Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Arab Spring and Waves of Democracy: Diamond and Huntington

     There is no way to determine the likelihood of successful democratic longevity for transitional Arab states based off of the generalized theories of Larry Diamond, due to a lack of consideration for exterior factors to states in transition, along with foreign influence and instigation in domestic matters of transitional states by capitalist powers.  While Diamond presents a theoretical model of nine requirements for democracy, he tends to possess a bias toward pro-western democracy and ignores the effects of post-colonial imperialism on states in inorganic transition.  Samuel Huntington, on the other hand, uses a more historical model of analysis in his theory that democracy has been spread through historical waves and provides a basis for more sound speculation that these states will indeed transition to democracies similar to the previous state transitions contained in the first three waves.

Diamond puts forth nine points that he argues are required for any democracy.  The most important requirement is that state power should be held by elected officials, not sub-groups, such as a military, that would rule by power and not be required to answer to the population.  In his 2007 paper ‘Promoting Democracy’ for the Solarium II Project, Diamond wasn’t very critical of the way that the United States turned its back on the democratic processes in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt when the desired results were not achieved (Diamond, 2007), nor could he have predicted that the U.S. would economically and politically support a military coup in Egypt in 2012 after the Muslim Brotherhood had won democratic elections.  Throughout his many dissertations and articles, Diamond failed to realistically focus on exterior factors such as the annual two billion dollars a year in military aid that the U.S. provided Mubarak’s dictatorship from its Camp David peace treaty with Israel, funding which has continued even after the military coup in Egypt during the initial so-called “Arab Spring” and still continues today.  Diamond also lists other requirements for democracy: constrained executive power, the support of non-violent opposition in free elections, the elimination of discrimination, freedoms of expression in opinions and speech, freedom of media, the political equality of citizens, and laws protecting the human rights of citizens.  How can the Arab world take claims of human rights by the most powerful self-proclaimed democratic states as anything except hypocrisy when the U.S. constantly flouts its UN Security Council veto against any UN resolution condemning human rights violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians?  Diamond’s theories on democracy offer no pretext to the future of these Arab states as he continuously paints the tired good-versus-evil picture of capitalist propaganda: representative democracy.

     Huntington’s democratic waves offer historical basis for determining the future of regional democracy in the Arab region.  Huntington points out important characteristics of democratic waves such as industrialization and decolonization, and World War I in the first wave; with further decolonization, economic consolidation, and international democracy imposed through the United Nations after World War II anchoring the second wave (Huntington, 1991).

It is Huntington’s third wave that seems to slightly shift focus from the patterns of the first and second waves, and the primary missing link seems to be the importance of the Cold War and the economic strangulation of the Soviet Union.  In each of the three waves, international capitalism gained a stronger global hold in the aftermath of war: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.  The second wave, with the creation of the Bretton Woods monetary organizations and the United Nations, was the most important wave, or critical juncture, because it accelerated the decolonization process, in most cases leaving post-colonial states under some form of democracy after colonial withdrawal, and allowed the majority of those post-colonial states entry into the GATT/World Trade Organization.  With the major capitalist states and their post-colonial properties bound by the GATT/World Trade organization, it was only a matter of time before the Soviet Union fell to economic strangulation, which began the third wave of incorporating post-Soviet bloc states, now transitioning to democracy, into the global capitalist economy.  This historic third wave may have never occurred if the Marshall Plan, through World Bank and IMF capital, would not have resurrected a war-torn European economy to strengthen the second wave.  In addition, Huntington doesn’t give enough credit to the waves of technological advancements that run concurrent to these democracy-creating economic consolidation periods where accumulation of capital resulted in development of military technological advancements.  In the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, scholars such as Carl Gershman attempted to identify transitional Arab states as a fourth democratic wave and this might be an accurate assessment that seems to follow the patterns of the first three waves in which capitalist wars stretched the reaches of the global capitalist market.  Currently, globalization is attempting to stretch and enslave one of the final unfettered frontiers under the guise of the global War on Terror and ideologies of democracy.  The fourth wave may be imminent.


Diamond, Larry. “Between Democracy and Stability in the Middle East: Defining Priorities.” Remarks to the Weinberg Founders Conference, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 17, 2004.

Diamond, Larry. “Building Democracy after Conflict: Lessons from Iraq.” Journal of Democracy 16, no. 1 (January 2005): 9-23.

Diamond, Larry.  “Prepared Statement for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations” Statement on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank: Administration Policy and Reform Priorities Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C. May 8, 2001.

Diamond, Larry. “Promoting Democracy as a Key Element of a Smart Long-Term Strategy to Undermine, Isolate and Ultimately Defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Paper presented for the Solarium II Project of the Center for a New American Security Meeting, October 23, 2007.

Diamond, Larry. “Promoting Democracy in Post-Conflict and Failed States: Lessons and Challenges” Paper presented at the National Policy Forum on Terrorism, Security, and America’s Purpose, Washington, D.C. September 6-7, 2005

Gresham, Carl. 2011. “The Fourth Wave.” The New Republic, March 14, 2011,

Huntington, Samuel. 1991.  The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

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