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The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory

Author(s): Sebastian Rosato


Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Nov., 2003), pp. 585-602
Published by: American Political Science Association
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4 November
2003
T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
SEBAST IAN ROSAT O T h e
University of Ch icag o
Democratic
peace th eory
is
probably
th e most
powerf ul
liberal contribution to th e d ebate on th e
causes
of
war and
peace.
In th is
paper
I examine th e causal
log ics
th at
und erpin
th e
th eory
to d etermine wh eth er
th ey of f er compelling explanations f or
th e
f ind ing of
mutual d emocratic
pacif ism. If ind
th at
th ey
d o not. Democracies d o not
reliably
externalize th eir d omestic norms
of conf lict
resolution and d o not trust or
respect
one anoth er wh en th eir interests clash .
Moreover,
elected lead ers
are not
especially
accountable to
peace loving publics
or
pacif ic
interest
g roups,
d emocracies are not
particularly
slow to mobilize or
incapable of surprise attack,
and
open political competition
d oes not
g uarantee
th at a
d emocracy
will reveal
private inf ormation
about its level
of
resolve
th ereby avoid ing
conf lict.
Since th e evid ence
sug g ests
th at th e
log ics
d o not
operate
as
stipulated by
th e
th eory 's proponents,
th ere are
g ood
reasons to believe th at wh ile th ere is
certainly peace among d emocracies,
it
may
not be
caused
by
th e d emocratic nature
of
th ose states.
emocratic peace th eory -th e claim th at d emoc-
th em.2
An evaluation of d emocratic peace
th eory , th en,
racies
rarely f ig h t
one anoth er because
th ey rests on
answering
two
questions. F irst,
d o th e d ata
sup-
sh are common norms of live-and -let-live and
port
th e claim th at d emocracies
rarely f ig h t
each
oth er?
d omestic institutions th at constrain th e recourse to
Second ,
is th ere a
compelling explanation
f or
wh y th is
war--is probably
th e most
powerf ul
liberal contribu-
sh ould be th e case?
tion to th e d ebate on th e causes of war and
peace.1
If Democratic
peace
th eorists h ave d iscovered a
pow-
th e
th eory
is
correct,
it h as
important implications
f or
erf ul
empirical g eneralization:
Democracies
rarely g o
both th e
stud y
and th e
practice
of international
poli- to war or
eng ag e
in militarized
d isputes
with one an-
tics. With in th e
acad emy
it und ermines both th e realist
oth er.
Alth oug h
th ere h ave been several
attempts
to
claim th at states are cond emned to exist in a constant
ch alleng e
th ese
f ind ing s (e.g .,
F arber and Gowa
1997;
state of
security competition
and its assertion th at th e
L ay ne 1994; Spiro 1994),
th e correlations remain ro-
structure of th e international
sy stem,
rath er th an state
bust
(e.g .,
Maoz
1998;
Oneal and Russett
1999;
Ray
ty pe,
sh ould be central to our
und erstand ing
of state
1995;
Russett
1993;
Weart
1998). Neverth eless, some
beh avior. In
practical
terms d emocratic
peace th eory sch olars
arg ue
th at wh ile th ere is
certainly peace among
provid es
th e intellectual
justif ication
f or th e belief th at
d emocracies,
it
may
be caused
by
f actors oth er th an
th e
spread ing d emocracy
abroad will
perf orm
th e d ual task
d emocratic nature of th ose states
(F arber
and
Gowa
of
enh ancing
American national
security
and
promot- 1997;
Gartzke
1998; L ay ne 1994).
F arber and
Gowa
ing
world
peace.
(1997),
f or
example, sug g est
th at th e Cold War
larg ely
In th is article I of f er an assessment of d emocratic
explains
th e d emocratic
peace f ind ing .
In
essence, th ey
peace th eory . Specif ically ,
I examine th e causal
log ics are
raising
d oubts about wh eth er th ere is a convinc-
th at
und erpin
th e
th eory
to d etermine wh eth er
th ey
ing
causal
log ic
th at
explains
h ow d emocracies inter-
of f er
compelling explanations
f or
wh y
d emocracies d o
act with each oth er in
way s
th at lead to
peace. T o
not
f ig h t
one anoth er.
resolve th is
d ebate,
we must take th e next
step
in
A
th eory
is
comprised
of a
h y poth esis stipulating
an
th e
testing process: d etermining
th e
persuasiveness
of
association between an
ind epend ent
and a
d epend ent th e various causal
log ics of f ered
by
d emocratic
peace
variable and a causal
log ic
th at
explains th e connec- th eorists.
tion between th ose two variables. T o test a
th eory f ully , A causal log ic is a statement about h ow an ind e-
we sh ould d etermine wh eth er th ere is
support
f or th e
pend ent
variable exerts a causal ef f ect on a
d epen-
h y poth esis,
th at is, wh eth er th ere is a correlation be- d ent variable. It elaborates a
specif ic
ch ain of causal
tween th e
ind epend ent
and th e
d epend ent
variables mech anisms th at connects th ese variables and takes th e
and wh eth er th ere is a causal
relationsh ip
between
f ollowing f orm: A
(th e ind epend ent variable)
causes
B
(th e d epend ent variable)
because A causes x, wh ich
causes
y ,
wh ich causes B
(see, e.g .,
Elster 1989, 3-10).
In
th e case at h and , d emocratic
peace
th eorists maintain
Sebastian Rosato is Ph .D. Cand id ate, Department of Political Sci-
th at d emocracy h as various ef f ects, such as support f or
ence, T h e University of Ch icag o, 5828 South University Avenue,
peacef ul norms of conf lict resolution, wh ich , in turn,
Ch icag o, IL 60637 (srosato@uch icag o.ed u).
I would like to th ank Alexand er Downes, Joh n Mearsh eimer,
increase th e prospect f or peace.
Susan Pratt, Duncan Snid al, and th ree anony mous reviewers f or th eir I
ad opt
two
strateg ies
f or
testing
th e
persuasiveness
h elpf ul comments and sug g estions and th e Smith Rich ard son F oun- of th e causal
log ics
th at
und erpin
d emocratic
peace
d ation f or f inancial support. A previous version of th is paper was
th eory . F irst, I take each log ic at f ace value and ask
presented at T h e
University of Ch icag o's Prog ram on International
Politics, Economics and Security (PIPES).
1 T h e d emocratic peace research prog ram h as g enerated several ad -
d itional empirical reg ularities. See, f or example, Bueno d e Mesquita
2 On correlation versus causation see Dessler 1991 and Waltz 1979,
et al. 1999, 791. 1-13.
585
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
F IGURE 1. Democratic Peace
T h eory 's
Causal
L og ics
L og ic Ind epend ent
Causal Mech anisms
Depend ent
Variable Variable
Normative
Democracy
-
Externalization
-
T rust and
Respect
-
Peace
Institutional
Democracy
-
Accountability
- Public Constraint -- Peace
Institutional
Democracy Accountability - Group
Constraint
-
Peace
Institutional
Democracy
--
Accountability
- Slow Mobilization - Peace
Institutional
Democracy
-
Accountability -+ No
Surprise
Attack - Peace
Institutional
Democracy
-
Accountability
- Inf ormation
--
Peace
wh eth er th e
h y poth esized
causal mech anisms
oper-
ate as
stipulated by
th e
th eory 's proponents (Georg e
and McKeown
1985, 34-41; King , Keoh ane,
and Verba
1994, 226-28;
Van Evera
1997, 64-66).
In oth er
word s,
d oes th e available evid ence
support
th e claims th at A
causes
x,
th at x causes
y ,
and th at
y
causes B? If it
d oes,
th en th e
th eory
must be consid ered
compelling
because,
as mentioned
above,
it is
wid ely ag reed
th at
th ere is
strong
correlational
support
f or its main
h y -
poth esis.
If
not,
th ere is
g ood
reason to be
skeptical
of
th e
th eory .
Second ,
I use th e
log ics
to
g enerate
ad d itional
testable
propositions
about th e ef f ects of
d emocracy
on
state beh avior. If we
accept
th at A d oes cause
x,
th at
x causes
y ,
and th at
y
causes
B,
th en
log ical
d ed uction
can
y ield
oth er
propositions
th at sh ould also be true.
T h ese too can be ch ecked
ag ainst
th e h istorical
record ,
and th e
th eory
will be
streng th ened
or weakened to
th e extent th at
th ey
f ind
empirical support.
Bef ore
per-
f orming
th ese
tests, h owever,
a brief
summary
of th e
causal
log ics
is in ord er.
