Author Topic: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread  (Read 25857 times)


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2011, 11:00:03 AM »
OMG...I agree with Steve Mancuso. There must be something wrong.


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2011, 11:41:23 AM »
But there is risk on the other side of that, too. The term "democracy assistance," especially with the limits likely enforced by articles like Lappin, may not authorize strong enough foreign policy approaches to solve in very many nations. How close of a fit is the rigorously defined "democracy assistance" to the nations of the Arab Spring, many of which are nowhere near "post-conflict."

Maybe I misread it, but I thought that Lappin was saying that he was only talking about post-conflict democracy assistance, not that there is only post-conflict democracy assistance.


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #17 on: June 06, 2011, 01:22:27 PM »
kudos to Steve for slicing through the clutter and getting to the heart of the process: depending on what kind of debates you want to have, you can end up with differently constructed resolutions.

allowing the next round of voting to resolve these differences, rather than asking the topic committee to resolve all the issues, may be the best policy option. i.e., each of the resolutions Steve suggests below could be on the ballot. imo, this would eliminate the burden on the topic committee of trying to determine what the community consensus is on what we should be debating (that's what voting is for).

how about a ballot similar to the following:

Resolved: The USFG should substantially increase democracy promotion in one or more of the following: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Yemen.

Resolved: The USFG should substantially increase democracy assistance to one or more of the following: <insert list of appropriate countries here>.

Resolved: The USFG should substantially increase non-economic foreign assistance to one or more of the following for the purpose of advancing democratic governance in: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen.

i made up the last rez on the fly, so don't be too harsh in criticizing it. the idea would be to fashion a rez which recognized the fluidity of current events combined with the problems of 'democracy assistance' being too narrow, and instead trying to frame topical action via other means:

"non-economic foreign assistance" - too clunky, but if the goal is to keep the AFF from running development assistance cases that claim democracy as an advantage, then this approach would attempt to exclude the parts of foreign assistance that we don't want the AFF to access while keeping the direct object kinda fluid so we can debate the countries we want to.

"for the purpose of advancing democratic governance" - maybe the AFF should have to claim a democracy-based advantage?

again, i just ad-hoc'd the last rez so there'd be three choices on this hypothetical ballot. my larger point is we should consider a ballot that has very distinctive choices as a way of addressing some of these issues we're unlikely to resolve 100% in June.

One way to approach the Arab Spring policy debate is to start with the term "democracy assistance" and work your way out, to see which countries make the most sense to include in a democracy assistance topic.

An alternative process would be to figure out which countries are the most interesting/important in the Arab Spring debate, then decide which terms authorize effective solvency mechanisms. Here is an example of a wording like that:

Resolved: The USFG should substantially increase democracy promotion in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Yeman. 

The two approaches are ultimately a matter of preference, and both are defensible. I agree with Gordon's concern that broader mechanism terms like "democracy promotion" would make it difficult to debate a long list of nations. The term "democracy assistance" does raise important debates and provides stability.

But there is risk on the other side of that, too. The term "democracy assistance," especially with the limits likely enforced by articles like Lappin, may not authorize strong enough foreign policy approaches to solve in very many nations. How close of a fit is the rigorously defined "democracy assistance" to the nations of the Arab Spring, many of which are nowhere near "post-conflict."

The "broad mechanism/small country list" approach is also less likely to be run over by the very fluid status quo. First, it gives the affirmative more flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Suppose there is a military coup in Egypt in the next six months, would democracy assistance alone still be a viable policy prescription there? Second, by calling for more radical change, it lessens the chance that the status quo policy will evolve to be topical.


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2011, 05:07:49 PM »
Here's an excellent source for the evolution of the phrase "democracy assistance" and the importance of precision!!!  It also proves matt's post about it going thru NGOs

What We Talk About When We Talk About Democracy Assistance: The Problem of Definition in Post-Conflict Approaches. By Richard Lappin

Just as it turned out there was a big difference between debating a visas-only topic and extensive in-depth debates about the problems of illegal immigration, there is a huge difference between debating the achievement of democracy vs. the solidification of democracy -- the latter being a post-conflict situation where all sides agree that is the goal.

