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Kenya and Uganda

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Analyse the factors behind the success or failure of the consolidation of democratic institutions in Kenya and Uganda.”



This paper examines the factors that have contributed to the success or failure of the consolidation of democratic institutions in Kenya and Uganda. The post-independence period of these two countries is the starting point for this study. In arriving at its conclusion that attempts at consolidation of democracy in these two countries have been abortive overall, this paper lists factors, both peculiar to these countries and those endemic in the larger context of African society as inhibitors of democracy. If the reign of dictators in these countries, most notably of Daniel arap Moi in Kenya and Milton Obote and later Idi Amin in Uganda were undoubtedly great factors in stalling democracy, this paper sees this phenomenon as only a symptom of the disease that has afflicted Africa –its near incompatibility with democracy. The factors that have brought about this situation are mentioned in the concluding part of this paper.

It needs mention that the scope of this paper precludes the need for a detailed examination of the chronology of events[1], because of which only events concerning the thesis topic are listed. Only actions concerning mostly Moi’s and Amin’s regimes are detailed in this paper.



In the assessment of this paper, the most important outwardly factor to have acted as the stumbling block to democracy in these countries has been its dictators. Kenya’s rendezvous with democracy was also severely blunted by pathological corruption, as a result of which the country has been swinging between authoritarianism for most part of its post-independence existence, and some democracy. Kenya was placed on the road to democracy after independence, by its founding father, Jomo Kenyatta who had given the country a sample of democracy, but his successor, Daniel arap Moi chose the opposite route, and took the country toward totalitarian, one party rule. When multiparty elections did come, they were flawed. The end of his long rule paved the way for more democracy, but this was also severely affected not so much by despotic rule, as much as by corruption and compulsions of coalition politics.


In Uganda’s case, the role of two consecutive dictators, Milton Obote and Idi Amin were enough to keep democratic institutions in shackles for most part of its post-colonial history. The excesses of their establishment were the antithesis of any democratic attribute. If the Obote regime was going all out to kill democracy, then that of Idi Amin was brutal and abominable even by African standards. There has been some movement towards democracy in Uganda in the last two decades and in Kenya in the last few years, but this has not been in conditions that were different from those that fostered autocracy. There exists some democracy as of now on paper, but it is a fragile one, and the system can slide into its anarchic past at the slightest provocation.


Such brittleness of democratic institutions in these countries has been the outcome of the inward, critical reason for the stunted growth of democracy –the inability of the African political and social system to adapt this form of governance, which has been explored in the concluding part of this paper.


Kenya: Kenya’s tryst with democracy was full of difficulties, as a result of the fact that it was never based on serious intent. Arap Moi’s stranglehold over the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party he inherited from Kenyatta was complete. An attempted coup in 1982 was the perfect pretext for him to stifle democracy. His victory speech announced the justification for the continuance of single party rule:

There had to be a party giving people everywhere a sense of belonging and an arena of unity. The party was also to serve as an institution which the government and the people had in common — so that philosophies, policies and aspirations all sprang from the grass-roots of society. It was further visualized that the party, as a political instrument, must be appropriately involved in sustaining the countrywide momentum of nationalistic forces and feelings . . . (Ogot & Ochieng, 1995, p. 203)


Moi’s penchant for tyrannical rule got strengthened over time; the first multiparty elections[2] held in 1992 came about three decades after independence, and were marred by a lack of consensus or a pact among the parties. This fact made the elections a farce and rendered the opposition impotent. Coming as they did in the backdrop of increased international pressures over its human rights record and abysmally poor living conditions caused by corrupt governance, the elections of 1992 were a charade. Although they were multiparty elections held under the watchful eyes of international donors, they were won by the ruling party with skulduggery and the complicity of a pliant Election Commission and judiciary. Even after attaining a majority in parliament, the KANU led by Moi persistently refused to carry out constitutional reforms aimed at more democracy implying transparency in public administration. His term in office was marked by acts such as hounding opposition figures and the media, denying them the right of association and the carrying out of frequent arrests. The KANU’s unwillingness to relinquish power made them carry out much political stealth during the elections. (Harbeson, 1999, pp. 49-51)


This was a great slump in the democratic credentials of a party that had for most part of the “father of independence”, Kenyatta’s presidency, been a fairly neat example of democracy in Africa. From the time of independence in 1963 till his death in 1978, Kenyatta had nurtured a polity that had been surprisingly open to opposition parties. Although the KANU held monopoly of power on the national political scene since at least 1969 and the political system was based on patronage, Kenya was not a one-party monocracy. During his presidency, elections had been held regularly. Also, in a system that was at great variance with that in most other African regimes, for most part, the press was allowed to function without fear of political reprisal. There was liberty for the people to practise any religion, the Church and trade unions were allowed to voice their say, and civil liberty was being enforced by those in the legal profession and the judiciary. As Moi’s rule progressed, civil liberties starting taking a backseat, and power now started flowing into and getting consolidated into select ethnic communities. (Throup & Hornsby, 1998, p. 26)


Daniel arap Moi ran the government like a personal fiefdom, with extremely high levels of corruption[3] wreaking havoc in the daily lives of people. While corruption had been a bane of Kenyan society from Kenyatta’s time, accountability, a prerequisite of democracy, plummeted to new levels during Moi’s time. The treasury was virtually emptied during this time in innumerable scandals. The Goldenberg scandal was only the most famous of these, by which billions of Kenyan shillings were emptied from government coffers by fraudulent means. (Wright, 1998, p. 108) This resulted in strictures from Kenya’s donors and the World Bank culminating in suspension of vital aid, but even this did not alter the basic fabric of governance. (Lundahl, 2001, p. 99) This is where lay the problem –the inherent venality in the Kenyan society that some see as a takeoff from the colonial times, in which the colonisers used every method possible to deplete the exchequer. (Versi, 1996, p. 6)


Yet another factor of critical importance to arrest graduation to democracy was that Kenya’s opposition leaders were more mired in tribalism and had greater loyalty to their kinship, and were less clear about the system they wanted to put in place in the event of Moi’s defeat. Their cohesiveness was pre-empted by ethnic loyalty, which was always at the core of African society. It was never difficult for the seasoned Moi to exploit these inherent divisions. (Bates, 1999, p. 91)


Kenya also has some internalised and deep-rooted social factors that have made transition to democracy difficult. If the political factors listed above were direct and concrete factors that stalled the progress of democratic forces, social divisions such as ethnicity, location, education, income and gender lie at the heart of the society. This historic lopsidedness has made the assumption of more powers by some of such groups easy, while confining others into oblivion. Among these factors, perhaps the most important are “[e]thnic hostilities (which) reflect a weakness inherent in Kenya’s civic culture; (and) primordial fears and mistrust permeate society.” (Miller & Yeager, 1984, p. 74) This last factor has been the most important, larger reason for the lack of consolidation of democratic forces in Africa, of which these two countries are only a part. A presentation of this fact has been made in the last part of this paper.


Returning to Moi, finally, when the time came for him to hand over the reins of power, the administration that succeeded him, led by Mwai Kibaki, has been mired in coalition constraints; this administration, which came to office amid high promise and expectations, got entangled in corruption in much the same manner as its predecessor, (Kabukuru, 2006) to the extent of attracting censure from international donors if the system did not change. (Versi, 2005, p. 13) The crux of the power struggle has revolved round his attempt to acquire more power by bypassing his coalition partners, even while the entrenched system remains basically unchanged. (Wrong, 2005, p. 22) It has always been difficult for democracy to take root and flourish in such conditions.



Uganda: As was the case with Kenya, in Uganda, too, highly fragmented tribal and ethnic loyalties produced a splintered polity that could be exploited at will by the men in power. Right at the time of independence, major differences between the country’s most prosperous region that had the most powerful ethnic group, Buganda, and the rest of the country erupted and threatened to split the nation apart. Using their bargaining power, the Buganda had obtained a special status under the constitution of 1962, the nation’s first. Early into his term in office, the country’s first Prime Minister, Milton Obote was confronted with serious differences with the Buganda. After attempts at reconciling these and other various factions, Obote went on the offensive, and by 1966 had had the constitution annulled. When the Buganda protested this act and rose in rebellion by seeking foreign aid for separatism, the Obote government decided to take this state head on.  Declaring a state of national emergency, he ordered an Army crackdown on the Buganda stronghold, the tribal chief’s palace on Mengo Hill. Even as the Buganda chieftain, the Kabaka fled and the threat from this province receded, the Prime Minister seized this initiative to accumulate absolute power, starting with making himself president. This was the start of his autocratic regime; soon, what started as a measure to control internal dissent became an instrument of absolute power. A new constitution was promulgated in 1967, ostensibly to abolish the four dominant kingdoms and create a new government of unity, but was misused to gain total control. (Ofcansky, 1996, pp. 39-41)


Once he had been overthrown in a coup led by Idi Amin, his once trusted aide, what followed was a virtual bloodbath that was to soak the entire country, and mark a terrible chapter in its history. Amin first accused Tanzania of backing Obote, and chose this as a reason for rounding up alleged supporters of the deposed ruler. He next targeted officers of a failed coup, butchering several of them arbitrarily; one of his first acts was to proclaim himself ‘president for life’. Among his long list of perverse acts that were undemocratic was the suppression of the Catholic Church, on grounds that it was taking part in subversive activities; he even had the Anglican archbishop of Uganda murdered.  Such egregious acts continued with impunity till he was overthrown in 1979. (E.Jessup, 1998, p. 24) These were not before he had foreign journalists killed for attempting to cover the war with Tanzania, (Hachten, 1992, p. 42) and ordered the mass deportation of Indian businessmen who earned the cream of the economy. (Sowell, 1996, p. 321)


In Uganda, too, like in Kenya, society was deeply fractured along ethnic and tribal affiliations. Moreover, it was a country that had been built almost entirely on the strength of its agricultural sector. Industrialisation was almost totally absent, which meant that not only was dependence on this ancient system of production attracting more tribal loyalties, there was a total absence of any form of industrial bourgeoisie. This made organisation of the masses against tyranny ever more difficult. Thus, affiliations were more on the social rather than labour-oriented lines. This led to a solidification of the forces of concentration of power. This inhibited the spread of democracy to the grassroots level. With the advent of the colonisers, the geographical imbalance of power that was tilted in favour of Buganda was further aggravated in the form of animosity between the Catholic and Protestant and Christian and Muslim. (Hansen & Twaddle, 1988, p. 29)


In this milieu, the growth and consolidation of democratic institutions has always been next to impossible, as the present incumbent, Yoweri Museveni has been discovering. Despite not being given to the despotism of the earlier dictators, he has been having a difficult time keeping the country together due to insurrection from the sectarian Christian movement, the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose frequent attacks, and his government’s involvement in the civil war in Sudan  (P.Scherrer, 2002, p. 56) have weakened the graduation to democracy.


Conclusion: It is generally easy to point the difficulty in establishing democracy on a handful of dictators that ruled these two countries. While prima facie it is true that these men were responsible for this process as shown in this paper, a deeper understanding needs to be made of the conditions which enabled these men to assume absolute power and unleash such highly dictatorial regimes in these countries.


Discerning analysts and commentators have pointed out to systemic problems lying at the heart of African society as being the chief impediments to the fertilisation of democracy. This has been analysed thread bare with amazing clarity by Smith Hempstone (1995). The nub of this highly perspicacious analysis is that the genus of democracy was never present in Africa. This was a continent that had been blissfully insulated from all major events that shook the world –the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, explorations and political revolutions. The manure necessary for the sapling of democracy to sprout –openness, innovation and enterprise, was alien to African society. The institutional units that comprised society were the tribes, absolute and unquestioning obedience to whose leaders were the highest hallmarks of sacrosanct piety. All the dictators produced by Africa, Kenya and Uganda included, were people who made the best of this core of African life and society. The idea of accountability, rule of law and checks and balances were unknown to Africa. In a society that was light years away from the consciousness of nationhood, the parliamentary institutions that Britain put in place turned out to be seeds planted in an arid area. It is only natural that the only yield this continent threw up was dictators, the modern day avatar of tribal chiefs. (Hempstone, 1995) A Moi and an Idi Amin were the manifestations of this highly entrenched malaise that Africa has lived with. The democracy that has been seen in the last two decades has sprung out of the same conditions; hence, it should not be surprising if it breaks up on account of a consolidation of these primeval forces.

This being the core reason for the failure of democracy in Africa, it is not possible to understand or explain how Kenya or Uganda could have been exempt from this nature of governance in Africa. This, in the real and holistic sense, has been Africa’s story, and sums up the fulcrum of factors behind the failure of the consolidation of democratic institutions in Kenya and Uganda.

Written By Ravindra G Rao





Bates, R. H., (1999), 5 “The Economic Bases of Democratization”, in State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa, Joseph, R., (Ed.), (pp. 83-93), Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO.


E.Jessup, J., (1998), An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Conflict and Conflict Resolution, 1945-1996, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Hachten, W., (1992), 4 “African Censorship and American Correspondents” in Africa’s Media Image, Hawk, B. G., (Ed.), (pp. 38-47), Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT.


Hansen, H. B. & Twaddle, M., (Eds.), (1988), Uganda Now: Between Decay & Development, James Currey, London.


Harbeson, J. W., (1999), 3 “Rethinking Democratic Transitions: Lessons from Eastern and Southern Africa”, in State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa, Joseph, R. (Ed.), (pp. 39-54), Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO.


Hempstone, S., (1995, Winter), “Kenya: A Tarnished Jewel”, The National Interest, 50+. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:


Kabukuru, W., (2006, March), “Kenya: Has Kibaki Delivered? on 27 December 2002, Kenyans Elected a New Government, Headed by President Mwai Kibaki, Amidst Euphoria and Optimism. Three Years on, What Is the Score? Has Kibaki’s Government Fulfilled Its Electoral Promises? or Has It Been More of the Same? from Nairobi, Wanjohi Kabukuru Takes an Indepth Look”, New African 10+, Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:


Lundahl, M., (Ed.), (2001), From Crisis to Growth in Africa?. London: Routledge. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:


Miller, N., & Yeager, R. (1984). The Quest for Prosperity The Quest for Prosperity, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Ofcansky, T. P., (1996), Uganda: Tarnished Pearl of Africa, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Ogot, B. A., & Ochieng, W. R., (1995), Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, 1940-93, James Currey, London.


P.Scherrer, C., (2002), Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa : Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War, Praeger, Westport, CT.


Sowell, T., (1996), Migrations and Cultures: A World View, BasicBooks, New York.


Throup, D. W., & Hornsby, C., (1998), Multi-Party Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta & Moi States & the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election, James Currey, Oxford.


Versi, A., (1996, February) “The Culture of Sleaze”, African Business, 6. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:


Versi, A., (2005, March), “The Burr of Corruption”, African Business, 13. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:


Wright, S. (Ed.), (1998), African Foreign Policies, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Wrong, M., (2005, September 5), “World View: African Voters Are Naive about Their Constitutions. Ruthless, Corrupt Elites Will Not Suddenly Start Sharing Power Just Because a Legal Document Says They Must” New Statesman, Vol. 134, p. 22. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Questia database:

[1] For a more structured chronology of events about Kenya, the following links from BBC are a good reference: and

A chronological history of Uganda is very well documented on the sites of the US Library of Congress. This site is particularly important for this study: and

[2] A good article for the run-up to these elections can be found on

[3] The all-pervasiveness of this malaise has been well documented in a World Bank study authored by Anwar Shah in the report “Corruption and Decentralized Public Governance”. This report is aimed essentially at trying to find out if decentralization is a panacea to endemic corruption; yet, it gives a good account of this subject as a whole. Critical issues relating to corruption in Kenya find some mention in this report. It can be accessed on

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Buddha giving the Sermon in the Deer Park, dep...

The Gautama Buddha

Introduction: This paper profiles the Buddha’s early life and teachings. Having started off with a description of the interesting story of his preordained birth and early life leading to his renunciation, it looks at the circumstances that warranted the birth of the religion he founded. After describing the core philosophical and spiritual aspects of Buddhism, this paper rounds off with a discussion of the present situation of this religion around the world.

Limitation of this paper: While most of the requirements of this paper are met, one limitation is that it looks at only Buddhism as a whole from the perspectives mentioned above, without giving a thought to its main sects or traditions. Secondly, since an attempt is made in this paper to illustrate as lucidly as possible the core concepts of this religion, no reference is made to the holy texts of Buddhism, and for this reason, this paper has no quotes from its holy texts. This has been avoided for the simple reason that these texts are in the ancient Indian languages of either Pali or Prakrit.

Birth and early life: Buddha, nee Siddhartha, was born at a time when circumstances warranted the advent of a great soul that would cleanse the world of its miseries and suffering. As has happened during the arrival of all great men, there were prophecies of his advent, too, right from the time of his conception –his mother, the queen of the princely state of Magadha in eastern India dreamt of a six-tusked white elephant descending from the heavens entering her womb, plucking flowers along the way. Thus was the Buddha conceived in the most spectacular of fashions. At the time of his delivery, it is believed that four divine angels held out golden nets to receive the baby boy. As is the custom in India, the baby’s birth had to take place in the mother’s parental home; during the arduous journey to her father’s house, the baby was born. To mitigate her labor, a sal tree, under which she rested, bent to give her shelter and ease the birth. The prophesying continued right into his infancy. A saint foretold that the child’s chancing upon four symbols – an enfeebled old man, a sick man, a corpse and monk would take him from the royal palace to the path he was destined to traverse.  Shuddhodana, his doting father, apprehensive of losing his auspicious son to the esoteric, tried desperately to bring the prince back to the mundane. He ensured that no such persons ever entered the palace. (Ballou) Such was the effort the king took to shield the prince from the sight of these kinds of persons that he got built three different palaces for each of the seasons for his son to enjoy, and, whenever Siddhartha was being shifted from one palace to another, made sure anyone of such a description was removed from the way. As the boy grew up in all the imaginable royal comfort under the gazing, protective eye of his father, there was little in his princely upbringing that gave even the remotest chance of being exposed to the vagaries and vicissitudes of life. Yet, for all the insulation Shuddhodana tried to place his son in, there was an inner spiritual craving in Siddhartha that was causing a sense of ennui in him. On one occasion, he insisted that he be taken for a horse ride. His loyal charioteer, Channa took the young prince out on a fateful day on the equally loyal, strikingly handsome stallion, Kanthaka. Everyday life steeped in misery in India in the 6th century B.C. was precisely the reason Siddhartha was born. This ride exposed him to all the four categories of persons his father so assiduously wanted to keep him away from. (Corless 7)

The sight of these four persons brought about such a transformation in him that he decided to renounce the world right there, and seek the ultimate truth. Divine afflatus was so much on his side that the gods placed their palms under his feet, so that his possessive father would not hear the noise of the footsteps at the time he was walking out of the palace. Yet again, a divine act was performed to facilitate his departure: Shuddhodana had been so anxious about retaining his son that he had ordered the palace gates to be shut, in case his son still managed to find his way out. However, it was decreed that Siddhartha would leave, and nothing would stop the transformation of the prince to the Buddha, the enlightened. The powerful gates opened on their own. Once he had departed, he implored his faithful companions, Channa and Kanthaka to leave. The heartbroken horse is believed to have died out of grief from this separation. (Ballou)

Background to the birth of Buddhism: In the centuries leading to the birth of Buddhism, there was a series of events that greatly convulsed Indian society. The discovery and molding of iron took the art of warfare to hitherto unknown heights, giving rise to kingdoms and making the role of the despot more important to everyday life than ever before; over time, this resulted in unprecedented greed for power and pelf. The vast, sprawling area below the mighty Himalayas had a mere 16 states. At the same time, the scriptural injunctions of Hindu society, the Vedas and the Upanishads, preached the oneness of man and God. Taken to the extreme, this belief led to a glorification of rituals that were no more than a superficial symbolism of the core values of the Vedas, with several mutually contradictory approaches to Moksha, or liberation. (Prebish 7-9) Rituals, animal sacrifice and a highly class-based caste system took center stage of religious and social life. Compounding Brahminical hierarchical superiority was the existence of another recent religion, Jainism, which took nonviolence to such absurd levels that the implementation of austerities this religion prescribed was almost impossible for the common man. (Craig 38) This then was the state of spiritual decadence that India was going through at the time of the birth of the Buddha. Is it any surprise that in Buddhism, the caste system is totally absent, and there is no place for rituals and animal sacrifice?