CAUSAL L OGICS
Normative
L og ic
Proponents
of th e normative
log ic arg ue
th at one im-
portant
ef f ect of
d emocracy
is to socialize
political
elites
to act on th e basis of d emocratic norms wh enever
pos-
sible. In
essence,
th ese norms mand ate nonviolent con-
f lict resolution and
neg otiation
in a
spirit
of live-and -
let-live.3 Because d emocratic lead ers are committed
to th ese norms
th ey try ,
as f ar as
possible,
to
ad opt
th em in th e international arena. T h is in turn means th at
d emocracies both trust and
respect
one anoth er wh en a
conf lict of interest arises between th em. Sentiments of
respect
d erive f rom a conviction th at th e oth er state ad -
h eres to th e same norms and is th eref ore
just
and wor-
th y
of accommod ation. T rust d erives f rom th e
expecta-
tion th at th e oth er
party
to th e
d ispute
is also inclined
to
respect
a f ellow
d emocracy
and will be
proscribed
normatively
f rom
resorting
to f orce.
T og eth er
th ese two
causal mech anisms-norm externalization and mutual
trust and
respect-make up
th e normative
log ic
and ex-
plain wh y
d emocracies
rarely f ig h t
one anoth er
(e.g .,
Dixon
1994, 16-18;
Russett
1993, 31-35;
Weart
1998,
77-78, 87-93) (F ig . 1).
Wh ile mutual trust and
respect g enerally
ensure th at
conf licts of interest between d emocracies are resolved
amicably ,
th ere will be some situations in wh ich osten-
sibly
d emocratic states d o not
perceive
each oth er to
be d emocratic and th eref ore
f ig h t
one anoth er. In
par-
ticular,
a
d emocracy may
not be
recog nized
as such if
it is in th e
early stag es
of d emocratization or if it d oes
not meet th e criteria th at
policy makers
in anoth er state
h ave
ad opted
to d ef ine
d emocracy (e.g .,
Russett
1993,
34-35;
Weart
1998, 90-92, 132-34).
T h is
log ic
also
explains wh y
d emocracies h ave of -
ten been
prepared
to
g o
to war with nond emocracies.
Simply put,
nond emocracies are neith er trusted nor re-
spected . T h ey
are not
respected
because th eir d omestic
sy stems
are consid ered
unjust,
and
th ey
are not trusted
because neith er d o
th ey respect
th e f reed om of self -
g overning ind ivid uals,
nor are
th ey
socialized to resolve
conf licts
non-violently . L arg e-scale
violence
may
th ere-
f ore occur f or one of two reasons.
F irst,
d emocracies
may
not
respect
nond emocracies because
th ey
are con-
sid ered to be in a state of war
ag ainst
th eir own citizens.
War
may
th eref ore be
permissible
to f ree th e
people
f rom auth oritarian rule and introd uce h uman
rig h ts
or
representative g overnment. Second ,
because d emoc-
racies are inclined toward
peacef ul
conf lict
resolution,
nond emocracies
may
be
tempted
to
try
and extract con-
cessions f rom th em
by attacking
or
th reatening
to use
f orce
d uring
a crisis. In such circumstances d emocra-
cies
may
eith er h ave to d ef end th emselves f rom attack
or launch
preemptive
strikes
(e.g ., Doy le 1997, 30-43;
Russett
1993, 32-35).
3 Strictly speaking ,
liberal and d emocratic norms are not
equivalent
and
may
be
contrad ictory .
With some notable
exceptions, h owever,
d emocratic
peace
th eorists h ave tend ed to
equate
th e two. I th eref ore
use th e terms "liberal
state," "d emocracy ,"
and "liberal
d emocracy "
interch ang eably th roug h out my
d iscussion of th e normative
log ic
to
mean states based on both liberal and d emocratic norms. On liberal
th eory
and norms see
Doy le 1997, 4-7,
and Owen
1997,
32-37. On
d emocratic
th eory
and norms as d ef ined
by
d emocratic
peace
th eo-
rists see Dixon
1994, 15-16;
Russett
1993, 31;
and Weart
1998,
59-61.
586
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
Institutional
L og ic
Accord ing
to th e institutional
log ic,
d emocratic insti-
tutions and
processes
make lead ers accountable to a
wid e
rang e
of social
g roups
th at
may ,
in a
variety
of
circumstances, oppose
war.
Accountability
d erives
f rom th e f act th at
political
elites want to remain in of -
f ice,
th at th ere are
opposition parties read y
to
capitalize
on
unpopular policies,
and th at th ere are
reg ular op-
portunities
f or d emocratic
publics
to remove elites wh o
h ave not acted in th eir best interests.
Moreover,
several
f eatures of
d emocracies,
such as f reed om of
speech
and
open political processes,
make it
f airly easy
f or voters
to rate a
g overnment's perf ormance.
In
sh ort,
monitor-
ing
and
sanctioning
d emocratic lead ers is a
relatively
straig h tf orward
matter
(e.g .,
L ake
1992, 25-26;
Owen
1997, 41-43;
Russett
1993, 38-40).
Because
th ey
are conscious of th eir
accountability ,
d emocratic lead ers will
only eng ag e
in
larg e-scale
vio-
lence if th ere is broad
popular support
f or th eir actions.
T h is
support
is essential both because
th ey may
be re-
moved f rom of f ice f or
eng ag ing
in an
unpopular
war
and because
society
as a
wh ole,
or subsets of
it,
can
be
expected
to
oppose costly
or
losing
wars. T h ere are
several social
g roups
th at
may
need to be mobilized to
support
a war
includ ing
th e
g eneral public,
th ose
g roups
th at benef it f rom an
open
international
economy , op-
position political parties,
and liberal
opinion
lead ers.
T h e id ea th at
publics g enerally oppose
wars because of
th e costs
th ey impose
can be traced back to Kant's Per-
petual
Peace and continues to inf orm d emocratic
peace
th eorists
tod ay (Doy le 1997, 24-25;
Russett
1993,
38-
39).
Anoth er establish ed intellectual trad ition
arg ues
th at economic
interd epend ence
creates interest
g roups
th at are
opposed
to war because it
imposes
costs
by
d isrupting
international trad e and investment
(Doy le
1997, 26-27).
Still oth er sch olars h ave
arg ued
th at
op-
position parties
can ch oose to
support
a
g overnment
if
it is
carry ing
out a
popular policy
or to
oppose
it f or ini-
tiating d omestically unpopular policies (Sch ultz 1998,
831-32). F inally ,
Owen h as f ocused on th e role of lib-
eral
opinion
lead ers in
f oreig n policy
d ecisions. T h ese
elites
oppose
violence
ag ainst
states
th ey
consid er to be
liberal and can
expect
th e
g eneral public
to sh are th eir
views in times of crisis
(Owen 1997,19, 37-39, 45-47;
see
also Mintz and Geva
1993).
In
sh ort,
d omestic
g roups
may oppose
war because it is
costly ,
because
th ey
can
g ain politically
f rom
d oing so,
or
simply
because
th ey
d eem it
morally unacceptable.
F ive causal mech anisms, and th eref ore f ive variants
of th e institutional
log ic,
f low f rom elite
accountability
and th e need to mobilize social
g roups
f or war. Each
outlines a d if f erent
path
to
peace between d emocra-
cies. T wo of th em claim th at d emocracies will of ten be
unwilling
to resort to f orce in an international crisis.
Accord ing
to th e
public constraint mech anism, th is re-
luctance arises because lead ers
respond
to th e
g eneral
public's aversion to war. T h e
g roup constraint mech a-
nism is similar; d emocratic lead ers
carry
out th e wish es
of antiwar
g roups.
In a crisis
involving
two d emocra-
cies, th en, th e lead ers of both states are constrained
f rom
eng ag ing
in
larg e-scale violence, perceive th eir
counterparts
to be
similarly constrained , and will be
inclined to come to an
ag reement
sh ort of war
(e.g .,
Bueno d e
Mesquita
and L alman
1992, 155-58; Russett
1993, 38-40).4
T wo oth er causal mech anisms f ocus on th e claim th at
d emocracies are slow to use f orce. T h e slow mobiliza-
tion mech anism h old s th at d emocracies cannot mobi-
lize
quickly
because
persuad ing
th e
public
and
poten-
tial antiwar
g roups
to
support military
action is a
long
and
complex process.
T h e
surprise
attack mech anism
sh ares th is
insig h t
but also notes th at mobilization takes
place
in th e
public d omain, th ereby preclud ing
th e
pos-
sibility
of a
surprise
attack
by
a
d emocracy .
In
purely
d emocratic
crises, th en,
both sid es will h ave th e time to
come to a
mutually acceptable ag reement
and be able
to
neg otiate
in
g ood
f aith with out
f earing
attack
(e.g .,
Russett
1993, 38-40).
F inally ,
th e
inf ormation
mech anism
sug g ests
th at
d emocracies
provid e
inf ormation th at can avert wars.
