Unintended Consequences of Democracy at the Barrel of a Gun


Post-World War II there have been many military interventions by Western powers in all part of the world. U.S.A has been the most active, trying to reshape the world according to its world-view. Recently, European Union, the great votaries of human right got into the act, following Big Brother’s much criticized prolific examples.

Some of the interventions of the Western power have been blatantly in their commercial interest, just as was colonization of Americas, Asia and Africa. A good example is the Anglo-French military intervention, over Egyptian nationalization of the Suez company.


Intended Consequences

Recent Western interventions have been explained as way to introduce true democracy in countries ruled by anti-Western dictators.

There is no doubt true representative democracy in the sense of Western term does not exist in most parts of former colonies.

Defence of human rights and building a sustainable democratic infrastructure are indeed laudable goals. However, true change, which also requires change in worldview and cultural make-up towards a more ethical and egalitarian behaviour cannot be ordered. It is a slow evolutionary process.


Unintended Consequences

Even if one accept the most benign Western explanation of their military intervention as truly a noble altruistic effort, sacrificing their lives and treasure in service of Democracy, it is worthwhile to examine the unintended Consequences of such intervention.

  1. Breakdown of strong central government

Non-democratic regimes by their very nature have a strong central government. Destruction of their centralized power structure is one of the main aim of Western military intervention. However, this power vacuum at the center, unleashes may unintended and serious consequences

  1. Dissolution of secular order in favor of religious, tribal  and regional loyalties

Despite all the Western propaganda, most countries, that have been victim of its military intervention have been, based on practical purposes, been largely secular. However, the old regime goes out, so does its policy of suppressing religious, tribal and regional loyalties in favor of a more secular orientation gets disgraced and thrown out.

  1. Widespread Corruption

In previous regimes, corruption, at a massive scale, was the prerogative  of the ruling clique.  Now with the overthrow of the old regime, everybody for himself/herself, leading all kind of abusive and corrupt practices to acquire power and wealth

  1. Mindless violence as means to all ends

Since the earlier social contract, enforced by a police state has collapsed, mindless violence to achieve all ends replaces it. This pervasive violence literally tears the society apart and create heart-wrenching human misery -see the violence in Iraq.

  1. Breakdown of Law and Order

Concomitant to the above is near collapse of respect of law enforcers and taking law into one’s hand is seen as a logical step, creating unending cycle, making it very difficult to maintain law and order for anyone.

  1. Wide Dispersal of Arm Stockpiles – including shoulder-held missiles

West may not care much about the destructive forces they have unleashed, however, one of the worst unintended consequence, from their own perspective, is the wide dispersal of huge arsenal of weapons, that the disposed regimes had acquired for their protection. Now, with widespread breakdown of all institutions – these weapons are widely used internally, e.g. Iraq and regionally. However, some of these weapons, e.g. shoulder-held missiles can be used against Western targets e.g. civilian aircrafts. EU in its Libyaian campaign did not seem to have learned from the disastrous U.S. disbanding of Iraqi Army and consequently widespread looting of weapons.


Replacing a dictatorship and planting democracy using just air power and limited ground troops to destroy their military capabilities is not possible. There is no “fast lane” to plant true democracy.  It is a long and complex undertaking best done after full understanding of all the unintended consequences.

Tags: , ,