Three articles have appeared so far in this interlude-series on Turkish and Arab developmental records, and several more earlier on in the wider series that deals with democratic prospects of the various Arab countries, Iraq's included. What now?
Well, an effort to round off your perspective on Turkish and Arab developmental struggles and problems --- plus, of course, some notable successes in modern Turkey. To that end, a broader comparative approach is needed than used so far . . . above all, with the long pioneering trajectory of European modernization from the late Middle Ages on, our main reference point. When these comparative signposts are strung out and fully spotlighted here, you'll likely have a better appreciation of how the struggles and problems that continue to buffet the Turkish and Arab peoples these days --- for that matter, peoples in other developing regions --- also hounded the Europeans for centuries on end, and often in more violent and destructive ways.
No exaggeration, just the opposite.
If anything, historically viewed over the last 5 centuries, those developmental and modernizing struggles caused more havoc and far more bloodshed in European modernizing endeavors than they have so far in the Middle East, never mind Latin America or Asia minus China in the mad destructive Maoist era. To show this, in general comparative terms --- internal and external developments weaved together --- is our general thrust here.
To bring it off, three sets of remarks will uncoil with brisk and busy analysis, each set hogging a division of its own . . . part one, part two, and so on. In the third part, some general comparisons will be made between the developmental records of Europe and other regions of the world, a rapid moving survey that will likely surprise most buggy visitors.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ARGUMENT
Three Arguments Really
The initial set of remarks and uncoiled analysis seek to highlight the recurring turmoil, extremism, and violence in European struggles to modernize from the late Middle Ages on --- whether internal or international and, more to the point, whether rooted in nationalist, religious, or ideological fervor and strife. When you're through reading them, you'll see how the achievements and failures or at least ongoing problems in the Muslim Middle East aren't without parallels in European developmental struggles. You'll grasp more effectively, so the buggy prof hopes, why there was so much marked ideological diversity in European politics and life in 1939, the watershed year that led to WWII: a handful of countries democratic and moderate, a larger number fascist and extremist, Nazi Germany the most powerful and brutally radical of all, and one --- the Soviet Union under Stalin --- another madhouse of ideologically grounded totalitarianism, endlessly violent, murderous, and expansionist.
By the end of this initial argument, something else should illuminate your understanding: tersely put, the historical roots of the popular-based gaps in the world-outlooks that divide most Americans and West Europeans these days about international relations, capitalism, globalizing forces, and the role of governments in people's lives. These gaps aren't speculative. They have been repeatedly captured in recurring public opinion surveys . . . even if, on the level of governments, most European and American policymakers continue for the most part to insulate foreign policy-making in NATO and elsewhere from these powerful currents in popular opinion.
The Second Argument
The next set of remarks deals directly with British imperial expansion, which paralleled other European empire-building --- and for that matter Arab and Ottoman imperialism as well --- but which also, more to the point, differed from other empires in the modern era in some crucial respects. After reading those remarks, you should be able to appreciate two added points relevant to this wider series on the democratic prospects of Turkey and the 22 Arab countries.
- The heavy negative legacies that still reverberate and influence the Muslim Middle East that derive from the earlier successes and then much longer, far more important decline of the Arab empire from the 7th century on and later that of the Ottomans after the mid-1450s.
The Third Argument: Comparisons with the Developing Countries Since 1945
- And, even more to the point, what explains those unique British imperial legacies --- legal, political, and cultural --- that helped shape a far different developmental trajectory in North American than Spanish and Portuguese empire-building did in Latin America, along with the recurring significance of these differences even today . . . centuries later after the initial European conquests in the New World. .
To the surprise of most visitors here, you'll find --- when the various threads of the two previous arguments are drawn tightly together and analyzed with a third set of remarks --- that the buggy professor is relatively optimistic about the developmental record of the developing countries.
If anything, their successes --- political and even economic, at any rate in Latin America and Asia --- compare favorably with Europe's strife-torn, war-ridden history from 1500 on . . . marked by clashes of recurrent religious and ideological fanaticism, bursting nationalist upheavals, and shockwaves again and again of brutal civil and revolutionary warfare, never mind mass-murdering wars among the European great powers in the Napoleonic era and again from 1914 until 1945. Even the lucky few countries by the start of WWII --- mainly constitutional monarchies led by England and the Netherlands, with tiny Switzerland the other exception --- had experienced repeated bursts of turbulent violence, religious and ideological in nature, in the 16th and 17th centuries before they were able to institutionalize stable, constitutional politics and achieve big breakthroughs in the 19th and early 20th centuries in industrialization and impressive economic growth. France, as we'll see, was something of an exception by 1939. Since then, it experienced four different political upheaval over the next two decades, all caused by war and internal strife.
