Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Should they stick with the unitary state theories?

Although the nuclear taboo is widespread today, it is probably not universal. A critical question is whether it holds for new nuclear states and for nondemocratic states that are not accountable to public opinion.
Tannenwald, p. 34


Um, okay. All states depend upon – are accountable to – their public. Governance depends upon the acquiescence of the governed. In the specific context, starting a destructive and wasteful war – i.e., dropping the bomb – can generate substantial resistance, even to the harshest dictators: ask Mussolini or Robespierre.


Al-Qaida may wish to topple the House of Saud, but if a majority of citizens do not support this goal, al-Qaida is unlikely to achieve it.
Kydd and Walter, p. 54

The House of Saud won’t fall until a majority of citizens don’t support it. Really? Even in a democracy, it takes a lot less than a majority of the population to change the leadership – it can be done with a plurality of those who vote. Bush, in 2000, was elected by about 50 million (or, if you’re really cynical, five) in a nation of more than 280 million.

But we’re not talking about an election here. We’re talking about a revolution or a coup, which is done by a few highly committed people.


I'm a big fan of democracy and all, but these two writers seem to deploy grade-school understandings of majority rule.

Yes, I know that I'm nitpicking.

6 comments:

Dr. Duke Nukem said...

Two things. The subject of the two articles is not to make a generalization about majority rule, but rather to address the role of popular consent in specific contexts. For one, Tannenwald is talking about whether or not a nondemocratic regime can make the decision to drop a bomb, not whether or not they can hold onto power after they drop that bomb.

Second, the Kydd/Walter article is about regime-change in the context of terrorist goals and strategies. According to Kydd/walter, Al-Qaida's goal is not to assume power for themselves but rather to replace the current regime with one more in line with their political/religious/social views.

I'm nitpicking too, but I think it's better to debate those issues actually present in the articles.

McClintic Sphere said...

dr. duke nukem scolded:
"I'm nitpicking too, but I think it's better to debate those issues actually present in the articles."

I'm aware of the fact that the lines I quoted are not, in fact, the main argument of either piece.

That's why I included the disclaimer that I was nitpicking, and it's why I didn't raise the point in class.

I absolutely loved the fact that all three articles this week were based on visions of the state that were more nuanced than realist unitary states. I didn't so much love the fact that the authors dropped the ball at times.

But look, it's not like I wrote a dissertation about the lapses, or claimed that the odd bits invalidated the larger arguments.

I made an acknowledgedly small point about the readings in a small forum. Even that was too much for ddn, who told me to shut my pie-hole.

Meta-issues about whether I should shut the hell up aside; in that quote, Tannenwald is specifically talking about the accountability of non-democratic states -- the after-effects of their actions -- and whether varying degrees of accountability affect the decision-making process.

The consequences for a non-democratic state are very different than they would be for a democracy. Tannenwald phrases it marginally more strongly than I do, and to that extent, I disagree.

Dr. Duke Nukem said...

Hey, the goal was never to imply that nitpicking was a bad thing or that the post was out of place. If anything, theory is about the little details. In that case, you're probably going too hard on me and too soft on tannenwald, kydd and walter. To say that they "drop the ball" is an understatement. For tannenwald, regime accountability is key to the idea of the effectiveness of taboo. for non-democratic regimes - and let's face it, those are the one's we're worried about doing something stupid with a bomb - public accountability is a much different and more serious affair than for democracies. As for kydd and walter, talking about what terrorists intend to accomplish may still accord with the will of the majority. But terrorist actions are destabalizing by definition after all, and it's the unintended effects that are more dangerous and considerably less inhibited by popular consent.

It was my understanding that that's what you were driving at, and so I quibbled with your post in order that you might make your point a bit clearer.

Sometimes it's hard to walk the line between thinking/writing critically
and nitpicking: particularly on a blog.

Robert Farley said...

This is what passes for a flame war? You people understand nothing of the internet...

Dr. Duke Nukem said...

not so much a flame war as a flame security dilemma.

McClintic Sphere said...

Dr. Nukem -- Can I call you Duke? -- makes a good point in the second comment, that the applicability of the taboo to non-democratic (or less democratic) regimes is a huge issue, and Tannenwald glosses over it.

Whoops, I mean, dr. duke nukem is a troll! Eben Cooke is my hero! Um, it's Clinton's fault!

Sigh.
Maybe it's because we're both democracies.