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Democratic Peace Theory: A Review and Evaluation

Abstract

Critical review of the democratic peace theory and its discontents.
CEMPROC Working Paper Series
In peace, conflict, and development
Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict, International
April 2005
“Democratic Peace Theory:
A Review and Evaluation”
by Jeff Pugh
www.cemproc.org
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CEMPROC Occasional Paper Series
Democratic Peace Theory:
A Review and Evaluation
Jeff Pugh
April, 2005
All rights reserved; please do not reproduce without permission.
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According to Jack Levy, the democratic peace thesis is “the
closest thing we have to an empirical law in the study of international
relations.”1 This theory refers to the idea that democracies by nature
do not go to war with one another, a fact which historically has
guaranteed peace between democratic states, arguably without
exception. The democratic peace thesis offers a strong empirical
attack in the liberal arsenal against the traditional intellectual
hegemony of realism in American IR theory. Perhaps for this reason,
there has been a spirited debate between proponents of democratic
peace theory and critics who level a number of counterattacks.
Among others, these include charges that the theory is a statistical
artifact, that the terms of its definition (‘democratic’ or ‘liberal’, ‘war’,
etc.) are defined in a tautological and self-serving manner, and that
insufficient historical evidence is available to make accurate,
generalizable conclusions since both war between states and the
existence of democracy is historically relatively rare.
Democratic peace is rooted theoretically in the writings of
Immanuel Kant, and in particular his work “Perpetual Peace”. Kant
claims that peace is a reasonable outcome of the interaction of states
with a republican form of government. He believes that the
republican constitution “gives a favorable prospect for the desired
consequence, i.e., perpetual peace. The reason is this: if the consent
of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be
declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing
is more natural than that they should be very cautious in
commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the
calamities of war.” Contrasting republicanism with other forms of
governments, Kant argues, “On the other hand, in a constitution
which is not republican, and under which the subjects are not
citizens, a declaration of war is the easiest thing in the world to
decide upon, because war does not require of the ruler, who is the
1 Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics in War,” in Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K.
Rabb, eds., The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1989), p. 88
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proprietor and not a member of the state, the least sacrifice of the
pleasure of his table, the chase, his country houses, his court
functions, and the like.”2
Because peace under Kant’s paradigm is a function of the form
of government of the two potential parties to a conflict, the logical
implication is that liberal republicanism must be diffused and made
universal in order to achieve perpetual peace among states. Until
states share a common liberal perspective, war will be necessary to
prevent autocratic and despotic governments from oppressing their
own people and from threatening the freedom of citizens in the
liberal states themselves. This semi-evangelical view of liberalism
may also contribute to strengthening the democratic peace theory.
Authoritarian regimes may view liberal states as particularly
threatening because of this ideology that values the diffusion of
liberalism to other states, which would of course threaten the
authoritarian leader’s own power. Liberal states, on the other hand,
would not feel threatened by the universalistic outlook of other liberal
republics since they already share a similar form of government.
It is important to recognize that the term ‘democratic peace’ is
somewhat ambiguous, even misleading, as it tends to conflate
democracy (which can be ambiguously defined itself) with other
terms. Some scholars prefer to talk about the ‘liberal peace theory’
instead of democratic peace, saying that this formulation is more
relevant and easier to define in empirical analyses.3 Kant himself
notes that democracy (a form of sovereignty) is often confused with
republicanism (a form of government). The presence of a republican
constitution is one of his primary criteria for attaining perpetual
2 Immanuel Kant, “Perpetual Peace.” On History, trans L.W. Beck, R.E. Anchor, &
E. Fackenheim (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957), p. 94-95
3 See John M. Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War (Ithica: Cornell University Press,
1997); Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism
(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997)
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peace. He claims that “The mode of government is incomparably
more important to the people than the form of sovereignty.”4
Liberal states in Kant’s paradigm are characterized by certain
criteria that distinguish them from authoritarian and other autocratic,
nondemocratic forms of government. These include a republican
form of government based on the rule of law that is governed in a
representative manner through a separation of powers; respect for
human rights; and interdependent social and economic relations.