Because d emocratic elites are accountable to th eir cit-
izens and can
expect opposition parties
to
oppose
un-
popular policies, th ey
will be cautious about
d ecid ing
to
escalate a crisis or commit th e
country
to war.
Ind eed ,
th ey
will
only
select th emselves into conf licts if
th ey
place
a
h ig h
value on th e outcome of th ose
conf licts,
if
th ey expect
escalation to be
popular
at
h ome,
if th ere
is a
g ood
ch ance th at
th ey
will
emerg e victorious,
and if
th ey
are
prepared
to
f ig h t
h ard . T h is send s a clear
sig nal
to oth er
parties:
If a
d emocracy
escalates or stand s
f irm,
it is
h ig h ly
resolved . In d emocratic
crises, th en,
both
states will h ave
g ood
inf ormation about th e resolve of
th e oth er
party ,
will be
unlikely
to
misrepresent
th eir
own
resolve,
and will th eref ore be able to reach a ne-
g otiated
solution rath er th an incur th e risks and costs
associated with th e use of f orce
(Bueno
d e
Mesquita
et al.
1999, 802-03;
Sch ultz
1998, 840-41;
see also Reiter
and
Stam
1998 and F earon
1994).
T h ese mech anisms also
explain wh y
d emocracies will
of ten
f ig h t
nond emocracies even as
th ey
remain at
peace
with one anoth er. Nond emocratic lead ers cannot
be
easily
sanctioned or monitored and
consequently
d o
not need to enlist broad
support
wh en
d ecid ing
to
g o
to
war. T h is means th at
th ey are,
in
g eneral,
more
likely
to
act
ag g ressively by
eith er
initiating military
h ostilities
or
exploiting
th e inh erent restraint of d emocracies
by
pressing
f or concessions
d uring
a crisis.
Alternatively ,
th ey may
be unable to
sig nal
th eir true level of resolve.
Wars between d emocracies and nond emocracies can
th eref ore occur f or th ree reasons. F irst, d emocracies
may
h ave to d ef end th emselves f rom th e
pred atory
ac-
tions of nond emocracies. Second , th ey may
h ave to
pre-
empt
nond emocracies th at could become
ag g ressive
in
th e f uture or attack rath er th an
g ive
in to
unacceptable
neg otiating
d emand s
d uring
a crisis. T h ird , th ey may
d ecid e to
f ig h t nond emocracies in th e mistaken belief
th at
peacef ul barg ains
are not available
(e.g .,
Bueno d e
Mesquita
and L alman 1992, 158-60; L ake 1992, 26-30;
Russett 1993, 39-40).
4
It
may
not be
necessary
f or two states to
perceive
each oth er to be
constrained . T h e f act th at
th ey
are both constrained
may
in itself be
suf f icient to ensure th at war d oes not break out.
587
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
F L AWS IN T HE NORMAT IVE L OGIC
T h e causal mech anisms th at
comprise
th e normative
log ic
d o not
appear
to
operate
as
stipulated .
T h e avail-
able evid ence
sug g ests th at, contrary
to th e claims of
d emocratic
peace th eorists,
d emocracies d o not
reliably
externalize th eir d omestic norms of conf lict
resolution,
nor d o
th ey g enerally
treat each oth er with trust and
respect
wh en th eir interests clash .
Moreover, existing
attempts
to
repair
th e
log ic
are
unconvincing .
Norm Externalization
T h e h istorical record ind icates th at d emocracies h ave
of ten f ailed to
ad opt
th eir internal norms of conf lict
resolution in an international context. T h is claim
rests,
f irst,
on
d etermining
wh at d emocratic norms
say
about
th e international use of f orce
and , second ,
on estab-
lish ing
wh eth er d emocracies h ave
g enerally
ad h ered
to th ese
prescriptions.
L iberal d emocratic norms
narrowly
circumscribe th e
rang e
of situations in wh ich d emocracies can
justif y
th e
use of f orce. As
Doy le (1997, 25) notes,
"L iberal wars
are
only f oug h t
f or
popular,
liberal
purposes."
T h is d oes
not mean th at
th ey
will
g o
to war less of ten th an oth er
kind s of
states;
it
only
means th at th ere are f ewer rea-
sons available to th em f or
wag ing
war.
Democracies are
certainly justif ied
in
f ig h ting
wars of
self -d ef ense. L ocke
([1690] 1988),
f or
example, arg ues
th at
states,
like men in th e state of
nature,
h ave a
rig h t
to
d estroy
th ose wh o violate th eir
rig h ts
to
lif e, liberty ,
and
property (269-72).
T h ere is consid erable
d isag ree-
ment
among
liberal th eorists
reg ard ing precisely
wh at
kind s of action constitute
self -d ef ense,
but
repulsing
an
invasion, preempting
an
impend ing military attack,
and
f ig h ting
in th e f ace of unreasonable d emand s all
plausi-
bly
f all und er th is
h ead ing . Wag ing
war wh en th e oth er
party
h as not
eng ag ed
in
th reatening
beh avior d oes
not. In
sh ort,
d emocracies sh ould
only g o
to war wh en
"th eir
saf ety
and
security
are
seriously end ang ered by
th e
expansionist policies
of outlaw states"
(Rawls 1999,
90-91).
Anoth er
justif ication
f or th e use of f orce is inter-
vention in th e af f airs of oth er states or
peoples,
eith er
to
prevent
blatant h uman
rig h ts
violations or to
bring
about cond itions in wh ich liberal values can take root.
F or Rawls
(1999, 81),
as f or
many liberals,
h uman
rig h ts
violators
are "to
be cond emned and
in
g rave
cases
may
be
subjected to f orcef ul sanctions and even to inter-
vention"
(see
also
Doy le 1997, 31-32, and Owen 1997,
34-35).
Mill
([1859] (1984))
extend s th e
scope
of inter-
vention, arg uing
th at "barbarous" nations can be con-
quered
to civilize th em f or th eir own benef it
(see
also
Meh ta
1990). However, if external rule d oes not ensure
f reed om and
equality ,
it will be as illiberal as th e
sy stem
it seeks to
replace. Consequently ,
intervention can
only
be
justif ied
if it is
likely
to
"promote
th e
d evelopment
of cond itions in wh ich
appropriate principles
of
justice
can be satisf ied "
(Beitz 1979, 90).
T h e
imperialism
of
Europe's g reat powers
between
1815 and 1975
provid es g ood evid ence th at liberal
d emocracies h ave of ten
wag ed
war f or reasons oth er
th an self -d ef ense and th e inculcation of liberal values.
Alth oug h
th ere were
only
a h and f ul of liberal d emocra-
cies in th e international
sy stem d uring
th is
period , th ey
were involved in 66 of th e 108 wars listed in th e Cor-
relates of War
(COW)
d ataset of
extrasy stemic
wars
(Sing er
and Small
1994).
Of th ese 66
wars,
33 were "im-
perial," f oug h t ag ainst previously ind epend ent peoples,
and 33 were
"colonial," wag ed ag ainst existing
colonies.
It is h ard to
justif y
th e
"imperial"
wars in terms of
self -d ef ense. Several cases are clear-cut: T h e d emoc-
racy
f aced no immed iate th reat and
conquered
sim-
ply
f or
prof it
or to
expand
its
sph ere
of inf luence. A
second set of cases includ es wars
wag ed
as a result of
imperial competition:
L iberal d emocracies
conquered
non-European peoples
in ord er to create buf f er states
ag ainst
oth er
empires
or to establish control over th em
bef ore anoth er
imperial power
could move in. T h us
Britain tried to
conquer Af g h anistan (1838)
in ord er
to create a buf f er state
ag ainst Russia,
and F rance in-
vad ed T unisia
(1881)
f or f ear of an eventual Italian
occupation.
Some commentators d escribe th ese wars
as d ef ensive because
th ey
aimed to secure sources of
overseas
wealth , th ereby enh ancing
national
power
at
th e
expense
of oth er
European powers.
T h ere are th ree
reasons to
d ispute
th is assessment.
F irst,
th ese wars
were of ten
preventive
rath er th an d ef ensive: Russia
h ad mad e no move to
occupy Af g h anistan
and
Italy
h ad taken no action in T unisia. A war
d esig ned
to avert
possible
action in th e
f uture,
but f or wh ich th ere is no
current
evid ence,
is not d ef ensive.
Second ,
th ere was
f requently
a liberal alternative to war. Rath er th an
impose
auth oritarian
rule,
liberal
g reat powers
could
h ave of f ered
non-European peoples military
assistance
in case of attack or
simply
d eterred oth er
imperial
powers. F inally ,
a substantial number of th e
preventive
occupations
were a
prod uct
of
competition
between
Britain and
F rance,
two liberal d emocracies th at sh ould
h ave trusted one anoth er and
neg otiated
in
g ood
f aith
with out
compromising
th e
rig h ts
of
non-Europeans
if
d emocratic
peace th eory
is correct.
