Just a wild idea for promoting democracy

After reading about the revolution in Kyrgystan (how long before that’s claimed as the result Bush’s heroic policies) I had an idea for cost-effective support of democratic movements. Why not offer rewards to soldiers and police officers who stand down in the face of massive popular oppositition to regimes. It’s an additional incentive to them when considering their options. They probably don’t want to crack down on their brothers and neighbours in order to support an unpopular government, but it is a big risk to stand down as you might lose your job or probably worse. If we offer incentives to them to take a risk we could see regimes topple around the globe as people take a chance that their government’s police and military might be tempted to lay down their arms with the incentive of additional sweeteners.

This is a great idea! Now all we need is for the oil rich states to offer our soldiers money to stand down in the face of the popular opposition in the US, then we’d…oh wait a second. The opposition is pretty wussified and marginalized here.

Oh well.


But our govt. is so popular! After all, a majority of idiots voted for it. (Setting aside all the shenanigans keeping Democratic voters away from polls or off the voting rolls.)

On a serious note this is a VERY bad idea. There is no way that paying foreign soldiers to abandon their obligations can possibly work out well for us.

Didn’t we try something not entirely dissimilar in 1991 by encouraging the Iraqi population and army to revolt by leading them to believe we’d support them if they did?

And then just recently we told the Iraqi army that they could not fight us and become the Iraqi army for the new Iraq. Didn’t work out so well for them. We may have a credibility problem on this issue.

Yeah and this was a terrible idea that failed.

I didn’t say it had to be a solely American project. If you want credibility get some more trusted nations on board, like Switzerland. Democratising the world should be something all democracies would want to work towards.

It’s just an idea. It may be bad, but I’d like to know why it was bad, rather than simply be trolled.

The reason it is bad is because it’s never wise to make foreign policy a matter of money. I think people react very badly to any suggestion that major policy decisions (domestic or foreign) are made solely on the basis of greed. So offering to pay people to do what you want them to do (ie. motivating them with greed) will alienate people long term because people have a negative impression of anything done on the basis of greed. That negative impression will undermine what you are trying to accomplish and I think it will probably destroy it long term as people come to the conclusion that they moved in a certain direction for the wrong reasons and either repudiate it because they never really believed in it or because they feel guilty.

This is precisely why you don’t pay people to be your friend. And why foreign powers that have hired mercenaries have had problems. Think “Hessians.”

I think the reason you are getting trolled (at least for my part!) is because this is such an abominably silly question. I think there are some questions that are just so obvious that you shouldn’t really need to ask them…only a few minutes of thinking about it should reveal why it’s a bad idea. It’s not that it’s a “stupid question” per se, it’s just one whose answer should generally be obvious.

Foreign Policy shouldn’t be about money on its face, but you have no idea how many tac-nukes were bought from Soviet field commanders in the early 90’s.

5 grand. They’re happy. You’ve just bought a nuke, for great safety.

I think you are being immensely naive if you think that it is “silly” to involve money in foreign policy. Money has been a successful motivating factor in many international policy engagements. Bush has been particularly fond of money as the oil of foreign relations, from bribing Bulgaria (and others) to join the “coalition of the willing” to offering a reward for the heads of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and their cohorts.

It’s all a matter of how you frame the monetary involvement. You’d never describe it as a bribe: it would always be a reward, compensation or development aid. In this particular case you could easily frame it as a compensation package for helping those who would risk losing their job to support the cause of freedom in their own country.

While I don’t necessarily think the idea would work, it doesn’t strike me as “silly” to encourage democracy by peaceful means.

I think they would risk losing their lives, because what they are doing could be considered treason. For example, if the army/police in Tiananmen square had not opposed the students as ordered, they would have been shot.

In summation, money is no good if you’re dead, so it is a poor motivator. What ultimately motivates people to oppose their own government is patriotism and honor.