Taken together, these criteria are necessary and sufficient to create
stable peace between two states with the expectation that this peace
will endure, according to Kant.5
An important part of democratic peace is that liberal,
democratic states6 share a common normative dedication to liberal
ideals, and they frequently employ liberal justifications for going to
war. Michael Doyle argues that quite often, the violent interventions
that liberal states engage in “are publicly justified in the first instance
as attempts to preserve a ‘way of life’: to defend freedom and private
enterprise.”7 When the potential adversary shares a commitment to
the protection of basic freedoms and human rights, and its
government truly represents the wishes of the population (as
evidenced by free and fair, competitive elections), it is much more
4 Immanuel Kant, “Perpetual Peace.”, p. 97
5 Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism, p.
286-287
6 The definitions offered for democracy are varied and contentious, and are very
important for the empirical examination of the theory’s claim. Bruce Russet gives a
typical if slightly broad (by excluding liberal protections of rights from the criteria)
definition, which considers democratic states to be those with governments that
are popularly selected through periodic contested elections in which a substantial
portion of citizens are eligible to vote, and that the possibility exists for the leaders
to be defeated and replaced through election and a peaceful transfer of power.
Finally, he indicates that democracy must exist and exhibit some minimum level of
stability or institutionalization: “some period must have elapsed during which
democratic processes and institutions could become established, so that both the
citizens of the ‘democratic’ state and its adversary could regard it as one governed
by democratic principles.” (p. 16) Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)
7 Michael Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs.", p. 335
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difficult for democratic governments to justify war to their own
citizens.
Perception is an important component of liberal peace. Put
crudely, liberal states are peaceful toward one another because they
trust other liberal states to behave rationally and sensibly, whereas
they are suspicious that non-liberal states may not behave in this
manner. John Owen explains that “liberals view foreign states with
prejudice. Prima facie, they believe that, irrespective of physical
capability, liberal states are safe and illiberal states potentially
dangerous. The ground of this belief is the premise that states
whose governments respect their citizens’ autonomy will behave
rationally and responsibly, while coercive governments may not.”8
By extension, it does not matter whether illiberal states are
actually inherently prone to irresponsible or aggressive behavior; if
liberal states believe that this is possible, they will act accordingly,
basing their foreign policy decisions on the perception that liberal
states are to be trusted while autocratic and despotic regimes must
be regarded with some suspicion. This can become a self-fulfilling
prophesy, in which the liberal state instigates a conflict with the
illiberal state (or vice-versa) in an example of what Owen calls
‘liberal war’.
In addition to the enhanced accountability inherent in states
with republican constitutions and the perceptions of the citizens and
elites of these states which view illiberal states with suspicion, there
are several other possible reasons for the peace which prevails
between liberal states (and by extension, the fact that this peace
does not apply reliably between liberal states and autocratic
counterparts). The checks and balances and separation of powers
that characterize liberal republics place restraints on the executive in
making a decision to go to war. The delays and debate that are
natural parts of such republics introduce a period of deliberation in
8 John M. Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War, p. 38
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which conflicts are fully examined from a variety of vantage points.
Two liberal republics facing a joint conflict, because of their
deliberative structures maintained by separation of power, are likely
to find any number of opportunities to address the issue before it
escalates to the point of war.9
In order to create a better ‘big picture’ of liberal peace, Maoz
and Russett condense several of the preceding factors into two
explanatory models of liberal peace, which they then test with
empirical cases. They describe the normative model and the
structural model: “The normative model suggests that democracies
do not fight each other because norms of compromise and
cooperation prevent their conflicts of interest from escalating into
violent clashes. The structural model asserts that complex political
mobilization processes impose institutional constraints on the leaders
of two democracies confronting each other to make violent conflict
unfeasible.”10 Based on their empirical analysis, Maoz and Russett
conclude that both models are supported by the data, but that the
normative model is stronger, more robust, and more consistent
across the data set than is the structural model.
Liberal republics facing conflicts with other liberal states are
likely to benefit from the increased credibility of their claims.
Stephen Van Evera has argued that war is made much more likely by
states’ frequent misperception of international conditions, their own
capabilities, and the intentions of other states.11 James Fearon,
however, points out that liberal states are much more credible and
effective in signaling their intentions to potential rivals, because
leaders are held accountable by the electorate for their threats and
9 Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace, p. 281
10 Maoz and Russett, ‘Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946-
1986’, American Political Science Review, 87 (1993), pp. 624-37.