Understanding the core concepts of Buddhism:  Buddhism centers round the fleeting nature of life and the material world. Man, in his state of ignorance, fails to understand this, and ends up getting attached to all the impermanent ideals and possessions that surround him. All that this attachment begets is misery. This misery is only alleviated when he gains knowledge of his true self, which is the true nature of the soul. Thus, it is attachment to the ephemeral that is at the root of his ignorance, and which clouds his grasp of the true nature of his self. This ignorance can only be removed, and man can be made to understand the connection between his true self and the permanent source of wisdom, or God, when he rids himself of attachment to evanescent objects. The way to achieving this is Karma. Again, this is tricky, because karma in the traditional sense means action, which can be of any kind, both good and bad. It is the pursuance of good deeds that frees man from bondage, and from the cycle of rebirths, and puts him into a state of eternal bliss, or Nirvana. (Morgan 25) To Buddha, the way to achieve this is the core of his philosophy, the concept of the ‘Four Noble Truths’, the ‘Five Aggregates’, and the ‘Eight Fold Path’. Of these, while the ‘Four Noble Truths’ is central, the others are tied to this in sequence, as if they were a corollary to the core. (Prebish 29) Accordingly, these are: 1) suffering is inseparable from material existence; 2) the cause of this suffering is desire and ignorance; 3) freedom from this ignorance and desire is freedom from their attendant suffering; and 4) there is a method or way by which this freedom can be achieved. This is the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge of the self. (Gross 148) The metaphysical metaphor for this is the transitive phase of existence from disease to cure; Buddha is seen as the physician, the Bhavaroga Vaidya, or doctor who cures worldly illnesses by first diagnosing the disease, then understanding its cause, then moving on to deciding the cure, and finally, administering the cure. (Keown 45) The ‘Five Aggregates’ are form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness. (Akira 44) Finally, the Eight Fold Path consists of right belief, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right occupation, right effort, right contemplation and right meditation. (“Exiled from Home, Loved” 3) If this is the core philosophy of Buddhism, then its chief spiritual traditions are nonviolence, tolerance and compassion for others; these are enunciated by the core means of community existence, or Sangha. (Boyle)

There are various theories ascribed to the growth of Buddhism. Though none of these is conclusive, the most widely accepted one is that after ancient India’s first great emperor, Ashoka, converted to Buddhism after his victory in the famous battle of Kalinga, in the 3rd century BC, he underwent a great transformation. Despite being the victor, he was so moved by the gore and grief the battle caused that he abjured all forms of violence, so essential a part of his sanguinary nature, before embracing Buddhism. The king was known to have made efforts to spread the essence of Buddhism to faraway countries such as present day Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Near East and Macedonia. (Keown 69) To the present day, this religion is predominant in these regions –India, Southeast Asia consisting of most countries in the region, Sri Lanka, and in pockets in the West. (Boyle)

Conclusion:  To Buddha, the highest emphasis was the halt to meaningless rituals and on good conduct, beyond which there existed no higher form of benevolence or spirituality. These to him were more important than blind beliefs, which had become the bane of Hindu society at that time. The simple, yet incisive organization of thought is reflected in the stunningly refreshing strata of his thought and logic: the Four Noble Truths is the essence of life; this is accomplished by the exercise of the Five Aggregates, and results in the Eight Fold path. The logic of action and consequence, though rooted in the Hindu concept of Karma, was more straightforward. Like Hinduism, it too, lays out the belief that karma is individualistic and unique to the person attached to it. Like Confucius, who detested everything that was superficial, Buddha, too, felt the same feeling of revulsion towards blind adherence to only the flip side of the Upanishads. To him, good thoughts and deeds beget good, although over a cycle of births. Thus, his teachings, apart from standing out for their crystal clear logic, were aimed at cleansing the rot that had set in. Buddhism, an offshoot of Hinduism, went on to change the lives of people in an entire continent. (Ballou)

Written By Ravindra G Rao

Works Cited


Akira, Hirakawa. A History of Indian Buddhism: From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana. Trans. Paul Groner. Ed. Paul Groner. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. .

Ballou, Robert O., Ed. (1944). The Portable World Bible (1st Ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Boyle, Joan. “Buddhist Discourse: An Instrument of Peace.” International Journal of Humanities and Peace 17.1 (2001): 27+. Questia. 26 Nov. 2005 <;.

Cheetham, Eric. Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism. Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing, 1994.

Corless, Roger J. The Vision of Buddhism: The Space under the Tree. 1st ed. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1989.

Craig, Edward. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2002.

“Exiled from Home, Loved in Liverpool.” Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England) 27 May 2004: 3. Questia. 26 Nov. 2005 <;.

Gross, Rita M. Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Keown, Damien. Buddhism A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Morgan, Kenneth W., ed. The Path of the Buddha Buddhism Interpreted by Buddhists.  New York: Ronald Press, 1956.

Prebish, Charles S., ed. Buddhism: A Modern Perspective.  University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Introduction: This research paper is a full-scale exploration of the Indian Act, passed in Canada in 1876. It makes a detailed explanation of the background to the Act. It takes the position that this Act has been a primary contributor to the state of underdevelopment among the Indians, from the time of its inception till date. It vindicates this position by illustrating elaborately the situation in which this Act was passed. This paper elucidates that this Act was passed with the intention of depriving the Indians of the share of development that took place on their own lands. This was done by disowning mixed marriages, the most potent tool with which access to their lands was gained, once their utility dissipated to the Settlers. It then lists the ways in which this Act has affected the Indians by driving them out of their lands and isolating them into near prisons of underdevelopment.

Background to the promulgation of the Act:  The Indian Act of 1876 was passed under the guise of restoring lands to their original owners, the Native peoples, such as the Indians, Metis and Inuit, from whom the European settlers had confiscated them. It was the culmination of a series of events in the tiff between the Native Indians and the European settlers over the issue of land ownership and control spanning several centuries. The conflict between the Natives and Settlers revolved round two crucial factors –expropriation of Native lands by the Settlers, and the failure of the medium through which this was initially carried out –mixed marriages between Europeans and Natives.

The starting point of the conflict between the two groups dates to the time of colonization of this vast stretch of land, which had been given sovereign legitimacy with the passage of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, passed by King George III. Ironically, this proclamation recognized the right of the Natives to the ownership of their lands; accordingly, these indigenous groups, called the various ‘nations’ of the Indians, were to be treated on a ‘nation to nation’ basis. It was conceived with the salutary intention of demarcating lands between Natives and Settlers, with the proviso that should the Natives decide to sell their lands to the Settlers, they would be compensated through legally binding treaties. In this was implicit the acknowledgment that the Indians were a distinct set of people with their own identity and cultural practices. Unfortunately, the later years saw a terrible misuse of the well-intentioned parts of these treaties, with the result that they became nothing more than mere documents whose spirit could be negated with impunity to drive the Natives out of their lands. (Cote, 2001, p. 15) The relationship between the Natives and Settlers took an anthropo-economic dimension, given the nature of involvement of the Settlers in the land they chose to settle in: they were essentially attracted to the New World for trade reasons. The sprawling area of land that came to be called Canada was rich in fur, a critical commodity for Western trade. So central was fur trade to the dynamics of the new colony, that it got wedded with the Native culture, quite literally –in order to facilitate this trade, several settlers started marrying into the local native communities. This was necessitated as much by the willingness of the Natives to expand their socioeconomic base by synthesizing the two cultures by means of exogamous marriages, as by the additional incentive the Settler got by becoming a part of the Native band. Over time, as the Settlers saw no major economic or social benefit by marrying the Natives, towards the end of the colonial period, the accent shifted from fostering marriages to impeding and repudiating them. Thus, while in the beginning of and in the course of the history of colonization, the union of the two cultures was predicated along matrimonial lines,  “…by the end of the colonial period, intermarriage had been transformed by settler society into “marrying-out.” Aboriginal women lost their Indian status if they married nonstatus males. Aboriginal groups were deprived of any say in the matter and their kinship structures were ignored.”  (Van Kirk, 2002) To further reinforce this separation from the Native tribes, the Settlers enforced the policy of segregating the Natives.

During the period of the relationship through marriage, there were two distinct nuances, intertwined with the question of race and gender: one concerning the attitudes of the colonizers towards the Natives, and another concerning fur trade. Even as the process of colonization, and with it, exogamous marriages were taking place, the general perception among the Settlers was that they were marrying members of a tribe who belonged to a pagan, inferior race, to whom loyalties to the ritualistic clan were more important than to what the Settlers considered the one and only true God. Marriage to such a tribe would entail passing on these base qualities to subsequent generations of their own blood. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the practice was overwhelmingly unions between European males and Native females. However, there was frequent resentment between the two groups since the Native culture demanded that marriages became legitimate only when the Settler accepted Native cultural practices, most of which were anathema to the Settler. Yet, several men consented to marriages despite all these reservations, since marriage to a member of the Native clan was an essential ingredient to access to the fur trade, and also because Native women were active participants in the fur trade, involving themselves in its secondary aspects. Within the huge territory, marriage patterns varied according to the geography of the region –in areas where fur was abundant, marriages were overwhelmingly in greater numbers than in areas that had other resources. A major reason mixed marriages failed was that there existed irreconcilable differences in the meaning and utility of marriage between the two groups. If the Natives perceived marriage to a settler as a means of economic betterment, the Settlers thought marriage was meant “…to make them like us, to give them the knowledge of the true God…” (Van Kirk, 2002) It was only natural that marriage between such dichotomous entities would collapse, once the thread that wrapped them snapped. From being indispensable to facilitating trade, the Natives now became an intrusion into Settler lives.

It was in this backdrop that the Indian Act was promulgated in 1876, aimed at isolating the Natives. Designed to spell out the policy of the Federal government towards the Natives, it looked at the question of Natives in a condescending manner; instead of recognizing the rights of the Natives over the lands that rightfully belonged to them, the law aimed at the total obliteration of the Indian cultures. (Cote, 2001, p. 15) Defining an Indian as one, “…who pursuant to this Act is registered as an Indian or is entitled to be registered as an Indian”, (Harold, 1969, p. 18) what the law did was to put the Federal seal on a virtual ostracism of the Natives under the garb of granting them land. Under the pretext of placing the Natives in what were conveniently called ‘Reserve lands’, the government used this as a ruse to Christianize the Natives. (Cote, 2001, p. 15) Classified on par with minors, and thus deprived of the legal status of full citizenship, the Indians were further discriminated against; Indian women who married non-Indians were excluded from the definition of ‘Indians’. (Titley, 1986, p. 11) With the law quarantining the Natives in their own country, the next step was to make sure they were molded into the Settlers’ line of thinking. “Once they “proved” they were civilized, they were supposed to disappear or assimilate into the general Canadian population, thus getting rid of the (so-called) “Indian problem” by getting rid of Indians and their special status altogether.” (Cote, 2001, p. 15)

The primary aim of the Act was to weaken Indian families, by placing the option of leaving the reserves out of their own volition if they wished to join the mainstream of British society, a precondition for full franchise. In other words, this Act was intended to give the Indians two options –either to forcibly become part of the establishment (Tennant, 1990, p. 45), or simply “…disappear as distinct and recognizable ethnic groups”. (Nichols, 1998, p. 226)

Effect of the law: The effect of this law has also been manifold: at the social level, it has created a system of bands, defined as a “…body of Indians holding lands or a reserve in common or for whom funds were held in trust by the federal government” (Titley, 1986, p. 11), wherein the Natives are to exercise their powers through the equivalent of municipal commissions, having nothing more than the subordinate powers these bodies are granted. The Minister of Indian Affairs still has absolute control over vital areas. (Cote, 2001, p. 15) Even the composition of the band council, consisting usually of one chief and one councilor for every 100 band members, is left to the discretion of the Minister, who may authorize the creation of a band council “…in the interest of the good government of the band”.(Catt & Murphy, 2002, p. 85)

The second effect of this law is economic in nature: it has driven the Indians to penury. It has left only the Indians in pockets of underdevelopment, while the UN rates Canada the best country in the world to live in. This is understandable, considering that the Indian Act is a systematic procedure aimed at detaching the Indians from development, by confining them to the reserves. The malefic effects of this apartheid are all too obvious, resulting in average unemployment rates touching a high of 25 percent. In particular, one of the sections of the Acts hits the Indians where it hurts most, by prohibiting them from borrowing loans by pledging their lands, their only resource. This deprives them of the already meager avenues for development. (Kendall, 2001, p. 43)

Another example of how this law crippled the Indians of their bare resources is that of the Indians living on the Saskatchewan River in the years following the enactment of the law. Here, poverty forced the Natives to trap beavers and muskrats for a living. Driven to desperation, they often resorted to over trapping. This led to a severe weakening of water levels. With a drop in the water levels, the muskrat population started dwindling; this chain reaction reduced the Indians’ incomes drastically. (Nichols, 1998, p. 276)

Conclusion: The Indian Act was designed to be discriminatory in nature. The tragedy is that the original spirit of the Royal Proclamation, promulgated in a different context and time continues to be preserved down the ages, especially that which bifurcated lands between Natives and Settlers. Although the Act has had its progenies in the form of the Penner Report of 1983, the Charlottetown Accord of 1992, and the Final Report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal People of 1995, the best these half-hearted measures have achieved is that some of the Indian tribes, such as the Sechelt, the Nisga’a, the Inuit, Yukon First Nations and the James Bay Cree have negotiated separate treaties and have diluted some of the provisions of the original Act. Overall, the spirit of discrimination embodied in this law remains essentially the same. (Catt & Murphy, 2002, p. 85)

Viewed in its totality, this Act has been the symbol of the degradation and aggrandizement of Native resources by the Settlers. This has been the commonality between most cultures that were colonized.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




Catt, H., & Murphy, M. (2002). Sub-State Nationalism: A Comparative Analysis of Institutional Design. London: Routledge. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Cote, C. (2001). Historical Foundations of Indian Sovereignty in Canada and the United States: A Brief Overview. 15. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Harold. (1969). The Unjust Society: The Tragedy of Canada’s Indians. Edmonton, Alta.: M. G. Hurtig. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Kendall, J. (2001). Circles of Disadvantage: Aboriginal Poverty and Underdevelopment in Canada. 43. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Nichols, R. L. (1998). Indians in the United States and Canada : A Comparative History /. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Tennant, P. (1990). Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Titley, E. B. (1986). A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:


Van Kirk, S. (2002). From “Marrying-In” to “Marrying-Out”: Changing Patterns of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal Marriage in Colonial Canada. Frontiers – A Journal of Women’s Studies, 23(3), 1+. Retrieved October 2, 2005, from Questia database:

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Table of contents:

1.      Introduction;

2.      Outline;

3.      Limitations of this study;

4.      The road to democracy;

5.      Democracy in Iran;

6.       Human rights in Iran;

7.      Conclusion.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


1. Introduction:

This paper looks at human rights and democracy in Iran in the wake of political reforms being implemented there since the late 1980’s/early 90’s. It proceeds on the important premise that before preparing a marks sheet on Iran’s progress in these two areas, it is necessary to bear in mind that these two concepts have a unique dimension shaped by a chain of events that ushered them in Iran. It would not make much sense to make sweeping and generalised statements about democracy and human rights, essentially Western concepts, when they are applied in one of the world’s oldest civilisations, in which an Islamic form of government is very much at the centre of power. “In Iran as in other Muslim countries, paths to human rights lie within Islam, to the extent that dialogue can grow between traditionalists and innovators” (Gustafson & Juviler, 1999, p. 9). Any discourse on democracy and human rights in Iran has to be understood in relation to the country’s circumstance, which is that the reform movement, which tried to infuse these ideas into the country, was basically a reaction to the failure of the Revolution to sustain the goal it sought to achieve in the face of the changing dynamics in international relations in the post-Gulf War and Iran –Iraq war. Thus, one has to understand that there exists a unique paradigm for democracy and human rights in Iran, which is at variance from what the West broadly perceives as universal values for all mankind. Keeping this consideration in mind, this paper looks at the progress made on these two fronts, guaranteeing and denying which is the leitmotif of the opposing camps, the reformists and the conservatives, respectively.

2. Outline:

This paper takes off by detailing how democracy has been introduced in stages. The most striking feature of this country’s process of democratisation has been the reluctance of the ruling establishment to give in to the moderates, who have sought to implement democracy. Thus, the study of the democratisation of Iran has been chiefly characterised by the tussles that have been taking place in the country’s political establishment between those who want to introduce democracy and those who want to abort it. Hence, a considerable portion of this paper is devoted to sketching the long series of battles in the war between the reformists and the conservatives. Human rights in Iran, an offshoot of attempts at launching democracy, and its corollary, are detailed here. Mention is made of the efforts at bettering human rights in the country by Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Finally, this paper offers its conclusions, in which it tries to prognosticate prospects and pitfalls for democracy and human rights in the country.

3. Limitations of this study:

A complete study of the actual progress made in the transition of the political system in any country would be truly comprehensive and complete if one were to keep one’s ears to the ground; in the absence of this factor, this paper relies heavily on the writings of opinion-makers emanating from that country. This is not to doubt their authenticity, but most of these opinion makers have their own agendas to carry out, and as such, their objectivity is not indubitable. A thorough and objective study is best arrived at by measuring the impact of democracy and human rights at the grassroots level. In the absence of this exercise, this paper is prone to get swayed by the (at times) emotive nature of the sources from which it bases its study. In other words, the most objective and scholarly work on human rights and democracy in Iran would be one that is seen from Iranian, not Western or Western-oriented eyes, a requirement not met by this paper. Some attention is given to reports of human rights violations from Amnesty International, whose objectivity has never been proven.

Another important shortfall of this paper is that it looks at human rights in Iran only from the time the new regime has taken power, i.e., after the death of the Ayatollah, who led the Revolution. Although gross human rights violations took place during the time the Revolution installed an Islamic-type government and the Shah’s regime it overthrew, this paper does not look at those, and chooses the period from the start of the new regime, only because this is when democratisation started in the political system. Finally, since the two are closely interrelated, there may be some overlaps in describing the events pertaining to these two. Another very important aspect to be borne in mind is that this paper was written just a few weeks prior to the presidential election of 2005, when the tussles between the conservatives and moderates were at their peak. The result of this election has not been reflected in this paper.