To top it all off, how would you know who qualified and how would you get the money to them? It really smacks of meddling and greed, as SpoofyChop suggests, to such an extent it would far more likely provoke a backlash or, worse, encourage unsavory military leaders to attempt to provoke coups in hopes of cashing in. A big reason, perhaps second only to unconditional support for Israel, that the United States is so despised in the entire middle east is that we staged a pay-for-play coup in Iran. The reprocussion was the eventual toppling of the Shah and a rebirth of fundamentalist Islam, now with the ambition to control entire countries.

Now, perhaps offering some sort of organized amnesty and retraining program for demobilized military units, something that would go into countries where there had been turmoil and help them out with legal protections and humanitarian aid, would perhaps be one way of protecting forces acting out of conscience but afraid of consequences. Who knows, perhaps the UN could resettle and retrain some of these forces and use them as part of their, much maligned, enforcement arm? Worked for the Gurkhas in the British Army.

Nice straw man. Like I said that.

I don’t think that would work, as short-sighted interference based on monetary and military means in certain reasons has been one of the main reasons for distrust of “the West” in the world.
Give someone money and they’ll fight for you today, certainly. But it would never inspire someone to take up a just and democratic struggle for the rest of their lives.

I shall say this again: it doesn’t have to be a “Western” or American project. I was thinking more in terms of the UN or other international body.

I hate to say it, and I know you will all find it very patronising, but I think the main reason you are having difficulty in taking my idea on board is due to idealism. You don’t want people to be motivated by monetary matters, but rather by “patriotism”, “honour”, or a “just and democratic struggle”. Personally I think in more pragmatic terms than that. I look at the lives of the desperately poor in most of the world and recognise that despite our high ideals they would be highly motivated by money, because money brings security in a highly insecure world. Trying to motivate people by “offering some sort of organized amnesty and retraining program for demobilized military units” just isn’t going to cut it with people who have many hungry mouths to feed.

The soldiers and police are generally living in a world without welfare or state education, and life is hard. Life without a job isn’t just hard it is nigh on impossible. Motivating people in these circumstances with monetary reward isn’t motivating through greed, but motivating through the provision of security, or at least some way towards it. People in a wealthy democratic nation would be motivated by monetary factors, but those in poor third-world nations would be extremely motivated by it. The great thing about this idea is that they may want to lay down their arms in the face of popular protest, but they may also want to do so for money. It’s not an either or situation: a man prepared to let the people overthrow the government isn’t going to stop them if the UN was offering him money for the same act!

The problem with the idea isn’t whether the motivation is enough, or whether it would be seen as unwanted outside interference, but in providing advice and rewards to those concerned. You would need to carefully target the right movements, so as not to have police forces around the globe standing down in the face of any minor disturbance. You could end up with endless coups and anarchy that way, with police colluding with demostrators to get money and power in the same swipe. Letting the right police forces know about the right political movements could be difficult, even in today’s information age. Payment could also be a problem, as it would be difficult to discern between the deserving and not so, and also to pay people in the face of failed coups.

I don’t think these issues are necessarily unsurmountable. Very public announcements could be made upon witnessing particular popular movements, like the recent one in Kyrgystan. Word gets around pretty fast these days. Payments to the underserving would probably just have to be factored in: it would be better to pay all that did help out than miss some trying to make sure nobody cheated. Payment to those in failed coups would be so much of an issue, because they’d probably be in jail or dead; that’s the risk they take and what we would be rewarding them for.

Nice straw man. Like I said that.[/quote]

A straw man requires that I attribute a particular argument to you that you didn’t make. Nowhere in that quoted sentence do I attribute any argument to you, and merely by quoting one of the “silly” words in your post does not achieve this affect.

Bullshit. You’re implying that I suggested that using “peaceful” means to promote our foreign policy objecftives was silly. The only thing I said was silly was using money.

You are using pretentious sentence construction to hide the fact that you are spinning what I said. And as the definition of straw man attests, you were setting me up to be easily refuted or defeated.

You are misrepresenting me and then holding that misrepresentation up for ridiucule. Not only is that a perfect example of a straw man but it’s also a perfect example of you acting like a ding-dong.