11 Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict (Ithica:
Cornell University Press, 1999)
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statements, and bluffs that are called are likely to lead to the leader’s
recall as an example of ‘domestic audience costs’.12
The secrecy of an authoritarian regime, on the other hand,
would likely mean that the leader could bluff with impunity, and that
other states might easily misperceive his true motives and
determination to carry through, unlike a liberal republic, which would
be transparent enough in its decision-making process that another
democracy would be able to recognize its intention if it were willing
to go to war. The result of all this is that war is less likely to occur as
a result of a liberal state’s misperception that another liberal state is
making empty threats or is bluffing.
Much of the strength of liberal peace theory lies in the
empirical record that supports the proposition. Michael Doyle has
surveyed historical wars from 1790 to 1983, and concluded that “The
near absence of war between Liberal states, whether adjacent or not,
for almost two hundred years thus may have significance.”13 One of
the key elements in the debate over liberal peace is the way liberal
republics or democracies are defined (and indeed the actual term
used varies among a number of similar concepts, including liberal
state, constitutional republic, libertarian state, democracy, polyarchy,
and others). Doyle acknowledges the approximate nature of the
liberal state concept, but he nonetheless attempts to provide careful
and clear criteria for the selection of the states that he lists as liberal,
drawing on the theoretical base established by Kant to do so. He
explains,
I have drawn up this approximate list of Liberal regimes
(including regimes that were Liberal democratic as of 1990)
according to the four “Kantian” institutions described as
essential: market and private property economies; polities
12 James Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International
Disputes,” American Political Science Review, 88 (1994), pp. 577-582
13 Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace; See also Michael Doyle, “Kant, Liberal
Legacies, and Foreign Affaris,” Part I, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 12, no. 3
(Summer, 1983)
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that are externally sovereign; citizens who possess juridical
rights; and ‘republican’ (whether republican or
parliamentary monarchy), representative government. This
last includes the requirement that the legislative branch
have an effective role in public policy and be formally and
competitively (either inter- or intraparty) elected.
Furthermore, I have taken into account whether male
suffrage is wide (that is, 30 percent) or, as Kant would have
had it, open to ‘achievement’ by inhabitants (for example,
to poll tax payers or householders) of the national or
metropolitan territory. (This list of Liberal regimes is thus
more inclusive than a list of democratic regimes, or
polyarchies.) Female suffrage is granted within a
generation of its being demanded by an extensive female
suffrage movement, and representative government is
internally sovereign (for example, including and especially
over military and foreign affairs) as well as stable (in
existence for at least three years.”14
Other studies have refined the definitions employed in analysis
of wars or have focused on particular intervening variables that may
affect the liberalism-peace relationship. Singer & Small, for example,
set a definition for war corresponding with that of the Correlates of
War (COW) project at the University of Michigan that included only
those conflicts with more than one thousand battlefield deaths; this
measure has been used frequently by other scholars.15 Subsequent
scholars, however, have also tested the liberal peace thesis using
data from the Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) data set of the
COW, which measure interstate conflict at lower levels short of full-
scale war. This allows for a more robust test of the proposition that
pairs of democracies go to war against each other much less
14 Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace, p. 264
15 David Singer & Melvin Small, Resort to Arms (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1982)
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frequently (perhaps not at all) than other state dyads, since there
are multiple levels of conflict that are included in the data set. Henry
Farber and Joanne Gowa found using MID data that there is a
significantly lower chance of lower-level conflict between pairs of
democracies than between other sets of states, a finding that is
consistent with the conventional conclusion in studies of higher-level
conflict (war) and liberal peace.16
Farber & Gowa developed the research program further by
segmenting the historical time periods in which wars were analyzed,
studying separately the conflicts prior to World War I; the First World
War years; the period between world wars; World War II, and the
Cold War period. This examination produced the potentially
interesting result that, although war did not occur between liberal
states during these periods17, this finding was statistically significant
only during World War I, which the authors dismiss as too unique to
be relevant or generalizable, and during the post-WWII period of the
Cold War.18 It is important to add the caveat that the empirical
evidence does not seem to indicate that liberal states are any less
prone to engage in war than other types of regimes; they simply do
not go to war against other liberal states.