For anti-globalizers, the developmental successes of Latin America, most of Asia, and even Turkey in the Middle East, especially political --- a powerful democratic thrust everywhere there --- create a swarm of intellectual challenges, such is their shallow, lop-sided understanding of modernization and globalizing forces, the two going hand-in-hand for centuries now. Don't misunderstand. Globalizing forces have their downside --- even a dark menacing side: witness Al Qaeda and other forms of transnational Islamist terrorism. Without the Internet, the ease of moving money and messages instantly around the globe, and continued migration of radical Islamists from the Middle East to the industrial countries, mass-murdering terrorism of this sort --- inspired by religious fanaticism --- would never have gotten off the ground.
The Third Argument Further Foreshadowed
Back to recent developmental successes, part and parcel of globalization. Take Asia, treated again in the last part of this article.
Amid the turmoil, economic and social, caused by the currency and financial meltdown in Pacific Asia in 1997 and into 1998, we would expect --- if the anti-globalizers were right --- that the nascent democratic forces in Asia would be overturned and dictatorial rule either reinstituted or strengthened (as in Indonesia). Wrong; very wrong. Everywhere in the capitalist parts of Asia, democratic developments pounded ahead with renewed vigor and depth --- even in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world with 230 million people, now ranked as a promising electoral democracy on a variety of categories. Then there's India. Always democratic save briefly in the mid-1970s, it has become increasingly so since integrating into the global capitalist system the last decade.
The same general conclusions, as you'll see, apply to the whole of Latin America as well, and even parts of Tropical Africa. Everywhere south of the Rio Grande except in Communist Cuba --- admired by so many anti-globalizers, a huge island-prison where the 10 million inmates are told what they can or can't say, have no political choices in their lives, and are monitored by a pervasive secret-police apparatus even as the Cuban economy tumbles into a black hole (all the fault of the US's economic sanctions, you see) --- electoral democracies flourish, including in the recently civil war-blasted region of Central America, where members of the former reactionary governments there sit side-by-side with former Marxist rebel leaders in the legislatures of Nicaragua and elsewhere.
The big black mark on the developmental record, politically speaking? It's really only the 22 Arab countries and clerical-fascist Iran that continue to beat off democratic tendencies with a variety of dictatorial rule and an omnipresent secret-police, the major differerences here being the degree of brutality involved and support for or against fundamentalism Islam. That said, as previous buggy articles in this series have noted, even the Arab countries contain a more fortunately situated group as far as their future democratic prospects go --- mainly Algeria, Morroco, Jordan, and the tiny Gulf states.
EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT AND MODERNIZATION: ITS PARALLELS AND DIFFERENCES
WITH THE OTTOMANS, ARABS, AND OTHER NON-EUROPEAN PEOPLES
Rippling Strife and Brutal Civil and Revolution Warfare in West Europe
The turmoil and violence that engulfed Europe in its modernizing struggles over the last several centuries --- roughly, from the start of the 16th century on --- didn't spare any country or region there. The Reformation and the violent wars between Catholics and Protestants for 130 years after the 1520's flared everywhere in Mediterranean, Western, and Central Europe, though not in Scandinavia.
England in the 17th century was probably one of the two or three most violent, war-torn countries in all of Europe --- the wars internal and external; Ireland was caught up in that internal violence and religious fanaticism when Cornwall and other Protestants invaded that country; the Netherlands was so torn by warfare in the late 16th and 17th centuries with Spain, which ruled its southern areas, that it looked more like Germany in the Thirty-Years War of the same 17th century period than the peaceful, stodgy, democratic country that emerged in the 19th century. For that matter, the Dutch --- a big expansionist imperial country in the 17th century --- fought several wars with the English and the French.
Only in the 19th and 20th century would these national developmental struggles moderate. Only then would industrialization be completed in even West Europe, making for a certain level of prosperity and growing state regulation and intervention to cushion the social shocks and tumult caused by big shifts in economic livelihood from agriculture to manufacturing and services and by rapid urbanization and population growth, not to forget the struggles to transform monachical authoritarian regimes into constitutional ones with democratic elections.
So much for West Europe. Now shift your attention and consider . . .
Southern and Eastern Europe.
