “But those who fear the destabilising effects of sustained Islamist-military confrontation can take some comfort in that neither side has an interest in such a prolonged conflict.”

The result is the latest demonstration that, as Frances Fukuyama recently observed, the much-hyped networking and cyberactivism of the Facebook liberals is no match for the solid grass-roots organizing of Egypt’s well-entrenched illiberal  forces.

“It appears to be a victory for organized campaigns, namely the Muslim Brotherhood’s backing of Mursi and Shafik’s backing by the military and Mubarak’s dissolved National Democratic Party,” said Samer Sulaiman, professor of political economy at the American University in Cairo.

The result confirmed the weakness of Egypt’s liberal and democratic forces, some observers said, and serves as an indictment of the secular groups’ failure to organize a coherent alternative. 

“The pro-revolution candidates failed to unite and it showed.” “This is the worst scenario that could be predicted,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University. “The division of the revolutionary forces has finally led to this polarised situation, which is not good at all for the country.”

Egypt is at a “terrible crossroads”.

“Either we choose the Muslim Brotherhood, who I don’t think have a good political project at all, or we continue with the old regime,” he said. “Voting for Ahmed Shafiq is the same as voting for Mubarak.”

During the campaign, Shafik was derided by many Islamists and seculars alike as a “feloul,” or remnant of the ousted regime, but observers suggest that he appealed to ordinary Egyptians eager for a restoration of stability and security.

“Having someone like Shafik is provocative, and means that he’s mocking the revolution,” said Ahmed Maher, a founder of the April 6 youth movement that helped organize the Tahrir Square protests. “Even if the president is affiliated with the revolution, pressure will continue so that he doesn’t turn into a new pharaoh.”

The run-off is likely to be driven by the politics of fear rather Egypt’s future, said Michele Dunne, the director of the Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East at the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council.

“A lot of people will be voting against the other candidate, rather than the candidate they really like,” she said. “It’s going to offer some difficult choices.”

The square-off between Mr Morsi and Mr Shafiq will have repercussions on the writing of the constitution and the balance of powers in the government, Ms Dunne said.If Mr Morsi is elected, the parliament and presidency would work together against the military. Mr Shafiq, who is seen as close to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, would likely use support from the military to hold the parliament in check if he wins. As a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr Morsi could also cooperate with his fellow members in parliament to actually reduce the power of the presidency and push the country towards a parliamentarian system.

“He may see his job as giving away power, so that the Muslim Brotherhood’s wider project can take off,” said Dunne, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “If you elect Shafiq, I don’t think that will be the case.”

The election represents a political regression and a form of polarization that is likely to recreate the dynamics that marginalized and neutered democrats under the Mubarak regime.

“There’s no doubt this is a very stark choice,” said Shadi Hamid is a Middle East expert with the Brookings Institution. “Complete opposites in a way. And it’s almost like we’re going back in time, the same kind of divide between regime and Brotherhood. And liberals now and revolutionaries find themselves in a very difficult position.”

Shafiq’s success is a testament to the resilience and organizing capacity of the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, a backlash against the Brotherhood, and a mismanaged transition period that was likely a deliberate strategy on the part of the military, said Khalil Al Anani, an expert on Egyptian Islamist movements at Durham University in Britain.

“Now I understand why the military insisted to postpone the elections, to get people tired, to create some kind of fatigue among people, at the expense of the revolution,” said al- Anani. “They don’t have to commit any kind of forgery now – there’s no need. They already played on the minds of people.”

Mursi represents the Brotherhood’s dominant conservative faction and campaigned as the most theocratic candidate, promising to implement a strict version of shariah law and insisting that the Koran would be the foundation of a new constitution.

“Mursi is not going to betray the more conservative interpretation of the Muslim Brotherhood which now dominates” said Joshua Stacher, an assistant professor of Middle East studies at Kent State University.

He has said that women should not be allowed to run for president and told The Washington Post that Saudi Arabia was a good political model for Egypt.

“It was the Muslim Brotherhood machine that brought him to this point. Mursi has modest political skills with a strong commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and leadership,” said al-Anani, an expert on Egyptian Islamist movements at Durham University in Britain.

“He is a shell for the Muslim Brotherhood, and he will sacrifice himself for the sake of the Brotherhood’s survival.”

The following updates via Egypt Election Monitor, a Project of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East:

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A civic Bosnia – Zašto ne?

Bosnia’s war crimes court today sentenced two Bosnian Serbs to at least 30 years’ imprisonment for genocide against Muslims in the eastern town of Srebrenica during the 1992-95 Balkans conflict.

But the latest news from Srebrenica “forces us to rethink, or at least carefully examine, some of our most cherished political notions,” Michael Dobbs writes on Foreign Policy:

Rules approved this week by the high representative for Bosnia (a kind of international viceroy) will end the so-called “Srebrenica exception” that permitted Muslims expelled from the former United Nations “safe area” in July 1995 to continue to vote in municipal elections.