Most early democratic peace theorists relied on some form of
categorical division between liberal and illiberal regimes. This
provided ammunition for critics, who alleged that this arbitrary
dichotomy made the definition of a liberal state particularly arbitrary
16 Henry Farber & Joanne Gowa, “Polities and Peace,” International Security vol 20,
no. 2 (Fall, 1995), pp. 108-132
17 Farber & Gowa note that the United States and Spain engaged in war during the
Spanish-American War, and that Finland was on opposite sides during World War II
from a number of democracies that were Allied Powers, both of which could be
considered examples of democracies engaging in war against one another. A
number of scholars, however, have questioned whether Spain could be accurately
defined as a democracy in 1898 and have challenged the Finnish example because
Finland was fighting against the Soviet Union, and only indirectly against the liberal
allies of the USSR, which calls into question the legitimacy of calling this a war
between democracies.
18 Farber & Gowa, “Polities and Peace”
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and open to manipulation. Maoz and Russett, however, attempted to
capture sophisticated empirical data by using a continuum to
describe a state’s level of democracy (vs. autocracy), as well as using
the traditional dichotomous measures. The continuum, based on the
work of Ted Gurr, Harry Eckstein, and other scholars working on the
Polity II data set, measured the degree of democracy on a number of
factors, as well as the degree of autocracy, which was expressed as a
negative number, then combined the two measures into an
aggregate score.
The analysis of Maoz and Russett, which drew on two major
data sets which differed somewhat in case selection, definitions, and
other details that could serve as a test of the robustness of the
authors’ models, produced mixed results. The results from one of
the data sets showed a strong relationship between democracy and
peace for both the dichotomous and continuous measures of
democracy, whereas the other data set indicated a significant
correlation only for the dichotomous category (in which states were
labeled either democratic or not, rather than being assigned a score
between democracy and autocracy).19
Oneal & Ray attempt to reconcile some of the inconclusive and
mixed results of Maoz & Russett and other scholars who utilize
continuum scales of democracy rather than dichotomous categories.
They claim that these measures fail to capture adequately the
important but distinct elements of total level of democracy shared in
a particular state dyad and the political distance between the two
regimes. Oneal & Ray conclude,
Our pooled analyses of the politically relevant pairs of
states, 1950-85, indicate that democracies are more
peaceful dyadically and individually, and democracies and
autocracies are especially prone to conflict. The prospects
for peace are influenced by the level of democracy in a
19 See Maoz and Russett, ‘Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace,
1946-1986’.
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dyad; but they are also significantly affected by the political
distance separating the regimes along the democracy-
autocracy continuum. Democratic pairs are less conflict-
prone than average, all else being equal; but a high level of
democracy in one state does not compensate for the
dangers associated with autocracy in a strategic partner.
Making the less democratic state in a dyad more democratic
is unambiguously good; it increases the average democracy
score for the pair and reduces the political distance
separating the states, lowering the likelihood of conflict.
Increasing the level of democracy in the more democratic
state, holding the regime score of the other state constant,
raises the danger of a dispute, however. The average level
of democracy within the dyad increases, but so does
political distance…A dichotomous measure of joint
democracy yields strong support for the democratic peace
because it identifies dyads for which the combined
democracy scores are a maximum and political distance is a
minimum. Continuous measures produce weaker evidence
because the strong influence of political distance is not fully
taken into account.20
Some liberal peace proponents have advanced the claim
that liberal states are inherently less violent, both in their
relations with other states and with respect to internal violence.
R.J. Rummel, one of the early pioneers of the study of democratic
peace, advanced four propositions—that interstate violence will
occur only if at least one state is not ‘libertarian’; that the more
libertarian two states are, the less likely they will engage in
mutual violence; that libertarian states tend to engage less in
20 John R. Oneal & James Lee Ray, “New Tests of the Democratic Peace: Controlling
for Economic Interdependence, 1950-85,” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 50, no.
4 (December 1997), p. 770
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interstate violence in general; and that the more libertarian a
state is, the less internal violence it will have. Based on empirical
tests, Rummel found positive support for all of these propositions,
but only the proposition that interstate war will occur only if at
least one state is not libertarian could be supported at a level of
significance that he called ‘robust’. As the subsequent literature
has reflected, it is probably not true that liberal states are less
likely to engage in war in general or to have lower levels of
internal conflict.