A th ird set of cases includ es wars
wag ed d irectly
ag ainst non-Europeans
wh ose
territory
bord ered th e
European empires.
Because
non-Europeans
some-
times initiated th ese wars
contemporaries
tend ed to
justif y
th em as d ef ensive wars of
"pacif ication"
to
pro-
tect
existing imperial possessions. Ag ain,
th ere are
g ood
reasons to d oubt th e claim th at such wars were
d ef ensive. In th e f irst
place, non-Europeans
of ten at-
tacked to
prevent
f urth er encroach ment on th eir land s;
it was
th ey
and not th e
Europeans
th at were
f ig h ting
in
self -d ef ense. Moreover, th ere is consid erable evid ence
th at th e
imperial powers
of ten
provoked
th e attacks or
acted
preventively
and
exploited
local instabilities as a
pretext
f or
imposing
control on th e
periph ery
of th eir
empires (T able 1).
Nor were
any
of th e
extrasy stemic
wars
f oug h t
to
prevent eg reg ious
abuses of h uman
rig h ts
or with th e
express purpose
of
replacing
autocratic rule with a
more liberal alternative. T h e "colonial" wars, by
d ef ini-
tion, were conf licts in wh ich
imperial powers soug h t
to
perpetuate
or
reimpose
autocratic rule. T h e
"imperial"
wars
simply replaced illiberal
ind ig enous g overnment
588
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97, No. 4
T ABL E 1.
Imperial
Wars
Involving
L iberal Democracies
War
Description
British -Zulu,
1838 Zulus retaliated
ag ainst
territorial encroach ment.
Suppressed .
British -Af g h an,
1838 Preventive war to create buf f er
ag ainst
Russia. No Russian action.
F irst
Opium,
1839 British
attempt
to f orce
open
Ch inese markets.
British -Baluch i, 1843 Annexation to control south ern route to
Af g h anistan
and bord er
reg ions.
Urug uay an Dispute,
1845 British intervention in local conf lict.
British -Sikh ,
1845
Attempt
to control Sikh s. Massed
troops
on bord er. Sikh s
preempted .
British -Kaf f ir,
1846 Kaf f irs retaliated
ag ainst
territorial encroach ment.
Suppressed .
British -Sikh ,
1848 Revolt
ag ainst
British control.
Suppressed
and annexed .
British -Burmese, 1852 Annexation af ter Burmese court insulted British merch ants.
Second
Opium,
1856 British
attempt
to f orce
open
Ch inese markets.
British -Maori, 1860 Maoris retaliated
ag ainst
territorial encroach ment.
Suppressed .
British -Bh utanese,
1865
Exped ition
to eliminate Bh utanese th reat to control on
empire's periph ery .
British -Eth iopian,
1867 Invasion in retaliation f or
imprisonment
of British
subjects.
F ranco-T onkin,
1873 Disord er in T onkin used as
pretext
f or
expand ing
inf luence.
Dutch -Ach inese,
1873 Dutch d emand ed control of
ports.
Aceh
ref used ,
so Dutch invad ed .
British -Af g h an,
1878 Preventive war to establish control bef ore Russia
attempted
to d o so.
British -Zulu,
1879 Provoked Zulu attack to establish control and
prevent g rowth
of Zulu
power.
F ranco-T unisian, 1881 Preventive war: f ear
Italy
would seek control. No Italian action.
F ranco-Ind och inese,
1882
Attempt
to
impose
control.
F ranco-Mad ag ascan,
1883
Attempt
to consolid ate
sph ere
of inf luence.
British -Burmese,
1885 Preventive war: f ear F rance would seek control. No F rench action.
Mand ig o,
1885 F rench
attempt
to establish control.
F ranco-Dah omey an,
1889
Conquest
to
provid e
access to
Nig er
River and evad e British customs.
F ranco-Seneg alese,
1890
Attempt
to control and
exploit
resources of West Af rica.
Belg ian-Cong olese,
1892
Attempt
to control and
exploit
resources of
Cong o.
British -Ash anti, 1893
Attempt
to establish control and
preempt
F rance. No F rench action.
F ranco-Mad ag ascan,
1894
Conquest
to consolid ate control.
Mah d i
Uprising ,
1896 British
attempt
to control Nile and
preempt
F rance. No F rench action.
British -Nig erian,
1897
Attempt
to establish control. Punitive
exped ition
f or
killing s
of
Europeans.
Boer,
1899 British
preventive
war to
d estroy g rowing power
of Boers.
F irst
Moroccan, 1911 F rench
attempt
to establish control: f eared German action. No such action.
British -Af g h an,
1919
Af g h an attempt
to
escape
British control.
F ranco-Sy rian,
1920
Attempt
to establish inf luence.
Sy ria
d eclared
ind epend ence
in 1918.
Note: I use Przeworski et al. 2000, 18-29
th roug h out
to cod e states as d emocratic or nond emocratic. Wh ere
th ey
d o not
provid e
a
cod ing
I use th eir criteria to d etermine
reg ime ty pe. (1)
T h e ch ief executive must be
d irectly
elected or
responsible
to an elected
leg islature.
(2)
T h e
leg islature
must be elected .
(3)
T h ere must be more th an one
party .
If th ere were no
parties,
th ere was
only
one
party ,
th e
incumbents establish ed
nonparty
or
one-party rule,
or th e incumbents
unconstitutionally
closed th e
leg islature
and rewrote th e rules
in th eir f avor, th en th e
reg ime
was nond emocratic.
(4)
Incumbents must allow th e
possibility
th at
th ey
will lose an election and allow a
lawf ul alternation of of f ice if d ef eated in elections. T h ese criteria
precisely replicate
th e f eatures th at d emocratic
peace
th eorists claim
are ch aracteristic of
d emocracy (e.g .,
Dixon
1994, 15-16; Russett 1993, 14-16, 31; Weart 1998, 59-61).
A
complete
d ataset based on
th ese criteria and
covering
all states f rom 1800 to 1999 is available
upon request.
I use
Doy le
1997 to cod e states as liberal or illiberal.
T o be a liberal
d emocracy , th en, a state must be both liberal as d ef ined
by Doy le
and d emocratic as d ef ined
by
Przeworski et al.
Sources: F arwell 1972; F eath erstone 1973; Hay th ornth waite 1995; Hernon 2000.
with auth oritarian rule. Wh en
imperial
rule was not
imposed d irectly ,
th e
European powers supported
lo-
cal elites but retained strict control over th eir
actions,
th ereby und erwriting unjust political sy stems
and ef -
f ectively implementing
external rule. In
sh ort, d espite
protestations
th at
th ey
were
bearing
th e "wh ite man's
burd en,"
th ere is little evid ence th at liberal states' use
of f orce was motivated
by respect
f or h uman
rig h ts
or th at
imperial conquest
enh anced th e
rig h ts
of non-
Europeans.s
T h ere
are, th en,
several
examples
of liberal states
violating
liberal norms in th eir cond uct of
f oreig n pol-
icy
and th eref ore th e claim th at liberal states
g enerally
externalize th eir internal norms of conf lict resolution
is
open
to
question.
Proponents
of th e d emocratic
peace
h ave d own-
play ed
th e
importance
of th ese
f ind ing s
in th ree
way s.
F irst, th ey
h ave restated th eir
arg ument
and claimed
th at d emocracies remain at
peace
because
th ey
trust
and
respect
one oth er and
f ig h t
nond emocracies be-
cause
th ey
neith er trust nor
respect
th em. As
Doy le
(1997, 32) notes,
"Extreme lack of
public respect
or
trust is one of th e
major
f eatures th at
d isting uish es
re-
lations between liberal and nonliberal societies f rom
relations
among
liberal societies."
Accord ing
to th is re-
statement,
we sh ould not be
surprised
to observe Euro-
pean
d emocracies
f ig h ting non-Europeans
and th e nor-
mative
log ic
can th eref ore accommod ate th e
imperial
evid ence. T h is alternative
presentation
of th e
log ic is,
5
An
analy sis
of d ecolonization is
bey ond
th e
scope
of th is
paper,
but
some
preliminary
comments are in ord er.
Accord ing
to Russett
(1993,
35),
d ecolonization came about at least in
part
because Western f orms
of self -rule took root in th e colonies and th e
European powers
th ere-
f ore "lost conf id ence in th eir normative
rig h t
to rule." T h e evid ence
sug g ests
oth erwise. Of th e 67 states th at
g ained
th eir
ind epend ence
between 1950 and
1980,
50 h ad autocratic
g overnments (Przeworski
et al.
2000, 59-69).