Southern and Eastern Europe --- including most of Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Austro-Hungarian empire --- remained economically backward way into the 20th century. Some parts of Italy in the north and Spain in the Basque areas and around Barcelona were exceptions. Otherwise, they and most of East and Central Europe remained poor and half-industrialized. Germany, the small Austrian Republic of the 1920s, and tiny Czechoslovakia were the exceptions on the eve of WWII.
Nor was that all.
Nationalism itself came much later in those regions than in West Europe, with the subject national-peoples ruled by Russian Czars or Austrian Emperors or Ottoman Sultans way into the 19th and early 20th centuries. 1918, the end of WWI, marked the turning point, the disappearance of those empires. Even then, the Communist Soviet Union continued to rule subject European and Muslim populations until its disappearance in 1991.
As for Germany, it didn't unite until the early 1870s and only then under Prussian arms, after which it underwent --- like the Japanese at the time or the Ottomans later --- a modernizing revolution from above led by military and administrative elites. Then there was Italy. Fragmented for a millenium or more, it didn't unite until the 1860s, with violent struggles still marking that country's unification for years afterwards. Spain and Portugal, insulated from the European Enlightenment by Counter-Reformation Catholicism, were also industrially backward and largely poor right into the 1930s. Starting in 1936, ideological civil war erupted in Spain, aggravated by the intervention of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany on the insurgent right-wing side and by the Communist Soviet Union on the left-wing Republican side. From 1938 on, a Francoist dictatorship was established that lasted almost 30 years, a form of rule established somewhat earlier in Portugal by Professor Salazar. Greece was ruled by a monarchical military elite. Come to that, Yugoslavia too. Similar dictatorships predominated all over East and Central Europe in the interwar period, except for tiny Czechoslovakia.
The broader general point here? Essentially, to put it bluntly, the more eastward or southward you moved in Europe as late as the 1930s, the more economically backward it was, the more nationalist independence and unity were precarious, the more democratic struggles were thwarted, and the more clashes of extremist ideologies flared between the right and left, all aggravated by class-strife and clerical and anti-clerical animosities.
The Ideological Line-Up of Europe On the Eve of WWII Reflected These
Violent, If Divergent Developmental Trajectories.
The ideological line-up of political systems in 1939, the year WWII exploded in Europe, is the best measure of these divergent developmental paths over the previous four centuries.
Democracy existed in a stable sense only in Scandinavia, Holland, Britain, and Switzerland. Britain had about 45 million people then; Holland and Sweden were around 9 - 12 million; and Denmark, Finland and Switzerland were 4 million. Only this handful of countries was spared the extremist ideological conflicts --- including clerical and anti-clerical battles in the Catholic countries --- that had been engendered by powerful class and religious conflicts of recurring intensity and fury over the previous two centuries or so. In Britain itself, come to that, violence would flare in Ireland in the early decades of the 20th century until the Irish Republic was established in 1922. Note that all these countries save Switzerland and the Irish Republic (also about 4 million) were constitutional monarchies that had evolved slowly, but steadily, into democratic polities.
Roughly the same size in 1939 as Britain in population--- around 40 - 45 million --- it had experienced a dozen different political systems since 1789, the start of its first revolution. All the regime changes over those 150 years had taken place through violent upheavals, none peacefully. The Third Republic was consolidated in 1875 or so. Though still a democracy in 1940 when the Nazis invaded and it capitulated in a matter of weeks, France then underwent another political upheaval and was ruled by the Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime until its liberation by the British, Canadians, and Americans, plus some Gaullist Free French forces in 1944 and 1945. No surprise. For all its democratic forms in the 1930s, France was increasingly drifting into a condition of latent civil war, reflected in more and more ideological polarization between the left and right. When, in 1936, the Spanish Popular Front of liberals, socialists, and communists (plus anarchists) was assaulted by Francoist forces aided by the Italian fascists and German Nazis, a similar government was in power in France. It feared even sending arms to aid the Spanish Republic, worried that the civil war there would then quickly spread to France itself.
Challenges to democracy in France, keep in mind, didn't end in 1945. As we noted earlier, the country underwent four violent changes in its political system after 1940 . . . the last one in 1958, when a threatened coup by the French army in Algeria led to the breakdown of the 4th Republic and the emergence of a typical French military savior, Charles de Gaulle.
