R.J. RUMMEL is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii. His landmark books include Death by Government, Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence, and Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917. Recently I had the chance to speak with him, and here’s what he had to say.
Myles Kantor: Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "only when the world is free will the world be safe." Is this claim valid?
R.J. Rummel: Yes. Democracies don't make war on each other, commit virtually no domestic genocide and mass murder, and have by far the least internal violence. There has never in history been a war between two clearly democratic nations. For those of a statistical bent, this is a highly significant finding. For those scientifically inclined, note that this finding has been consistently replicated by different researchers trying to prove it false, on different data, and with different definitions of democratic and war.
Myles Kantor: All of the regimes listed by the U.S. State Department as sponsors of terrorism are totalitarian regimes. Is this commonality coincidental?
R.J. Rummel: No. The more arbitrary power a government has, the more likely it will commit violence against other countries and its own citizens. This has been shown throughout history. You might call it the Iron Law of Power.
For the proof of this, see my web site.
Myles Kantor: Historically, what examples would you cite to demonstrate tyrannies' propensity for belligerence?
R.J. Rummel: Mao, Chiang Kai-shek, 20th century Japanese militarists (e.g., Tojo), Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Kim Il-sung, Saddam Hussein, Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Pol Pot, Castro, etc. etc.
Myles Kantor: How would you recommend the United States prosecute the present war?
R.J. Rummel: I think the course Bush is following now is the correct one. That is, the full use of American military might within shifting alliances, depending on the target; the defeat and replacement of regimes that harbor and support terrorism; a full court press on terrorist and terrorist cells within the democracies; openness and full communication with the American people.
Myles Kantor: Some anti-interventionists have argued that American foreign policy, e.g., military and economic aid to Israel and sanctions against Iraq, is the root of the present war. Do you agree?
R.J. Rummel: The root of the war is the hatred on the part of the fundamentalists of the democratic way of life—its freedom, tolerance of different religions, and equality of women. These people are theocratic absolutists, and would oppose democratic freedoms, of which the US is the prime representative, regardless of sanctions against Iraq or aid for Israel.
Also, ask those who make the criticism you mention what they would have done. No aid and support for democratic Israel? No sanctions against Saddam Hussein, so that he can without hindrance build up his military machine? Have a peace conference with the terrorists?
Myles Kantor: In the wake of September 11, some legislators and Bush Administration officials have pushed for increasing centralization in the federal government. Is this sound policy?
R.J. Rummel: So far, yes. There is a balance to be struck between individual freedom and the security of life of Americans. This is a war and in wartime the United States cannot well defend itself with the same peacetime freedoms. For example, the government cannot allow the same lax security about air travel that existed before the war. It would not only be stupid, but extremely dangerous.