I'm in the middle of reading Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of our Nature. It's a big book and I stop and start. But today's reading seemed rather appropriate (though it's mostly quotes from other people). In the chapter, the New Peace, he is looking at why since the 90s, there have been so few wars and so few killed (OK it's a controversial book, with a lot of statistics).
His major argument is that democracy inhibits war (well, you can argue, but I won't here). So a little democracy must be better than none, ie autocracy? These semi-democratic administrations or crappy governments, (the term he prefers to anocracies) don't do anything well. Unlike autocratic states they don't intimidate their populations into quiescence, but nor do they have more-or-less fair systems of law enforcement of a decent democracy. They retain the kleptocratic habits of autocracies, from which they evolved, doling out tax revenues and patronage jobs to their clansmen, who then extort bribes for police protection, favourable verdicts in court, or access to the endless permits needed to get anything done. When governments are periodically up for control in a "democratic" election, the stakes are very high. Clans, tribes and ethnic groups try to intimidate each other away from the ballot box and then fight to overturn a result they don't like.
Pinker quotes the "Global Report on Conflict, Governance and State Fragility" as saying that anocracies are "about six times more likely than democracies and two and one-half times as likely as autocracies to experience new outbreaks of societal wars" such as ethnic civil wars, revolutionary wars and coups d'etat.
So far so bad for Ukraine as it tries to improve its democratic system! A further Pinker quote is from Mueller's The Remnants of War: "new wars" are more nearly opportunistic predation by packs of criminals, bandits and thugs, applying ethnic, nationalist rhetoric. The damage can be extensive particularly to the citizens who are their chief prey, since the gangs are just drunken hooligans.
Some of the so-called self-defence bands being formed in Eastern Ukraine sound pretty much like they have swallowed Putin's anti-Nazi and anti-fascist "defenders of Russia" rhetoric but in fact are just gangs of titushki, being used by the Party of Regions to intimidate people.
Let's hope the real democrats are tough enough to cope. And that the EU manages to provide help in more ways than just finance with conditions. (more on that later I think).
I wrote this yesterday. A bit worrying that already an unidentified armed paramilitary group is operating openly in the Crimea.