Dictatorships have dominated global politics for hundreds of years, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the absolute monarchs of Europe. Though democracy has since spread to much of the world, about a third of today’s countries are still ruled by dictatorship. And yet, compared to democracies, we know very little about how dictatorships work, who the key political actors are, and where decision-making powers lie. Political processes are opaque, and information is often intentionally distorted. Political survival depends not on maintaining the favor of voters, as in democracies, but on securing the backing of a considerably smaller coalition of supporters. The absence of a reliable third party to enforce compromises among key players means that power-sharing deals lack credibility and the threat of forced ouster is omnipresent. Uncertainty pervades authoritarian politics.
Modern autocrats respond to this uncertain environment in a variety of ways. They use political parties, legislatures, elections, and other institutions typically associated with democracies to lessen their risk of overthrow. Despite the façade of democracy, these institutions are key components of most autocrats’ survival strategies; those that incorporate them last longer in power than those that do not. The specific ways in which autocratic institutions are used and the extent to which they can constrain leadership choices to prevent consolidation of power into the hands of a single individual, however, vary enormously from one dictatorship to the next. Better understanding the conditions that push autocracies down a path of collegial versus strongman rule remains a critical task, particularly given that the latter is associated with more war, economic mismanagement, and resistance to democratization.
Richard Ned Lebow
Counterfactuals seek to alter some feature or event of the pass and by means of a chain of causal logic show how the present might, or would, be different. Counterfactual inquiry—or control of counterfactual situations—is essential to any causal claim. More importantly, counterfactual thought experiments are essential, to the construction of analytical frameworks. Policymakers routinely use then by to identify problems, work their way through problems, and select responses. Good foreign-policy analysis must accordingly engage and employ counterfactuals.
There are two generic types of counterfactuals: minimal-rewrite counterfactuals and miracle counterfactuals. They have relevance when formulating propositions and probing contingency and causation. There is also a set of protocols for using both kinds of counterfactuals toward these ends, and it illustrates the uses and protocols with historical examples. Policymakers invoke counterfactuals frequently, especially with regard to foreign policy, to both choose policies and defend them to key constituencies. They use counterfactuals in a haphazard and unscientific manner, and it is important to learn more about how they think about and employ counterfactuals to understand foreign policy.
Andrew Bramsen and Zoe Vermeer
Muslim majority states regulate religion at much higher levels on average than non-Muslim states. There are two main explanations for this. First, Muslim states are on average much less religiously pluralistic than non-Muslim states, which tends to result in less tolerant attitudes toward minority religions. Second, and more importantly, religion and politics are much more intertwined in the foundations of Islam than is the case with most other major religious traditions. Because there is this traditional connection in Islam, government regulation of religion is seen as legitimate and even as a positive good.
Regulation in Muslim states takes four basic forms. The first is a country’s approach to having an official religion, with Muslim states being much more likely to have an official religion than non-Muslim states. The second involves the degree to which government supports Islam. Muslim states support Islam in a variety of ways ranging from paying the salaries of imams to implementing sharia law and enforcing public morality. The third form deals with the restrictions on religion in general. This occurs in a variety of ways, ranging from repressing forms of Islam that deviate from the government-preferred form of Islam to limiting political manifestations of Islam that might challenge the ruling elite to imposing restrictions on worship practices and proselytizing. Finally, religious discrimination is a form of regulation that imposes different restrictions on minority religions than it does on Islam. For example, some states outlaw the proselytizing of Muslims while allowing the proselytizing of non-Muslims, or restrict the building of minority worship places while granting permits for the building of mosques. The level and nature of regulations vary widely across the Islamic world, and these variations have consequences for democracy, with Muslim states that have lower levels of regulation tending to have more democratic regimes. The two most democratic countries (Senegal and Tunisia) in the Islamic world both have high percentages of Muslim citizens and strong connections between Islamic leaders and the government but have successfully limited discrimination against minority religions, thereby providing a potential model for other Muslim states.