4. The road to democracy:

The reform movement in Iran, which has been spearheading the implementation of democracy and human rights in the country, was born in the wake of the failure of the Revolution to spread benefits to the masses. (Kazemi, 2003) Although the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was an event whose importance has deeply impacted modern Iranian history, ironically, the country’s two earlier revolutions, those of 1906 and 1953, took place for the furtherance of democracy. (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) They resulted in the establishment of monarchies. The latest revolution, the root of the current tussle for democratisation, at first was followed by major international political and economic problems. (Wright, 1996) The Revolution took place in very violent circumstances, whose culmination was the overthrow of the corrupt, unflinchingly pro-Western Shah. (Seliktar, 2000, p. 73-90) For all the tumult and convulsion that major event precipitated, the direct effect it produced, that of total Islamic rule, lasted no more than a little over a decade. The regime had to soon slowly either abandon or dilute some of its core ideals. This was due to the variety of unforeseen changes that unfurled on the international scene. One of the ideals that had to inevitably become a product of the changed situation was democracy. “In the 1990s, several factors contributed to the intensification of the debate over democracy and democratic institutions in Iranian society. These include the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, the disillusionment of a substantial portion of Iranian society with government policies, especially in the areas of liberty and individual rights, the imposition of more restrictions over freedom, and authoritarian infringement of people’s constitutional rights. The advocates of reformist Islam launched afresh a campaign to promote democratic values in government and society.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) The first concrete step towards the latest round of democratisation was the elevation of the moderate reformist, Hashemi Rafsanjani from Speaker of the parliament, the Majlis, to the office of the president in 1989. Rafsanjani had assumed office at a time when “…the struggle to determine the true revolutionary path had entered a new phase, involving major policy reevaluation”. (Ayalon, 1995, p. 317)

5. Democracy in Iran:

To undo the highly ensconced politico- religious system in a matter of two presidential terms was no easy task. After the end of his two four- year terms, the mantle of presidency now passed on to his successor and like-minded reformist, Mohammed Khatami, who “…emphasized the country’s need for national unity, respect for the law and civil rights, the creation of a vibrant civil society, and the eradication of poverty.” (Amuzegar, 1998, p. 76) His efforts at reform of the political system, aimed at bringing about democracy were well received at first, as they were representative of the change the people were yearning for. (Yasin, 2002) Initially, Khatami seemed to have taken off from where his predecessor had left. He enjoyed massive support from the least thinkable constituencies in the earlier theocratic regime –youth and women. One of the most drastic changes he sought to implement was in the area of religious governance; he went about altering the structure of the clergy, something that was unimaginable earlier. Changes were implemented in some of the most important institutions, such as those of the supreme leader, the Faqih, the presidency, the judiciary and the Majlis. Khatami carried out amendments to the 1979 Islamic constitution, which had come into effect because of the Revolution. Dictated by the need of the hour, brought about by the death of the architect of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, one of the most tangible steps towards democratisation of the ruling clergy was “…a significant revision in the qualifications for the holder of this omnipotent office. The all-important and stringent religious qualifications were reduced.” (Kazemi, 2003)

After Khatami’s re-election in 2001 with a reduced majority, the pace of democratic reform lost some of its earlier tempo. The opposition to his democratisation process has been growing steadily, especially since the hardliner conservatives have enjoyed greater numerical superiority in the Majlis. The hardliners have stepped up the ante in opposition to the various reforms he has initiated. With a greater say in the Majlis, they have intensified their opposition to Khatami’s reforms. “Khatami’s victory ushered great hope for progress toward democratisation and reform of the rigid political system. This hope has been largely dashed as the conservative supporters of the Islamic Republic have prevented meaningful political reform…[t]he forces of opposition to Khatami are made up of a disparate but powerful set of institutions and actors with entrenched political, economic and ideological interests. While cognizant of Khatami’s massive electoral victories and popular support, they can find other means of thwarting his reform agenda, through the country’s major institutions” (Kazemi, 2003) Another area of discomfort for Khatami has been in the constituency on whose back he rode to power –students. Their earlier support for him dissipated when he tried to implement a major reform– privatisation of universities. Protests by student bodies at this proposal spilled on to the streets, in the form of massive demonstrations against the president as well as the clergy, on two occasions, once in July 1999, and on the fourth anniversary of this event.  (“Student Heroes Take on,” 2003, p. 23)

In another important round of their row, in February 2004, the conservatives gained an upper hand, disqualifying 2300 candidates belonging to the reformist camp from general elections later that year. With the conservatives gaining a comfortable majority in these elections, the process of democratisation has suffered a major setback, with the presidency, at that time being the only reformist position in the government. (Deccan Herald, 23rd Feb. 2004, p.8) In the words of US president Bush, “[s]uch measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people’s desire to freely choose their leaders.” (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.) Yet another major setback to democratisation has opened up as recently as on May 22, 2005, with barely a month to go for the presidential elections slated for June 17, 2005. The Council of Guardians barred from standing in the election the reformist camp’s candidate for president, Mostafa Moin. Additionally, in the same breath, it disqualified each and every of the 89 women candidates saying women are unfit to lead the country. Even as the reformists cried hoarse at the move, saying it has amounted to a coup d’ etat, and saying this move undermines the spirit of election to the presidency in that it would virtually amount to having an appointed president, one silver lining for the reformist camp is that of the six candidates allowed to contest the presidential election out of the 1014 who threw their hat in the ring, one is Hashemi Rafsanjani himself. The other consolation is that they have control over the Interior Ministry. (The Hindu, 24th May 2005, p.10)

6. Human rights in Iran:

Despite the avowed aim of the reformists in Iran to bring about democracy and respect for human rights, there are everyday occurrences of incidents in which amputations and floggings are commonplace, and pregnant women and children are routinely executed. (The Washington Post, 5th January 2005, p. A12)

If the reformists and the conservatives are united over one issue, it is their antipathy to any reference to human rights in the country. They are unanimous and vehement in their opinion that America is seeking to use international human rights organisations to criticise Iranian human rights. They believe that the US is trying to establish its hegemony by interfering with the internal affairs of strategically important countries such as Iran. They accuse the Americans of being selective in their criticism of human rights violations in different countries. (Karabell, 2000, pp. 212) The Iranian government allowed the Red Cross and the UN to inspect the country’s human rights situation in 1990 for the first time in its history. (Kamminga, 1992, p. 99) The Red Cross and the UN had reported that 113,000 women had been arrested in Teheran alone either for improperly wearing their headdress or for moral corruption; the UN had also reported an increase in executions, suppression of minorities and the press, and summary executions of anti-government demonstrators. (Mohaddessin, 1993, p. 142) The government reacted very angrily when America accused the Iranian government of expelling the members of the Red Cross on grounds of complicity with America. It came out heavily against the Human Rights Commission envoy. When the topic was reinvigorated in 1996, reflecting the general opinion in the country, an editorial in the Teheran Times said:

“Criteria for human rights are respected by everyone; however, any judgement on the situation of human rights in a country should be harmonious with the nation’s culture, religion and traditions. The special envoy should not surrender to direct and indirect pressures from the United States and other Western powers, whose aims are to use human rights as a leverage against Iran…”(Karabell, 2000, pp. 212, 213) Arguments and counter arguments between human rights organizations and the government continue with regularity.

The confrontation between the conservatives and reformists in the Majlis has also contributed to violations of human rights: Khatami’s reform of the clergy was based on the idea of undermining the six-member ‘Council of Guardians’, a powerful clerical body in the power structure of the ruling elite by exposing their corruption.  This earned him the scorn of those in power: this Council hit back by hounding his aides, who were seen as moderates. Hojjat-al-Islam Mohsin Kadivar, a well-known liberal writer, Gholam-Hussein Karbaschi, the then mayor of Teheran and Abdollah Nouri, the former interior minister, were among those in the reformist camp that the conservative clerics persecuted. The leftist, pro-Khatami newspaper, Salam, also suffered a similar fate, and was forced to close down. This brought students to the streets in support of Khatami on July 9, 1999. To quell this mob, the police had to open fire; Khatami thus unwittingly ended up antagonising the very constituency that took to the streets to support him. (Sardar, 1999)

Amnesty International, in its report on human rights violations in Iran came out with some scathing observations, which it attributes to the feud between the reformists and the conservatives. Its summary reads thus: “Scores of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to serve sentences imposed in previous years following unfair trials. Scores more were arrested in 2003, often arbitrarily and many following student demonstrations. At least a dozen political prisoners arrested during the year were detained without charge, trial or regular access to their families and lawyers. Judicial authorities curtailed freedoms of expression, opinion and association, including of ethnic minorities; scores of publications were closed, Internet sites were filtered and journalists were imprisoned. At least one detainee died in custody, reportedly after being beaten. During the year the pattern of harassment of political prisoners’ family members re-emerged. At least 108 executions were carried out, including of long-term political prisoners and frequently in public. At least four prisoners were sentenced to death by stoning while at least 197 people were sentenced to be flogged and 11 were sentenced to amputation of fingers and limbs. The true numbers may have been considerably higher.”(Amnesty International, Report 2004)

A look at the field of human rights in Iran would be incomplete without a mention of the efforts of the Nobel Peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi. Her efforts have been primarily focussed on the improvement of human rights in the areas concerning women and children in over the past three decades. Inspired to work for the improvement of human rights in her country following her demotion under the Revolution from the position as the country’s first woman judge, she believes that guaranteeing human rights in an Islamic society is not at all impossible. The two are never incompatible, she feels, saying that the important question is not the law of Islamic jurisprudence, the Shariat in itself, but its interpretation. Some of her major accomplishments have been the victories she has secured in getting important reforms done to the family law, the legal age at which girls can marry, and the rights of illegitimate children. Another significant victory of hers in improving human rights in Iran has been in pressurising the government to reveal the identities of the student demonstrators that were killed in the police violence of July 9, 1999. (Lancaster, 2003)

7.      Conclusion:

The road to democracy and human rights continues to be bumpy in Iran, so long as the tussle for supremacy continues within the Majlis between the conservatives and the moderates.  Seen in the overall sense, the speed of change towards democracy has been rather slow-paced.

This is perhaps understandable in an ancient country in which till recently, authoritarianism was so pervasive that most of the country’s resources were held by a thousand or so families. (Lytle, 1987, p. 1) Another major reason for democracy to take more than the expected time to gain ground in feudalistic societies such as Iran is that by its very nature, it cannot be planted violently in the system, in the way the Revolution of 1979 was. If it were to supplant the existing system and take its place by coercion, that would have to be done by adopting undemocratic means, thus defeating its very nature and ending up being an oxymoron!

Seen in this overall sense of the country’s difficult path to democratisation, despite the relative slowness being taken for democratisation to take root, there is still a lot of scope for optimism, as this observation by Momayesi (2000) best sums up the situation: “It is perhaps appropriate to view the current situation as an ongoing, step-by-step struggle and conflict over reform, rather than simply a stagnation under the grip of vested conservative clerical interests. It is evident that Iran shows some signs of movement toward a stable constitutional definition of governmental powers and processes. It seems more apt to see the glass of freedom in Iran as half full rather than half empty… [w]e must think in terms of a long march rather than a simple transition to democracy. Democracy and human rights must be adapted to suit countries with a distinctive culture and experiences, rather than simply being transplanted from existing democracies, East or West. The diversity and the range of democratization alongside persistent authoritarianism sometimes gets lost in the selective media coverage of Islamic Iran. But new freedoms pose difficult challenges to the most capable of leaders everywhere.” (Momayesi, 2000, p. 41) Thus, “…democracy, an element external or internal to Islam, was originally planted in the foundations of Islamism and is emerging, although extremely slowly, as a far more potent element of the Iranian revolution than it had been.” (Usman, 2002)

Having said this, the picture for human rights may not be as rosy: the crackdown on human rights is a major setback to the government, negating as it does important moves to draw foreign investment that the country can ill-afford to forego. For instance, prior to the moves by the conservatives in February 2004, some leading companies, such as the French car giant, Renault, the Turkish communications giant, Turkcell, and some Japanese companies, which would develop the country’s oil fields at an eventual cost of some $ 2 billion, were in the process of investing huge amounts in the economy, which was opened up for the first time since the Revolution. These actions by the government place the investors under pressure to withdraw, as they would not like to be seen to be investing in tyrannical governments. They also throw the intentions of the government in doubt, as they prompt the foreign investors to pack their baggage. (The Washington Times, 25th Feb. 2004, p. A15.)

Unfortunately, it often happens in Iran that for the hardened attitudes of the clergy, it is the moderates who take the blame. Their attempts to undo the years of reactionary policies are often frowned at. For instance, the Second of Khordad, a reformist party that is seen as Khatami’s most important aide, along with its close allies, has been all for “…economic liberalization and privatization, as well as increased personal freedoms, including those of women, and have criticized the corruption and arbitrary power of the ruling clerics. But the front has been unable to implement policies that would address the country’s high unemployment rate or the high poverty rate (40 percent). Reformers have been unable to improve the lot of most Iranians, either because they have been blocked by conservative clerics or because they do not make bread-and-butter issues their top priority.” (Cole, 2004, p. 7)

A major test of the triumph or defeat of democracy would be the presidential elections scheduled for June 17, 2005. Its victors would play a decisive role in shaping the democratic process in the country. A sustained effort at this would be necessary for further democratisation and furtherance of human rights if the moderates were to come to power. But if they have to continue the process Rafsanjani and Khatami have set in motion, there would have to be installed a new reformist president who has considerable freedom to implement the reforms; or else, he too, would go the Khatami way, forever fettered by a conservative parliament.

On the other hand, should the conservatives pull off another coup and get one of their own elected as president, that would almost certainly neutralise all the efforts at democratisation and furtherance of human rights that have been taking place till now. Whether Iran would emerge as a champion of democracy and human rights or go back to being an inheritor of a theocratic government brought about by violent revolution, only the upcoming presidential elections would say. If the upper hand the conservatives have been gaining till now in its tiff with the moderates is any indication, the second scenario seems to have a slightly higher chance of materialising.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

“Why did America use the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of the second world war?”

Table of contents:


Part I: Introduction:

Background to the events leading to the bombing of the two cities;

Part II: Political factors behind the event;

Part III: The personality of Truman and his perception of the nature of the bombs as a factor;

Part IV: Other aspects of the bombing;

Part V: Conclusion.


Part I:


Background to the events leading to the bombing of the two cities:

The American decision to use the two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II has come in for feverish debate in the years following the incident. It is one of the best-documented events in history, and has, at the same time, provoked lasting, emotionally heated reaction. Almost everyone with even a fleeting interest in World War II seems to have a strong opinion on this American action. (Harbour, 1999, p. 68) To state that the Americans bombed the Japanese because the latter were their rivals in the war is to speak simplistically of an issue that was a product of complex factors. The dropping of the bombs on the two cities was the climax of the great rivalry the two countries had developed against each other over some years; thus, to try to understand the motives behind America’s actions, one needs to look at how this rivalry developed between these two distant countries, whose culmination was the bombing of the two cities.

The Japanese and Americans had been pitted against each other in the Pacific many years before World War II began. Some historians fix the date of the crystallisation of US-Japanese rivalry at 1931, when the Japanese occupied Manchuria in China. The Americans considered this an audacious attack on their interests in Asia. 1931not only marked a nadir in the relations between America and Japan, this year was also extremely significant to Japan’s administration, for this was when the radical, militant elements in the Japanese administration led successfully what has been termed a coup, by which they ‘overthrew’ the moderate elements in the royal government and set the country on the long road of fascism of the kind that Europe was falling prey to. (Morris and Heath, 1963, pp. 2, 3 and 20) This Japanese act was the outcome of an ongoing rivalry, which dates back to an earlier period, when Japan embarked on an ambitious programme of industrialisation. A strong animosity had developed in America against the Japanese from the time she started growing in strength having realised that the way to prosperity lay in industrialisation, and had tried to make herself a strong industrial country. The rapid pace and force of Japanese industrialisation was started since her first contact with the western world, which, ironically, began with the US itself, (Wainstock, p.1) which had contributed more than any other country to Japan’s industrial strength, but was not able to tolerate her expansionist designs later. (Levine, 1995, p. 1) In an era of aggrandisements leading to the war, Japan, since she did not have the resources to match her rapid industrialisation, committed acts of aggression on several countries of South East Asia. Sensing that her food supplies could be cut off with ease by an enemy, Japan built a strong navy. But even so, her trade routes were unsafe. To neutralise this, she intensified her policy of annexation of several mainland countries and strategically important islands in the Pacific, some of which were equally economically or strategically important to an America that was seeking to establish its influence in the Pacific. In this climate of growing hostility, one by one, several territories started falling to the Japanese sword, the most important of which was the Chinese mainland in 1937, following, of course, the annexation of Manchuria. (Wainstock, pp.1 & 2)  The main reason for Japan’s annexation of China was to undo the Revolution, which she viewed as a possible threat to her dynastic rule. (Levine, 1995, p. 1) The fall of China intensified the American perception of the rapidly expanding Japan as a threat. Another milestone in the building up of their rivalry was Japan’s decision to join the Axis Alliance, led by Europe’s most brutal fascist regimes, those of Hitler and Mussolini, in 1940. (Conroy & Wray, 1990, p. 73) The bombing of Pearl Harbour, an American base, was the last straw. It jolted America out of its self-imposed isolation brought about by a feeling that it was a secure, unassailable fortress. (Hein & Selden, 1997, p. 69) Following Pearl Harbour, America, along with Britain and the Netherlands, blockaded Japan’s oil supplies. In order to obtain vital fuel, Japan started annexing large parts of the Pacific in quick succession –Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, (Hane, 1992, pp. 316 & 426) Guam, and Wake Islands (Wainstock, p. 2) Even after the attack on Pearl Harbour, America was not able to dent the superior Japanese navy. However, a decisive victory in the Battle of Midway, in June 1942, gave it an advantage. This campaign was crucial in halting Japanese advances, which, left unchecked would have given her access to territories as far as India, Australia and Hawaii. Holding on tenaciously, with superior intelligence, the Americans pulled off a famous victory, which boosted their morale. (United States Strategic Bombing Survey, 1946, p. 58) The field was now left open for a climactic battle; the Americans created this in the closing stages of the war and acted upon it. This was the episode relating to the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the factors listed above constituted the background to the rivalry between the two countries, a combination of factors, mostly political, precipitated the event. Some of these are listed in this research paper.

Since the purview of this paper is to merely look at the factors that led to the bombing of the two cities, no attempt is made to look at the moral aspect of the issue, or to stand in judgment on the incident. No matter how unspeakable the suffering the bombs ended up causing to the people who bore the brunt, and the mark it made on the national psyche of the country and its civilisation, this paper avoids reference to these areas of discussion, since this clearly falls outside its scope. However, some controversies related to the issue are taken up, for these are intertwined with the incident. While this paper has made a classification of the reasons for this attack, mention needs to be made that a watertight compartmentalisation may not be possible, and some overlaps may have occurred. Mention also needs to be made that in the section pertaining to the controversies of this action, since entire arguments of historians have been taken up for discussion, very long references to individual authors appear.

Part II:

Political factors behind the event

Surely, for an action of such great magnitude and far-reaching consequences, political factors were the most important consideration for president Truman. He saw in this situation an opportunity to strike a double blow –to silence Japan’s recalcitrance, and to fire a salvo at the Russian leader, Josef Stalin, with whom his country had been forced to develop an alliance because of the exigency of the hour. “The bomb was dropped primarily for its effect not on Japan but on the Soviet Union. One, to force a Japanese surrender before the USSR came into the Far Eastern war, and two, to show under war conditions the power of the bomb. Only in this way could a policy of intimidation [of the Soviet Union] be successful…[t]he United States dropped the bomb to end the war against Japan and thereby stop the Russians in Asia, and to give them sober pause in Eastern Europe.”(Kagan, 1995)

A crucial meeting, which ultimately decided the course of this action was called by Truman and held in the White House on June 18, as the Okinawa campaign was drawing to a close. The intention of this meeting was to seek from his Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) their opinion on the quickest and most effective means to ending the war in Japan. Those who attended it were the president’s Chief of Staff, Admiral William Leahy, Navy Chief of Staff, Ernest King, Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, Assistant Secretary of War, John McCloy, Secretary of Navy, James Forrestal, and Ira Eaker, representing General Arnold for the Army Air Forces. The opinion that emerged out of this meeting was that the best way forward was to invade Japan through its southernmost tip, Kyushu. The probable date of this planned invasion was set for November 1. Marshall suggested that the next phase of the invasion would be an attack, at a later date, on Honshu, the island on which Tokyo stands. General Marshall spoke on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, reading out from a paper they had prepared: ‘The Kyushu operation is essential to a strategy of strangulation and appears to be the least costly worth-while operation following Okinawa’. Although they were silent on two important clarifications Truman had sought, namely how long the operation would last, and what would be the expected number of American casualties, all who attended this meeting were unanimous in their assessment that the invasion of Japan through this route was the best option before them. The Chiefs arrived at a figure of 31,000 for the possible number of casualties during the first phase of the invasion, in the first 30 days of the campaign. This was arrived at by equating the casualties in this campaign with that in Luzon, in which the same figure had died, or were wounded or missing. The figure of 46,000 dead and another 174,000 wounded was estimated if the invasion went into the second phase. Truman’s most important consideration was the number of American casualties, which he wanted to be kept at the minimum. There was wide agreement on the number of casualties. This figure found reinforcement when, prior to the meeting, Marshall requested the expected number of American casualties from General Douglas McArthur, commander of the American Army in the Pacific. The General projected a figure that was almost exactly similar to these estimates –105,000 battle and an additional 12,500 non-battle casualties. (Walker, 1997, pp. 36-39) If this meeting spoke of a land invasion, one factor hurried up the decision to specifically use the bombs: some decrypted Japanese diplomatic communications, codenamed MAGIC, which revealed that the Japanese were looking forward to negotiations, rather than to peace, and in this direction, were looking towards Soviet Union, not America, were seen by Truman. This turned out to be one of the reasons he steeled his resolve to drop the bomb on the Japanese. Under the codename Downfall, the Americans had been making heavy preparations to lay an amphibious operation at the time Truman went to Potsdam. Just after he set sail, on July 16, he gained knowledge of the successful experimentation of the atom bomb, which was carried out by American scientists. The timing of the completion of the bomb coincided with Truman’s meeting with the Russian and British heavyweights. His main aim of going to Potsdam was to get an assurance from Stalin that the Russians would not enter the war till the time the Americans carried out their operation. So, it was clear that he had at the back of his mind two crucial elements –the operability and potential of the bomb to curtail severely American losses, and, for its successful implementation, the guarantee that Russia would not enter the war. (Allen, Polmar & Bernstein, 1995)

Depriving Russia a role in Japan was surely a paramount reason for the urgency with which the bombs were dropped; the Soviets were scheduled to enter the war on August 8. An Asia in which the Soviets would play a decisive role, was a prospect the Truman administration had to prevent at all costs; nothing gave it a better chance than the timing of the development of the bomb, and Russia’s scheduled date of entry into Japan. By hurrying up the bomb, the Truman administration made sure the Japanese surrendered to the Americans alone, as argued by the British physicist, P.M.S. Blackett, who, in his book Fear, War and the Bomb, has contended that ‘the dropping of the atomic bombs was not so much the last military act of the Second World War as the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia now in progress’(Clarfield & Wiecek, 1984, p. 58) The Russia factor was at work all through. Policy-makers in the US were clear from the beginning that America was to be alone, and that Russia was to be excluded from the bomb project. One of the most strident critics of the use of the bomb, Leo Szilard, had feared that the use against civilians would be catastrophic. He had gone on to suggest that the Americans and Russians get into a joint effort at developing the bomb, wherein, his reasoning went, by openly sharing this knowledge with Russian scientists, the certain arms race that was set to follow could be prevented. In trying to enlighten the American political establishment about his idea, he sought a meeting with president Roosevelt; however, he was referred to Secretary of State James Byrnes, who brusquely squelched the idea, and prevented the meeting with Roosevelt. Szilard even invited Churchill’s fury for having suggested this idea. (Szasz, 1984, p. 146)

The idea of bombing Japan was taken in order to force a total and unconditional surrender, towards which the Truman administration wanted to make sure no effort was spared. Quoting Brower (1982), Lee (1998) states: “The JCS understood that Japan’s defeat would result from the increasing application of military, psychological and political pressures upon the island nation. Their strategy clearly reflected that understanding. The JCS gradually tightened the blockade, bombed Japan relentlessly with conventional and atomic weapons, contributed to efforts to induce an early Japanese capitulation through a clarification of the unconditional surrender formula, and strongly urged two presidents to secure early Soviet entry into the war” (Lee, 1998, p. 109).