Criticisms and Weaknesses of Liberal Peace Theory
By no means is the liberal peace thesis accepted universally
within the field of international relations. It represents a robust and
active research program, but like most such groups of theory, it has
attracted energetic criticism from several sides. One weakness of
liberal peace theory is that there is a fairly small sample from which
to draw conclusions. Democracies were quite rare until relatively
recently, and combined with the fact that war is actually fairly rare
(when considered from the perspective that of all interactions
between sets of two countries, or dyads, across time and space, only
a few develop into war), the data set is quite limited. Some scholars
have alleged that this creates uncertainty about whether the lack of
war between democratic states is any more significant than would be
a statistical analysis that revealed a lack of war between states
whose names begin with a particular letter.
In addition to this criticism, Farber & Gowa concluded from
their segmented analysis of historical war periods that most new
democracies emerged during the Cold War, and that liberal peace
was only significantly different during this period (as opposed to
earlier periods, when the difference in the occurrence of war between
democracies and that between other types of states was not
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significant).21 This suggests the possibility that liberal peace during
this period could have been explained by the need to balance against
a hostile and threatening Communist bloc. For this reason, liberal
states would have avoided going to war against each other for fear of
presenting weakness before the greater perceived threat which was
the Soviet bloc. In other words, the statistical evidence for liberal
peace could actually be an artifact reflecting alliance factors during
the Cold War.
James Lee Ray refutes this attack, saying that it is inconsistent
to apply the expectation that opposition to a common enemy leads to
peace only to democracies without applying it also to the
nondemocratic allies against communism and to the Communist bloc
itself, which faced a formidable set of common enemies in the West.
He claims,
One might reasonably infer that if the opposition of the
communists was sufficient to create common interests
guaranteeing peace among the democratic (or
anticommunist) states of the world, then the opposition of
the ‘Free World’ (even more formidable, by most measures)
should have been sufficient to guarantee peace among the
communist states. Yet during the Cold War the Soviet
Union invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia, as well as
Afghanistan, and experienced serious border clashes with
communist China. Meanwhile, Vietnam attacked and
occupied most of Cambodia, provoking a retaliatory attack
by communist China. The ‘opposition leads to common
interests leads to peace’ idea would also be hard-pressed to
account for the fact that peace did not prevail uniformly on
the anticommunist side of the Cold War divide. For
example, El Salvador fought a war with Honduras in 1969,
Turkey and Greece became embroiled in a war over the fate
of Cyprus in 1974, and Great Britain clashed with Argentina
21 Farber & Gowa, “Polities and Peace”
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over the Falkland/Malvinas islands in 1982. These cases
are not anomalies for advocates of the democratic peace
proposition; each of those wars involved at least one
undemocratic state.22
Raymond Cohen argues that democracy is not adequate as an
explanation for the phenomenon of ‘liberal peace’ that has been
noted so extensively by scholars. He argues that,
Contrary to received truth, the existence of a general law of
behaviour that democracies as a class do not fight each
other has not been demonstrated. Rather, the soundest
conclusion to draw from the evidence is that democratic
states in the North Atlantic/Western European area, sharing
a particular set of historical circumstances and a common
cultural heritage, have avoided going to war. This is in line
with Karl Deutch’s 1955 observation that a ‘security
community’, a community of nations resolved to settle their
disputes peacefully, had come into being in the North
Atlantic area. The finding has not been proved to hold
throughout history, outside the North Atlantic area, or for
non-Western cultures.23
Similarly to those mentioned earlier who claim the liberal peace
to be an artifact or coincidence attributable to other factors such as
time period, Cohen concludes that “No causal mechanism has been
shown to exist providing a necessary link between democracies and
mutually peaceful behaviour. On the contrary, there is reason to
suspect that pacific unions are liable to occur in particular historical
22 James Lee Ray, “Does Democracy Cause Peace?” Annual Review of Political
Science (1998), p. 38
23 Raymond Cohen, “Pacific Unions: A Reappraisal of the Theory That ‘Democracies
Do Not Go to War with Each Other’,” Review of International Studies, vol. 20 no. 3
(July 1994), p. 208
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circumstances irrespective of regime type.”24 If Cohen is correct,
then, democracies are just as likely to go to war with one another as
with any other type of regime, given similar circumstances and
controlling for extraneous variables. The problem with this criticism,
of course, is that democracies have not gone to war against one
another, and a number of significant empirical studies that have
attempted to control for any variable that seems remotely relevant to
international war have found that controlling for the extraneous
variables does not negatively affect the statistical significance and
importance of the absence of war between democracies.25
One further weakness exhibited by liberal peace theory is
similar to the scientifically questionable action in an experiment of
peeking at data before formulating one’s hypotheses. It is possible
that some of the power of the empirical support for the liberal peace
proposition comes from the careful crafting of the criteria used to
define concepts like ‘democracies’ and ‘war’. The Correlates of War
project, which has produced much of the empirical data used by
scholars on all sides of the liberal peace debate, defines interstate
war as being conflict between two independent states resulting in at
least 1,000 battlefield casualties. The definition of a ‘liberal’ or
democratic state includes several criteria, such as external
sovereignty, private property and market economies, juridical rights
of citizens and representative government.26 Both of these
definitions are potentially controversial, and they have been subject
to charges that they were shaped to fit existing data. The research
on liberal peace may be driven to some extent by scholars’