589
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
h owever,
ad h oc. A more
satisf y ing log ic,
and th e one
put
f orward
by
most d emocratic
peace th eorists,
is more
complex:
Democracies
rarely f ig h t
each oth er because
th ey
trust and
respect
one
anoth er,
and
th ey
are able to
d o so because
th ey
know th at th eir d emocratic coun-
terparts
will act on th e basis of d emocratic
norms,
th at
is, th ey
will
only f ig h t
in self -d ef ense or to d emocra-
tize oth ers. T h e
key
to th is
log ic
is th at d emocracies
must
reliably
externalize d emocratic norms. If
th ey d o,
th en trust and
respect
will
prevail;
if
th ey
d o
not,
th en
we cannot be conf id ent th at
peace
will obtain between
th em. T h e
h istory
of
imperialism sug g ests
th at
th ey
d o
not and th eref ore casts d oubt on th e normative
log ic's
explanatory power.
Second ,
d emocratic
peace
th eorists h ave claimed
th at
Britain, F rance,
and th e United States were not
suf f iciently
liberal in th e
period
und er review and th us
cannot be
expected
to
reliably
externalize th eir internal
norms
(e.g .,
Rawls
1999, 53-54).
If th is claim is
true,
th e
normative
log ic
cannot tell us a
g reat
d eal about inter-
national
politics. Britain, F rance,
and th e United States
are
g enerally
consid ered to be classic liberal d emocra-
cies;
if
th ey
cannot be
expected
to beh ave in a liberal
f ash ion,
th en
f ew,
if
any ,
states can.
F inally ,
d emocratic
peace
th eorists assert th at
th ey
d o
not claim th at liberal norms are th e sole d eterminant of
d ecisions f or
war;
f actors such as
power
and
contig uity
matter as well
(e.g .,
Russett
1995).
T h is d ef ense would
be
convincing
if I were
claiming
th at liberal norms were
not th e
only
f actors th at went into d ecision
making
or
th at
th ey
were not as
important
in th e d ecision
making
process
as oth er f actors.
However,
th e claim mad e h ere
is
quite
d if f erent: L iberal states h ave
consistently
vio-
lated liberal norms wh en
d ecid ing
to
g o
to war. It is not
th at liberal norms
only
matter a
little; th ey
h ave of ten
mad e no d if f erence at all.
In
sum,
th ere are
g ood
reasons to believe th at one of
th e normative
log ic's key
causal mech anisms d oes not
operate
as ad vertised . L iberal d emocratic
g reat powers
h ave
f requently
violated liberal norms in th eir d eci-
sions f or
war, th ereby casting
d oubt on th e claim th at
d emocracies
g enerally
externalize th eir internal norms
of conf lict resolution.
T rust and
Respect
T h e available evid ence
sug g ests
th at d emocracies d o
not h ave a
powerf ul
inclination to treat each oth er with
trust and
respect
wh en th eir interests clash .
Instead ,
th ey
tend to act like
any
oth er
pair
of
states, barg aining
h ard , issuing th reats, and ,
if
th ey
believe it is
warranted ,
using military
f orce.
Cold War Interventions. American interventions to
d estabilize f ellow d emocracies in th e
d eveloping
world
provid e g ood
evid ence th at d emocracies d o not
alway s
treat each oth er with trust and
respect
wh en
th ey
h ave
a conf lict of interest. In each
case, Wash ing ton's
com-
mitment to
containing
th e
spread
of communism over-
wh elmed
any respect
f or f ellow d emocracies.
Alth oug h
none of th e
targ et
states h ad turned to communism
or
joined
th e communist
bloc,
and were led
by
wh at
were at most
lef t-leaning d emocratically
elected
g ov-
ernments,
American of f icials ch ose neith er to trust nor
to
respect th em, pref erring
to d estabilize th em
by
f orce
and
replace
th em with autocratic
(but anticommunist)
reg imes
rath er th an
neg otiate
with th em in
g ood
f aith
or secure th eir
support by d iplomatic
means
(T able 2).
T ABL E 2. American Cold War Interventions
Ag ainst
Democracies
T arg et Description
Iran
(1953) Mossad eq's f oreig n policy
aimed at
d iseng ag ement
f rom
superpower rivalry . Domestically ,
allied with or
suppressed
communists as
necessary .
United States assisted
coup
th at
overth rew h im.
Guatemala
(1954)
F our communists in
g overnment
and
h ard ly any
in
g eneral population. Army ,
th e
key
institution in
politics,
was anticommunist. Arbentz und ertook a number of lef tist ref orm
prog rams.
United States f inanced and d irected invasion th at
replaced
h im.
Ind onesia
(1957-)
Sukarno's
"g uid ed d emocracy " only way simultaneously
to d emocratize Ind onesia and
prevent
civil war. Communists
perf ormed
well in 1955 elections. United States assisted
rebels
seeking
to oust Sukarno.
British
Guy ana (1961-) Jag an consistently soug h t
American
support. Wash ing ton
convinced h e was lef tist and
sponsored
terrorist ef f orts to subvert
h im,
th en
ch ang ed
election laws to remove h im.
Brazil
(1961, 1964)
American role in Quad ros's
resig nation (1961)
unclear. Goulart's
f oreig n policy
neutral. At
h ome mad e no ef f ort to
leg alize
communist
party
or extend term
illeg ally . Accepted
East
European
aid and und ertook some lef tist ref orms. United States assisted in red scare
and
coup
th at overth rew h im.
Ch ile
(1973)
Allend e a
socialist, but
leg islature
controlled
by center-rig h t.
United States
approved
Ch ilean
military coup
th at overth rew h im.
Nicarag ua (1984-)
Sand inistas were more d emocratic th an American-backed Somoza
d y nasty .
Held elections
in 1984 and bowed to international
pressure
in
respecting
a number of civil
rig h ts.
United
States
soug h t
to roll back
apparent
communist th reat.
Note: Democratic Britain assisted th e United States in Iran and British
Guy ana.
F or
reg ime cod ing
see T able 1. Iran h ad not
y et experienced
a
peacef ul
transf er of
power
in 1953. T h e American-backed
coup
meant th at
Mossad eq
was not
g iven
an
opportunity
to
prove
th at h e
would h and over
power
were h e to lose an election. He was, h owever, d emocratically
elected and committed to f uture elections.
Sources: Barnet 1968;
Bill
1988; F orsy th e 1992; Gard ner 1997; Gleijeses 1991; Gurtov
1974; L eacock 1990; Ry an 1995; Sater 1990;
T illema
1973; Weis 1993.
590
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
T h ree f eatures of th ese cases d eserve
emph asis. F irst,
all th e
reg imes
th at th e United States
soug h t
to un-
d ermine were d emocratic. In th e cases of
Guatemala,
British
Guy ana, Brazil,
and Ch ile d emocratic
pro-
cesses were
f airly
well establish ed .
Iran, Ind onesia,
and
Nicarag ua
were
f led g ling
d emocracies but
Mossad eq,
Sukarno,
and th e Sand inistas could
leg itimately
claim
to be th e f irst
proponents
of
d emocracy
in th eir re-
spective
countries.
Every g overnment
with th e
excep-
tion of th e Sand inistas was
replaced by
a succession of
American-backed d ictatorial
reg imes.
Second ,
in each case th e clash of interests between
Wash ing ton
and th e
targ et g overnments
was not
par-
ticularly
severe. T h ese
sh ould , th en,
be
easy
cases f or
d emocratic
peace th eory
since trust and
respect
are
most
likely
to be d eterminative wh en th e
d ispute
is
minor. None of th e
targ et g overnments
were commu-
nist,
and
alth oug h
some of th em
pursued
lef tist
policies
th ere was no ind ication th at
th ey
intend ed to
impose
a communist mod el or th at
th ey
were
actively
court-
ing
th e Soviet Union. In
spite
of th e limited
scope
of
d isag reement, respect
f or d emocratic f orms of
g overn-
ment was
consistently
subord inated to an
expand ed
conception
of national
security .
T h ird ,
th ere is
g ood
evid ence th at
support
f or d emoc-
racy
was of ten sacrif iced in th e name of American
economic interests. At least some of th e
impetus
f or
intervention in Iran came in
response
to th e national-
ization of th e oil
ind ustry ,
th e United F ruit
Company
pressed
f or action in
Guatemala,
International T ele-
ph one
and
T eleg raph urg ed
successive ad ministrations
to intervene in Brazil and
Ch ile,
and Allend e's ef f orts
to nationalize th e
copper ind ustry
f ueled d emand s th at
th e Nixon ad ministration d estabilize h is
g overnment.
In
sum,
th e record of American interventions in th e
d eveloping
world
sug g ests
th at d emocratic trust and
respect
h as of ten been subord inated to
security
and
economic interests.