All the Rest of Europe Dictatorial, Extremist, and Warlike
Consider again the rest of Europe, all non-democratic by 1939 . . . ruled by dictatorships of the extreme left or right (with some variations across them.) Since 1933, Germany was under Nazi rule, brutal, radical, yet popular . . . Hitler widely regarded as Germany's savior, also the man who would conquer the rest of Europe for them --- a goal universally subscribed to by almost all German elites. In Italy since 1923, a less brutal fascist rule prevailed under Mussolini; it was still warlike and expansionist and full of contempt for democracy and bourgeois civilization. Spain and Portugal, as noted a while back, had emerged as right-wing authoritarian clerical regimes in the 1930s. Austria had a similar form of clerical authoritarianism even before its annexation by Hitler and the Nazis in 1937 . . . much to the joy of the Austrian people, it should be noted, who contributed a higher percentage of their population to the Nazi party than Germany itself. The rest of East Europe was uniformly under right-wing militarist or authoritarian regimes save in Czechoslovakia, a small democracy sold out by the French and British appeasers at Munich in 1937.
One other exception, a giant one: Stalinist Communism was in full control of the Soviet Union, undergoing the horrors of its totalitarian rule.
Then came World War II, tens of millions of deaths even in Europe --- never mind Asia or elsewhere --- and the subsequent imposition of communism on the East Europeans for four decades . . . the Continent divided into two ideologically opposed zones until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war in 1990-91.
BRITISH VS. OTHER IMPERIAL LEGACIES: DEMOCRACY AND MARKET-GENERATED
Economically speaking, the British empire in North America and Australia evolved far differently from either the Ottoman or the other European empires. Four big differences stand out that throw further light on the differences between Islam and the West, but also between North America and Latin America in their politics, culture, and economic systems.
(i.) Mass British Emigration and Settlement
Large numbers of British and Irish moved as settlers out of the British Isles and came quickly to dominate the local economies in North America and Australia.
Several momentous consequences followed for North American economic and political development, especially compared to Latin America or European and Islamic empires in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. One such consequence: these British settlers brought British law and parliamentary traditions to bear on themselves
as the initial colonizers. A second one: the arrival of large numbers of family farmers also led to a far more egalitarian distribution of land in North America than anywhere under Spanish or Portuguese rule. There's a third consequence that also needs to be stressed: family farming carried out by millions of colonials and later immigrants after 1789 created far greater incentives to innovate technologically and develop agriculture for the markets. In turn, such traditions of innovation and openness to change later transferred quickly in the 19th century to manufacturing industries. (Not surprisingly, plantation agriculture in the Antebellum South using slaves languished by contrast; and the southern plantation owners were essentially a militarized gentry. The South never fully industrialized until after 1945.)
Note the term a moment ago in italics: on themselves
The British settlers treated the indigenous peoples with the same contempt and use of force that the Spanish and Portuguese applied in Latin America, even though in the latter continent far larger, more urbanized Indian populations were either exterminated or enslaved than was the case in North America. Nobody knows the exact size of the indigenous Indian peoples in North America in the early 16th century: the estimated figures run from 3 million up to 16 million, the latter probably way over-stated. In Latin America, there were 30-40 million Indians, some living in small clan or tribal areas, most, however, urbanized or ruled over by urban imperial peoples like the Aztecs or Incas.
Initially, too, in North America, the armed conflict between Indian warriors and isolated farming families and small settler villages --- who had to form militias to defend themselves --- was far fairer. Both sides engaged in attacking one another's settlements. In the French and Indian wars of the mid-18th century, the heavily armed Indian allies of France attacked colonial farms and villages with potent ferocity. When, over time, a professional military and far greater organization and firepower were developed after 1789 by the US government at all levels, local and national, these tactics would prove devastating to the Indians: either they were decimated or moved off their homelands to reservations.]
(ii) Trading vs. Tribute Empires: North vs. South America
The British empire --- and generally the French and Dutch empires --- differed from the Spanish and Portuguese in another significant way: it was a trading
empire, with mutually beneficial trade and flows of capital investment with their North American and other colonies (India, for instance, as Marx himself appreciated and argued), whereas the Spanish and Portuguese were --- like the Inca and Aztec empires they shattered --- tribute
To say that the British empire --- to stay with the North American colonies --- entailed mutually
beneficial trade and investments doesn't mean that the gains were equally distributed: it does mean that the trade and investments weren't in the main exploitative, largely benefiting only the imperial core country. The benefits for the colonials were all the greater because the British settlers and rulers also implanted British institutions in North America: laws, the protection of property, parliamentary institutions, and a powerful work ethos . . . plus an interest common to Protestant (and especially Calvinist) societies from the 17th century on in investment and economic growth and profits as a way of demonstrating you were a morally superior person, destined for salvation. Family farms --- later reinforced after the Louisiana Purchase by the federal government distributing 640 acres of land to any family willing to farm it --- also led to a wider distribution of property ownership and greater equality of income than was the case in Europe, something Alexis de Tocqueville discovered when he traveled widely in the US during the mid-1830s.