Another perceptive line of reasoning is that the bombs were essentially a culmination of the process of American isolationism that had been building up from the time World War I ended. If, as argued by Glynn (1992), America, whose political and economic power was way ahead of that possessed by any country in Europe, had shown sagacity and generosity in bailing France out financially and in redressing the German expansionist designs, it would have effectively put a brake on the growth of the deep animosities these two frontline European nations developed towards each other. Having failed to do it, mainly because of its isolationist designs, America sought to maintain its position of eminence in world affairs by spearheading the revolution in physics that was catching up in Europe. Having triggered the race for weapons development in Europe, what it did was to show it was ahead of the rest. This it could accomplish only by demonstrating its power to the rest of the world. The perfect excuse for this was provided by Japan’s defiance. It is true that the situation of war made scientists of each country work on the bomb faster than their counterparts in other countries. If the war had not taken place, it is possible that the invention itself would not have taken place. This writer extends this argument to suggest that once America failed to show pragmatism in dealing with Europe after World War I, when the time came, it had to showcase its newly-acquired might in brute fashion. It had to vindicate the appositeness of its policy of isolationism after World War I; no other action served to show that better than the decisiveness with which it dropped the bombs on targets that were convenient to it from all perspectives. (Glynn, 1992, p. 114)

Truman had taken office at a time when the Soviet Union, with a diametrically opposite ideology, was taking shape as a potential rival to the emerging American dominance in world affairs. Roosevelt had been hoping that a conciliatory approach towards this country was the best way to an amicable post-war settlement. However, following his death, Truman had to rely on his predecessor’s advisors in international affairs, an area in which he was vastly untested; however, their opinion was different from their master’s. (Clarfield & Wiecek, 1984, p. 82) Thus, opposition to Russia was a philosophy Truman imbibed from the start of this tenure.

Bruce Cumings (1999) proffers another interesting insight into the urgency with which Truman used the newly devised bomb. It has to do with the nature of the political arrangement in the US. There is a certain irony about the position of the president –as the foremost decision maker in the country, he is yet faced with a tight situation, sitting on a seat of thorns. On the one hand, he is handicapped by the power of the Congress alone to go to war; on the other, his is a temporary position; all the power he commands is gone when he loses his election or has run out his term. In the final sense, he is alone responsible for the decisions he takes. It is a high-pressure office, in which he is the sole decision-making authority, into whose shoes nobody would like to step in. Nor does anyone else have the authority or power to take decisions of the gravity he does in a system in which there are liberal doses of daily infighting and squabbling among the different agencies such as the legislature and the judiciary, and also within the Congress. The possession of the control of the just-invented bomb came to symbolise the sway the president held over all others in the administration. This was the most concrete symbol of this power that he and nobody else could enjoy in the administration. Truman, in particular, vested the control of the atomic bomb with the Atomic Energy Commission, which made sure it did not fall into the hands of the top military brass. Thus, possession and sole control over who controlled the bomb weighed more in Truman’s presidency than in any other’s mainly because it was then that the bomb was invented. It is in this sense, that, quoting Sherwin (1975), Cumings goes on to argue “…why the bomb, once readied, was used: not just to intimidate the Russians, but to intimidate everyone from recalcitrant Republican congressmen to isolationists in the broad body politic to Hirohito to Stalin to Churchill to the “total field” in which the American president has held sway since 1941, namely, the world.” (Cumings, 1999, p. 56)

Part III:

The personality of Truman and his perception of the nature of the bombs as a factor:

It is possible to argue that the attitude and decision-making nature of the new president and the peculiarity of the situation in which he was inaugurated into the presidency could be classified as another reason the bombs were dropped on the two cities. Almost from the moment the uniqueness of the new weapons was made known to the president, he took an altogether authoritative role. A study of the assertiveness with which the just-sworn in president acted lends to this conclusion. It is difficult to say with certainty if the same incidents of bombings would surely have taken place if a person other than Truman had been at the helm of affairs at that time.

President Truman won greater admiration once he had quit office than when he was in power; this was more pronounced after his death. During the years he was in the White House, he was seen as a president who had inherited a difficult mantle from the formidable Roosevelt. There was an aura of greatness created around him, most notably because of the famous words he had painted on his desk, ‘the buck stops here’. However, recent research, carried out a good few decades after his death, has shown that underneath the image of an astute, frank and honest president were qualities that hardly got the attention they really had to: suspicion, insensitivity and narrow-mindedness. He used his dashing demeanour to guise his innate insecurity and terrible self-doubt. (Walker, 1997, p. 7) This quality of his was perhaps well known in the White House. A humorous anecdote may not be out of place to illustrate this: it is said that when Truman rushed to the White House upon hearing the news of president Roosevelt’s sudden death, he is said to have offered his help to the family. To this, Eleanor is reported to have quipped: ‘Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now’! (Boller, 1996, p. 278) It was only natural that the bomb caught his attention like no other, and became the idée fixe of his presidency. When he took office from president Roosevelt, he was sure about nothing but the fact that he had to carry on his illustrious predecessor’s legacy, which centred round the victory that America, with its coalition partners in the Allied forces, had to seal in the Pacific with minimum loss of American lives. In a sense, it was a difficult legacy he inherited, because he only knew he had to continue with Roosevelt’s legacy, but was unsure about which that was. (Walker, 1997, pp. 7-9) There had been a considerable difference of opinion between the Roosevelts on the purpose of the war. If Delano had been under the impression that the ultimate aim was winning the war, Eleanor differed with him, asserting that winning the war was only half the battle won; the First Lady was of the strong view that winning the peace after the war ended was more important. This, to her, was the lasting victory, one that would place America on the pedestal to its chosen destiny. (Rozell & Pederson, 1997, p. 209) Is it any wonder then that the utterly confused president made the following comments at a press conference the day after taking oath: ‘Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me’? (Jones, 1994, p. 36) Thus, it was only natural that the invention that came into existence weeks after he took office, the bomb, turned out to be a weapon in both the literal and figurative senses –it would help him shake off the Roosevelt hangover; using it with unequivocal force would firmly establish his position.

On July 7, 1945, a palpably tense and reluctant Truman set sail for Potsdam in Germany to attend for a meeting with ‘Generalissimo’ Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill. This unease was predictable to a greenhorn who was barely three months into his presidency: “Truman’s anxiety about attending the conference was understandable. He was still a novice at his job and still learning the complexities of the many problems he faced. He was traveling to meet and doubtlessly disagree on important issues with two crusty and renowned leaders who must have seemed larger than life, even to the president of the United States. He was determined to protect American interests but worried about how successful he would be in jousting with his formidable, tenacious, and experienced counterparts.” (Walker, 1997, pp. 7-9 and 53) In the situation that he was in, nothing gave him greater strength than the bomb; it was a godsend to a cornered president, one arrow with which he could kill all–the butterflies in his own stomach, the Rooseveltian noose that hung over his head, and all the political issues discussed earlier.

Thus, once the awesome bomb had been unfurled, the president became unshakably firm in his conviction that it had to be used, come what may. The first significant communication he made after learning about the power of the bomb was: ‘I am going to make a decision which no man in history has ever had to make…’He was clear right from the moment he had got a grasp of the bomb’s potency that there was no alternative to using it. He had told Byrnes that ‘he had given thought to the problem and, while reluctant to use this weapon, saw no way of avoiding it’. This was also reflected in the address he gave the nation three days after Hiroshima, in which he plainly declared that ‘having found the bomb we used it’. Even in his memoirs, he expressed scant regret for having used it, stating: ‘Let there be no mistake about it. I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used’ Another factor that may have influenced Truman to use the bomb against Japan was that he had to take off from where Roosevelt had left; he had to continue a majority of the projects and policies that Roosevelt had initiated, one of the which was the Manhattan Project, whose brief it was to develop the bomb. It was in line with his resolution to continue Roosevelt’s policies. Finally, the very fact of the sheer, intimidating power of the powerful bomb he knew was not just another bomb gave him control over it. This power of controlling the world’s most powerful bomb till then, making him the only man in the universe, filled with him pride and ego. This would give him unquestionable might, and enhance his already powerful status. (Gaddis, Gordon, May, & Rosenberg, 1999, pp. 16, 17) Two months after the incidents in Japan, he exhibited his knowledge of the importance of the bomb, saying, ‘The discovery of the means of releasing atomic energy began a new era in the history of civilization. The scientific and industrial knowledge on which this discovery rests does not relate merely to another weapon. It may some day prove to be more revolutionary in the development of human society than the invention of the wheel, the use of metals, or the steam or internal-combustion engine.

Never in history has society been confronted with a power so full of potential danger and at the same time so full of promise for the future of man and for the peace of the world. I think I express the faith of the American people when I say that we can use the knowledge we have won not for the devastation of war but for the future welfare of humanity.’ (Koenig, 1956, p. 122) On August 9, 1945, in response to a letter from a prelate that the Americans had ‘indiscriminately’ bombed Hiroshima, Truman is said to have remarked: ‘Nobody is more disturbed over the use of the Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true’ (Cumings, 1999, p. 58) Since the time of the capture of Pearl Harbour, the propaganda war intensified in the US, making the Japanese the ultimate villains in their eyes. Although the Americans did inflict a heavy defeat on the Japanese in the campaigns of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the strong sentiment they had against the Japanese, by which not even the president was immune from this stereotype, may have forced him to choose Japan as the target for the testing of the atomic bombs. It is not surprising, considering that in his private diaries, he referred to the Japanese as ‘savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic’. (Wainstock, p.121) The anti-Japan feeling was so strong in the US that from the time the bomb was conceived, it was decided to develop it to be used, and to be used against Japan. (Blumenson et al., 1960, p. 496) It was also decided that it should be used on a dual target comprising military installations and civilian targets such as residences close to these installations, and should be used without prior warning (Divine, 1969, p. 315). This was despite vehement pleas not to use it against Japan by none other than one of the chief architects of the bomb, Leo Szilard, who pleaded that the administration refrain from using the deadly bomb because, to him, ‘Japan was essentially defeated’, and ‘it would be wrong to attack its cities with atomic bombs as if atomic bombs were simply another military weapon’. Another strong motivation for Truman was that he ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped to vindicate the cost in terms of money and manpower that went into making the bombs. The bombs had been developed at a cost of $two billion. It seemed foolish to him at that point of time to not use it after having spent so much on a project into which the country’s best scientific minds had been invested. He felt he was answerable to a hostile Congress about a project that had been carried out in great secrecy, and that he was accountable to it. When the executive had fought with the Congress to get the money, Truman and his team were afraid of offending the Congress by not using the bombs. The leaders were eager to please the Congress, whose various committees had been demanding that ‘the results had better be worth the $2 billion investment.’ (Wainstock, 1996, pp. 1&2, 37 &38 and 121-123) A measure of the relief the success of the bomb sent in the inner political coterie responsible for its development could be discerned from the remark Stimson is believed to have made immediately upon receiving news of the success of the trial: ‘Well, I have been responsible for spending two billions of dollars on this atomic venture. Now that it is successful I shall not be sent to prison in Fort Leavenworth.’ The president was overjoyed at hearing the news of the success. Stimson records in his diary that on hearing the news of the successful explosion, ‘The President was tremendously pepped up by it’, and ‘and spoke to me of it again and again, when I saw him. He said it gave him an entirely new feeling of confidence….’ This became clear in the way he conducted himself at the conference the next day, something even Churchill found almost tangible, saying Truman had become more forceful the next day ‘because of this new piece of knowledge’. (Szasz, 1984, pp. 145, 146)

Further, the importance the bomb held in Truman’s heart was so great that some historians such as Alperovitz & Bird, (1994) have taken up from this point to suggest that it was this penchant for this bomb that was to not only motivate Truman to go ahead and bomb Japan, it was the turning point in the polarisation of the world’s superpowers the led to the Cold War. Their logic is based on the following reasoning: the potential for conflict between the Americans and the Russians was no doubt in the air even as they were going into the war, but what actually put the two powers on the road to rivalry was the bomb, and Truman’s grasp of its unprecedented might. This was to serve as the catalyst for sealing the alignment of forces that shaped the world leading to the famed Cold War. Even while getting into Potsdam, Truman had been in two minds about his own ability to pull off a diplomatic coup over Russia; as he confided to his wife in his diary, he was jittery about the prospect of what his meeting with the Generalissimo would achieve. It had always been Roosevelt’s policy to contain the armament of Germany, which he believed was crucial to assure the world that a rearmed Germany would never again threaten it, and to contain the Russians with an alliance of like-minded western powers. However, at the time, and in Truman’s initial days in office, till the time the atom bomb was tested, the battle lines were only hazy. There was no clear agreement on the shape the defeated Germany would take after it had surrendered. These researchers conclude that if there was something that gave direction and thrust to the rivalry that was to concretise as the Cold War, it was the bomb, and its primacy in the president’s mind. (Alperovitz & Bird, 1994)

Part IV:

Other aspects of the bombing:

A study of why America dropped the bombs on the two Japanese cities is incomplete without a reference to the controversies surrounding the issue. In a nutshell, the controversies relate to the two grave questions historians have asked in later years: was the bombing of Japan necessary at all in the first place to force a surrender on it, and, secondly, if it was, would not one bomb have sufficed?

“Post-war historians have challenged President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb to shorten World War II and save American lives. Some claim that the Allies could have ended the war by negotiating with the Japanese; others contend dropping the bombs was patent racism and that atomic bombs never would have been dropped on the Germans.” (Allen, Polmar & Bernstein, 1995)

Historians accuse Truman of not taking all factors into consideration, and of not making a full understanding of the internal situation in Japan at that time.

After Potsdam, as we have seen, his will to drop the bombs was hastened, on the thought that its use would totally save American lives, as compared to an invasion, bringing the Japanese to their knees. But it is clear that this was an oversight, and an assumption that went wrong –five days after the end of the second bombing on Nagasaki, there was an attempted coup, whose success would have dragged on the battle for many more weeks or months. Even the massive bombings had not diluted Japanese will; a group of senior Japanese army and navy officers were still determined to carry on fighting after staging a coup. They had made preparations for a great showdown with the American forces on the beaches, under the codename ‘Decisive Battle’. That the coup did not succeed and ‘Decisive Battle’ did not materialise is another matter. The point being raised by present-day historians is –assuming that the coup would have been successful, there is no doubt that fighting would have dragged on, and would have resulted in losses of several American lives. The question is, how many American lives would have been sacrificed in the fighting? Given the near depletion of resources at Japan’s command at that point of time, it is possible that not more than a handful of American lives would have been lost. The crucial point is, when the Japanese were fighting on only one resource, their determination, and given the fact that even without the dropping of the bombs, not more than a relatively few American lives would have been lost, was it fair to estimate that the Japanese would have killed a million Americans?  Truman had long been obsessed with one thought more than any other –the prevention of the loss of a million American lives. Critics are agreed on the fact that this figure was a) grossly exaggerated in the first place when secretary Stimson arrived at this figure, and b) this was seized upon relentlessly by Truman to be used every now and then to justify the catastrophic bombings. They are at a loss to understand how Truman could have taken this figure of a quarter to a million potential American deaths as the gospel truth when even the trigger-happy Gen. Douglas McArthur arrived at an estimate, done without any prompting, on a figure that was nowhere near what Truman put forth throughout. What adds substance to the whole issue is that in the first place, Gen. McArthur himself had exaggerated the whole estimate, for some unknown reasons. But what is highly pertinent is that records discovered after the war showed that at that time, McArthur’s staff had released an all-important communication: ‘The strategists at Imperial General Headquarters believed that, if they could succeed in inflicting unacceptable losses on the United States in the Kyushu operation, convince the American people of the huge sacrifices involved in an amphibious invasion of Japan, and make them aware of the determined fighting spirit of the Japanese army and civilian population, they might be able to postpone, if not escape altogether, a crucial battle in the Kanto [Tokyo] area. In this way, they hoped to gain time and grasp an opportunity which would lead to the termination of hostility on more favorable terms than those which unconditional surrender offered.’ Obviously, this too, points to the fact that there was clearly no need to force a total Japanese surrender at that point of time, given the drain they were facing, and more importantly, to use the bombs to force a surrender. Moreover, the American Sixth Army in Luzon, Philippines, had estimated that the Kyushu invasion would have the same gravity as that of the earlier invasion, on Okinawa. This was to be taken as the correct estimate by any standards, for this was not carried out by ideology-driven politicians, but by groups of professional soldiers and doctors who had actually been at the scene of fighting. Using the Okinawa invasion as the standard, they had estimated, as was the regular practice, that on a ratio of 1:4 for the Kyushu invasion, this would claim no more than four times the number of casualties the Okinawa episode had claimed. Even estimating that in the face of a heavy, sustained Japanese kamikaze raids, though a distinct impossibility, had the losses been in the order of ten times that of the Okinawa invasion, the total American casualties would have amounted to nothing more than 147,500 dead and some 343,000 wounded. In the event of an American offensive, ‘Decisive Battle’, the losses on both sides would have been terrible. If the bomb gave the American president an alternative to an invasion, it would have given the Japanese Emperor an opportunity to end the war. (Allen, Polmar & Bernstein, 1995)

Historians have also come out with evidence that Truman exaggerated the potential American casualties of an invasion of Japan to justify his use of the atomic bomb after the war ended. They quote a letter he wrote in 1948, in which he insisted, as he had done all along, that he decided to use the atomic bomb ‘to save 250,000 boys from the United States.’ He was convinced all along that by carrying out these attacks, he had achieved his aim, and in his memoirs written in 1955, after his presidency had ended, Truman still insisted that ‘half-a-million American lives were saved by the bomb.’ However, his critics now claim that the Joint War Plans Committee on June 15 had given a figure of only about 40,000 American deaths if the planned invasion of the home islands took place. To calculate the number of American casualties on the mainland, Admiral Leahy took the earlier battle in Okinawa as the basis, in which American casualties were roughly 35 percent of the total force of 120,000. Thus, even if it was agreed that Okinawa was the proper basis for the number of casualties the Americans would sustain in the event of a mainland invasion, and updating Leahy’s figures to a more accurate 29 percent, the casualty figure in the entire campaign should not have exceeded a maximum of 200,000 deaths and 725,000 injuries. (Loebs, 1995)