Democratic
peace
th eorists
g enerally ag ree
th at
th ese interventions are
examples
of a
d emocracy using
f orce
ag ainst
oth er
d emocracies,
but
th ey
of f er two rea-
sons
wh y
covert interventions sh ould not count
ag ainst
th e normative
log ic.
T h e f irst reason is th at th e
targ et
states were not d emocratic
enoug h
to be trusted and
respected (F orsy th e 1992;
Russett
1993, 120-24).
T h is
claim is not
entirely convincing . Alth oug h
th e
targ et
states
may
not h ave been
f ully d emocratic, th ey
were
more
d emocratic th an th e
reg imes
th at
preced ed
and
succeed ed th em and were
d emocratizing f urth er. In-
d eed , in
every
case American action
broug h t
more au-
tocratic
reg imes
to
power.
T h e second reason is th at th ese interventions were
covert, a f act believed
by
d emocratic
peace
th eorists
to reveal th e
streng th
of th eir normative
arg ument.
It
was
precisely
because th ese states were d emocratic th at
successive ad ministrations h ad to act
covertly
rath er
th an
openly
initiate
military operations. Knowing
th at
th eir actions were
illeg itimate,
and
f earing
a
public
backlash , American of f icials d ecid ed on covert action
(F orsy th e 1992; Russett 1993, 120-24).
T h is d ef ense
f ails to ad d ress some
important
issues. T o
beg in with , it
ig nores
th e f act th at American
public of f icials, th at is,
th e ind ivid uals th at d emocratic
peace th eory
claims are
most
likely
to abid e
by
liberal
norms,
sh owed no
respect
f or f ellow d emocracies. Democratic
peace
th eorists will
respond
th at th e
log ic h old s, h owever,
because th ese
of f icials were restrained f rom
using open
and massive
f orce
by
th e liberal attitud es of th e mass
public.
T h is
is a d ebatable
assertion;
af ter
all,
of f icials
may
h ave
opted
f or covert and limited f orce f or a
variety
of rea-
sons oth er th an
public opinion,
such as
operational
costs and th e
expected
international reaction.
Simply
because th e use of f orce was covert and
limited , th is
d oes not mean th at its nature was d etermined
by public
opinion.
But even if it is true th at of f icials
ad opted
a covert
policy
to sh ield th emselves f rom a
potential public
backlash ,
th e
log ic
still h as a crucial weakness: T h e
f act remains th at th e United States d id not treat f ellow
d emocracies with trust or
respect. Ultimately ,
th e
log ic
stand s or f alls
by
its
pred ictive power,
th at
is,
wh eth er
d emocracies treat each oth er with
respect.
If
th ey d o,
it is
powerf ul;
if
th ey
d o
not,
it is weakened . It d oes not
matter
wh y th ey
d o not treat each oth er with
respect,
nor d oes it matter if some or all of th e
population
wants
to treat th e oth er state with
respect;
all th at matters
is wh eth er
respect
is extend ed . T o
put
it anoth er
way ,
we can come
up
with several reasons to
explain wh y
respect
is not
extend ed ,
and we can
alway s
f ind social
g roups
th at
oppose
th e use of
military
f orce
ag ainst
anoth er
d emocracy ,
but wh enever we f ind several ex-
amples
of a
d emocracy using military
f orce
ag ainst
oth er
d emocracies,
th e trust and
respect mech anism,
and th eref ore th e normative
log ic,
f ails an
important
test.6
Great Powers.
L ay ne (1994)
and Rock
(1997)
h ave
f ound f urth er evid ence th at d emocracies d o not treat
each oth er with trust and
respect
in th eir
analy ses
of
d iplomatic
crises
involving Britain, F rance, Germany ,
and th e United States.
L ay ne
examines f our
prominent
cases in wh ich rival d emocracies almost went to war
with one anoth er and asks wh eth er th e crises were re-
solved because of mutual trust and
respect.
His con-
clusion of f ers scant
support
f or th e normative
log ic:
"In each of th ese
crises,
at least one of th e d emocratic
states involved was
prepared
to
g o
to
war.....
In each
of th e f our
crises,
war was avoid ed not because of th e
'live and let live'
spirit
of
peacef ul d ispute
resolution at
6
We cannot conclusively reject
th e trust and
respect
mech anism on
th e basis of th ese cases since th e United States
may
h ave been
sig -
nif icantly
more
likely
to intervene
covertly ag ainst
nond emocracies
d uring
th e Cold War.
Creating
a
compreh ensive
d ataset of covert in-
terventions to test th is claim is, h owever, unlikely
to be a
simple
task.
Moreover,
a
ch i-square
test ind icates th at we would h ave to f ind in
excess
of
30 American covert interventions ag ainst nond emocracies
bef ore we could claim th at it was sig nif icantly more likely to inter-
vene
covertly ag ainst
nond emocracies th an d emocracies
(p
<
.05).
T h is calculation rests on
(a)
th e f act th at th ere were
1,682 y ears
of
d emocracy
and
3,007 y ears
of
nond emocracy
between 1950 and 1990
(Przeworski
et al.
2000, 29); (b)
th e f act th at th ere were
eig h t
covert
interventions
ag ainst
d emocracies in th is
period ;
and
(c)
th e
assump-
tion th at th e United States h ad th e
capacity
to intervene
any wh ere
in th e world in
any g iven y ear.
591
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
T ABL E 3. American
Perceptions
of L iberal Status of
F oreig n
Powers
Party
Status
Party
Status L evel of Consensus
Britain 1794-96 F ed eralists L iberal
Republicans Illiberal No
across-party ag reement
F rance 1796-98 F ed eralists Illiberal
Republicans
L iberal No
across-party ag reement
Britain 1803-12 F ed eralists L iberal
Republicans
Illiberal No
across-party ag reement
Britain 1845-46
Wh ig s
L iberal Democrats Illiberal No
across-party ag reement
Mexico 1845-46
Wh ig s
L iberal Democrats Illiberal No
across-party ag reement
Britain 1861-63
Republicans
L iberal Democrats Illiberal No
across-party ag reement
Spain
1873-73
Republicans
Mixed Democrats Mixed No
with in-party ag reement
Ch ile 1891-92
Republicans
Mixed Democrats Mixed No
with in-party ag reement
Britain 1895-96
Republicans
Mixed Democrats Mixed No
with in-party ag reement
Spain
1896-98
Republicans Illiberal Democrats Illiberal Consensus-illiberal
Source: Owen 1997.
d emocratic
peace th eory 's core,
but because of realist
f actors"
(L ay ne 1994, 38).7
Similarly ,
Rock f ind s little evid ence th at sh ared lib-
eral values
h elped
resolve
any
of th e crises between
Britain and th e United States in th e nineteenth cen-
tury .
In
ad d ition,
h is
analy ses
of th e
turn-of -th e-century
"g reat rapproch ement"
and naval arms control
d uring
th e 1920s sh ow th at even in cases wh ere liberal states re-
solved
potentially
d ivisive issues in a
spirit
of accommo-
d ation,
sh ared liberal values h ad
only
a limited ef f ect.
In both cases
peace
was overd etermined and "liberal
values and d emocratic institutions were not th e
only
f actors
inclining
Britain and th e United States toward
peace,
and
perh aps
not even th e d ominant ones"
(Rock
1997, 146).8
In
sum,
th e trust and
respect
mech anism d oes not
appear
to work as
specif ied .
Sh ared d emocratic values
provid e
no
g uarantee
th at states will both trust and
respect
one anoth er.
Instead ,
and
contrary
to th e nor-
mative
log ic's claims,
wh en serious conf licts of interest
arise between d emocracies th ere is little evid ence th at
th ey
will be
inclined
to accommod ate each oth er's d e-
mand s or ref rain f rom
eng ag ing
in h ard line
policies.
Repaired
Normative
L og ic
Given th at d emocracies h ave not treated each oth er as
th e normative
log ic pred icts,
d emocratic
peace
th eo-
rists h ave tried to
repair
th e
log ic by introd ucing
a new
causal f actor:
perceptions.
In th e revised version of th e
log ic,
d emocracies will
only
trust and
respect
one an-
oth er if
th ey
consid er each oth er to be d emocratic. T h is
ad justment
can
only improve
th e
log ic's explanatory
power
if we can
pred ict
h ow d emocracies will
categ o-
rize oth er states with a
h ig h
level of conf id ence and if
th is
categ orization
is
relatively
stable. T h e available ev-
id ence
sug g ests, h owever,
th at
policy makers' personal
belief s and
party af f iliations,
or
strateg ic interest,
of ten
preclud e coh erent, accurate,
and stable assessments of
reg ime ty pe, th ereby lessening
our conf id ence th at
joint
d emocracy
enables d emocracies to remain at
peace.