You may also notice, if you take the time to read rather than rant, that I also didn’t “refute or defeat” the straw man argument that I didn’t set up for you, so it fails on both counts of the definition. All I was doing in that sentence was describing my idea as a way to “encourage democracy by peaceful means”. If you look at your own reply you didn’t use the word “silly” to describe any idea of mine. The reason I was putting the word in quotes is simply because it irritated me, and I was returning the favour to the forum troll.

I don’t really know what to make of you man. You’re calling me a troll but I feel like your original posts almost qualifies as a troll. It just seems so incredibly bizarre to me that my initial reaction was that you were just causing trouble. There was very little chance that I was going to respond to your idea with anything other than stunned disbelief and hostility. I apologize if I sounded like a jerk…sometimes I find it hard to respond to people here about politics because I tend to disagree with a lot of people on such a fundamental level that it’s always going to devolve into an argument.

I’m not trying to be hostile towards you, but the problem I have is that you are almost sounding Koontzian to me. You proposed an idea that strikes me as being one of the most obviously terrible foreign policy ideas I’ve ever heard but you are analyzing it as if it’s an intellectually superior concept. I thought I provided a few really good reasons why this was just completely wrongheaded but you still feel that it has merit. This is exactly what Koontz is always doing. He proposes something that everybody else finds completely absurd and then defends it in a very erudite manner with bad capitalization. Thank God you don’t capitalize inappropriately! :)

Anyway, I’ve said that I think that Koontz has been treated poorly, and I know what it’s like to get completely flamed for proposing something that others consider ridiculous (the whole Penny-Arcade motivations thing) and so I want to start over and refrain from simply trolling you or acting like a jerk simply because I don’t agree.

Let me try to respond again on an intellectual level:

First, I have deep misgivings about the reasons for the war, and a lot of the prosecution of the war. In general I think that the fact that Iraq will have a shot at democracy is a good thing. I am completely supportive of efforts to promote democracy peacefully. Unfortunately I think we tried promoting democracy in Iraq relatively “peaceful” ways for eight years under Clinton with basically nothing to show for it. Both Republican and Democrat administrations made lots of mistakes, and I think it can be argued that the sanctions, the airstrikes under Clinton, the on again off again support for revolutionaries in Iraq, and the new war itself were all bungled. My final decision is that I support the war…barely.

I would have preferred if Saddam would have complied with UN resolutions peacefully and would have left peacefully. Everybody would have preferred that Saddam had never attacked Kuwait. I am for peaceful means up until they prove to be a waste of time. So I do support peaceful means of promotic democracy, just not indefinitely.

Back to the issue of promoting democracy by paying individuals to “stand down” in the face of a popular uprising:

Although this is certainly a peaceful way of promoting democracy, I think it fails a few very basic tests of feasibility:

  1. Logistics: When do you pay these people? How do you identify the people in the military or police that didn’t resist the uprising? How do you avoid paying people that DID oppose the uprising but later claim that they didn’t? What happens when you pay people accidentally that weren’t even part of the police or army but that have buddies that vouch for them to get them dollars? What happens when you fail to pay people who really did “stand down” but can’t prove it and then get rejected for the payments?

  2. Stability: How do you avoid destabilizing entire regions? What happens in third world country B when you pay people in third world country A where A and B are next door to each other? How does the government of B react? How many times does this work before countries start threatening their police and soldiers with immediate execution unless they fight all protestors?

  3. International opinion: What are other countries like China, Russia, and other countries with problems going to think about this? How does it impact our relationship with those countries?

  4. Opposition: What happens when some other deep pockets country starts paying the soldiers of the target regime extra money to withstand uprisings?

I wish I had responded with this kind of post right away, but I was just a bit too flabbergasted by this suggestion. On the other hand I think you have to come up with some real answers as to why this idea has even the slimmest chance of working. The burden is on you to sell this idea as being a good foreign policy tactic.