I made a post about an alternative word for democracy assistance a week ago, but recanted on how non-precise the term is used in the literature. However after some thought, I've decided the term has changed meaning from the last time it was strictly defined by the 1998 article I have quoted below.

An alternative term that matches Mancuso's use of "solidification of democracy" is "democracy consolidation." McFaul in his recent book uses the term for an entire section of one of his chapters.

I am going to paste the post that I deleted last week. I'll caution the reader however that democracy consolidation in terms of this article would not apply to any of the new democratically transitioning nations. Obviously a problem. However, I think democracy consolidation is now being used to describe the prevention of a nation from falling backwards into autocracy, whether they were a "full" democracy or not.


I re-read the topic paper and I began to think about issues of assistance to/for a target nation and for what end? While "democracy assistance" as a term of art will be discussed and researched during this topic process, I wondered if it would be wise to add an "end" for what the democracy assistance should be used for. A term that I ran across multiple times in McFaul's Advancing Democracy Abroad is "democracy consolidation." I have copied and pasted the definition of "democracy consolidation" from the first paragraph as well as the end (after the ellipsis) of Schedler 1998, Journal of Democracy, "What is Democratic Consolidation?"

From my reading of the topic paper, I think much of what Gordon posted dealt with the risk of democratic backsliding into authoritarian regimes. If the controversy is over how the United States can prevent a reversion by "consolidating" the new fledgling democracies, "democratic consolidation," as a term of art in the resolution may get to the heart of the issue that "democratic assistance" may not.

I am posting this for community consumption and thought, rather than well researched advocacy of the term.

For your reading enjoyment:
Originally, the term "democratic consolidation" was meant to describe the challenge of making new democracies secure, of extending their life expectancy beyond the short term, of making them immune against the threat of authoritarian regression, of building dams against eventual "reverse waves." To this original mission of rendering democracy "the only game in town," countless other tasks have been added. As a result, the list of "problems of democratic consolidation" (as well as the corresponding list of "conditions of democratic consolidation") has expanded beyond all recognition. It has come to include such divergent items as popular legitimation, the diffusion of democratic values, the neutralization of antisystem actors, civilian supremacy over the military, the [End Page 91] elimination of authoritarian enclaves, party building, the organization of functional interests, the stabilization of electoral rules, the routinization of politics, the decentralization of state power, the introduction of mechanisms of direct democracy, judicial reform, the alleviation of poverty, and economic stabilization.