assumptions, which reflect the widespread belief that mutual
democratic institutions result in peaceful relations, and that the
central research agenda, beyond confirming empirical support for the
24 Ibid.
25 See Maoz and Russett, ‘Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace,
1946-1986’.
26 Michael Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affaris,”
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correlation between peace and liberalism, is to figure out why this
phenomenon occurs.
Cohen expands on this criticism, saying that “the only way to
eliminate counter-examples of war between democracies is by
defining democracy in such a way that it applies only to a handful of
states, but a narrow definition of democracy limits the validity of the
generalization to the North Atlantic/West European area after 1945.
Before 1945 there were few opportunities for democracies to fight.
After 1945 many states classified as democratic by early researchers
such as Doyle turn out, on closer examination, to possess dubious
credentials.”27
In addition, Cohen points out that as the international system
evolved during the twentieth century, the concept of war also has
changed. It is now difficult to define war as being significant only
when it is conflict between two independent states resulting in at
least 1,000 battlefield deaths. In the wake of World War II, overt
war between Great Powers has become essentially nonexistent
(possibly due to immense increases in violence interdependence),
while Great Powers and other democracies continue to engage in
conflict through proxy wars posing as civil conflicts as well as through
less bloody conflicts that are still extremely significant from a political
standpoint. The significance of new types of conflict that do not fall
neatly into either the realist or liberal peace paradigms are borne out
by a number of scholars, especially those writing on areas of the
world outside of Western Europe and the United States.28
27 Raymond Cohen, “Pacific Unions,” p. 222
28 See Steven David, “Explaining Third World Alignment,” World Politics, vol. 43
(January 1991), pp. 233-56; K.J. Holsti, “International Relations Theory and
Domestic War in the Third World: The Limits of Relevance” in Stephanie G.
Neuman, ed., International Relations Theory and the Third World (New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 1998); Arlene Tickner, “Seeing IR Differently: Notes from the Third
World,” Millenium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 32, no. 2 (2003), pp. 295-
324; Steven David, “Why the Third World Still Matters,” International Security, vol.
17 no. 3 (Winter 1992-1993), pp. 127-59
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Liberal peace, despite the doubts of its critics, is still a very
active and robust set of theories and research programs. It offers
perhaps the most comprehensive and persuasive attack on the
theoretical hegemony of realism within the field of international
relations. Furthermore, the empirical evidence is difficult to deny—
liberal states generally do not go to war against each other. The
criticism of the theory has mostly focused on questioning the validity
of interpreting causal relationships from limited empirical data, not
on the actual lack or presence of war between democracies (although
there are a couple of exceptions in the literature). This is an
important proviso to remember for advocates and critics alike—both
democracies and wars are still rather rare, so it may still be
somewhat premature to proclaim based on empirical evidence that
democratic peace should be considered to have the strength of a law.
The combined evidence, however, of the Cold War period when
democracies proliferated enormously, plus the past fifteen years after
the fall of the Soviet Union, when presumably any intervening
variable having to do with alliance effects against the USSR would
have collapsed, serve as persuasive support for the theory. Every
year that passes in which democracies behave peacefully toward one
another simply reinforces the validity of democratic peace theory.
