democracy: a social experiment, part I

Tomorrow's class is on "democracy". The kids are reading Michael Doyle's 1986 article on "Liberalism and World Politics" and a couple of short pieces on democracy promotion and such.

But, instead of drilling into their heads whatever "democracy" is, I'm planning on doing a "Conference" in which I'm dividing them into 7 actors, giving them an issue and telling them to figure out what they would do about it. Since I've not actually done this sort of thing before, I'm laying it all out here for your entertainment.

I should probably mention that I want them to (hopefully) discuss the Democratic Peace Theory (we already talked about this in the previous class), figure out ways to balance/challenge the hegemon, talk about what "rationality" would entail and get into issues of hard and soft power, levels of analysis and get into how they would deal with each other. In other words, I'd like to get us to discuss concepts without making it obvious. Am I likely to be successful? Tune in tomorrow and find out.

In the meantime, have a read through and email me or comment on any additions/amendments yous can think of. As I said, this is the first time I'm even attempting this. Who knows what chaos it will lead to.

On Democracy:

The Issue

Country Y is currently experiencing political turmoil. For the past decade, it has been under strict military control and is considered to be very repressive. It is a “one party, military-led state”. Dissent is disallowed, press freedom is nonexistent and protesters are arrested and jailed. Many previous demonstrations have been ruthlessly quelled and people are “disappeared” yearly. The military has controlled political and economic activities of the country. The country itself is one of the poorest in its region. Inter-ethnic tensions are high. In addition, the trafficking of women and children from Y to neighbouring countries and across continents is high as is transport of drugs. It is believed the military junta is finding it difficult to quell the protests.

In the past week or so, there has been widespread protests over the rising costs of essential items. At the same time, the government has announced it has the means to acquire WMD's from a state not friendly with the Hegemon. Surprisingly, just yesterday, news filtered out of a find of Xacon in the country. Xacon is a mineral which can be used as an alternative energy source instead of fossil fuels. It is also inexhaustible—every time you remove a ton of Xacon from the earth, another ton takes its place. So far, Y is the only country in the world with a sustainable amount of Xacon.

Different actors are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark next month to discuss what to do about this situation. You, as the representative, have to decide what to do. Keep in mind your goal is to maintain order and promote peace and plan accordingly.

The Actors:


You are the Hegemon. You do not border Y but Y occupies a strategic position in a region in which you are increasingly losing your foothold and you need allies there. You have also promised the other actors in the region that you will provide military assistance, if they are threatened. In addition, this new find of Xacon could allow you to change energy sources and increase your position of power in the global arena. So far, you have criticised policies within Country Y and have banned all investment in there but your main goal is to promote democracy.

You are Together, a regional economic and political organisation. Y is part of your organisation and you have been pursuing an “engagement” policy with it in the hopes that things will change. You do not have any sanctions or embargoes on Country Y. Should you keep up with this policy? What are the benefits (and drawbacks) of alliance? You are thinking about these issues as TogetherElsewhere, another more powerful regional organisation, has announced plans for an arms embargo against Country Y.

Mr. White: You are the leader of country Y. You have been invited to the conference in Copenhagen and need to have a plan ready to propose to the other actors. You have just received information about the Xacon find in your country.

Regional Power State: You are the regional power. Your relations with the Hegemon are good in terms of trade relations and yet you are considered to be a potential rival or threat in geopolitical terms. You also border Country Y and have been a supporter of Y's regime. You recently vetoed a UN resolution criticising Y's government's treatment of its ethnic groups.

Help All: You are an international nongovernmental organisation which campaigns for human rights. While other countries were ignoring Country Y, you have always tried to bring its issues to the region's, if not the world's attention. However, many of your representatives have been arrested and forbidden from entering country Y. The current situation could be an opportunity...or not.

You are two of Y's neighbours—X and Q.

Q: You border Y and the Hegemon has bases on your territory. If you are threatened, the Hegemon has promised to come to your help. However, Q itself had a recent coup in which the military took control. Many refugees from Country Y also live along your shared borders and you are likely to find it difficult to accommodate more refugees if the situation within Y declines. You have strong economic ties with Y and have built industries and hydroelectric projects there.

X is one of the most prosperous countries in the region. It has advocated engagement with Y and is also in favour of non-intervention. It argues for a local, regional variation on democracy and says the “Western” version of democracy is not suited for all places.

Mr Orange: you are the leader of the opposition in Country Y. For the past decade, you have had limited power but the current protests are giving you hope. You belong to a minority group that has been repeatedly persecuted by the military government. However, do you want to invite the Hegemon into your country? Your grandparents were killed during WWII and your parents fought for freedom from Colonial rule. You are not sure what to do now.

Well, there you have it. I'll let yous know how it goes tomorrow. This whole "teaching kids about World Politics" gig is far more time-consuming than I thought!

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