Tribute empires, by contrast, are essentially run for the benefit of the home country, the imperial center, and work by way of plunder.
There is little incentive to develop the local economies . . . all the less so in the Spanish and Portuguese cases because so few Spaniards and Portuguese immigrated to Latin America. The Conquistadors and their descendants for generations were after quick results, the discovery and export of gold and silver; little else. Later, it's true, plantations developed, either with slavery as in the US South or with the use of native American Indians as quasi-slaves, peons with no land or essentially few rights of their own. By definition, plantation agriculture is heavily concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners. The same, by the way, was true from the beginning of ranching in Argentina. Ethnic separation and an ethnic-racial hierarchy --- which also existed in parts of North America (especially in the slave-holding South and then after slavery there) ---- were aggravated by huge inequalities across social classes in property, wealth, income, and life-styles.
(iii.) British vs. Hispanic Legacies: North and Latin American Developmental Contrasts Clarified
There was another drawback that impeded economic developmental in Latin America: the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions --- Counter-Reformation in nature, suspicious of new knowledge and run by zealots keen to maintain the purity of Iberian Catholicism in the New World --- followed the Conquistadors from the outset. They ensured that Latin America was trammeled by ignorance, poor levels of literacy, and technological backwardness, all added obstacles, despite improving educational standards the last few decades, that still reverberate centuries later in Latin American colonies. On these retarding influences analyzed in comparative manner, see the buggy prof article of May 2003: Latin America
As that long buggy article noted, the intellectual heritage of a narrow, backward-looking Hispanic Catholicism --- countered by a militant anti-clericalism by the late 19th century, which was a common Latin European movement transplanted in blunted form to Latin America itself --- contributed, each in its own way, to the institutional and cultural problems of developing an effective form of capitalist development in Latin America until after WWII. On side, a narrow, rigid clergy that began to change only after WWII in the lower ranks, where a kind of grass-rooted populist-Marxist sentiment would grow that was opposed by the hierarchy everywhere; and on the other an anti-clerical tradition that drew on the European heritage of Marxism, syndicalist anarchism (a Spanish specialty), and populist fascism.
Both have proved inimical to what North America came to accept as a given: liberal capitalism as a way to prosperity, moderate democratic politics, the belief in compromise as a virtue, and a rich civil society.
A Sidebar Clarification of the contrasting intellectual heritages in North and South America seems worth while here. As the same buggy article noted at a later point in its argument,
"The impact of a Hispanic heritage has been no less injurious in intellectual development compared to North America. Specifically, the combination of the Inquisition for centuries, oligarchy, the Counter-reformation, the exclusion of Protestant immigration (save in parts of Brazil in the south, and to an extent in Uruguay and Argentina in the latter part of the 19th century), and a dysfunctional educational system have severely retarded Latin scientific, mathematical, and technological progress compared to Canada and the US.
"Few countries can even boast today of a majority population with high school level education (the Mexican government commitment here, adopted in the early 1990s, has never been fulfilled, for instance), and despite some pockets of excellence, Latin American universities don't compare with those in Europe, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, or North America. Essentially, the intellectuals around the Continent in the 19th and early 20th century aped French philosophy and sociology (Comte above all), and did little else for development --- economic or political --- of their countries. And though, starting with the Mexican revolution before WWI, there has been an impressive burst of artistic, architectural, and literary life all over Latin America --- far more impressive than in Spain or Portugal themselves --- none of that has helped political life or economic development either.
"By contrast, the self-sufficiency, spirit of individualism, and self-confidence of American farmers and workers from the outset easily nurtured --- along with a sense of common national identity forged by British law and parliamentarianism and then almost a decade of revolutionary struggle, to say nothing of a Protestant stress on literacy --- a remarkable ability all the same at creating a rich civic society based on voluntary associations and widespread cooperation across class, regional, and ethnic lines (even, interestingly, among blacks in the North and then in the difficult decades after the civil war in the South too, where vibrant black churches and businesses and volunteer groups of all sorts existed). A widespread sense of national identity and shared citizenship --- in which most first or second generation immigrants could share --- reinforced these tendencies. All of which were noted by Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited the US in the 1830s. Everywhere, he marveled at the wide radius of trust and spontaneous cooperation in American life at the grass roots and in cities, seeing it as the major counterweight to what he feared would be the excesses of both equality and individualism here. "
(iv.) The Fate of the Indigenous Americans and Slavery in the New World
Needless to add, the mutual benefits of trade and investment in the British colonies did not apply to the African slaves forced into bondage in the South, or to the native Indian peoples. It is worth remembering here, since we're talking about the Ottoman and Arab empires and their spread and decline, that their African slave trade antedates that of the West Europeans by 8 centuries, and for that matter continues these days in certain Arab countries like the Sudan or Mauritania. It's also worth remembering that the two liberal great-powers of the 19th and 20th centuries, the British and the US, together abolished the slave trade and destroyed slavery in the US civil war.