The second major controversy relates to this point –if for a moment, for the sake of argument, it is assumed that the bombing was absolutely necessary, then the bomb on Hiroshima would have done the job, and the second one on Nagasaki was totally redundant. The Nagasaki bomb was a non-factor in forcing the Japanese Emperor to order surrender. There were protracted arguments and vacillations in the Japanese think-tank about the decision to surrender following the Hiroshima bombing on August 6. Of course, it has to be admitted that Truman was not aware of these wranglings; but the reasons given by the American decision makers to use the second bomb was very unconvincing and specious. In his memoirs, Truman has explained his reason for dropping the second bomb: ‘On August 9, the second atom bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki. We gave the Japanese three days in which to make up their minds to surrender and the bombing would have been held off another two days had weather permitted.’ But the truth is that Truman took three days from the first bombing till the second not because he wanted to give the Japanese time to decide, but because the second bomb became ready only on August 9. Truman had ordered his military on July 25 that they should use ‘additional bombs as soon as they are made available by the project staff.’ Thus, if the second bomb had been ready on August 7, or even August 6 itself, it would have been dropped then. This is buttressed by General Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, which developed these weapons, who said the second bomb had to ‘follow the first one quickly so that the Japanese would not have time to recover their balance.’ Truman knew the extent of the destruction in full detail, and had the time to stop the Nagasaki bombing. “The Nagasaki story shows that America’s leaders, understandably obsessed with ending the war quickly, failed to use the second atomic bomb rationally or tactically. No high-level discussion was held to consider the second bomb. Nobody challenged or reviewed the informal, unofficial, and premature judgment of General Groves, reached in December 1944, to drop two atomic bombs.” (Loebs, 1995)

Another argument put forward at the time of the bombing was that this bomb helped reduce the spread of nuclear weapons: this line of thinking goes that this bomb contributed to the subsequent prevention of nuclear weapons and helped maintain a balance of power in the later years. This argument, of course, has been defeated by the logic of why it was necessary to drop these bombs on thickly populated areas, and not on deserted areas, if use of the bomb was the only prerequisite to this argument. (Hein & Selden, 1997, p. 58)

There is another pressing argument put forward by some critics: Truman dropped the bomb for diplomatic, not military reasons. Truman’s critics quote his remark that ‘the bomb might well put us in a position to dictate our own terms’ (an obvious reference to the Soviet Union) after the war, and Secretary Byrnes’s equally strong statement that ‘our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.’ But in hindsight, they ask, is it not possible to argue that Stalin would have been as convinced and apprehensive about American might even if the bombs had been dropped on some desert or any other kind of barren land? Was if necessary to bomb thickly populated, flourishing cities if the only intention was to fill awe in Stalin? Moreover, if that was the sole purpose, far from not being justified in dropping the bombs on civilian areas, would not just one bomb have sent the same message as two bombs? (Loebs, 1995)


In July, two major breakthroughs were achieved by the code-breaking operations entitled MAGIC and ULTRA. MAGIC intercepts read by Truman and this team showed that the Japanese were unrelenting, and that the elite, the moderate elements in the administration, were willing to negotiate peace terms with the Allies, but afraid of discussing this intention with the military, the hardline elements, fearing a reprisal from them. Traditionally, the military had controlled most of Japan’s decision making. These elements were seen to be taking very firm actions on those who were even willing to talk about peace. It is clear that the Japanese started making moves to ask the Soviets to mediate in a peace effort with the Americans and the British and bring an end to the war in the Pacific. MAGIC had revealed that the Emperor had plans of deputing his prince, Konoye Fumimaro to Moscow with his message. (Newman, 1995, p. 13)

One of the most scholarly, yet controversial works on Truman’s decision to use the bomb has been from Gar Alperovitz. His highly provocative analysis may have triggered serious debate from a school of thought on the subject not inclined to hear his viewpoint, but it is necessary for us to develop our thinking on the issue of the great American blunder in dropping the bombs:

Quoting the US Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), he says that it came out with its findings as early as 1946, which were presented in its report entitled, ‘Japan’s struggle to end the war’. The summary of the report read as follows: ‘certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated’ Quoting another report from the secretive War Department, which was carried out in April 1946, but made public only in 1989, he furnishes the exact words of the report: ‘the Japanese leaders had decided to surrender and were merely looking for sufficient pretext to convince the die-hard Army Group that Japan had lost the war and must capitulate to the Allies… ‘. Further, in the event of the bombs not being dropped, Russia would have entered the war, according to the set plan, in early August, the time when the bombs were actually dropped. This report says that had the Russians actually entered Japan in early August, that would have given the Japanese just the pretext they were looking to, in order to surrender. The moderate elements in the Japanese administration were at pains to convince the militant elements to make them agree to a surrender; citing the Russian entry would have made the moderates use this as the solid reason to make the hardliners see the writing on the wall, and would in all probabilities have made them relent. Hence, according to the report, in the event of the Russian entry in early August, not only would the need for the bombs have been obviated, there would have been no possibility of the planned invasion of Kyushu in November, which would have, in Truman’s assessment, led to the loss of all those American lives, and the subsequent attack on Tokyo in April 1946. (Alperovitz, 1995)

Part V:


It is clear that while taking a decision of this magnitude, Japan happened to provide the American administration just the conditions that would have given it the excuse to drop the bomb; the decision went far ahead of the cursory purpose of ending the war, and forcing a Japanese surrender.

A look at the actions of the Truman administration right from the start of the decision-making process would suggest that it overlooked all parameters that went against the action:

Even at the all-important June 18 meeting, the central point that arose was the agreed number of probable American casualties. There is no proof whatsoever, that a figure that even remotely resembled the half to one million, the figure that the president and his advisors kept brandishing throughout, was mentioned during this most important meeting about the invasion. (Walker, 1997, p. 39)

Another major advice against the use of the bomb came in June 1945, when it was imminent that the atomic bomb would be used on an enemy. This came from an eminent, highly concerned group of scientists, which went aghast at the prospect of the use of this weapon. Presenting this report to the War Department, it said sage words: ‘In the past, scientists could disclaim direct responsibility for the use to which mankind had put their disinterested discoveries. We now feel compelled to take a more active stand because the success which we have achieved in the development of nuclear power is fraught with infinitely greater dangers than were all the inventions of the past. All of us, familiar with the present state of nucleonics, live with the vision before our eyes of sudden destruction visited on our own country, of a Pearl Harbor disaster repeated a thousand-fold magnification in every one of our major cities.’ Asserting that this would give short term benefits, that too, only political, at the cost of long-term detriment, this group went on to add that if there was one country that was more vulnerable to such attacks in future, from any country that copied this technology, it was America, with its concentration of industrial complexes and civilian areas in close proximity to each other. It warned that Russia, with its deep mistrust of America, could develop an even more unimaginably powerful device that it could easily use against the US. In view of the fact that taking the first step towards destruction would not only endanger American security in future, but also that of the entire world by precipitating a contest in which each of the participants could become more destructive than the other, this group suggested that the technology be demonstrated in the full glare of the world, under the auspices of a world body (the United Nations was in the process of being formed then). (Williams, 1956, pp. 952, 953)

Gar Alperovitz has come out with the startling theory that president Truman was aware of the fact that there existed several alternatives to the bomb. Just before Potsdam, on July 12, one of the several important codes that the US decoded mentioned in explicit terms that Emperor Hirohito was seriously contemplating intervening personally to offer surrender. When Truman was informed of this, all he did was to dismiss the cable as just another of the many of the Emperor’s communications, saying it was ‘…the Jap Emperor asking for peace’. This was believed to be the ideal time for the surrender; the only sticking point was what formula was to be worked out vis-à-vis the Emperor, for taking the Emperor as a war criminal would have been the ultimate insult to a nation that considered him god-incarnate, and was sure to provoke rebellion of the highest degree. All along, from the time of Germany’s surrender on May 8, the prospect of a Japanese surrender was always on the cards: the American insistence that Russia enter the war around August 8 was meant to give them the advantage of diverting the Japanese in Manchuria. This would have given the Americans the leverage to take on the Japanese army in the mainland, as a major force would have been diverted to the fighting in Manchuria. “By midsummer, however, Japan’s position had deteriorated so much that top U.S. military planners believed the mere shock of a Red Army attack might be sufficient to bring about surrender and thus make an invasion unnecessary.”(Alperovitz, 1995)

Yet, with all these factors, Truman’s determination to nip the growth of Russia’s strength was far greater than all the considerations he was expected to take. His decision to override the advice of the group of scientists was perhaps understandable, but the fact is that he overlooked the decision of one of the most intimate insiders in his administration, Admiral Leahy, who, making a pensive reflection of the American decision, had these to say: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender….” (Boorstein & Boorstein, 1990, p. 47), and ‘in being the first to use it, we … adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children’ (Weisserman, 2004)

Thus, in the end, the decision to drop the bomb, seen in the light of all the facts presented in this paper, seems to have been an impetuous one; not only did the bombs cause appalling damage and put to use an innovative technology that was to take man’s power of destruction to unseen heights, this decision of Truman’s, ignoring the advice of the moderate elements in his administration, also fulfilled the dire predictions that the group of scientists made and caused an arms race, whose implications we are still seeing today.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Critically assess the impact of US foreign policy on the Middle East since 1991: how does the post-Cold War global order affect Middle East politics, and how does conflict in the Middle East affect the ‘New World Order’?”

Table of contents:

Part I: Summary;

Part II: Background to and nature of American policy in the Middle East since 1991;

Part III: Impact of American policy in the Middle East;

Part IV:  Conclusion.


Part I:


The Middle East has always been critical to American interests: it is a region in which all but one country, Israel, are autocratic. This country, the only non-Islamic country in the region, is the target of constant war with most other countries in the region. This makes it the most volatile region in the world. While American policy was aimed primarily at using some countries led by Israel as a bulwark against communism in the Cold War years, the end of a bipolar world saw a radical shift in American policy towards the Middle East. This was brought about by the threat it saw to its most vital interest –oil in the region as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait; at the same time, with the sudden demise of the hitherto counterbalancing factor, the Soviet Union, the stage was now set for a decisive policy. One country in the region had attacked another and had set sights on America’s most precious interest in the region at a time when the latter was being anointed the sole superpower in the world. This presented the occasion for America to spell out its new policy, primarily aimed at the protection of its oil interests. Though spelt out in a jiffy, the guiding principle of the new policy was simple –with oil and the prevention of its usurpation by another state as the leitmotif of its Middle East policy, America spelt out its doctrine for the region, the ‘New World Order’, an imperious dictum according to which no state has the right to lay claim to what it considers its right to a scarce, exhaustible resource. Since all these happened at the confluence of the end of the Cold War and the potential threat to its interests, the Middle East turned out to be the stage on which America enacted its ‘New Global Order’. Since this is the arena in which America spelt out its policy after becoming the sole superpower, it is only natural that the post-Cold War world gets profoundly affected by whatever America does in this region.  Anything that America considers its interests in the region has a huge, marked bearing on the world. Its supplementary policies, such as the advancement of democracy and the destruction of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), impact the region greatly, as the ongoing example of a post- Saddam Hussein Iraq shows. However, in the process of safeguarding that interest, America has embarked on a dangerous endeavour. It is a policy fraught with dangers; for all the might it may use in pursuing its policy, it has to reckon with the local sentiment that would be a crucial element in guiding its policy. A sound example of the bottlenecks associated with this design is the daily dose of conflict it is facing in Iraq. In trying to aggrandise the country’s oil resources beneath the garb of promoting democracy, America may well be treading a potentially hazardous path. This paper argues that the American policy of planting democracy in societies that do not have the necessary preconditions and institutional frameworks to accepting and absorbing the system could mean risking a backlash. This could seriously undermine its ‘New World Order’ if other countries start emulating Iraq’s example.

Part II:

Background to and nature of American policy in the Middle East since 1991:

The importance of the Middle East to American foreign policy can never be overstated– it is this region that has the greatest say in America’s fuel-driven economy, being the biggest source of American energy supply. It is also the venue of major conflicts, both active and dormant. Situations in countries in the region such as the imminently explosive Lebanon, the ever-active struggle for existence in Israel, the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam, and the American perception that it is the epicentre of Islamic militancy make it a highly volatile region. (Amirahmadi, 1993, p. 3)

American foreign policy in the Middle East has undergone a dramatic transformation necessitated by the political, social and economic changes in the region in the years since 1991. The first major test of American foreign policy in the Middle East unfolded as the end of the Cold War was accompanied by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. As a result, the focus of American involvement in the Middle East shifted from a fear of interstate aggression, the last of which caused the Gulf War, to concerns brought about by issues such as terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and social tensions exacerbated by a fall in oil prices. In the backdrop of these developments, American foreign policy is focussed on advancement of its interests in six areas: countering terrorism, countering WMD proliferation, the maintenance of stable oil prices, the support of regimes that are friendly and efforts at ensuring their stability, ensuring Israel’s security, and protection and promotion of America ‘s core values –human rights and democracy. (Bensahel & Byman, 2003, pp. 1 & 2) American post Cold War security objectives in the region can be summarised in the following: “[t]he interests of the United States in the Persian Gulf region have been very simple and consistent: first, to ensure access by the industrialized world to the vast oil resources of the region; and second, to prevent any hostile power from acquiring political or military control over those resources…[o]ther objectives, such as preserving the stability and independence of the Gulf states or containing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, were derivative concerns and were implicit in the two grand themes of oil and containment. Preoccupation with the security of Israel (is) a driving factor in U.S. Middle East policy…” (Sick, 1999, p. 277) Israel has provided the pivot of the American strategy calculus. A militarily strong, democratic Israel situated in the heart of the Middle East, in the midst of hostile Arab neighbours served America’s geostrategic interests from the time of Israel’s existence. Added to this, the influence of a strong Israeli lobby in the US has created in the American foreign policy establishment a strong commitment to the existence and security of Israel. (Lesch, 1999, p. 354) The pursuit of these objectives came to be called the ‘New World Order’, and took shape when George Bush Sr. was president. He laid out his vision of a ‘New World Order’ in the backdrop of the Gulf War. Simply put, it is the articulation of “…a new world order defined not by the presence of peace and stability but by the fact that there is only one superpower; and that superpower must decide whether or not it is in its national interest to play an activist role in the effort to achieve peace and stability in many parts of the world.” (Zogby, 1993)

The New World Order was spelt out in response to a sudden event –the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Soviet Union had just disintegrated, and just when the American administration was groping to find focus on what policy it could lay out, the rather unexpected invasion presented a chance for the then administration to spell out a policy that few had anticipated had such clarity. George Bush Sr. found in this event the perfect occasion to spell out his vision of a world order. “…[T]he American response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was ultimately justified in terms of a vision of world order and of the leading role America would play in the achievement of that order. A grand design that prior to the crisis had remained unarticulated and partially obscured even to its architects was now laid bare.” (Tucker & Hendrickson, 1992, p. 31) Thus, the Gulf War provided the ideal setting for America to “…crystallize positive feelings about a new era into a more palpable vision and approach while advancing its national interests and asserting its global primacy. “(Miller & Yetiv, 2001, p. 56)

Part III:

Impact of American policy in the Middle East:

On the whole, America’s policies towards the Middle East have been less than welcome in the major countries of the region. Since the primary focus of the ‘New World Order’ has been on the procurement of oil and the resolution of the Israel- Palestine problem, the impact of these two aspects is taken up:

A) In relation to oil: At the time of the conception of the ‘New World Order’, while America vowed to lay the countries of the Eastern Bloc on the road to democracy, in the Middle East, its policy was aimed at establishing its hegemony.  (Kuroda, 1994, p. 53) In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, there is a growing realisation in the American establishment that the promotion of democracy in the countries in which it plans to enact a policy of ‘twin containment’, Iran and Iraq, is a strategic imperative. Since then, the US administration has moved in to work on these areas with added thrust. In pursuit of these policies, the brute force that America is exhibiting has not gone down well in these countries. (Tucker et al., 2002) If the progress American policy in Iraq, which constitutes the prime example of American engagement, and the case in which America has invested considerable resources is any indication, the picture is far from pleasing –in the area of WMD, American efforts have come to a huge naught, for the administration has simply failed to find any, or to implicate Saddam Hussein of any involvement in the 9/11 attacks and to the Al Qaeda. The lone silver lining of this policy is that it is certain not to return the country to a dictatorial or theocratic government. American policy has not been any more effective in Iraq’s neighbour, Iran. A central player in the American scheme of things in the region, Iran has started using the nuclear threat to avert an Iraq-like situation in its country. With its presidential elections round the corner, it is difficult to predict whether the hardliners or the reformists are going to be returned to power. (Clark, 2004) America’s policy of coercive appropriation of the region’s only major resource has had another parallel, though highly profound impact. In order to break free from what is perceived as the American stranglehold over their resources, many countries have started cooperating with each other to exploit the oil-rich Caspian region. Based on the idea of excluding America from the pipeline grid, this brings several countries from even outside the periphery of the Middle East in close ties with each other. This could spell a total alteration of the geo-strategic dynamics of the region. This idea involves not only countries of the regions such as Iran, it also brings into its embrace some former Soviet republics and China, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This has stimulated America into fostering friendly regimes in the Caucasus. (The Hindu, 10th April 2005, p.10) These events have been rooted in America’s policy in the Middle East.

B) In relation to the Arab-Palestine issue: In the absence of the Soviet factor, American policy in the Middle East has become more intrusive; American policy could have a positive impact if its moves towards establishing its policy are perceived as being salutary. A prime test case of this policy is the way its role is seen in the Israeli-Palestine issue. (Cantori, 1994, p. 452) The immediate years after the Gulf War led to a hyperactive engagement in the region under president Bill Clinton, for whom resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was a principal goal. In his presidency, America assumed the role of an ‘honest broker’ in bringing about a peaceful settlement of issues bedevilling the region. However, before substantial headway was made, a new regime took guard under Bush Jr., under whom the same vigour was not enforced. American interventionism, which became low-key under the new dispensation, has led to suspicion in Arab quarters that America, with its uncompromising tilt towards Israel, has not been the ‘honest broker’ that it promised to be. This has led to a feeling that the American administration has no clear-cut, comprehensive policy towards resolving the Arab-Palestine conflict. (Lukacs, 2001, p. 32) “The problems of devising and implementing a coherent regional strategy were reflected in and exacerbated by the inherent tension generated by Washington’s goals…American diplomatic, economic, informational, and military efforts rarely, if ever, were simultaneously applauded by both Israelis and Arabs. Instead, the norm was that whatever the United States did to support one side was frequently denounced by the other” (1996, p. 122) Its obsession with obtaining fuel has generated a feeling that America is losing its leverage in the region by failing to go the distance in promoting one of its ideals in the region, peace between Israel and Palestine. One of the major impacts of this policy has been that most of the peace accords set to be implemented to end this dispute and those between the various countries in the region have gathered dust, with the result that the situation on the ground has hardly changed. (Lukacs, 2001, p. 32)

Part IV:

Conclusion: In this section, an analysis is made of how the cherished American policy in the region can go awry if tardily implemented, or in the event of an outbreak of war or a backlash against American policy, because there exist real and plausible causes for either or all of these in the region.

American policy in the Middle East, spelt out in its ‘New World Order’ axiom, is in the process of evolution; hence, at this stage, the events that have been unfolding in the region offer, at best, an indication of things to come. In the overall sense, even if the policy in the Middle East is clear, its result is still in an inchoate stage, and constitutes a mixed bag. Yet, a few patterns can be discerned:

A new urgency has been brought about by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of this event of seminal importance, the Bush administration has been looking at its foreign policy through an altogether different prism. The US has now adopted the aggressive stance by which it categorises countries as either its friends or abettors of terror. On account of this thinking, the world has been polarised more than during the Cold War. The US is finding that it is a lot easier to take on one country at a time and mould it to its will, than taking on amorphous, seamless terrorist groups that can carry out terror attacks on just about any part of the world at will. (Rahman, 2002) This is the foremost example of how the Middle East gets affected by the nuances of the ‘New World Order’.

Some of America’s staunchest allies (apart from Israel) and most bitter rivals in the region have had Islamic forms of governance. Examples of these two extremes could be Saudi Arabia and Iran. The establishment in America is inclined to think, as some in the media are, that terrorism is rooted in and is inextricably linked to Islam. (Esposito, 1993, p. 188) Any American policy towards the region that is seen as being antithetical to Islam, (which is a very likely outcome on account of American predisposition towards Israel) is sure to antagonise public opinion in the region against America, if it does not take the sensitivities of the local populace. Gawkily implemented policy in the region in the backdrop of the strong religious flavour could seriously dent America’s efforts at gaining a foothold in the region; in addition, it could unite the region against American hegemony.

