Three Groups, Three Rules

It is sorely tempting to look at current events purely through the lens of either Huntington (Civilisations jostle, and one in particular doesn’t play well with others) or Palmer (world peace will come once we get rid of these parasitic tyrants).

But can a general synthesis be attempted, using a yardstick made up of the question “what are the rules by which they (try to) play?”

Here’s one attempt, which would break the globe into three particular blocs, still clearly a work-in-progress:

Three Groups, Three Rules

1.  The Citizen States:  those governments who believe in all the things one finds in a modern representative government — which may all disagree vastly on the extent of individual rights, but which are consciously populated either by citizens or else “politically-empowered subjects,” and characterized by a historically-unusual degree of political transparency and government accountability.

  • Examples — EU/Anglosphere/Japan/”fledgling Democracies”
  • Rarely, Will forcibly intervene in other States for defensive and/or moral causes
  • Run by The Governor

Outlier Example — France’s semi-predatory relationship with Cote d’Ivoire

2.  The Westphalian States:  Russia and similar states who are willing to play by the letter of international conventions, but have no compunction whatsoever about putting their power to uses that the inhabitants of Group 1 find either immoral or generally unpalatable.  Subjects possess some vague notion of rights/priveleges/immunities, but enjoy no protection from those groups which comprise the State.

  • Examples — Russia, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan
  • Occasionally, Will forcibly intervene in other States in order to improve its strategic position
  • Run by The Ruler

Outlier Example — Morocco and its attempts to rationalize a political Islamism containing many features of Group #1 States.

3.  The Vampire States:  Cuba and similar states which are differentiated by the ruling group’s desire to achieve power and enrichment through the total domination and relative impoverishment of all not within State Apparatus.  Characterized by the conscious engineering of circumstances in which the ruling group cannot be safely detached from the people upon whom they derive their power.

  • Examples — Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria
  • Constantly, Forcibly intervenes whenever possible for strategic and material gain
  • Run by The Guinea Worm

Example Outlier — Iran and its ruling cabal’s tenuous hold over a population clearly preferring a Group 1 State.

It’s not enough to simply chop up the world by Civilization:  doing so, for example, leads one to Huntington’s Thesis on the Middle East — which has been more than demonstrated — but also Japan — whose behavior has baldly contradicted Huntington’s predictions.  Nor is it simply sufficient to distinguish between those countries that are “Free” and “Unfree,” because it misses how they act:  it’s great to be involved with France if you’re a Frenchman or member of the EU… not so great if you’re an Ivorean.  Similarly, Palmer’s Thesis completely misses out on the ability to deal with what’s going on with Morocco, and any legitimate multivalence in the notion of what constitutes a free society.

The Descriptive Element is what it is.

The Prescriptive Element, leads one to suggest a couple different things.

It is in the interest of Group 1 States to maximize the degree of intervention, forceful or otherwise, in order to destabilize and extinguish Group 3 States, converting them to either Group 1 or Group 2 States.

Similarly, it is in the interest of Group 1 States to minimize the degree of intervention involving Group 2 States, instead pursuing a game of maximalized consistent incentives.  Unlike a Group 3 State, in which the subjects are abjectly and purposefully kept down in Croesus-like manner, subjects of a Group 2 State possess sufficient means by which to initiate a “colored revolution” if they attain sufficient economic and legal protection from the State — which is typically a function of economic power.  And, equally importantly, Group 2 State Actors are willing to more-or-less abide by international agreements that provide geopolitical stability.  Therefore, whatever improves the livelihood, access to uncensored information, and material well-being of a Group 2 State’s subjects should be pursued as a consistent goal, whether or not the nature of the regime remains unchanged.

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  1. You might also consider, in trying to find a reasonable comparative model for contemporary regimes, John McCormick’s performance-based approach. It is in some ways a synthesis of Huntington and Palmer, plus a few other measurable indicators to set off, say, LDCs from NICs.

  2. He’s got a fairly large number of publications: can you pare it down a little?

  3. Check out Comparative Politics in Transition. It’s billed as a textbook through Wadsworth. I have a copy at work, and am planning on using it, Huntington, and Palmer in my Govt 2371 course this fall.

  4. Would love to take a look.


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