Elusive Consensus. T h ere is
rarely ag reement,
even
among
well-inf ormed
policy makers,
about th e d emo-
cratic status of a
f oreig n power
and we
are,
th ere-
f ore, unlikely
to be able to
pred ict
h ow d emocracies
will
classif y
oth er states'
reg ime ty pe
with a
h ig h
level
of conf id ence.9 Owen
(1997)
h as examined th e views
of liberal elites in 10
war-th reatening
crises
involving
th e United States and anoth er state between 1794 and
1898. In six of th e
cases,
th e
major political parties
in
th e United States
d isag reed
about th e liberal status of
F rance, Britain, Ch ile,
and
Spain.
In th ree oth er
cases,
th ese
d isag reements
extend ed both across and
with in
parties.
In
only
one
case,
th e
Spanish
American
Crisis,
was th ere a consensus with in th e American elite
reg ard -
ing
th e liberal status of th e
f oreig n power (T able 3).
In
sum,
th e evid ence f rom Owen's cases
sug g ests
th at
we are
unlikely
to be able to
pred ict
h ow states will
perceive
one anoth er's
reg ime ty pe: Opinion
is almost
alway s d ivid ed ,
even f or cases th at look
easy
to outsid e
observers. T h is
being
th e
case,
th e
repaired
normative
log ic
can
only
tell us if liberal states will view each oth er
as such af ter th e f act: If
th ey
treat each oth er with trust
and
respect,
th en
th ey
must h ave viewed each oth er as
liberal;
if
th ey
d o
not,
th en
th ey
must h ave viewed each
oth er as illiberal.
In th ese
circumstances,
th e
only way
to create a more
d eterminate
log ic
is to
pred ict
wh ose
opinions
will win
out in th e d omestic
political g ame. If ,
f or
example,
we
can
pred ict
th at
d oves, republicans,
or business inter-
ests will
g enerally g et
th eir
way ,
th en we
may
be able
to
pred ict policy
outcomes. Such
pred ictions h ave,
h ow-
ever,
elud ed d emocratic
peace
th eorists
(see
Autocratic
Restraint, below).
Inaccurate Assessment. Democracies will also of ten
simply g et
anoth er state's
reg ime ty pe wrong , th ereby
lessening
our conf id ence th at
objectively
d emocratic
states will not
f ig h t
one anoth er. In f ive of th e nine
cases wh ere Owen evaluates h ow oth er states
per-
ceived
America, f oreig n
liberal elites eith er classif ied
th e United States as illiberal or were unsure as to its
7
L ay ne
1997 examines th ree f urth er cases and comes to th e same
conclusion.
8 Rock's
analy sis
of th e naval arms control
ag reements
of th e 1920s
misses an
important critique
of th e normative
log ic.
It is not
clear,
if
we
accept
th e
log ic, wh y
th e United States sh ould be so concerned
about a naval alliance between d emocratic Britain and a d emocra-
tizing Japan. See, f or
example,
P.
Kenned y 1983, 267-98.
9 Hartz
(1955) arg ues
th at
alth oug h
America is a
th oroug h ly
liberal
state,
th ere h ave
alway s
been violent
d isag reements
about th e mean-
ing
of liberalism.
592
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
status. In
1873, Spanish liberals,
most of wh om id enti-
f ied with th e
Spanish Republican party , d isag reed
over
th e status of th e United States. All Ch ilean elites and
all
Spanish elites, reg ard less
of th eir
party af f iliation,
reg ard ed
th e United States as illiberal in th e 1890s.
F inally ,
British
opinion lead ers,
wh o h ad
ag reed
th at
th e United States was liberal f or over a
century ,
were
d ivid ed over its liberal status in 1895-96. T h e
parad ig -
matic liberal state
was, th en,
of ten
perceived
as
any -
th ing
but. Even more
surprising
is th e f act th at as th e
nineteenth
century
wore
on,
and th e United States be-
came more liberal
by
most
objective stand ard s,
oth er
states
increasing ly
viewed it as illiberal.
Reg ime T y pe Red ef ined
Not
only
are
perceptions
of
oth er
reg imes
of ten contested or
inaccurate,
but
th ey
are also
subject
to
red ef inition,
and th is
red ef inition
d oes not
alway s
ref lect th e actual d emocratic attributes
of th ose states. Oren
(1995)
cond ucts an in
d epth stud y
of th e United States'
ch ang ing relationsh ip
with Im-
perial Germany prior
to World War I and f ind s th at
American
opinion
lead ers
stopped d ef ining Germany
as a
d emocracy
as th e two countries'
strateg ic
relation-
sh ip beg an
to d eteriorate. T h is observation lead s h im to
conclud e th at
d emocracy
is not a d eterminant as much
as it is a
prod uct
of America's
f oreig n
relations: "T h e
reason we d o not to
f ig h t
'our kind ' is not th at 'likeness'
h as a
g reat
ef f ect on war
propensity ,
but rath er th at
we f rom time to time
subtly
red ef ine our kind to
keep
our self
imag e
consistent with our f riend s' attributes
and inconsistent with th ose of our ad versaries"
(Oren
1995, 147).
In oth er
word s, contrary
to th e
expectations
of th e normative
log ic, perception
of
reg ime ty pe
is an
outcome rath er th an a causal f actor.
L iberal states
appear especially prone
to th is
practice
of
reinterpreting
wh o sh ould be trusted and
respected .
In th e nineteenth
century , non-European peoples
could
be
put
und er autocratic
imperial
rule f or th eir own
g ood .
In th e
early
twentieth
century ,
as Oren h as
noted ,
th e bar was raised
h ig h er
and
Imperial Germany
was
jud g ed worth y
of neith er trust nor
respect. By
th e end
of th e
century ,
even liberal d emocratic
Japan
could not
count on
unquestioning
American
f riend sh ip.
In each
case, prestig e, security concerns,
or economic interests
sh aped perceptions
of
reg ime ty pe.10
T h ese
examples
raise serious
problems
f or
any
causal
log ic
based on
perceptions. Discerning
wh eth er
percep-
tions matter
inevitably
becomes a
question
of
sif ting
th roug h
th e statements of
policy makers
and
opinion
lead ers
d uring
a crisis or war. At th e same time, public
f ig ures
will
try
to
d isting uish
th eir own state f rom th e
enemy
in th ese situations, both f or th eir own
cog ni-
tive
consistency
and to
rally
th e
public.
Since
people
in th e mod ern world
g enerally id entif y
th emselves as
members of a nation state, th ese d istinctions will tend
to f ocus on
political
structures. Sch olars will th eref ore
alway s
be able to f ind "evid ence" th at th e oth er state
was not
perceived
to be
suf f iciently
"d emocratic" as
lead ers
g o
about
d emonizing
th e
enemy .
I am not
arg u-
ing
th at th is
represents
a
misread ing
of th e evid ence-
perceptions
of anoth er state are bound to
ch ang e
in
crisis situations-I am
only sug g esting
th at th ese
per-
ceptions
are caused
by
f actors oth er th an th e
objective
nature of
f oreig n reg imes.
In
sum, proponents
of th e normative
log ic
h ave d one
little to
streng th en
th eir case
by introd ucing percep-
tions as an
ind epend ent
variable. Of ten states d o not
h ave a unif ied
perception
of th e liberal attributes of
a
f oreig n power
and it is th eref ore d if f icult to
arg ue
th at
perceptions
of
reg ime ty pe
af f ect
policy .
More-
over,
th ese
perceptions may ch ang e ind epend ently
of
th e
objective
nature of th e oth er
reg ime, sug g esting
th at it is
entirely possible
f or liberal states to
f ig h t
one
anoth er.
F L AWS IN T HE INST IT UT IONAL L OGIC
T h e causal mech anisms th at make
up
th e institutional
log ic
d o not
appear
to
operate
as
stipulated .
T h ere are
g ood
reasons to believe th at
accountability ,
a mech -
anism common to all f ive variants of th e institutional
log ic,
d oes not af f ect d emocratic lead ers
any
more th an
it af f ects th eir autocratic
counterparts.
Nor d oes th e
available evid ence
support
th e claims of th e institu-
tional
log ic's
oth er causal mech anisms. Pacif ic
publics
and antiwar
g roups rarely
constrain
policy makers'
d eci-
sions f or
war,
d emocracies are neith er slow to mobilize
nor
incapable
of
launch ing surprise attacks,
and
open
political competition provid es
no
g uarantee
th at a state
will be able to reveal its level of resolve in a crisis.
Accountability
Each variant of th e institutional
log ic
rests on th e claim
th at d emocratic institutions make lead ers accountable
to various
g roups
th at
may ,
f or one reason or
anoth er,
oppose
th e use of f orce. I d o not
d ispute
th is claim
but,
instead , question
wh eth er d emocratic lead ers are more
accountable th an th eir autocratic
counterparts.