[End of the published article]
The peaceful coexistence and mutual recognition of various concepts of democratic consolidation would be preferable to the status quo of conceptual confusion. The same would be true for another option: to abandon the concept and stop talking about it. Yet both alternatives are only second-best solutions. My first-order preference would be to exercise self-restraint and to stop using the term for whatever we would like to see happen in new democracies ("the conditions of democratic consolidation") or for whatever we think is problematic in these polities ("the problems of democratic consolidation"). Rather than using the term in ambiguous and inconsistent ways, we should attach one clear meaning to it. As Giovanni Sartori declared about 15 years ago, "different things should have different names." 21
I think we should return to the concept's original concern with democratic survival. We should restore its classical meaning, which is securing achieved levels of democratic rule against authoritarian regression. That means we should restrict its use to the two "negative" notions described above: avoiding democratic breakdown and avoiding democratic erosion. The term
"democratic consolidation" should refer to expectations of regime continuity--and to nothing else. Accordingly, the concept of a "consolidated democracy" should describe a democratic regime that relevant observers expect to last well into the future--and nothing else. Why should one restrict the use of "democratic consolidation" in this particular way and not another? The main reason is that all other usages of democratic consolidation (completing, organizing, and deepening democracy) are problematic and can be replaced by superior alternative concepts. First, the process (and the challenge) of putting a partial, blocked, derailed, or truncated transition back on track falls within the purview of transition studies. There is no need to confuse matters and introduce another term for it. In addition, in semidemocracies which face the task of democratic completion, any talk about "the consolidation of democracy" is misleading. It suggests that a democratic regime is already in place (and only needs to be "consolidated") when in fact the issue at hand is constructing a fully democratic regime. [End Page 103]
Second, the development of democracy's subsystems, collective actors, and working rules is clearly a timely and relevant topic. But confounding the consolidation of "partial regimes" with the consolidation of democracy as a whole deprives us of an important analytic distinction. It binds together by definition two things that in fact are only loosely coupled. For example, a democracy may be secure against reversals even if its party system is still inchoate and fluid; and conversely, a democracy may break down even if its party system is highly institutionalized. Moreover, if we fuse the two levels of analysis we cannot issue reasonable judgments anymore about the consolidation of democracy's core institutions or a democratic regime as such. For, from this perspective, as long as any subsystem of democracy (be it the party system, interest organizations, the parliament, the system of government) does not show the requisite degree of consolidation (which is difficult to define other than by reference to "best" or "normal" practices in advanced democracies), we have to classify the democracy in question as "unconsolidated." And as soon as any subsystem experiences radical structural change (as Italy's party system did in the early 1990s), we are compelled to describe the polity in question as "deconsolidating." This does not seem to make much sense.
Finally, the association of democratic consolidation with improvements in the quality of democracy or with democratic deepening represents the most popular "positive" notion of democratic consolidation. But it also seems to be the most problematic one. Both the concepts of "democratic quality" and "democratic deepening" are still unclear and controversial. While we have tons of literature as well as a great deal of consensus about liberal democracy's minimum standards, discussion about the standards of democratic quality is still very preliminary. Therefore, in the current state of debate, conceptualizing democratic consolidation as democratic deepening amounts to inviting a free-for-all. It permits importing into the definition of democratic consolidation, in a subjective and arbitrary way, any kinds of goals and criteria that one deems to be indispensable for a high-quality and thus "consolidated" democracy (which becomes just another vague label for "real" democracy). This cannot but lead, of course, to uncontrolled and incongruous conclusions about empirical states of democratic consolidation. On a more fundamental level, "democracy precludes closure regarding its own identity." 22 It is a moving target, an open-ended, developmental kind of thing--and so is democratic deepening. Any fixed meanings we may attach to the concepts of democratic quality and democratic deepening, and any consensus we may reach about them, can only be "temporary equilibria" open to future revision. As a result, [End Page 104] if we associate democratic consolidation with democratic deepening, we get a concept of democratic consolidation that is open and boundless as well. In this sense, no democracy will ever be "fully consolidated," and it is quite
understandable that authors who support such a notion of democratic consolidation are highly reluctant to extend the "certificate" of democratic consolidation at all. Andreas Schedler, a visiting professor at the Centro de Inves-tigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico, also teaches at the University of Vienna and FLACSO-Mexico. Previously he was assistant professor of political science at the Austrian Institute for Advanced Studies. His current research focuses on democratization and institutional change in Mexico.

This article is the arbitras of the past that, I believe, does not reflect what democratic consolidation now means. Others should enter the "democratic consolidation" into some search engines and seek out if I am correct on my assumption. We might as well vet all possibilities.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase efforts/policies for democratic consolidation for one or more of the following nations: Syria, Egypt...
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 05:15:47 PM by BrianDeLong »


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2011, 05:31:10 PM »
Places to seek more information:
Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999)

15.  Mark J. Gasiorowski and Timothy J. Power, “The Structural Determinants of Democratic Consolidation: Evidence from the Third World,” Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 31, No. 6 (December 1998), p. 740. This is also where most transitions break down: the authors report that nearly a third of third world democracies collapse before the first (postfounding) election, about half before the first change in power has been effected, and more than 60 percent within twelve years. See Timothy J. Power and Mark J. Gasiorowski, “Institutional Design and Democratic Consolidation in the Third World,” Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April 1997), pp. 123–155. For the determinants of democratic collapse, see Jon C. Pevehouse, “With a Little Help from My Friends? Regional Organizations and the Consolidation of Democracy,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 46, No. 3 (July 2002), pp. 611–626; and Abraham Diskin, Hanna Diskin, and Reuven Y. Hazan, “Why Democracies Collapse: The Reasons for Democratic Failure and Success,” International Political Science Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (July 2005), pp. 291–309.


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2011, 06:02:04 PM »
Lots of wording suggestions today so I want to reinforce a single point from my last note. We are not really struggling to identify what the key terms mean. The recent posts seem to reinforce our work. We have a pretty clear sense of what is and what is not generally considered as democracy assistance.

