It's eminently clear to everyone paying even the slightest bit of attention that the recent battle in South Ossetia between Georgia and the South Ossetians, quickly followed by even larger scale battles between Georgia and the Russians, has far more to do with oil pipelines and grand strategic concerns than democracy and self-governance. Indeed, the irony of the United States and NATO attempting to support Georgia doing exactly what they bombed Serbia for doing – attempting to regain control over historical territory into which a neighboring ethnic group had migrated en masse – is deep enough to be farcical.
Tangential note: One wonders how long will it be before the USA feels a similar need to invade the separatist region of Aztlán, formerly known as Arizona, California, and New Mexico? Big business always slavers after cheap labor, but immigration hath its consequences.
In his WorldNetDaily column last week, Pat Buchanan adroitly noted that contrary to the romantic vision put forth by neocon world democratic revolutionists, democracy doesn't necessarily compete very well with autocracy when autocracy is willing to accept the loss of economic control that comes with capitalism. What is seen today as the great triumph of democracy over autocracy in the 20th century most likely had less to do with democracy than it did with the fact that whereas the democracies were decentralized and somewhat open to capitalism, the particular forms that 20th century autocracy took –communism, national socialism and fascism – were left-wing statist ideologies deeply hostile to the free market.
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In other words, democracy was not central to the victory of the Western allies. It was largely incidental to what was primarily a victory of capitalism, which triumphed despite the handicap of FDR's attempt to sabotage the American free markets through his quasi-fascist New Deal. Buchanan suggests that the autocratic capitalism of Russia, and to a lesser extent, China, may well prove to be a much more effective competitor to democratic capitalism than did the autocratic socialisms of the previous century. The fact that the Western democracies have gradually moved away from capitalism in favor of state-controlled equalitarianism only tilts the field further in favor of the autocracies.
There is another, older historical precedent for the competition between democracy and autocracy, one that dates back nearly 2,500 years. In "A War Like No Other," historian Victor Davis Hanson writes of the struggle between the democrats of the Athenian-led Delian League and the autocrats of the Spartan-led Peloponnesian League:
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Despite the lack of any clear strategic results from fomenting revolution in the first decade of the war, both the Spartans and the Athenians still realized that at very little cost to themselves they could instigate civil unrest that in theory could win over an entire state to their side. ... Still, not a single important ally of Sparta – Megara, Corinth, Thebes – was permanently taken over by democratic insurrectionists. In contrast, given the nature of the far-flung Athenian empire, Athens would lose, at least for a time, a few of its strongest allies and subjects – Argos, Messana, Chios and Mantinea – which either became mired in civil strife or had their governments turned over to oligarchs eager to join the state to the anti-Athenian cause. More importantly, when one examines even the fragmentary figures of the dead provided by Thucydides from these dirty wars, the number of killed quickly reaches the many thousands."
The war in Georgia did not occur by happenstance; it is a direct result of the American-sponsored Rose Revolution that brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power. Like the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and the installation of pseudo-democratic regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and possibly Palestine, the Rose Revolution was a tactical attack in an ongoing grand strategic struggle that has continued despite the end of the Cold War.
What the National Endowment for Democracy fellows, the American Enterprise Institute neocons and the conservative columnists waxing teary-eyed over purple-fingered illiterates fail to realize is that in contrast to Fukuyama's famous essay, history is not on democracy's side. Indeed, as both Athens and Great Britain have demonstrated, an aggressively expansionist democracy is much more likely to abandon its own democratic system of government than it is to successfully export that system to other states. From a historical perspective, these attempts to violently seed democracy around the world as a weapon in an ideological war tend to suggest that it is American-style democracy, not autocracy, that is approaching its end.