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Bibliography
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‘Democracies Do Not Go to War with Each Other’,” Review of
International Studies, vol. 20 no. 3 (July 1994)
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(January 1991), pp. 233-56
David, S. “Why the Third World Still Matters,” International Security,
vol. 17 no. 3 (Winter 1992-1993), pp. 127-59
Doyle, M. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affaris,” Part I,
Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 12, no. 3 (Summer, 1983)
Doyle, M. Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism
(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997)
Farber, H. & J. Gowa, “Polities and Peace,” International Security vol
20, no. 2 (Fall, 1995), pp. 108-132
Fearon, J. “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of
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Henry S. Farber is the Hughes Rogers Professor of Economics at Princeton University. Joanne Gowa is Professor of Politics at Princeton University. For comments on earlier versions of this paper, we are grateful to Henry S. Bienen, William J. Dixon, George W. Downs, Robert Gilpin, Gene Grossman, Peter B. Kenen, John Londregan, Edward D. Mansfield, Walter Mattli, Robert Powell, Bruce M. Russett, Howard Rosenthal, and seminar participants at Princeton University and the University of Chicago. For excellent research assistance, we are grateful to Jacqueline Berger, Deborah Garvey, and Matthias Kaelberer. Financial support for this research was provided by the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. Joanne Gowa also acknowledges the financial support of the Center of International Studies at Princeton University. 1. Anthony Lake, "From Containment to Enlargement," U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Dispatch, Vol. 4, No. 39 (September 1993), p. 3. 2. William Clinton, "Confronting the Challenges of a Broader World," U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Dispatch, Vol. 4, No. 39 (September 1993), p. 3. 3. Jack S. Levy, "Domestic Politics and War," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 653-673. 4. T. Clifton Morgan notes, for example, that he and many others "have long had nagging suspicions that the conclusions we have drawn from the empirical tests are spurious. It may well be that alliance patterns, power distributions, contiguity, or any of a number of other variables could be confounding our observed relationship." T. Clifton Morgan, "Democracy and War: Reflections on the Literature," International Interactions, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1993), p. 200. 5. See, e.g., Stuart Bremer, "Dangerous Dyads: Conditions Affecting the Likelihood of Interstate War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 36, No. 2 (June 1992), pp. 309-341; Stuart Bremer, "Democracy and Militarized Interstate Conflict," International Interactions, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1993), pp. 231-249; Steve Chan, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall . . . Are the Freer Countries More Pacific?" Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 28, No. 4 (December 1984), pp. 616-648; Steve Chan, "Democracy and War: Some Thoughts on Future Research Agenda," International Interactions, Vol. 18, No. 3 (1993), pp. 205-214; William Dixon, "Democracy and the Peaceful Settlement of International Conflict," American Political Science Review, Vol. 88, No. 1 (March 1994), pp. 14-32; Michael Doyle, "Liberalism and World Politics," American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 4 (December 1986), pp. 1151-1169; Zeev Maoz and Nasrin Abdolali, "Regime Types and International Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 33, No. 1 (March 1989), pp. 3-35; Zeev Maoz and Bruce M. Russett, "Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946-86," American Political Science Review, Vol. 87, No. 3 (September 1993), pp. 624-638; Bruce M. Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Melvin Small and J. David Singer, "The War-Proneness of Democratic Regimes," Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer 1976), pp. 50-68. 6. Part of this section draws on material developed in further detail in Joanne Gowa, "Democratic States and International Disputes," International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Summer 1995). 7. Michael Hechter, Principles of Group Solidarity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), p. 62. 8. Morgan, "Democracy and War," p. 198. 9. Maoz and Russett, "Normative and Structural Causes." 10. Jon Elster, The Cement of Society: A Study of Social Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 125. 11. See, e.g., John Finley Scott, The Internationalization of Norms: A Sociological Theory of Moral Commitment (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1971). 12. James D. Fearon, "Threats to Use Force: Costly Signals and Bargaining in International Crises," (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1992). 13. Maoz and Russett, "Normative and Structural Causes." 14. T. Clifton Morgan and Sally Howard Campbell, "Domestic Structure, Decisional Constraints, and War: So Why Kant Democracies Fight?" Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 35, No. 2 (June 1991), pp. 187-211. For a somewhat different argument that reaches the same conclusion, see David A. Lake, "Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War," American Political Science Review, Vol. 86, No. 1 (March 1992), pp. 24-37...