The difference in perspective today is more about differing opinions about what kind of ground the affirmative should have under the topic wordings. We would be eager for input that addresses if these types of democracy promotion (the broader conceptual term) should be considered as part of our topic. You can leave feedback about how literature makes any of these items important or you can argue there are competitive rationales (i.e., side equity) for certain approaches.

I guess I disagree with the immigration analogy because I like to believe most people understood that their wording vote last year was a clear rejection of addressing undocumented people already in the US. Looking to this topic the original model was a narrow discussion about a type of foreign assistance. If, however, there is a rationale for these other items (again drawing from the Lappin article) please discuss that reasoning. Here are the 5 parts of Democracy Promotion beyond Democracy Assistance.

1. Direct military action
2. Negative political conditionality (economic sanctions, suspending international membership, etc.)
3. Development assistance
4. International interim administrations (management of the region by an outside body)
5. Positive political conditionality (economic aid, increased trade, membership in international institutions, security guarantees).

The committee is continuing their work. Just please help us by examining and providing some input. The wordings are a continued help, but I also want to make sure their is a clear sense of what people expect to see in the topic. Many of the proposals in the last 24 hours, for example, would allow the US to invade Iran as a topical action. I didn't think that was consistent with the controversy paper approach, but we need to make sure the community is making informed choices.

Thanks. Keep the feedback coming. We are all better off when we have a good discussion about the choices.


Gordon Stables
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Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2011, 08:45:32 AM »
Lappin does not refer exclusively to "post conflict" democracy assistance...the first page makes it seems like that, but the rest of the article is general...was more like especially in terms of "post-conflict DA"   

The Lappin article also chronicles the distinction in the field between "development assist." and "democracy assistance" (or lack of...go hand in hand)


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2011, 01:32:25 PM »
i'm glad the discussion is finally taking a turn toward what countries actually match up with the mechanism democracy assistance.  now there is a solid base of evidence and multiple people have pointed out that the term mechanism democracy assistance may be too narrow to access the best arguments for many of the countries proposed in the paper.  i am inclined to presently agree with the poster above that pointed out democracy assistance is more relevant in countries where democracy is the desired goal, and makes much less sense in a country (hate to keep pickin on you) Libya that is still in the middle of a war to determine the future of the country.

this is not definitive, but it there seems to be strong indication in the literature that democracy assistance is not the core mechanism to solve in countries like libya or syria.

mancuso is right about the inclusive/exclusive nature of the definition-even if we can find broader interpretations of democracy assistance, the explicit cards that limit the term will usually 'win the day' in T debates.

i believe this is more proof that we cannot make the central goal of the topic to "debate everything about the arab spring".  We should recognize that the situation is broad, highly complex, and ways that are very significant to debate practice.  Ignoring these concerns in a fruitless attempt to ensure we're debating every core issue and every bit of nuance is not a good way to approach the construction of the resolution.

also, gordon is right, immigration analogy is bad-community had options and chose the limited visa topic.  not a TC problem.

if the committee has a good grip on what the key terms mean, as gordon suggests, then the country list should from the paper should be re-done.  we should put the countries in order of those who have the most/best literature on democracy assistance (specifically good core affs), not group them based on "who we think is important to the arab spring."   it's the only logical way to do it.  and frankly, this topic is so unique and timely i still contend that if it means nearly every proposal, even those that don't contain all of the big countries, will be very educational and relevant.


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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2011, 07:01:56 PM »
My only hope is that the topic recognizes and allows for debate about the role of soccer in these countries:

"Soccer is the only institution that rivals political as well as non-political Islam in creating alternative public spaces to vent pent-up anger and frustration. In various MidEast nations, soccer is the only non-religious, non-governmental institution capable of successfully taking a stand against militant Islamists or military and security dominated regimes. Soccer has its own unique thrill in the region – a high-stakes game of cat and mouse between enthusiasts and jihadists and a struggle for a trophy grander than the FIFA World Cup: the future of a region."

Adam Symonds

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Re: Democracy Assistance - Wording Thread
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2011, 07:56:39 PM »
Anyone that calls it Soccer plainly has no idea what they are talking about.