In this setting, it is all the easier for the countries in the region to line up in defence of one of their brethren. With the battle lines, so to speak, clearly drawn, mostly the result of America’s own policy, oil, nuclear blackmail and Islam could easily prove to be the uniting factors against America. Emulation of the Iraqi example by other countries could very well lay the region on the road to total chaos. American policy at preventing interstate conflict may have succeeded as of now, but there is no guarantee it will endure if it goes overboard in implementing its policy. Thus, the potential for an all-out conflagration in the region against America is very real. If this materialises, American objectives spelt out in its ‘New World Order’ could go haywire.

In order to pre-empt this scenario, America needs to become more amiable and resort to less arm-twisting in the implementation of its policy: “[i]n the years to come, the liberation of U.S. foreign policy from the protracted political impasse of the post-cold war era will likely require the restoration of consensus regarding the country’s appropriate role in foreign affairs. In the absence of such a consensus, the likelihood remains that U.S. policy will continue to be driven by crises overseas, (as in) the Middle East.” (Hook, 1998, p. 326)

Written By Ravindra G Rao




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Bensahel, N. & Byman, D. L., (Eds.). (2003), The Future Security Environment in the Middle East: Conflict, Stability, and Political Change, Rand, Santa Monica, CA.


Bhadrakumar, M.K., 2005, ‘The great game for Caspian oil’, The Hindu, 20th April 2005, p.10. This article can be accessed online at


Cantori, L. J. (1994), “The Middle East in the New World Order”, in The Gulf War and the New World Order International Relations of the Middle East, Ismael, T. Y. & Ismael, J. S. (Eds.) (pp. 451-464), University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.


Clark, W. (2004), “Broken Engagement: The Strategy That Won the Cold War Could Help Bring Democracy to the Middle East-If Only the Bush Hawks Understood It”, Washington Monthly, Vol. 36, p. 26+, Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database,


Esposito, J. L. (1993), “Islamic Movements, Democratization, and U.S. Foreign Policy” in Riding the Tiger: The Middle East Challenge after the Cold War, Marr, P. & Lewis, W. (Eds.) (pp. 187-207), Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Hook, S. W. (1998), “The White House, Congress, of the Paralysis of the U.S. State Department after the Cold War”, in After the End: Making U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War World, Scott, J. A. (Ed.) (pp. 305-326), Duke University Press, Durham, NC.


Kuroda, Y. (1994), “Bush’s New World Order”, in The Gulf War and the New World Order International Relations of the Middle East, Ismael, T. Y. & Ismael, J. S. (Eds.) (pp. 52-69), University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL.


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Lukacs, Y. (2001), “America’s Role – as the Israeli-Palestinian War of Attrition Enters Its Second Year, an Intense Debate Is Taking Place over the Content Scope, and Future Direction of America’s Policy in the Middle East” World and I, Vol. 16, p. 32, Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database,


Miller, E. A., & Yetiv, S. A., (2001), “ The New World Order in Theory and Practice: The Bush Administration’s Worldview in Transition”, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol.31, No.1, p. 56. Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database,


Rahman, S.,  (2002), “Another New World Order? Multilateralism in the Aftermath of September 11”, Harvard International Review, Vol. 23 No.4, p. 40+, Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database,


Sick, G., (1999), “The United States in the Persian Gulf: from Twin Pillars to Dual Containment”, in A Historical and Political Reassessment A Historical and Political Reassessment, Lesch, D. W. (Ed.), (pp. 277-290), Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Tucker, R. W., & Hendrickson, D. C., (1992), The Imperial Temptation: The New World Order and America’s Purpose, Council on Foreign Relations Press, New York.


Tucker, R. W., Howard, M., Schmitt, G., Mearsheimer, J. J., Joffe, J., Chace, J., Gungwu, W., Kupchan, C. A., & Hassner, P. (2002), “One Year On: Power, Purpose and Strategy in American Foreign Policy”, The National Interest,  p. 5+. Retrieved April 21, 2005, from Questia database,


(1996), “The United States and the Middle East: Continuity and Change”, in U.S. Foreign and Strategic Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: A Geopolitical Perspective, Wiarda, H. J. (Ed.) (pp. 107-126), Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Zogby, James, “It’s the economy, stupid! –And it’s the World, Too!”. Available: (Accessed 2005, April 05)

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

ABSTRACT: This research paper details the social effects of alcoholism. As part of this, it focuses on the short and long term impact alcohol addiction has on the family and its social interaction. A major part of this study is devoted to the effect alcoholism has on children. In discussing this, an exploration is made of the link between children of alcoholics.

Style: APA; sources: 10; Pages: 8

Limitations of this study: Alcoholism is the only area taken up for this study. No other forms of addiction, such as drug addiction, substance abuse and so on are covered in this study. In addition, a watertight compartmentalization is not made of the short and long term effects of alcoholism –they are intertwined. Another area that is not treated separately is the effect of alcoholism on the different members of the family, because generally everyone in the family suffers from an addicted member. The effect it has on children and that on the spouse of the addict is not disjointed.

Thesis and overview:

Understanding alcoholism: Alcoholism defies a clear-cut, comprehensive definition. Although there is no one way by which it is defined, an alcohol addict is one who fulfils the following criteria among others: an irresistible urge to consume alcohol, loss of control once s/he starts consuming alcohol, and a relapse into the habit following a session of rehabilitation. (Swift, 1999, p. 207) Although there is no conclusive finding regarding whether alcoholics are born or are made, research seems to suggest that there is a strong, if not irrefutable link between alcoholism and genetics. Having said this, it should be reiterated that this relationship is at best shaky, for it is commonplace to find children of alcoholics turning out to be non-alcoholic; by the same coin, it is also equally true that not all alcoholics had an alcoholic parent. (Ullman & Orenstein, 1994)

Whether the family has alcoholic mothers or alcoholic fathers, the common denominator is that their educational and social backgrounds matter little in making them alcoholics, although alcoholics are usually more prevalent in the working class. Thus, the nature of the problem is that it is spread across all strata of the society, and any child from any age or social or economic group is susceptible to have an alcoholic parent. (Hunt, 1997)

Effects on family: The effects of alcoholism on the family can be felt from the earliest stage of the child’s upbringing. Parents who are alcoholic are known to be far inferior to non-alcoholic parents as caregivers to the family. These parents, apart from denying the necessary care to children, also generally suppress children from talking about this habit among the social circles in which they interact, are generally inconsistent and unpredictable in dealing with children, and are usually rigid in their expectations from their children. There is also a subtle effect alcoholism has on Children of Alcoholics (COAs): they make them more easily vulnerable than their counterparts to “…antisocial behaviors, problems with intimacy and trust, perfectionism, underachievement, low self-esteem and low self-worth, depression and/or anxiety, and lack of understanding of normalcy.” (Hunt, 1997) It is also proven that such children are prone to psychosomatic ailments such as headache, depression, insomnia, eating disorders and stomach upsets. They are also likely to develop learning disabilities. (Stark, 1987) These effects do not simply vanish at some later stage of the children’s life; even into their adulthood, as a result of growing up in the shadow of an alcoholic parent or adult in the family, they exhibit undue nervousness, fretfulness, maladjustment in the family, and generally end up becoming unsuccessful parents themselves. In addition, there is a very heavy impact alcoholism has on the emotional development of children –they are known to suffer from labeling and stereotyping as COAs, which causes major personal and social consequences. (Hunt, 1997) A direct result of alcoholism is that there is a sense of embarrassment in bringing home a friend or relative to the family with an alcoholic. “In the majority of cases, the alcoholic member is doing his or her drinking at home–sometimes privately, but often in full view of the rest of the family. Home-based events, such as meals and family entertainment, frequently occur at times when the alcoholic member is intoxicated. The family must also decide how friends and strangers are to be treated when active drinking is going on. Are they to be welcomed into the home, or kept at bay until the storm has passed? How is the day to be planned? How are household chores to be carried out when one is presumably never confident about what state one’s alcoholic spouse or parent will be in at any particular moment?”  (Steinglass, Bennett, Wolin & Reiss, 1987, p. 177) Alcoholic adults in the family can also sometimes mar social and family occasions such as vacations or even daily assembly at dinner time by creating scenes on such occasions; this leads to a situation of conflict in the family, because children are deprived of love, so central to a family. “There may also be continuous conflict within the family because the alcoholic parent is too erratic to play a key role in everyday decision making, but refuses to accept a subordinate role. Relationships between siblings may resemble a warring band more than a supportive group because of competition for the scarce supply of adult attention. (One of) the nonalcoholic parent(s) can be so wrapped up in reacting to the whims and needs of the alcoholic that he or she cannot provide a stable environment and is unresponsive to the children’s needs.”  (Ullman & Orenstein, 1994) This means that the sense of bonding among the family members is lost.  The loss of happiness and peace of mind far exceeds any other loss, and is economically incalculable. It is not uncommon to find education of the children being disrupted because huge proportions of the family income get frittered away on alcohol consumption by one or many members of the family. When these children, deprived of love, try to find other avenues from which they can fill this lacuna at home, there is a likeliness that they may end up looking for comfort with the wrong people; this can lead to further family and social tensions. (Ullman & Orenstein, 1994) One of the easiest and most readily available outlets such children seek to find is drugs. Adolescents from this kind of background are particularly liable to get attracted to drugs.  This is the stage of life when dramatic developmental, physical and emotional vicissitudes take place. This is when, on account of these very great changes, adolescents, who make the graduation from one stage of life to another very important one, are in need of very strong emotional support from their families. Most drug abusers fall into the habit not because of adolescence per se, but when the family deprives them of these supports that they so badly need, a direct fallout of alcoholism, as we have seen. Drug abuse, especially during adolescence, can have baleful effects on the individual. (Trad, 1994) The major precipitator of these is the social factors, consisting of the family, whose relationship with psychological factors is inseparable. (Mcdonald & Towberman, 1993) This triggers a chain reaction –drugs can lead to a strong antisocial component: crime. If people who land up in jails for having committed crimes have one extremely strong factor in common, it is their social environment, a prime factor among which is the existence of an alcoholic in the family. A study done during 1990-91, which was spread across four states in the US, and had respondents from ten inner-city high schools and six correctional facilities threw up some interesting facts, all of which point to the irrefutable evidence of a link between the criminals and their social background. (Curtis, 1998, p. 1233) Or, these children can turn to alcoholism itself as a source of solace. It has to be admitted, though, that this link is subjective and is dependant on how the family views alcoholism by one of its members. (Ullman & Orenstein, 1994)

In addition to all these, there are indirect and secondary social aspects of alcoholism –one of the direct results of alcoholism, domestic violence, costs the American exchequer anywhere between $ three billion and $ 10 billion a year by way of losses accrued on account of absenteeism, reduced employee turnover, healthcare costs and so on. (Overman) Obviously, this is a major cost of alcoholism.

The positive side of a family with an alcohol: After all these illustrations about the ill-effects of alcoholism on the psychological, emotional and social upbringing of COAs, it is worth exploring if there can be positive fallouts of alcoholism.

While admitting that these findings are at best largely based on assumption, whose effect can be inadvertent, some researchers classify these positives from alcoholism under the following sequence of behavior: COAs, after being exposed to alcoholic parents over a period of time, normally assume four roles. One of these is that of the ‘hero’. The eldest child usually assumes this role, by which it becomes some kind of a surrogate parent, taking on all the roles of the parent, from caring for the younger children to running the household. This child is normally a great achiever, doing extremely well at academics and exhibiting a flair for leadership qualities. The next in line is the ‘scapegoat’, or what is termed the problem child. What this child does is to invite trouble on account of its misbehavior and earn scorn for its actions. The third role some COAs assume is that of the ‘mascot’. This kind of child puts on a brave face over all the tumultuous events at home, and is the most jovial, deflecting the sorrow of the home with its own sense of humor. Finally, there is the existence of another role, that of the ‘lost child’, which is reclusive and isolated.  (Stark, 1987) The one possible positive of this assumption of roles is that it could have an indirect benefit –it could inculcate some sense of leadership in COAs. Again, it needs to be reemphasized that this argument is tenuous – COAs need not necessarily react in only this manner; further, even if an alcoholic parent can induce leadership qualities in the child, it would only happen to the child who actually wears the mantle of responsibility, and not among each of the children.

These findings are not to suggest that it is only the children of alcoholics who suffer; if there is another person who takes the burden equally, it is the spouse. It is generally found that wives of alcoholics suffer in almost all areas of a happy married life: “talk or communications, mealtime, joint recreation and social activities, and sexual intimacy. The increasing failure of the husband to provide satisfaction in these areas leaves the wife almost entirely without a means of role fulfillment as a spouse. Predictably, wives react in anger and sorrow. The drinking husband, also predictably, reacts with hostility to his wife’s unhappiness. Ultimately, as will be seen, she withdraws, hurt and alienated, and he is further cut off from the society of nondrinking companions.  (Wiseman, 1991, p. 117)

Conclusion: As can be seen, it is indisputable that alcohol is a social evil of the highest order. While some concrete, researched issues are covered under this paper, these still do not constitute a comprehensive set of effects alcohol causes. For instance, it can never be estimated to what extent COAs, had they been born to non-alcoholic parents would have developed into. In the absence of the proper conditions for emotional development, this addiction by just one leading member of the family can have caused irreparable loss to society. For who knows if that child had the potential to be a real achiever, but had its creativity drowned in the parent’s habit? It is also common to hear stories of how people have committed some of the most violent and criminal acts under the spell of alcohol. It is thus that only some tangible issues are addressed here. The solution to deep-seated problems such as alcoholism needs to be tackled on an individual basis, taking several factors into consideration. It needs to be seen as a battle that needs to be won with tact and patience. These, however, are beyond the purview of this paper.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




Curtis, R. (1998). The Improbable Transformation of Inner-City Neighborhoods: Crime, Violence, Drugs, and Youth in the 1990s. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88(4), 1233. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database.


Hunt, M. E. (1997). A Comparison of Family of Origin Factors between Children of Alcoholics and Children of Non-Alcoholics in a Longitudinal Panel. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 23(4), 597+. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Mcdonald, R. M., & Towberman, D. B. (1993). Psychosocial Correlates of Adolescent Drug Involvement. Adolescence, 28(112), 925+. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Overman, Stephanie. (1997, August) Preventing Domestic Violence From Spilling Over Into the Workplace. Restaurant. Org Retrieved from


Stark, E. (1987, January). Forgotten Victims: Children of Alcoholics. Psychology Today, 21, 58+. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Steinglass, P., Bennett, L. A., Wolin, S. J., & Reiss, D. (1987). The Alcoholic Family. New York, NY: Basic Books.


Swift, R. M. (1999). Medications and Alcohol Craving. Alcohol Research & Health, 23(3), 207. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Trad, P. V. (1994). Developmental Vicissitudes That Promote Drug Abuse in Adolescents. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 20(4), 459+. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Ullman, A. D., & Orenstein, A. (1994). Why Some Children of Alcoholics Become Alcoholics: Emulation of the Drinker. Adolescence, 29(113), 1+. Retrieved November 15, 2005, from Questia database:


Wiseman, J. P. (1991). The Other Half Wives of Alcoholics and Their Social-Psychological Situation. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“How democratic were France, Germany and Britain by 1900?”

Table of contents:

Part I: Summary;

Part II: Outline;

Part III: Limitation of this study;

Part IV: Democracy in France;

Part V: Democracy in Germany;

Part VI: Democracy in Britain;

Part VII: Conclusion.

Part I:

Summary: Just over a century ago, the kind of government that existed in these frontline western European states was a far cry from what is seen today. The political earthquake called the French Revolution had its epicentre in France, but its rumblings were felt through most of the continent, as well as in faraway colonies, leaving the politics of most European countries in a state of flux. But the intended harvest of this revolution, an obliteration of monarchy and the rule of law, the indispensable elements of a democracy, took its time to get ingrained in the political systems of these countries, and evolved as a form of government very differently in each of the three countries taken up in this paper. If the advent of Napoleon affected these three countries, and the Vienna Congress stunted France and Germany’s graduation to democracy, the internal political dynamics in all these countries were different from each other’s. In Britain, whose brand of democracy was mixed, the Reform Acts turned out to be milestones on the road to democracy. Such serious and well-intended steps to democracy were not taken in the other two countries. This is mainly because France kept seesawing between monarchy and autocracy through most of the 19th century, while Germany was a disparate state for most of that century. In sum, in Britain, by the end of the 19th century, a parliamentary democracy, which the nation had been having for a long time, was fairly well established, although under a monarchy. The same was not the case with the other two; in all, Germany enjoyed the least democracy. The reasons for this discrepancy form the backbone of this paper.

Part II:

Outline: This paper takes up separately the extent to which democracy was ushered in into these three countries. In each of these cases, a narration is made of how democracy developed. Since the nature of this paper is analytical, too much detail is not made of this aspect; this explanation is given only to reinforce the thesis question. The starting point for the evolution of democracy in each of these countries is taken up separately. This is for the simple reason that while the French Revolution happened in France, such an event did not take place in the other two countries. For these, appropriate historically important dates or events are taken up.

Part III:

Limitation of this study: While 1789 may be termed a signal event for modern democracy, no event of such importance concerning democracy happened in 1900, the cut off date for this paper. However, since this is the period up to which this paper is concerned, it restricts itself to developments in most parts of the 19th century, in which the major themes were unification for Germany, political uncertainty for France, and the reform of the parliamentary system in the Victorian Era for Britain.

Part IV:

Democracy in France:

France was home to one of the watershed political events of modern Europe, the French Revolution, in which the people rose in revolt with the slogan, war to the châteaux, peace to the cottages. The gravity and repercussions of this event are far too great to bear banal repetition; however, while the essential aim of the Revolution was to bring an end to the autocratic and inept regimes that misruled the nation, (Frey & Frey, 2004, p. 57) the result it sought to instil, democracy, did not have a smooth inception or development, either, suffering from several long and enduring birth pangs.

Strangely, for most part of the 19th century, it seemed as if the great revolution had turned out to be no more than an isolated, standalone event. The dividend the Revolution sought to pay, democracy, had to wait for a seemingly interminable period of time to fructify and get implanted in the nation’s political system, because the succession of governments it brought were anything but democratic. Leading political figures of the day, such as Robespierre feared that the system the revolution put in place was one which had a penchant for forgetting “the interests of the people”, would “lapse into the hands of corrupt individuals”, and worst of all, “reestablish the old tyranny” (Cohen, 1997, p. 130) Later decades showed that his prognosis was not far off the mark.

The decades following the Revolution saw a chain of events, none of which took the country anywhere near democracy, the avowed aim of the Revolution. The years from the Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War saw political fissures of one or another kind, which had no semblance of democracy, starting with the ascent of Napoleon, perhaps the most powerful dictator the country had ever produced. His defeat was followed by the Restoration of the monarchy; this gave rise to the Revolution of 1830, and the rule of Louis Philippe, till 1848. It took another revolution to bring down his regime, this time in 1848. Finally, this heralded the era of the Second Republic, and the tenure of the fickle Napoleon III, leading to another event of seminal importance for the nation, the Franco-Prussian war, to be followed by yet another Republic, the Third. (Haine, 2000, p. 97) This regime, too heavily weighed down by palace intrigues, scandals, wars and renewed national pride in the wake of a highly recharged and resurgent neighbour, Prussia, (Wright, 1916, pp. 2-4) was left with little room or time for democracy. Nothing of import happened in the period till the end of the 19th century to necessitate the emergence of a democracy.

