A Case for Global Democracy? Arms Exports and Conflicting Goals in Democracy Promotion

Journal of International Relations and Development 22 (3):610–639 (2019)
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Employing the framework of conflicting goals in democracy promotion as departure point, the paper addresses the issue of arms exports to non-democratic countries as an important research topic which points to a reconsideration of certain fundamental conceptual and normative commitments underpinning democracy promotion. Empirically, we remind of the lingering hypocrisy of Western arms exporters, knowing that exports to non-democratic countries often hinder or block democratisation. This is not easily circumvented, because of the many conflicting objectives both internal and external to democracy promotion itself. Yet democracy and human rights promotion remain, ethically and pragmatically, important policy goals. Noting that the self-evident character of the state-based liberal democratic model is being increasingly questioned in the literature, we then critically explore a radical if surprisingly natural alternative vision: Namely that if the commitment to democracy and human rights is to be genuine, only global democracy remains a viable way of resolving the many dilemmas, as it aspires to deal both with regulating arms exports and building of accountable decision-making structures. Although we ultimately reject the globalist solution and lean towards a less radical constructivist approach, we endorse the underlying rationale, namely that democracy promotion needs to sincerely embrace normative democratic theory.

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