Until then, slavery had flourished in all civilizations throughout history. Only liberal capitalist countries with the power to act destroyed that nefarious institution, though it returned in vast genocidal ways in Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII. You can only wonder what Europe and the rest of the world would look like had the racist Germans and their allies --- including the Japanese racist empire in Asia --- had triumphed in that war..
HAS THE DEVELOPING WORLD SINCE 1945 DONE WORSE THAN EUROPE?
ALL IN ALL, NOT REALLY
Anyone who fails to grasp the turmoil, violence, warfare, and ideological or religious extremism that marked European modernization from the Middle Ages on --- even in Britain and the other eventually stable democratic countries of Northwest Europe until the end of the 18th century --- will be ill-equipped to understand three things about West Europe today or the developing countries' successes and problems in the period since WWII:
1) The strong revulsion to strong nationalist purpose in most of Europe these days --- along with certain utopian illusions about peace and international cooperation and the benign, allegedly powerful role of the UN in world affairs.
2) The extent to which the violence, extremism, and turmoil that have marked much of the developing world in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia since 1945 are really nothing new in the modernizing world.
3) And something else too, not fully appreciated: the developmental successes to date, especially in politics, of Asia and Latin America and even parts of Africa. In particular,
These Successes Clarified
What is unusual has been the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union and, less peaceful but contained, of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the latter aided by international intervention . . . followed by the emergence of democratic regimes in all the European states that have emerged out of that wreckage.
No less surprising, even something of a miracle, has been the absence of warfare in Asia since the end of the 1970s. Even the fall of authoritarian rule in Southeast Asia --- not least Indonesia --- has been remarkably non-violent. Contrary to what anti-globalizers fulminate against --- that globalizing forces lead to authoritarianism and the dominance of multinational manufacturing, services, and finance, the whole of Pacific Asia and India and even now to an extent Pakistan have moved toward increasing democratic rule. Since the 1997 currency and financial meltdown in Pacific and Southeast, electoral democracy in Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and now in Indonesia have moved towards greater accountability and transparency in political life, along with greater observation of human rights. The notable exceptions are, of course, the Communist systems in China and Vietnam, plus Burma and Laos.
Latin America Too
The same political successes have marked Latin America for over a decade now, ending the civil wars and ideological strife that had convulsed much of that Continent in the 1970s and 1980s. Everywhere except in Communist Cuba, electoral democracies have emerged. . Most of the Latin democracies may be ineffective in two many ways, especially in limiting corruption, improving tax collection, and instituting a solid social security net. In too many of them, the ineffectuality is a result of a dominant coalition of elites with little interest in changing the status quo. In others, there are changes in government reflected by an electoral struggle between contending elites --- usually with moderate left-wing or moderate right-wing tendencies (despite rhetorical exaggeration, especially on the left) --- but the status quo proves tenaciously hard to change whoever is in power, assuming the leaders want to change it.
Still, the achievements of the Latin peoples are impressive.
Peace prevails: former right-wing militarists and left-wing rebels sit side by side in legislatures, and nobody among their ranks wants to open up the armed struggles again. Human rights groups, feminist included, are increasingly influential. The media is vigilant and not fearful of revealing corruption where reporters get evidence of it. The problems of vigorous economic development, rife poverty, and widespread corruption --- also, mistrust across class and ethnic lines --- remain, despite some progress on these scores too in a good half of the Latin American countries. No surprise really. Several hundred years of Latin American development against a Hispanic background --- illuminated in the next set of remarks --- can't be easily overcome.
All the same, the successes should be underscored and celebrated.
The Arab Exception
In these successes in Asia, Latin America, East Europe, and even parts of Tropical Africa, one region of the world stands out as the big exception . . . the theme of this wider series, the Arab problems of economic development and above all the persistence of despotism and the failure of democratic forces in all 22 of their countries.