If confirmed, this latest development would appear to be yet another case of the ethno-politics that continues to distort the political process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Yet there is considerable scope and potential for building a broad-based civic constituency based on the large swathes of Bosnian citizens who refuse to identify themselves as Bosniak, Serb or Croat on the country’s census, a Washington meeting heard this week.

In April 2013, Bosnia-Herzegovina will conduct its first census since independence and the end of the Balkans war, with major political implications for the distribution of power between the country’s three “constituent” ethnic groups. But as long as political allegiance and representation remains based on ethnic identity, the census and subsequent allocation of resources will only reinforce an inherently sectarian status quo rooted in an ethno-national model of governance.

While difficult to quantify precisely, recent election success by parties campaigning on civic values rather than ethnic identity suggest that “The Others” make up a “Fourth BiH” that is open to political mobilization, civil society activist Darko Brkan told the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy (above).

Bosnian civil society “is weak but has never been stronger,” he said, giving a voice to a new civic constituency comprising a growing number of Bosnian citizens demanding a “new social contract” based on civic values and ethnically-blind criteria of citizenship, he said. International actors, NGOs, independent media and non-ethnic politicians all have a role in promoting “civic values and a civic identity that reinforces continued democratization.”

Next year’s census offers a unique opportunity for civil society “to consolidate an alternative constituency, a ‘Fourth BiH’ that transcends the three main ethnicities,” said Ivana Howard, the National Endowment for Democracy’s senior program officer for Central and Eastern Europe.

The failure of recent constitutional reform efforts only served to highlight and confirm the “dysfunctional and discriminatory” nature of the political system.

A new social compact should also incorporate a “redefinition of civil society,” that would help close the “great distance between NGOs and citizens,” she said, the result of foreign-funded NGOs too often reflecting an international agenda that fails to address local needs and aspirations.

Darko Brkan is founding president of Zasto ne (Why Not), a Sarajevo-based nongovernmental organization that promotes civic activism, government accountability, and the use of digital media in deepening democracy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition, he is a founding member of Dosta! (Enough!), one of Bosnia’s most prominent citizens’ movements for social justice and government accountability. Mr. Brkan began his career in civic activism more than ten years ago as coordinator of the Campaign for Conscientious Objection, an organization that promotes peace and conscientious objection to military service in BiH. During his fellowship, Mr. Brkan is exploring how information technologies, online tools, and new media can be used to promote democracy. He plans to share his findings and recommendations in the form of a strategy brief and toolkit on the use of new media in citizen mobilization in Bosnia-Herzegovina and beyond. Ms. Ivana Howard is a senior program officer for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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After ‘gravedigger’ election win, should Serbian transition worries democrats?

Photo credit: B92

Should democrats be worried by the election of Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), to the country’s presidency?  

The elevation of Nikolic (above right), known as “The Gravedigger” because he once managed municipal cemeteries, does not threaten to bury Serbian democracy, writes Daniel Serwer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“Alternation in power is an essential feature of truly democratic systems,” he writes for The National Interest. “It has now happened in Serbia for the first time since the fall of Milosevic. Europe and the United States should recognize in these elections a clear expression of the will of Serbia’s people.”

Nikolic’s victory has “electrified the country’s political elite,” The Economist notes:

Until his defeat of the incumbent Boris Tadic  (above left), Serbia’s political future seemed clear. Now, says Braca Grubacic, a senior official in Mr Nikolic’s party, “everyone is talking to everyone, and most options are on the table.”

One option, according to the Serbian B92 news site is for Boris Tadic, the defeated Democratic Party candidate, to become prime minister, heading a coalition with the Socialist Party (SPS).

The Russian and Belarusian ambassadors were among the first to meet and congratulate Nikolic, prompting speculation that his presidency would usher in a stronger eastern orientation in Serbian foreign policy. That’s unlikely, according to Balkan Insight.

“Nikolic has never made any secret of his orientation towards countries in the Eastern part of Europe but since he was expelled from far right Radicals in 2008 and founded his own party, the Progressives, he has repositioned himself as being more EU-oriented and has made frequent well-publicised working visits to Brussels.”

The result might be seen less as a victory for Nikolic than as a defeat for Tadic, writes Eric Gordy.

“The main factor that made Tomislav Nikolic a more palatable option for voters [was] not that he has moved toward the DS but rather that the DS began doing the things people had been warned his own SNS might do,” says Gordy, a senior lecturer in southeast European studies at University College, London:

Bring the parties of the old regime back to power? Done. Rehabilitate and glorify war criminals? Done. Escalate tensions with neighboring states? Done. Undermine democratic institutions and the independence of the judiciary and civil service from political parties? Done. All the harm people had been warned to expect from Tomislav Nikolic had already been inflicted by Boris Tadic.