Part V:

Democracy in Germany:

Germany’s tryst with democracy in the 19th century needs to be seen in circumstances that were peculiar and unique to the nation’s history. This was when the German people united as a nation for the first time.  They had been a loosely knit confederation of princely states that owed its allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire by the time of the French Revolution; yet, in about a century of this event, they had been cobbled together almost magically under the Prussian banner. A series of moves replete with uninhibited daredevilry, gamble, deceit and sheer diplomatic astuteness on the part of its Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck had united the German people, ridding them of the yoke of Austrian domination of its peoples. (Snell, 1976, pp. 3, 4) However, Germany had only been united, resulting in the realisation of a long-lasting and cherished dream of a German nation; this did not in any way mean that a democracy had been put in place. The arrangements the Congress of Vienna made for Europe in 1815 undid Bismarck’s work, setting the clock back on democracy. Even so, the newly-knit entity did not have the prerequisite groundwork for democracy, suffering from a basic flaw –it “was constructed by its princes, not by its people. That important fact distinguished Germany from nations like England, France, and the United States, where the constitutions were designed “with the consent of the governed.” The German Empire was a federation of sovereign states, its constitution created by a treaty among the hereditary rulers of those states. The “wars of unification” were not revolutionary popular movements; they were narrowly focused international conflicts designed by Bismarck to help Prussia eliminate Austrian power within Germany and to create a new Prussian-led German nation within Europe.”  (Turk, 1999, pp. xvii-null22) Whatever spattering of democracy the nation had towards the fag end of the century was limited to social democracy, in which it was confined to labour unions. (Berghahn, 1994, p. 160)

Part VI:

Democracy in Britain: The year 1815 is considered a benchmark for the politics of Britain, as it was for several other European countries, for the simple reason that this year saw the end of the power and influence of one of the greatest nemeses it ever saw, Napoleon. However, while this was the major issue for the nation externally, Britain had its share of internal problems, as well, during this century. The Industrial Revolution brought in its wake dramatic changes which the nation had to ingest, with both the promises and the pitfalls it spawned. Among the most important social effects the Industrial Revolution had on the nation was a near-explosion in population, and the drawbacks of nascent industrialisation, at which it had no forerunners from any part of the world. Thus, the greatest priority at that time was a set of policies that gave the country social solidity and some element of peace. (McCord, 1991, p. 1) With the high rates of population growth and their attendant problems such as high infant mortality being great priorities during the early part of the 19th century, (Brown, 1991, p. 30) the air of politics was abuzz with the question of which of the institutions the British had so assiduously built up over the previous centuries was best suited to give coherence to the society that was changing at a feverish pace. In this milieu, the emphasis for British politics was more over what kind of reform was suited and needed for the society, polity and the economy, rather than which form of government was best suited to carry these changes out. Opinion was sharply divided among the Conservatives and the Liberals about which of its institutions could carry the day for Britain. The unshakable British faith in the monarchy was as firm as ever, not diluting or eroding even slightly on account of these changes. (Park, 1950, pp. 3-5) In essence, the 19th century, during whose most part Britain was under the rule of one of its longest-reigning monarchs, Queen Victoria, saw the emergence of a peculiarly hybridised, yet often contradictory system of governance. Quintessential democratic institutions, such as the parliament, the judiciary, the cabinet and the local government were alive and well, but functioned under a monarchy. On the one hand, fair and free elections, the ultimate identifier of a democracy, were being held with amazing regularity; on the other, it could not be denied that participation in these elections was limited to the handful of rich and powerful. It was to correct this set of imbalances and to draw more people into the electorate that the Reform Acts were passed. The basic intent of these sets of legislation was the promotion of greater democracy, by drawing the excluded and marginalised sections of society into the electorate. (Pugh, 1999, p. 20) The nation went through three Reform Acts, passed in 1832, 1867 and 1884, whose central aim was increasing the numbers of the electorate. (Hammond & Foot, 1952, pp. 212-214) At about the time these Acts were passed, a parallel social and political reform movement, Chartism, was very active. The basic demand of this radical, unionised movement was greater political participation for the working classes, so that the fruits of the Industrial Revolution percolated down to the labour class, too. (Maccoby, 1935, p. 33) However, in the light of the needs of the day, and the priority these Acts had, they met with little success in actually bringing in democracy to the country. What has been said about the Reform Act of 1832, perhaps holds good for the other Acts, too –that they were “…an excellent example of the British skill of muddling through. An aristocracy muddled through to a democracy, taking many of the aristocratic virtues with them; and they muddled through from an age of privilege to an age of numbers. The democratic implications of the act(s) were not in fact revealed for more than a generation…” (Smellie, 1962, p. 164) As a result, through most of the Victorian Era, although efforts were made haltingly towards bringing in more democracy, there was no more than a sprinkling of democracy; even this happened at the grassroots level, being restricted to the municipal level, as a series of Acts were passed at the local government level. (Harrison, 1996, p. 20)

Part VII:

Conclusion: A study of the thesis question throws up a mixed picture. Overall, democracy, so essential a feature of these countries today, had had to make a bumpy and potholed journey. In all these countries, democracy was nebulous and uncertain in the 19th century, albeit in varying degrees. In Britain, a parliamentary democracy was very much in full bloom, but the inherent love and pride of the British people for their monarchy pre-empted a switch to a full-fledged democratic form of government. As a result, these democratic institutions functioned under a monarchy that controlled the largest empire of the day.

In France, the scene was different. In the absence of democratic institutions of the kind Britain had nurtured, the governance the French Revolution brought about vacillated between various kinds, with the result that democracy took a backseat.

In Germany, the struggles inherent in a newly unified nation, coupled with its naivety in running its newly developing imperialism resulted in too many squabbles and bottlenecks for democracy. The nation that Bismarck had welded together had the ingenuity to only work under a newly consolidated empire, not having been inculcated the necessary mindset for a democracy. It was never going to be easy for these fissiparous peoples to be administered a sudden dose of democracy, as by definition they had been inured to centuries of localism. By the end of that century, democracy was nowhere registered in the average German psyche.

Of all these nations taken up for this study, it can be said that Britain had the highest form of democracy by the end of the 19th century; yet, here too, despite the Reform Acts, which could not be termed a great harbinger of democracy, it was nowhere near what may be termed a pure democracy, something that came so naturally to some of its colonies, principally America.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




Berghahn, V. R., (1994), Imperial Germany, 1871-1914: Economy, Society, Culture, and Politics, Berghahn Books, Providence, RI.


Brown, R., (1991), Society and Economy in Modern Britain, 1700-1850, Routledge, New York.

Cohen, P. M., (1997), Freedom’s Moment: An Essay on the French Idea of Liberty from Rousseau to Foucault, University Of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Frey, L. S., & Frey, M. L. (2004). The French Revolution /, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Haine, W. S., (2000), The History of France (F. W. Thackeray & J. E. Findling, Ed.), Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Hammond, J. L., & Foot, M. R., (1952), Gladstone and Liberalism, English Universities Press, London.


Harrison, B., (1996), The Transformation of British Politics, 1860-1995, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Maccoby, S., (1935), English Radicalism, Allen & Unwin, London.


McCord, N., (1991), British History, 1815-1906, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


Park, J. H., (1950), British Prime Ministers of the Nineteenth Century, New York University Press, New York.


Pugh, M., (1999), State and Society: A Social and Political History of Britain, 1870-1997, Arnold, London.


Smellie, K. B., (1962), Great Britain since 1688: A Modern Histor, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.


Snell, J. L., (1976), The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914 (H. A. Schmitt, Ed.), University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Turk, E. L., (1999), The History of Germany, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Wright, C. H., (1916), A History of the Third French Republic, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Is the notion of a deeply divided society the right template for comparing Northern Ireland with other cases of ethnic conflict?”

Table of contents:

Part I: Outline;

Part II: Limitation of this study:

Part III: Key words;

Part IV: General discussion;

Part V: Conclusion.



Part I:


The central argument of this paper revolves around the native-settler discourse of ethnic conflicts. Obviously, no conflict, ethnic or other, can happen in a vacuum and without a reason. Keeping this in mind, this paper presents the basic reasons for which major ethnic conflicts have been taking place around the world today. It presents a brief background to the ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland, mainly to understand that this is a case of a deeply divided society, for this is necessary to form the basis of the thesis topic. The next component of this paper is a presentation of the core background to some other leading ethnic conflicts around the world. The conflicts taken up in this section are South Africa, Israel/Palestine and Sri Lanka.  This is done with the intention of underscoring the essential nature of these conflicts –while being ethnic in nature, all these have happened out of a deeply divided society brought about by these ethnic aspects. More importantly, a brief explanation of the other conflicts taken up for this study is provided in view of the fact that this is meant to be a comparative paper, in which these are used as the frame of reference. The section on the background to these other conflicts is brief and is not a historical, blow-by-blow account, as it is meant to just enable an understanding of the roots of the ethnic nature of these conflicts. Then, this paper traverses into another of its central arguments –the element of territory in these conflicts. Since it is implied in this thesis statement that a) Northern Ireland’s is an ethnic conflict, and b) that other cases of ethnic conflict are a product of a deeply divided society, this paper does not explore a popular perspective on this conflict, which is whether the conflict in Northern Ireland can be classified as an ethnic one. In the concluding part, it sums up its understanding of the paper. It avoids reference to some commonly used interpretations of ethnic conflicts.


Part II:

Limitation of this study:

One area of incompleteness of this study is that while there are several ethnic conflicts raging on in the world at this point of time, this paper, due to the paucity of space allotted to it, makes a comparison of only a select list of these to the conflict in Northern Ireland. An inclusion of some of the other leading ethnic conflicts, such as those of the Basque region of Spain, Corsica, East Timor, Cyprus and some in Africa to name a few, would have made this paper more comprehensive.


Part III:

Key words:

Ethnic conflict, society, Natives, settler, commonality, land, catholic, protestant, whites, blacks, slavery, Jews, Arabs, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Sri Lanka, persecution, Diaspora, homeland, Holy Land, Sinhalese, Tamil.


Part IV:

General discussion:

The ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland:

A reading of the history of Northern Ireland points to the clear fact that it is indeed a case that can be fitted into the template of a deeply divided society:  the conflict dates to almost five centuries, to the reign of Henry VIII. This Tudor monarch’s newfound zeal, the result of his break from Rome, was to make him target his neighbour, whose catholic nature he viewed as a challenge to English expansionism. It was basically a sectarian conflict, in that attempts were made by the English monarchs, led by Henry VIII and followed up later by Edward VI and Elizabeth I, to supplant the existing catholic religion with its brand of Christianity, Protestantism. Naturally, the essentially Gaelic population resented these efforts at forced Anglicanism. When these original inhabitants refused to be forcibly converted to the new religion, the English persecuted them by outlawing some of their cherished religious practices, and alienated them by developing a condescending attitude towards the followers of the scurrilously termed ‘popery’. (Finnegan, 1983, pp. 9, 10) The depths of this division took a turn for the worse following a policy of forced ‘plantation’, or augmentation of the population of the Settlers by successive English monarchs. The most notable example of this attempt to change the ethno-demographic character of the province was the one by James I, king of both the English and the Scots, to settle in about 150,000 protestant Presbyterians from Scotland into Ulster in Northern Ireland. This was a direct effort at undermining the local catholic population –the language and religious affiliation of the new Settlers were markedly different from those of the Natives. In the later part of that century, Oliver Cromwell, too, enforced this policy by rewarding these Settlers with grants of vast areas of land in Northern Ireland. The crux of the problem could be crystallised into the efforts of the native catholic population to get the Protestants out of their country, and the recalcitrance of the Settlers to stay on. (Morris-Hale, 1997, p. 95) Thus, in this sense, it qualifies as a problem of a deeply divided society.

The next section explores the similarity in the nature of this problem with some other cases of ethnic conflict in different regions of the world.

The ethnic conflict in South Africa:  Like its counterpart in Northern Ireland, the ethnic conflict in South Africa, too, is deeply rooted in the divisions of society. The origins of the ethnic conflict of this country can be traced to 1717, when the number of slaves who had been employed by the Dutch East India Company, the VOC in local parlance, was a mere 2000. That year, the company’s directors in Amsterdam asked the local administrative council of Cape if slavery was required for the company for economic reasons. Only one of the council members wanted an abolition of slavery. From here, the increase in the number of slaves working for the Settlers was dramatic –in 75 years, the number of black slaves had grown twelve-fold. This system was to get perpetrated with greater crudity and oppressiveness in the later decades and centuries: “By the mid-1700s the colony had over 650 slave owners, but more than half owned six or fewer slaves. Yet slave owning was widespread enough to promote a dependency on slave labor rather than the development of intensive settlement and agriculture. This dependency lasted into the nineteenth century and encouraged a mentality among White Settlers that certain work and occupations were “beneath” them.” (Beck, 2000, pp. 28, 29) This was to not only leave a seemingly unbridgeable gap in society between the Natives and the Settlers who came to be called Boers, it was also the forerunner to the institution of apartheid, (Pomeroy, 1986, p. 4) an abhorrent practice which came to define standards of human cruelty and oppression. This again is a clear case of a deeply divided society.

Israeli –Palestine conflict:  One of the most violent conflicts of the 20th century, the one between Israel and Palestine, is a premier example of a conflict of ethnicity and nationality being a result of a deeply divided society.

Israel was born in such circumstances that its raison d’etre was detested by its Arab neighbours. The Jews, who had been persecuted for centuries by the Christian masses of Europe in possibly every conceivable manner from being blamed for natural disasters to being degraded publicly for belonging to that religion to being tortured in gas chambers, had finally reached such a precarious stage of their existence by the time World War II ended, that they were left with no alternative to carving out a homeland for themselves. The formation of a separate Jewish nation, they believed, was the only guarantee of their very survival. That homeland had to be the biblical land of Israel, or none else, given the primacy of this nation to their history and culture; unfortunately for them, this was now Palestine, into which Arabs had been ossified for a full 13 centuries, ever since the birth of their own religion, Islam. The declaration of Israeli independence on May 14, 1948, was the culmination of a nearly 19-century old cherished dream of a motherland, and achieved after a lot of bickering in the United Nations. In this declaration, they made clear that for the Jews to become a cohesive nation for the first time in their history out of the reassembly of their people from their Diaspora, there was only one possibility: the existence of the new immigrants at the exclusion of the native population! The following words in the declaration sums up the belligerent Jewish attitude, overlooking the fact that the Holy Land was in Arab possession for all these centuries:


Naturally, this was at direct loggerheads with the native population, which saw this as an intrusion into their very existence. A strange situation had developed, by which two nationalities were trying to compete for existence and survival on the same piece of land to the mutual elimination of each other. Both the cause and result of this was the inculcation of deep-seated animosities, which continue to this day.

The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka:  The Sri Lankan or Ceylonese ethnic conflict dates to the early part of the previous century. It was fed and exacerbated by a threat perception felt by the land-owning and economically well ensconced, western-educated, mostly Sinhalese native elite on account of the assertiveness of the plantation workers of Indian origin following the departure of the colonial power, Britain. As explained by Perera (1998), although the land mass left behind by the colonizers was nowhere near what it was when it was first occupied, “…the post-colonial rulers of Ceylon, (the Sinhalese elite)… were not ready to accept the plantation workers of southern Indian origin, classifying them as “Indian Tamils” and reaffirmed that they were a foreign population…[w]ithin two years, the United National Party government of 1948 deprived the plantation workers of southern Indian origin of both their citizenship and voting rights. They had already participated in the socialist-led struggles for independence in the 1940s and their voting pattern had helped many socialist candidates win in the 1947 elections. If anti-colonial struggles had brought these plantation workers into Ceylonese politics and the “national” space, the post-colonial state denied these. As the planters had attempted, the post-colonial rulers of Ceylon also resorted to apartheid…” (Perera, 1998, pp. 102, 103) Further proof of the deep division of the society along ethnic lines is the fact that the Tamils have been living in Sri Lanka for ages, and have been in a majority in at least four northern districts. It is these four districts that the Tamils claim as their ‘traditional homeland’, the Tamil ‘Ealam’, for the reason that there was hardly a presence of the Sinhalese in these areas till independence. (Kearney & Miller, 1987, pp. 91-94)


Some researchers, such as Mitchell (2000), have taken the view that while these conflicts taken up for this study (with the exception of Sri Lanka) are essentially ethnic, what marks these out is the fact that they have a strong sub-element of native-settler conflict. Elaborating, he theorises that this is a case in which animosities and attitudes have hardened since the settler has stayed back, and has sought to coexist with the native population. This, according to Mitchell, is as strong a common factor as is the element of ethnicity in the cases he takes up. This is different from cases such as Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand, in which the Natives were all but extirpated. This aspect of the native-settler coexistence, no matter how tumultuous it may have been, is the main commonality among these conflicts. All cases of ethnic conflict in which the Settlers have stayed back have an indispensable element –land issues. In most cases, land has been pivotal to the affairs of the ethnic conflict, because the Natives have been relegated to inferior lands. Another feeling that has run through the colonisers is the feeling of superiority to the Natives, irrespective of whether the Settlers belonged to the same race as the Natives or not. This is the feeling that the Irish war of independence failed to correct. (Mitchell, 2000, pp. 1 and 2) In all the cases of ethnic conflict taken up here, the Settlers have arrived with the aim of betterment, with varying degrees. It is natural that the bone of contention had to be land, since it was natural resources that were the means for a betterment of life. This is the basis for which dispute over territory has been an integral part of these conflicts.

Conclusion: In all these societies taken for this study, the extent of deep divisions in society can be gauged from the fact that irrespective of the point of time of the country’s history at which these conflicts have started, these conflicts have come to be the defining moments of these nations –the ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland may not be as old as the country itself, but nearly five centuries have failed to erase these divisions. In the case of South Africa, apartheid and ethnic conflict have been present almost from the time the white minority came to dominate the country; as for Israel, the warring parties have had to contend with ethnic conflict quite literally from day one of the birth and existence of a Jewish nation. In Sri Lanka, the feeling of ‘them and us’ has been persisting from the time the Tamils settled there, and all it took was the spark of the departure of the colonists to ignite it and make it a full-scale conflagration.

These conflicts have different sub-dimensions that mark them out from each other. For instance, if the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Israel are essentially predicated along nationalist and religious lines, that in South Africa is centred round the colour of the skin, while the conflict in Sri Lanka is ethno-linguistic in character. Yet, the overriding common factor has been the deep divisions between the Natives and the Settlers. Whatever the nature of these elements of conflict, these have at best been sub-components of the conflict, whose main theme is undoubtedly the deep divisions in society. It is exactly these divisions that have not only caused the conflict in the first place, they have nurtured and sustained them.

In fact, so deep are the divisions of the mind that even as late as 1994, when the official obituary was written for apartheid in South Africa,  “…emotionally far too many whites, even liberal whites, still regard(ed) themselves as superior to blacks and far too many of them only accepted the changes that came in 1994 because they could see no alternative rather than because they actively believed in a non-racial society.” (Arnold, 2000, p. 11) It can be said without much fear of contradiction that the same attitude could possibly be prevailing in the other societies taken up here. In sum, it can be fittingly argued that the notion of a deeply divided society is the basis on which all ethnic conflicts of this study have taken place; there is little in Northern Ireland to suggest any radical departure from this norm.

Written By Ravindra G Rao




Arnold, G., 2000, The New South Africa, Macmillan, Basingstoke.


Beck, R. B., 2000, The History of South Africa, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Dunner, J., 1950, The Republic of Israel: Its History and Its Promise, Whittlesey House, New York.


Finnegan, R. B., 1983, The Challenge of Conflict and Change The Challenge of Conflict and Change, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Kearney, R. N., & Miller, B. D., 1987, Internal Migration in Sri Lanka and Its Social Consequences, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.


Mitchell, T. G., 2000, Native vs. Settler: Ethnic Conflict in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


Morris-Hale, W., 1997, Conflict and Harmony in Multi-Ethnic Societies: An International Perspective, Peter Lang, New York.


Perera, N., 1998, Society and Space: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Postcolonial Identity in Sri Lanka, Perseus, Boulder, CO.


Pomeroy, W. J., 1986, Apartheid, Imperialism, and African Freedom (1st ed.), International Publishers Co., New York.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

Introduction: This paper is a presentation of the social and legal aspects of same-sex marriages. Although debates about this institution are strongly centered round legal aspects, this paper does not turn out to be a purely legal one. It looks at the system from the standpoint of society’s attitudes towards it, listing some of the arguments in favor of and against this system. Occasionally, the physical or sexual aspect of same sex marriages is sprinkled in the paper.

Limitations of this paper: One limitation of this paper is that it looks at the issue predominantly from the Western perspective. Although homosexuality, even if it is not solemnized by legal protection in most cases to be called same sex marriages, is universal, this paper restricts itself almost purely to the situation of same sex marriages as it exists in the West, in which too, most of the issues are from an American viewpoint. Secondly, this paper does not make a compartmentalization of social, moral, religious and legal issues concerning same sex marriages, instead looking at the issue of mixed marriages as a blend of these factors. Finally, in the concluding section, in which a prognosis is made of the issue, no claim is made that this is by any means an infallible one, whose certainty can be guaranteed. This forecast is at best a pointer made on the basis of very great variables, based on the way the issue has grown, which is liable to change at any time in unforeseeable altered circumstances.

