There are a multitude of governance models across the world, but they can all be divided into one of two broad categories – “Western Democracy” or “National Democracy”. The first one is exemplified by the political systems in the US and most of the EU (with Hungary and increasingly Poland being notable exceptions), while the latter is manifested by countries such as Russia, China, and Iran which the West commonly smears as “dictatorships” because of the comparatively outsized role that their national leader typically has relative to the rest of the formal government. Some countries fall in the middle of these two models but generally lean closer to one or the other, hence why only two categories are relevant in this classification.
The US prefers for countries to follow “Western Democracy” not out of purely ideological reasons, but for the very pragmatic one of being able to more easily influence phased leadership transitions during predictable election cycles. “Western Democracy” also isn’t just a mechanical-technical template of simply holding regular elections, but a distinct political culture that includes “lobbyists” (legal bribers), “free media” (political indoctrinators typically controlled by a handful of state-connected entities), and “activists (Color Revolution vanguards), among other traits. “National Democracies”, on the other hand, may have each of these three “Western Democracy” indicators to varying degrees, but they don’t blindly follow a maximalist approach in copying-and-pasting each and every aspect of them and their existing iterations for no apparent reason.
If such characteristics are present in a “National Democracy”, then it’s because each of these have been fine-tuned to the country’s specific conditions and not imported as a weaponized systematic approach in periodically provoking ‘legitimate’ regime change. In other words, the foreign promotion and forced practice of “Western Democracy” enables Western states to more easily control what otherwise would have been “National Democracies” through the specific ‘political code’ written into their new governing systems, which explains the fervor with which the US has been ‘promoting (Western) democracy’ since the end of the Old Cold War and why it argues that such an effort is in the ‘national security’ interest of the country.
In many instances, however, the US was unsuccessful in turning independent “National Democracies” into subservient “Western Democracies”, which is why it’s had to resort to Color Revolutions, Unconventional Wars, and their amalgamation into Hybrid Wars as a means of forcing Regime Tweaking (concession), Regime Change (overthrow), and/or a Regime Reboot (constitutional revisionism) onto its rivals. “National Democracies” are usually structured in such a way that they’re exceptionally vulnerable during the inevitable leadership transitions that come with time, particularly when the National Leader needs to be replaced. Whether he or she passes away, resigns, or steps down at the end of their term, a new replacement must eventually be decided upon, and it’s here where “Western Democracy” gets to work in seeking to destabilize its “National” counterparts.
Hybrid Wars are the modus operandi for achieving this, and the ultimate determinant in whether or not a “National Democracy” survives the onslaught is the unity of its “deep state” apparatus. This concept refers to the permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies that control the fundamental workings of both “Western” and “National” democracies alongside the “open state” academic-informational-administrative elite and their economic counterparts. Taken together, these 7 branches of power define the modern-day state no matter its governing disposition, but it’s just that “National Democracies” are more susceptible to being visibly impacted whenever the “deep” and “open” states go through a power struggle, one which more often than not has the highest likelihood of occurring during the leadership transition described above.
Relevant examples of “National Democracies” successfully weathering what many had thought would have been extremely challenging leadership transitions are Turkmenistan and most recently Uzbekistan, with other countries such as Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Algeria slated to go through this process soon enough, albeit to uncertain ends. When they and other states inevitably pass through this experience, the subsequent course of events will be dependent on the unity of the military and security services, and how quickly the elite can rally behind an agreed-upon replacement. If all goes according to plan and there are scant disruptions and a strong sense of “deep state”-“open state” unity, then a smooth transition can be assured like in the aforementioned two cases, but if personal or identity-based ambitions get the best of the ruling and/or security classes, then the consequences could be disastrous.
In almost every example of a “National Democracy”, the passing, resignation, or stepping down of the country’s leader serves as a potential Hybrid War trigger event in unleashing a series of preplanned destabilizations, with the variables surrounding this being both the previously discussed military-elite unity and the confidence that the anti-government organizers have in their plans. The best-case scenario is that the “deep state” remains unified and the provocateurs are caught off guard and unprepared by the structurally advantageous event, while the opposite one is that the “deep state” is fiercely divided amongst itself and the ‘revolutionaries’ are fully prepared for launching a Hybrid War. Sometimes, however, the reality is somewhere in the middle, with the “deep state” either being divided and the hostile organizers unprepared for exploiting this scenario, or the military and elite are unified in spite of the regime change proxies feeling confident enough to go forward with their initiatives anyhow.
It’s unclear at this moment how the course of events would progress in each and every case, since it’s challenging for researchers to find reliably objective information about either of the examined country’s two determinants (military-elite unity and the confidence of anti-government organizers), so it’ll remain to be seen how other “National Democracies” fit into this model. What is certain, however, is that the removal of their National Leader from the political equation serves as a trigger event for exacerbating the already existing Hybrid War vulnerabilities present in the state, and that the US and its NGO/Hybrid War foot soldiers will instantly move to exploit any real or perceived split within or between the “deep” and “open states” during this crucially sensitive time (if it hadn’t engendered such divisions already), as well as between these 7 pillars of state functionality and the general population.
Therefore, all members of the state – from its “deep” and “open” ones all the way down to the average citizen – must be prepared in advance for withstanding the US’ asymmetrical aggression during this time, recognizing that the collective good of society is best served by stably staying the course as much as possible during this indeterminate transitional period, and rejecting the US’ frenzied efforts to divide and rule the country by playing to identity politics and personal motivations. Proactive informational campaigns about the dangers of Hybrid War and the promotion of patriotism and its related state-supported NGOs could serve to educate the populace enough that they become largely inoculated against this threat, though there’s regrettably no such strategic model that could be applied by all “National Democracies” in ensuring their “deep state”-“open state” unity. Rather, the required solution will widely vary depending on the composition of the “deep” and “open” states and the nature of relations between its respective entities, which are understandably unique to each country and follow no set theoretical patterns.
Andrew Korybko is the author of “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change” (2015).