By preventing the DS and SPS from “entrenching a shared monopoly of power,” the election may in the long run be good for democracy, “but in the short run it is likely to mean that a weak president will face a discredited but determined parliamentary majority composed primarily of his opponents,” Gordy cautions:

The period immediately after the election will probably see repeated confrontation and evident instability. That period, however, may be brief – both because the new president will have a strong motivation to call new elections as soon as he sees an opportune moment to get a more compliant government, and because the parliamentary majority will do all it can to undermine the president. The new constellation of power in Serbia will be unstable, unpredictable and contradictory – but it will be replaceable, in ways that could lead to improvement.

International actors have a role in nudging Nikolic towards a more liberal and pluralist approach to politics and towards a pro-European foreign policy orientation.   

“What Brussels and Washington need to do now is draw clear red lines that both can support wholeheartedly,” writes Serwer:

Once the new parliamentary majority is formed and the government appointed, they should ask Belgrade—which will seek a date to begin negotiations for European Union membership—to end its resistance to Kosovo’s independence, push the Bosnian Serbs toward full acceptance of the Sarajevo government and begin deep reform of the security services. There is no reason to coddle Nikolic, who in the past has proven himself pragmatic when faced with clear and forceful requirements.

SERBIA AFTER THE 2012 ELECTIONS Where is the nation headed?

Thursday, May 31, 2012. 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. 455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC. (Please note address change)

Serbia’s general elections have ushered in a new chapter in its political transition to democracy. Opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic prevailed in Sunday’s presidential run-off election against incumbent Boris Tadic. Parliamentary and local elections also saw Nikolic’s Serbian Progressive Party garner more support, but Tadic’s Democratic Party, with the help of Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party of Serbia, a strong third-place finisher, may form the next government.

NDI’s resident director Tom Kelly will sort through the elections—what happened during the campaign, what Serbia’s voters said at the ballot box, what kind of government to expect, and what the election results mean overall for Serbian politics and democracy, Belgrade’s relations with Kosovo and other neighbors, and the country’s EU aspirations.

Tom Kelly has directed NDI’s programs in Serbia since 2007 and is based in Belgrade. NDI has supported democratic reform in Serbia since 1997 and works with parliament, political parties, civil society organizations, and minority and marginalized populations. The Institute sponsored Serbia’s first televised candidate debates, including a run-off debate between Tadic and Nikolic. NDI’s program in Serbia is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

RSVP to Elizabeth Gabster at 202-728-5498 or at

B92 is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group. NDI is one of the NED’s core institutes.

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How Baku’s ‘caviar diplomacy’ neutered Europe’s rights standards

As Azerbaijan gears up to host this weekend’s Eurovision song contest, Gerald Knaus explains how an authoritarian regime “neutered” Europe’s oldest human rights organization, turned international election monitoring into political theatre and secured the stamp of legitimacy from Council of Europe membership while preserving the structures of an autocratic regime.

This is the story of how Europe’s oldest human rights organization has been neutered by a smart and ruthless policy. Azerbaijani officials referred to it as “caviar diplomacy”: a policy that began in 2001, not long after Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe, the continent’s club of democratic nations. It gathered speed after Ilham Aliyev (left), who had served in the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly (PACE), became president of Azerbaijan in 2003. Once the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was completed in 2005 and the Azerbaijani state coffers were awash in oil revenues, the “caviar policy” shifted into top gear.

The aim was to win and retain the stamp of legitimacy conferred by Council of Europe membership while preserving the authoritarian structures of an autocratic regime. Azerbaijan has not held a single competitive election since Heydar Aliyev, the father of current president Ilham Aliyev, came to power in 1993, following a coup against the first elected president. The Central Election Commission, in charge of organising elections, has stacked the deck so firmly in favour of the incumbent government that no political competition is possible, fair or otherwise. In the parliamentary election of 2010, not a single opposition candidate managed to win a seat.

How, then, could the head of the PACE election observation mission in 2010 declare that the elections had met international and Council of Europe standards? Why, when the human rights situation has steadily deteriorated since 2003, has debate in PACE on Azerbaijan become ever more anodyne, even complimentary?

Beneath the institutional failure, it is also a story about individuals and the difference they can make, for better or worse, within institutions like the Council of Europe. The cast of this story – the critics and the apologists – are Swiss, Belgian, British, German, Spanish and Turkish; they are liberals, social democrats, conservatives, nationalists and former communists. In Azerbaijan too many of them have betrayed the values and traditions set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The result may well be the most serious crisis of legitimacy in the history of the Council of Europe.

When Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe, despite well documented democratic failings, it was with the idea that Council of Europe membership would gradually transform Azerbaijan. Sadly, the reverse has occurred. The outcome is a tragedy for the citizens of Azerbaijan, particularly those brave pro-democracy activists who languish in jail as political prisoners. But it is also a tragedy for Europe, whose values have been trampled. For the PACE parliamentarians enjoying the benefits of caviar diplomacy are also sitting members of national parliaments across Europe. And it is certainly a tragedy for the Council of Europe itself, which urgently needs to recover the values its founders entrusted it with if it is to justify its continued existence.

Read the full report – Caviar Diplomacy: How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe Part One – published by the European Stability Initiative.

Further reading

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