I was reading a story about how forces in Mali have beaten back their Al Qaeda enemies and then promptly set about committing war atrocities. It occurred to me that they could really use an Enlightenment.
The American Revolution is remarkable among 18th century wars for, among many other reasons, its general lack of war atrocities. This is understandable. Both sides were lead by people who were products of, and participants in, the Enlightenment. Or to be more precise: The European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. They let each other surrender and, for the most part, didn't put the loser's heads on pikes.
Less so in Mali in 2013. They're more than happy to set about committing atrocities. That's because, despite their modern weapons, they're still working with a pre-modern set of values. While atrocities are shocking to us, they're less shocking to them. It's just part of war.
They could use an Enlightenment. We've spent a decade proving you can't create Madisonian democracy in the Third World by force (See: Iraq, Afghanistan). But I'm wondering what social and/or economic preconditions are necessary for a society to experience an Enlightenment, a turn to reason, science, and skepticism over traditional supernaturalism and superstition.
What preconditions are necessary and how does it come about?