To justify war for the establishment of democracy in the Arab world, neoconservatives have referred specifically to Germany as the test case to prove that democratization by war and occupation can be successful. Apart from the fact that there may be some relevant cultural and historical differences between the Arab/Muslim world and Germany, there are some basic theoretical reasons why democratization by military occupation is more likely doomed to failure, if measured according to its proclaimed goals.
Military occupation with the aim of establishing and safeguarding democracy cannot escape the Jacobin dilemma, even if it is only detectable in certain circumstances: Radical democrats, the Jacobins, against whom the U.S Constitution was drawn up, assume that the majority is antidemocratic; accordingly, in order to make the people safe for democracy, they attempt to establish a dictatorship, which is “democratic” because of the “democratic values” it wants to foster. In a similar fashion, a democratizing state has to resort to measures that are usually considered undemocratic. Democratization by military also tends to operate on the assumption that the states concerned—the occupying and the occupied—share an identical interest, which amounts to a nearly totalitarian neglect of the idea of freedom, from which the concept of a genuine democracy as a constitutional order is derived. Freedom leads to the probability that the introduction of democracy increases the pluralism of decisionmaking, and, thus, the difference of interests is likely to increase rather than decrease. The assumption of a preexisting identity of interests among democracies—simply because they are democracies—automatically reduces the democracy of the occupied state to mere autonomy. Such autonomy may use democratic methods of elections, but its political decisions will finally depend on the approval of the (former) occupying state, and, therefore, the essence of democracy is denied to the people to be democratized.
That is exactly the problem of the German situation, which is often referred to, together with the case of Japan, as a successful democratization by military occupation. Similar democratization is to be accomplished, according to the neocons, by waging endless wars until democracy exists everywhere. Understandably, when occupying the defeated Germany in 1945, the United States did not want to establish democracy but rather a political system, dedicated to “democratic values,” that provided some guarantee that German politicians who were democratically elected would pursue policies recommended by the United States. That is why the United States obstructed the reenforcement of the German democratic constitution of 1919, which even Hitler had not abolished but which was only suspended in 1933 by a freely elected parliament for a period of four years (but unconstitutionally extended twice). To pursue its policy, the U.S. military regime, following the pattern of its special (Jacobin) democratic ally the Soviet Union, licensed at the outset only four political parties, cutting off (and, by implication, prohibiting) the traditional German right-wing parties, conservatives and national liberals, the leading parties of the 19th century. In conformity with this restriction on political pluralism, freedom of the press was denied for five years by the Western occupiers. Instead of reestablishing press freedom, monopolies for particular geographical areas were licensed for “democrats”—i.e., communists and others who were willing to pursue American interests. The broadcasting system remained directly under the control of the democratizing occupation (in Berlin, until as recently as 1990), to be handed over to the democratic parties later (which turned out to be 1955, ten years after the end of the war).
A provisional constitution, the Basic Law, was set up. This constitution is still in place in Germany and has, according to an official commentary, established a “new type of democracy,” the basic characteristic of which is the diminution of political freedom for the sake of democratic values. This democracy is to be protected against a people who, it is assumed, would bring Hitler back to power if allowed to vote freely. Political parties can be prohibited by the Constitutional Court because their ideology is not in conformity with what is officially called “Western liberalism.” When prohibiting the Communist Party, the Constitutional Court recognized the unique character of German democracy and stated that, in standard Western liberal democracies, one would not find such a system of prohibition. Indeed, the democratic constitution of 1919 had not contained such an oppressive device. The prohibition of political parties was possible, as a temporary measure only, under the imperial constitution of 1867/1871, but the democratically elected parliament of that time did not allow the prohibition of the Social Democratic Party to prevent the participation of that party in the elections. By contrast, the legal effect of prohibition of political parties in Germany today is permanent, and, accordingly, it is a criminal offence to continue party activities.
After two prohibitions in the 1950’s, the German political class had avoided resorting to formal prohibition procedures, since the permanent threat of prohibition against unwanted parties has been sufficient to render new opposition parties ineffective. The only exception was the recent application against a tiny right-wing party, the NPD, two years ago. Opponents argued that it should be outlawed because, among other things, its party speakers had imputed some responsibility to the United States for the outbreak of World War II.
The Constitutional Court clogged this procedure, arguing that the NPD had been infiltrated and even controlled by the German national secret services, which were known for their close cooperation with the American institution that had created them. By rejecting this prohibition application on formalist grounds, the court avoided a revision of the concept of prohibition and, by implication, allowed the practice to continue. The most prominent method of prohibition involves publication by the secret services, in which unwanted opposition, including political magazines, is officially, without any legal hearing, declared “inimical to the constitution” for expressing the wrong political ideas, especially those opposed to U.S.-style democratization. A person who is active in such a party or writes articles in such a magazine is under permanent threat of losing his job. Though, in 1995, the European Court of Human Rights declared political firings a human-rights violation (in the case of a communist teacher), such tactics have been continuously used against those who are considered right-wing. The established German political class is obviously hoping that such institutions as the European Community, which had been initiated by the United States to replace the formal occupation of Germany, will continue to discriminate against the German right, thus continuing U.S.-style democratization.
These oppressive measures have prevented the establishment of a right-wing national liberal party like the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe). Though Austria was also placed under a democratizing occupation regime, she was allowed to reestablish her constitution of 1920/1929, which resembled the German constitution of 1919. Thus, in Austria, the methods to “safeguard democracy” against unwanted opposition could not be as oppressive as in Germany, although those techniques are not entirely unknown in Austria: A person who openly advocates the unification of the German people (including the Austrians) will be brought to trial for violating the attempt to democratize Austria by de-Germanizing her. The electoral success of the FPOe demonstrated to the “international community” what could happen in Germany if the “new type of democracy” were transformed into a more standard Western democracy. This insight explains the “boycott of Austria” in 2000, which was primarily directed against possible German opposition to “Western values.”
To a certain extent, it appears surprising that Freedom House has continuously labeled Germany a “free country.” How is democratic defined? Based on the extent to which a “democracy” is in line with American interests (which are, by definition, “democratic”)? Though it may be difficult to define different degrees of freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany is less free, not only when compared with the Weimar Republic, but, in some ways, when compared with Germany before World War I, which Freedom House would only categorize as “partly free.”
The public remained largely unaware of the shortcomings of German democratization because the United States and Germany had a mutual interest—the containment of communism—which became apparent when the World War II alliance between the United States and the “special democracy” of the Soviet Union collapsed. In addition, the United States claimed to support Germany’s goal of recovering her eastern territories under Soviet and Polish occupation. Since the latter was not in the American interest, many intervening efforts, including the acceptance of a communist state in Germany as somewhat democratic, were necessary to teach German politicians that it would be undemocratic to pursue any interests not shared by the United States. Accordingly, anyone who advocates the recovery of the eastern territories could be declared by the secret services or “democracy agencies” (as the Economist has labeled them) an “enemy of the constitution” who espouses geographic revisionism.
Since the collapse of communism, the postwar situation that existed in Germany before the outbreak of the Cold War has been reemerging: The communists in the version of the former dictatorship party of communist East Germany have joined the “democratic” forces again, in order to pursue American interests in opposition to the German right, thereby protecting “democracy” from Germans who, it is assumed, will vote “wrongly” if allowed to vote freely.