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Steven R. David is Professor of Political Science at the Johns Hopkins University. I would like to thank Stephen Van Evera, Aaron Friedberg and the members of the Johns Hopkins University seminar, "The United States and the Third World," for their suggestions. I would also like to thank the Bradley Foundation for its financial support. The views expressed are my own. 1. Drawing upon the United Nations categorization, I include in the "Third World" all countries except the United States, the European republics of the former Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the European states, and the People's Republic of China. I recognize that the term "Third World" is becoming increasingly problematic with the demise of bipolarity, the end of the "Second World," political fragmentation among the nonaligned, and the high growth rates of some Third World states. Nevertheless, I maintain that states traditionally characterized as "Third World" maintain enough similarities (e.g., young states created by colonial powers) to justify considering them together. For more on this point, see Christopher Clapham, Third World Politics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), especially ch. 1; and Steven R. David, "Explaining Third World Alignment," World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 2 (January 1991), especially pp. 238-242. 2. For views that the United States exaggerated its interests in the Third World, see Robert H. Johnson, "Exaggerating America's Stakes in Third World Conflicts," International Security, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Winter 1984/85), pp. 32-68; Richard E. Feinberg and Kenneth A. Oye, "After the Fall: U.S. Policy Toward Radical Regimes," World Policy journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall 1983), pp. 201-215; Jerome Slater, "Dominos in Central America: Will They Fall? Does it Matter?" International Security, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Fall 1987), pp. 105-134; Barry R. Posen and Stephen W. Van Evera, "Reagan Administration Defense Policy: Departure From Containment," in Kenneth A. Oye, Robert J. Lieber, and Donald Rothchild, eds., Eagle Resurgent? The Reagan Era in American Foreign Policy (Boston: Little, Brown, 1987) pp. 75-114; Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987). For a dissenting view, see Steven R. David, "Why the Third World Matters," International Security, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Summer 1989), pp. 50-85. 3. This view is shared by many across the political spectrum. See, for example, Patrick J. Buchanan, "America First—and Second, and Third," The National Interest, No. 19 (Spring 1990), pp. 77-82; Charles William Maynes, "America Without the Cold War," Foreign Policy, (Spring 1990), pp. 3-26; Stephen Van Evera, "Why Europe Matters, Why the Third World Doesn't: America's Grand Strategy After the Cold War," Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2 (June 1990), pp. 1-51; and David Hendrickson, "The Renovation of American Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Spring 1992), pp. 48-63. 4. Stephen T. Hosmer, Constraints on U.S. Strategy in Third World Conflicts (New York: Crane Russak and Company, 1987), ch. I. 5. For casualties in Third World wars, see Ruth Leger Sivard, World Military and Social Expenditures: 1987-88 (Washington, D.C.: World Priorities, 1987) pp. 28-31. For a brief summary of wars in the Third World, see Guy Arnold, Wars in the Third World since 1945 (London: Cassell Publishers, 1991). 6. One of the best examinations of the European experience in state building is Charles Tilly, "Reflections on the History of European State-Making," in Charles Tilly, ed., The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975) pp. 3-83. See also Mohammed Ayoob, "The Security Problematic of the Third World," World Politics, Vol. 43, No. 2 (January 1991), pp. 265-266. 7. That Latin America imported the political culture of pre-industrial Iberia also explains why its political development has not reached the level of Western Europe. For more on why Latin American states did not develop along European lines, see Joel S. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 262; Ayoob, "Security Problematic of the Third World," p. 268; Lawrence E. Harrison...
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Maoz and Russett (1993) reported that democratic states after World War II were unlikely to engage in militarized disputes with one another, but their continuous measure of joint democracy is problematic. It can decrease if one of a pair of states becomes more democratic, even if the political regime of the other does not change. Thus, results using this index are difficult to interpret. In this study we estimate the likelihood of dyadic conflict using more straightforward indices of joint democracy As in Oneal, Oneal, Maoz, and Russett (1996), we control for economic in terdependence and several other theoretically interesting, potentially con founding influences. Our analyses indicate that the more democratic a pair of states, the less likely they are to become involved in a militarized dispute; but a high level of democracy in one state can not compensate for less democracy in a strategic partner. The political distance separating states along the democracy-autocracy continuum is an important indica tor of the likelihood of dyadic conflict: democracies are unlikely to fight other democracies, but democracies and autocracies are conflict-prone. These results indicate that, ceteris paribus, democratic states are more peaceful than autocracies at the national level of analysis.