Understanding same-sex marriages: In the simplest terms, same sex marriage, as the term indicates, is the marriage between individuals of the same sex. There is disagreement over whether this term is analogous to gay marriage, since some people can be homosexual, and could still be in a heterosexual marriage. Those who oppose the usage of the term ‘gay marriage’ do so because they would like the genealogy to include what are called ‘LGBT’, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships. (Same-sex marriage)

History of same sex marriages: By whatever names they were called, unions between people of the same sex have existed since ancient times in almost all parts of the world; some prominent examples are those of Greece, in which an elderly man would cohabit with a younger male, in a manner strikingly similar to heterosexual practice. This often happened with the full consent of the family and the society. Acquiescing with an elderly man of considerable social standing was perhaps a way to climb the social or intellectual ladder. In ancient Rome, too, this practice is believed to have existed for centuries before the advent of Christianity. Once this religion was born, with its firm accent on marriage as a means for procreation, same sex relationships started to go underground, perhaps in view of the enormous influence the Church held over people’s daily lives. In the US, as late as the 19th century, there was a system in which two women would cohabit and make commitments to each other, in what was known as Boston Marriage. (Same-sex marriage)

Legal status of same sex marriages: Much of the debate on same sex marriages, though concerning the biological aspects, also focus much attention on the legal aspects, which make them as important a component as any other –biological, religious and moral.

The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages, in April 2001. This was followed by Belgium in 2003; Canada is in the process of legalizing it in stages. This was after the Canadian Supreme Court, in late 2004 brought same sex marriages within the ambit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the legal document that guarantees human rights for all citizens; this ruling meant that same sex couples were in future not to be treated as separate and different. The situation in the world’s biggest democracy, the US, is different, with stiff opposition to the enactment of laws that legalize same sex marriages. Only one state, Massachusetts legalized same sex marriages. (Alderson) However, in September 2005, by a margin of 157-39, lawmakers rejected this earlier amendment, although this would not have retro effect, and would not apply to marriages until 2008. The rationale for this rejection was that it would lead to the growth of civil unions, and that only a marriage between a man and a woman is a proper marriage. (“Gay ‘Marriage’ Amendment Rejected;” A04)

Courts in the US have put forward various reasons for rejecting same sex marriages. In the first such case that came before it, two men, Richard Baker and James McConnell applied for a marriage license in Minnesota in 1970. The clerk rejected their application on the ground that they were both men, and that marriage license, according to the law at that time, could only be given to heterosexual people. The two went to court. The Trial Court upheld the clerk’s decision. When the two went on appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court, too, affirmed this decision. The basis on which it upheld the lower court’s decision is interesting –it cited the same reason for which the clerk had denied permission, stating that marriage has always traditionally been a heterosexual institution, and that consenting to same sex marriages would be an anomaly. It is, in the words of the court, “a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children.” (Hohengarten) Some states have the existence of what are called ‘civil unions’. By this term is meant a contract afforded to same sex couples to live together, short of marriage. Additionally, this legal term means that the same sex couples are not recognized as a married couple, and are not required to divorce each other to end the union, as in a marriage. (Alderson) Some of the rights civil marriages carry are social security, health insurance, taxation and inheritance. (Same-sex marriage) In the US, a landmark law came into effect in July 2000 in Vermont, by which civil unions were granted. This law states that “all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.” This was the last in a series of laws with the same intention –the earlier ones being judicial decisions to allow civil unions in Alaska and Hawaii. This, however, needs to be understood in the backdrop of stiff opposition to the issue –prior to this law, six states held referenda and 29 states legally barred same sex marriages. (Barclay, and Fisher) Today, in the US, it is estimated that there are between three and four million same sex parents that have adopted anywhere between six and 15 million children. (Bolte) Some of the factors that have fostered the enactment of laws supporting same sex marriages have been high urbanization, racial and ethnic diversity, greater influence of the Democratic Party, and reduced missionary activities. This of course, is not the rule, for there are notable exceptions to these contributing factors, the most prominent being, ironically, Vermont itself. (Barclay, and Fisher)

Debates concerning the issue: This section presents some of the arguments put forward by votaries and opponents of same sex marriages.

One of the strongest bases of support for same sex marriages is in the point of view that “they would serve comparable needs for intimacy and stability and they would entail comparable rights, duties, and liabilities in the various areas of law that impact family life. The only difference between them lies in the sex of the spouse, but this difference is simply immaterial–in all important, or essential respects that matter, the union is of the same sort.”  (West 261) The argument of those in favor of same sex marriages is that this is more important than the legal or biological or social factors; rather than marry someone simply because that person is of the opposite gender and suffer a loveless life, these advocates of this system ask if it is not wiser to marry some one they really love and care for, the only limiting factor being the gender of that person? (Wardle, Strasser, Duncan, and Coolidge 4) There is the argument that same sex marriages can never exist, since marriage is one that is a union between a male and female; hence, in this sense, the idea of same sex marriages is a kind of oxymoron, since same sex couples can never meet the most essential purpose of a marriage in the Judeo-Christian sense, procreation. Courts have traditionally held the view that marriage is untenable if it does not lead to procreation; seen in this sense, supporters of same sex marriages argue that even old people and sterile heterosexuals should be denied marriage. This argument, though, is defeated by the allusion to the point that with the advancement of science, it is possible for same sex couples also to have children. (Alderson)

The argument that children of same sex parents suffer ostracism and become objects of ridicule in society is countered by the fact that once these couples of civil unions separate, due legal protection is offered to the children. This protection is far superior to and more solid than what is offered to children of heterosexual parents, who are not obliged to provide financial support for their children. (Bolte)

People who support same sex marriages argue that they simply have no choice; homosexuality was what they were born with, and hence it is only same sex marriages that can consummate their feelings for each other. If they had the chance to take to homosexuality by choice, why should they take it, they ask, when the topic is still very much hushed up, and by and large, homosexuals are maligned and persecuted in most parts of the world. Their argument also runs into something like this –the true democracy is one that goes by the majority, but respects the sentiment of the minority. Hence, disallowing same sex marriages is a mark of double standards of governments that claim to be democratic, but practice persecution of the minority which does not count for votes. (Deshwar) The urge for love is deeply internal and personal; what is more important is to find emotional and mental stability in a relationship that is expected to last a long time; when this most important foundation of such a relationship, trust, is not to be found in the opposite sex, but in someone of the same sex, is it not sheer need that should drive these people towards a marriage? More importantly, they argue, the emotion of love, so central to a human being, is not monopolized in heterosexuals.  (Gomes)

Another argument in favor of same sex marriages is that the central element on which this relationship is built is friendship. Friendship, so very indispensable an element of happiness, is not bound or obliged to be only between those of opposite sexes. (Weeks, Heaphy, and Donovan 51) Further, there is the argument that any kind of activity that results in sexual gratification need not involve only what the majority accepts as acceptable behavior; if this is the logic of this argument, what about any kind of orgasmic pleasures, such as masturbation, in which only fantasy is involved, but is pleasurable nevertheless? If pleasure that is got by some kind of stimulation, illusory or real, is acceptable, why is pleasure that is derived by sexual activity with the same sex not? (Wardle, Strasser, Duncan, and Coolidge 97-100)

Those opposed to same sex marriages are equally vociferous in their arguments: they believe that same sex marriage is contrary to nature’s creation; they term homosexuality the height of deviant behavior comparable to some of the most heinous acts, and equate its very existence to promiscuity and sexual depravity. Another extremely important factor these opponents of same sex marriages put forward is that one of the prime functions of marriage is biological; when same sex marriages render this impossible, how can this be considered as any kind of marriage? (Wardle, Strasser, Duncan, and Coolidge 97-100)

Another argument put forward in opposition to same sex marriages is legalizing it runs contradictory to established law –while on the one hand, the government bans some sexual practices such as sodomy, legalization of same sex marriages would negate that, as this practice is accepted as common practice in same sex marriages, especially between two men. (Same-sex marriage)

Others are of the opinion that just allowing the status of same sex partners to remain what it is would be just sufficient. They argue, if all their expectations that they have from a same sex marriage are being met by a civil union, then why the clamor for legalized marriage? Is it not a redundant formalization of a relationship? (Herrick) There are counter arguments, too, to this belief: once the state recognizes by law the institution of same sex marriages, they make partners of these marriages eligible for the same benefits that other humans are entitled to. These laws would legally place same sex couples on an equal footing with other categories such as racial minorities, and preclude them from discrimination they face in substantial areas of life such as employment, housing, governmental benefits and so on. There is another extremely strong social component of legalizing same sex marriages –in religious beliefs, marriage is considered the ultimate crowning glory and the finest culmination of people who love and care for each other. Legalization is believed to be the state’s recognition of such a feeling in the same sex partners concerned.  (Barclay, and Fisher)

Conclusion: Same sex marriages have been on the rise in the last four decades or so. Pro-same sex marriage lobbies have articulated that these need to be treated on par with conventional marriages, since most of the parameters that apply to heterosexual marriages, such as love, caring, commitment, fidelity, promiscuity and so on apply to these marriages as well. They see it as the exercise of natural choice, and refute the procreation aspect by claiming that they can have offspring, too. Testimony to this claim is the fact that no less than a quarter of the estimated 600,000 same sex couples in the US have adopted children. They claim, with credibility, and backed up by facts, that when it comes to habitation, they go by the same set of conditions –they have the same commitment to their children as heterosexual people, live a life in which they cooperate with each other in all major aspects of life, pay taxes and contribute to society. All these would be given a greater impetus if they are legally allowed to live as couples. Another important consideration is that gay couples, too, need to be given the right to make important decisions about the partner, such as possible euthanasia in the event of incapacitation of one of the partners. (Pope)

In view of the developments taking place over the decades, and in view of the openness being generally witnessed in the West to same sex marriages, there is a likelihood that the day is not very far off when these marriages would be legalized. Another strong reason to believe that its legalization would happen sooner or later is that the West has a tradition of liberalism; the tradition that was the product of the Revolutions has touched virtually every aspect of life, and there is no reason to believe that only same sex marriages would be exempt from this sweep. In fact, it is a possibility all the more plausible considering that rights have been obtained, some easily and some after a struggle. It is rather anomalous that the US, which champions itself as the protector of rights and freedoms of all clans and cultures should still find it necessary to keep in place laws that are anachronistic to its liberalism-steeped attitude and philosophy.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

Works Cited


Alderson, Kevin G. “A Phenomenological Investigation of Same-Sex Marriage.” The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 13.2 (2004): 107+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Barclay, Scott, and Shauna Fisher. “The States and the Differing Impetus for Divergent Paths on Same-Sex Marriage, 1990-2001.” Policy Studies Journal 31.3 (2003): 331+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Bolte, Angela. “Do Wedding Dresses Come in Lavender? the Prospects and Implications of Same-Sex Marriage.” Social Theory and Practice 24.1 (1998): 111+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Deshwar, Amit, 28 November 2005, <>

“Gay ‘Marriage’ Amendment Rejected; Massachusetts Lawmakers Shun Measure Opposed by Both Sides.” The Washington Times 15 Sept. 2005: A04. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Gomes, Charlene. “The Need for Full Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage.” The Humanist Sept.-Oct. 2003: 15+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Herrick, Jim. “Same-Sex Marriage Moves Ahead.” Free Inquiry Aug.-Sept. 2004: 59+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Hohengarten, William M. “Same-Sex Marriage and the Right of Privacy.” Yale Law Journal 103.6 (1994): 1495-1531. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Pope, Stephen J. “The Magisterium’s Arguments against “Same-Sex Marriage”: An Ethical Analysis and Critique.” Theological Studies 65.3 (2004): 530+. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Same-sex marriage, 28 November 2005, <>

Wardle, Lynn D., Mark Strasser, William C. Duncan, and David Orgon Coolidge, eds. Marriage and Same-Sex Unions : A Debate /.  Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

Weeks, Jeffrey, Brian Heaphy, and Catherine Donovan. Same Sex Intimacies:  Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. London: Routledge, 2001. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

West, Robin. “20Gay Marriage and LiberalConstitutionalism: Two Mistakes.”  Debating Democracy’s Discontent: Essays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy. Ed. Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. 260-269. Questia. 28 Nov. 2005 <>.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Describe the development of Germany‘s Weltpolitik after 1890 and its effect on the Anglo-American relations. Discuss the implications for the general development of the great powers system in pre-1914 Europe

Table of contents:

Part I: Introduction;

Part II: Aims and development of Weltpolitik;

Part III: Implications of this policy on Anglo-US Relations;

Part IV: Conclusion:

Implications for the general development of the great powers system in pre-1914 Europe:


Part I:

Introduction: Weltpolitik was the name given to Germany’s foreign policy in the years following its unification at the hands of Otto Von Bismarck. (Carroll, 1938, p. 351) In terms of genealogy, it simply stood for ‘world policy’, and was the word given to denote Germany’s policy abroad. Historians, however, attach to this word a significance that goes beyond just its terminology. It is used to refer to aggressive German diplomacy between 1890 and 1914, and was closely related to colonial and economic interests. The need for imperialism was felt both to bolster Germany’s new identity, and to supplement its industrial expansion. (Smith, 1978, pp. 174, 175) Like its cousin, imperialism, Weltpolitik, too was based on the ‘Social Darwinism’ model of racial superiority; its essence was postulated on the belief that expansion of its territories in other parts of the globe was the true indicator of the nation’s fitness. (Hale, 1940, p. 155)

Weltpolitik signalled a stark departure from the policy that Bismarck had applied in unifying Germany less than two decades earlier. (Dawson, 1915, p. 131) If Bismarck had used the concept of Realpolitik, a notion by which its relationship with other countries guided not by sentiment but by practical and result-yielding politics based on interests (Anderson, 1969, p. 302) to unify Germany, the feeling that now ran in the German political establishment was that the newly unified power could harness its energies to gain a position of pre-eminence in world affairs. (Knoll & Gann, 1987, pp. 61-63) The leitmotif of the unified Reich was the development of a strong navy and imperialism. These two, obviously, brought the country into direct confrontation with the leading naval and imperial power of the time, Britain. Germany was heavily obsessed in particular with naval power as an instrument for exhibiting its might. Its naval ambitions were inspired by American Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s path-breaking work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which was catching the imagination of Europe’s leading nations. (Hale, 1940, p. 155)

Part II:
Aims and development of Weltpolitik: The Kaiser’s newfound zeal towards territorial and naval expansion coincided with Britain’s loss of face following its costly and humiliating win in the Boer War, after which it was keen to reassert itself as a great power on the world stage. With his mischievous Kruger Telegram, he virtually solemnised British hostility, when he sent a telegram congratulating Paul Kruger, the Premier of Transvaal in South Africa for his supposed win over the British. (Ludwig, 1927, p. 189)

Ironically, the Kaiser was a professed Anglophile, since the two countries’ ruling families were closely related by marriage. But this mutual admiration was erratic and patchy, and was not strong enough to override his ambitions. (Wilkinson, 2002) The starting point of the concretisation of hostility with Britain was in the year 1897, when the whimsical Kaiser started a programme of upgrading the nation’s navy to heights that would match that of the British. This was when the policies of the Second Reich took a decisive turn towards militarism. The men he appointed to draw up and direct these policies were the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Count Alfred Waldersee and the better known naval commander, Admiral Von Tirpitz. (Stapleton, 2003) Tirpitz, in particular, convinced the Kaiser of the need to abandon Bismarck’s policy of appeasement of the British navy and instead challenge the world’s most powerful navy head on, (Stapleton, 2003) with his famous dictum, “[w]ithout sea-power, Germany’s position in the world resembled a mollusk without a shell.” (Hale, 1940, p. 156) The Kaiser’s receptivity to these suggestions gave shape to the idea of Weltpolitik, whose aim was also to supplant Britain’s sea power, at least in Europe. (Stapleton, 2003) The Kaiser, once he got converted to this idea, persuaded the German public with highly dramatised and grandiloquent statements. (Dawson, 1915, pp. 134, 135)

However, challenging the British was problematic, since Britain was Germany’s largest trading partner, and her capital was indispensable for the latter’s burgeoning industry. Germany sought to offset these contradictions by building a strong navy and by growing imperially; it was the truculent way in which it sought to carry this out that made Britain turn hostile towards it. (Smith, 1978, p. 177) But it was a little too late in the day that Germany had embarked upon this old idea. Very few areas of the world were left to be colonised; all that it could set its eyes on were some parts of Central Africa and the Pacific Islands. (Smith, 1978, p. 113)

Part III:
Implications of this policy on Anglo-US Relations:  While Germany’s rising imperial ambitions were cause for some alarm for Britain, its naval expansion started happening at a time when another distant nation was taking giant strides towards becoming the world’s leading naval power –America. The US, by the late 19th century was trying to come out of its self-imposed isolationism and was beginning to flex its muscle on the international stage. This period was the beginning of American ascendancy on the world; it, too, like Germany, sought to develop a strong navy as the chief mechanism to achieve its aim. As America was growing in the western hemisphere to challenge Britain’s naval superiority, an episode showed the taste of things to come – the crisis with Britain over the small issue of the border dispute between Venezuela and British Guinea. The Americans intervened and settled the issue with utmost ease, and mocked Britain for not having the ability to solve its problem by itself. This incident hurt Britain. However, it had to swallow its pride and not risk going to war with the US on this issue, mainly because of the emergence of Germany under the Kaiser’s Weltpolitik. Because of this German policy, countering its rise was a more urgent priority, and left Britain with little time to concentrate on another continent against a much stronger opponent, in a confrontation whose result it would have been unsure of. In a sense, this was a tacit British admission of the emergence of American naval might. Thus, indirectly, Weltpolitik made Britain restrain itself against America, and acknowledge its potential rise as the leading naval and industrial nation of the world, (Dobson, 1995, pp. 8-20) a position that continues to this day.

Part IV:


Implications for the general development of the great powers system in pre-1914 Europe: The Kaiser’s fascination with ships was imbibed from a young age; in fact, he had even designed a battleship himself, which performed all functions other than floating! (Wilkinson, 2002) Unfortunately, the damage his obsession caused to Europe and its colonies was not so humorous. To neutralise this new power, Britain entered into alliances with France, with whom it had a history of animosity, and with Russia and Belgium. (Fay, 1958, p. 16) Fearing the prowess of this alliance, Germany, under the Schlieffen Plan, set up Austria-Hungary against Russia, with Italy becoming the other part of the alliance, known as the Triple Alliance. This developed into an all out pattern of alliances, by which action by one country would draw all others. (Bond, 1998, pp. 92-95) Eventually, all it took was the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914 to draw the continent into a spiral of chain reactions culminating in the outbreak of World War I. (Scheff, 1994, p. 83) All of these were a result of the system of alliances, of which the Kaiser’s Weltpolitik was one of the root causes.


Written By Ravindra G Rao




Anderson, P. R. (1969), The Background of Anti-English Feeling in Germany, 1890-1902, Octagon Books, New York.

Bond, B., (1998), The Pursuit of Victory: From Napoleon to Saddam Hussein, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Carroll, E. M., (1938), Germany and the Great Powers, 1866-1914: A Study in Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, Prentice-Hall, New York.

Dawson, W. H., (1915), What Is Wrong with Germany? Longman, New York.

Dobson, A. P., (1995), Anglo-American Relations in the Twentieth Century: Of Friendship, Conflict, and the Rise and Decline of Superpowers, Routledge, New York.

Fay, S. B., (1958), “Origins of the World War” In The Outbreak of the First World War: Who Was Responsible?, Lee, D. E. (Ed.) (pp. 16-21), D. C. Heath, Boston.

Hale, O. J., (1940), Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890-1914, D. Appleton-Century, New York.

Knoll, A. J. & Gann, L. H., (Eds.), (1987), Germans in the Tropics: Essays in German Colonial History, Greenwood Press, New York.

Ludwig, E., (1927), Wilhelm Hohenzollern, the Last of the Kaisers, Mayne, E. C., Trans., New York; G. P. Putnan’s sons, London.

Scheff, T. J., (1994), Bloody Revenge: Emotions, Nationalism, and War, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Smith, W. D., (1978), The German Colonial Empire, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Stapleton, F., (2003), “An Army with a State, Not a State with an Army”: F.G. Stapleton Examines the Role Played by the Armed Forces in the Government of the Second Reich. History Review, Vol. 46, p. 38+. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from Questia database.


Wilkinson, R., (2002), “Germany, Britain & the Coming of War in 1914”: Richard Wilkinson Explains What Went Wrong in Anglo-German Relations before the First World War, History Review, p. 21+. Retrieved April 26, 2006, from Questia database.

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