Over the past few weeks I have read a few articles about extraterritorial behavior of states. The body of work on international relations is vast. Military treatises can either be regarded as a subset of international relations or a separate category of its own. War is the most obvious extraterritorial behavior. But the study of war misleads the scholar into believing extraterritorial behavior is simply a form of conflict.
The articles I have read discuss how authoritarian states control their diaspora populations. Dana Moss demonstrates how diaspora populations have held back their criticisms of their home countries. David Lewis has shown how Uzbekistan has forced those who have lived in self-exile to come home despite dire consequences for their personal freedoms. The unforeseen collateral damage of globalization has become more extensive than anyone anticipated. Nonetheless, in recent years authoritarian nations have begun to extend their influence beyond their borders.
The modern interpretation of state formation imagines people forming their government in isolation of their global environment. Indeed, domestic institutions have the greatest influence on state formation. Yet nongovernmental organizations have long exported the cosmopolitan values of liberalism and democracy. It is unlikely the third wave takes off without the contributions of transnational organizations who single-mindedly promote democratic values. We can go back farther. The second wave was imposed by the United States on Japan, Germany and in varying degrees other parts of Europe.
Russia’s efforts to meddle in the American elections are a response to the importation of civil society organizations into authoritarian systems. While hacking personal information is an obvious violation of privacy, most of the Russian activity took advantage of the American antipathy towards censorship. Fake news blurs the line between propaganda and free speech. Indeed, do foreign nations have a right to free expression? Americans have long used radio free Europe to change the political narrative in authoritarian regimes. But is there a clear line between information and propaganda? Any effort to control propaganda becomes a justification to censor unfavorable viewpoints and perspectives.
The state was never created in a vacuum. State formation reflects the influence of its neighbors but also represents a response to their presence. Institutions never faced definitive boundaries. Globalization has nearly erased economic boundaries, while international law has established constraints for military forces. The armies of Rome were quasi-independent of the state. Naïve politicians were once quick to ask the army to feed itself. Little did they realize they ceded its loyalty in exchange for its fiscal independence. It was this principle that gave Caesar the credibility to cross the Rubicon. Because his veteran army owed not just their lives but their fortune to his leadership. The antifederalist argument largely centered on its fear of standing armies. This idea was not divorced from its demand for a bill of rights. Indeed, some states had prohibited standing armies during times of peace as a part of their own bill of rights. Napoleon arose a few years later. But it was the short-sighted belief of French politicians to ask the army to feed itself that made Napoleon’s transformation possible.
Distinctions between the political and nonpolitical are appropriate categorizations in a mature political environment. But they do little to explain the origins of political orders. Nonpolitical institutions contribute to the formation of the political order in direct and indirect ways. But international institutions contribute to the formation of the political order as well. Because democracy encourages the decentralization of power, there is tremendous institutional experimentation. This gave liberal democracy an edge in the perpetuation of liberal democracies beginning with Portugal’s democratic emergence after a long period of military rule. But this was just the start of a long wave of democratization that extended across every continent for the next twenty-five years or so. But technology has allowed greater capacity for centralization. Dystopic novels portrayed the emergence of totalitarian governments whose rule depended as much on technocratic proficiency as its pervasive surveillance. Yet there was always hope. It was never possible to know everything. Some things were beyond calculation. There were always unknowns. People will need to adapt to maintain this advantage.
jmk, carmel, indiana, email@example.com