Since
we know th at d emocracies d o not
f ig h t
one anoth er
and autocracies d o
f ig h t
one
anoth er,
d emocrats must
be more accountable th an autocrats if
accountability
is a
key
mech anism in
explaining
th e
separate peace
between d emocracies. On th e oth er h and ,
if autocrats
and d emocrats are
equally
accountable or autocrats are
more accountable th an d emocrats, th en th ere are
g ood
reasons to believe th at
accountability
d oes not exert th e
ef f ect th at d emocratic
peace
th eorists h ave
sug g ested .11
F ollowing
Goemans
(2000a)
I assume th at a lead er's
accountability
is d etermined
by
th e
consequences
as
well as th e
probability
of
losing
of f ice f or
ad opting
an
unpopular policy .
T h is
being
th e case, th ere is no a
priori
reason to believe th at a lead er wh o is
likely
to lose of f ice
f or
f ig h ting
a
losing
or
costly war, but
unlikely
to be
10
Oren notes th at American perceptions of th e d emocratic nature
of Japan and th e Soviet Union in th e twentieth century h ave tend ed
to ref lect th eir beh avior rath er th an th eir d omestic institutions and
values.
Similarly ,
Blank
(2000) arg ues
th at
strateg ic
f actors inf luenced
British and American
perceptions
of each oth er's liberal status in th e
nineteenth
century .
1
Evaluations of th e ef f ects of war on th e tenure of lead ers includ e
Bueno d e
Mesquita
and Siverson 1995 and Goemans 2000a.
593
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
T ABL E 4.
Consequences
of
Eng ag ing
in
L osing
or
Costly
Wars
Wars Removed Punish ed
Democratic losers 4 3
(75%)
0
(0%)
Autocratic losers 89 31
(35%)
26
(29%)
Democrats in
costly
wars 15 4
(27%)
1
(7%)
Autocrats in
costly
wars 77 27
(35%)
21
(27%)
exiled , imprisoned ,
or killed in th e
process,
sh ould f eel
more accountable f or h is
policy
ch oices th an a lead er
wh o is
unlikely
to lose of f ice but can
expect
to be
pun-
ish ed
severely
in th e
unlikely
event th at h e is in f act
removed .
T h eref ore, d etermining
wh eth er autocrats or d emo-
crats are more accountable
and , consequently ,
more
cautious about
g oing
to war rests on
answering
th ree
questions:
Are
losing
d emocrats or
losing
autocrats
more
likely
to be removed f rom
power?
Are
losing
d emocrats or
losing
autocrats more
likely
to be
pun-
ish ed
severely ?
and Are d emocrats or autocrats more
likely
to be removed and /or
punish ed
f or involvement
in
costly wars, reg ard less
of th e outcome?
T o answer th ese
questions
I h ave used a mod if ied
version of Goemans's
(2000b)
d ataset. Our
analy ses
d if f er in one f und amental
respect:
Wh ile h e counts th e
removal of lead ers
by f oreig n powers
as
examples
of
punish ment,
I d o not. T h is d ecision is
th eoretically
in-
f ormed . T h e
purpose
of th e
analy sis
is to d etermine
wh eth er lead ers' d ecisions f or war are af f ected
by
th eir
d omestic
accountability ,
th at
is,
if th ere is
someth ing
about th e d omestic structure of states th at af f ects th eir
ch ances of
being punish ed .
Punish ment
by f oreig n pow-
ers of f ers no evid ence f or or
ag ainst
th e claim th at
d emocrats or d ictators h ave a
h ig h er
or lower
expecta-
tion of
being punish ed by
th eir citizens f or
unpopular
policies,
and th ese cases are th eref ore exclud ed . I h ave
also mad e two minor
ch ang es
to th e d ata th at d o not
af f ect th e results: I h ave ad d ed 19 wars th at
appear
in th e COW d ataset but not in Goemans's d ataset and
cod ed 11
reg imes
th at Goemans exclud es.12 T h e results
appear
in T able 4.
Alth oug h
d emocratic losers are two times more
likely
to be removed f rom
power
th an autocratic
losers,
th is evid ence is not
strong .
T h is is because th ere are
only
f our cases of d emocratic losers in th e entire
d ataset,
making
it
impossible
to d raw
any
f irm conclusions
about th e likelih ood th at
losing
d emocrats will be re-
moved . Prime Minister Menzies of
Australia,
f or exam-
ple, resig ned early
in th e Vietnam
War,
but h is
resig -
nation
may
h ave h ad more to d o with th e f act th at h e
was in h is seventies th an th e
expectation
of d ef eat in
South East Asia a d ecad e later. If th is case is
recod ed ,
as it
probably
sh ould
be,
d emocratic losers h ave
only
been removed f rom
power
50% of th e time and th e
d istinction between d emocrats and autocrats is small.
L osing
autocrats are more
likely
to suf f er severe
pun-
ish ment th an th eir d emocratic
counterparts.
None of
th e f our
losing
d emocrats was
punish ed ,
wh ereas 29%
of autocratic losers were
imprisoned , exiled ,
or killed .
T h us,
wh ile d emocratic and autocratic losers h ave sim-
ilar ch ances of
being
removed f rom
of f ice,
autocrats
seem to be more
likely
to suf f er severe
punish ment
in
ad d ition to removal.
T h e evid ence f rom
costly wars, reg ard less
of wh eth er
th e lead er was on th e
winning
or
losing sid e,
conf irms
th ese
f ind ing s. Costly
wars are d ef ined as wars in wh ich
a state suf f ered one battle
f atality per 2,000 population,
as th e United States d id in World War
I.13 Historically ,
autocrats h ave been more
likely
both to lose of f ice and
to be
punish ed severely
if
th ey
become involved in a
costly
war. Autocrats h ave been removed 35% of th e
time and
punish ed
27% of th e
time,
wh ile d emocrats
h ave
only
been removed 27% of th e time and
punish ed
7% of th e time.14
In
sh ort,
th ere is little evid ence th at d emocratic lead -
ers f ace
g reater expected
costs f rom
f ig h ting losing
or
costly
wars and are th eref ore more accountable th an
th eir autocratic
counterparts.
T h is
being
th e
case,
th ere
is
g ood
reason to d oubt each variant of th e institutional
log ic.
Public Constraint
Pacif ic
public opinion
d oes not
appear
to
place
a f un-
d amental constraint on th e
willing ness
of d emocracies
to
g o
to war. If it
d id ,
th en d emocracies would be more
peacef ul
in th eir relations with all
ty pes
of
states,
not
just
oth er d emocracies.
However,
instead of
being
more
peacef ul,
on
averag e
d emocracies are
just
as
likely
to
g o
to war as nond emocracies
(F arber
and Gowa
1995).
T h ere are th ree reasons
wh y publics
are
unlikely
to
constrain d emocratic war
proneness. F irst,
th e costs of
war
ty pically
f all on a small subset of th e
population
12
Nond emocracies:
Mecklenburg -Sch werin,
Hesse Grand
Ducal,
Hesse
Electoral,
and Hanover in th e Seven Weeks
War; Germany
in th e F ranco-Prussian
War; Greece in th e war of 1919 with
T urkey ;
Eth iopia, Bulg aria,
and
Italy
in World War
II;
and
Cy prus
in 1974.
Democracy :
Israel in 1948.
13 T h e results d o not ch ang e with alternative d ef initions of costly
wars (one f atality per 1,000 population and one f atality per 500
population).
14
Proponents
could still
interpret
th e evid ence as
supporting
d emo-
cratic
peace th eory .
T h e
very
f act th at d emocratic lead ers
rarely
lose
wars
sug g ests
th at
th ey
know th at
th ey
will be
punish ed
f or
losing
wars and th eref ore
only
select th emselves into wars
th ey
can win.
T h ere are
g ood
reasons to
d ispute
th is selection ef f ects
arg ument.
Desch
(2002)
estimates th e
probability
th at a state will start a
war,
th en win
it,
and f ind s th at
d emocracy
h as one of th e smallest ef f ects
of
any
variable. Stam (1996)
reach es a similar conclusion. Reiter and
Stam (2002)
f ind th at d emocracies are more
likely
to win wars
th ey
initiate but d o not
report
th e relative ef f ect of
d emocracy compared
to oth er variables. Desch also notes th at if d emocratic lead ers are
more selective about
ch oosing wars,
and
only
start
easy ones,
th en
th ey
sh ould
eng ag e
in f ewer wars th an autocratic lead ers since war is
inh erently risky
and f ew wars are sure bets. T h e
evid ence, h owever,
sug g ests
th at d emocracies are
just
as war
prone
as oth er
ty pes
of
states. It is also worth
noting
th at if d emocrats are more selective
about th e wars
th ey g et
involved
in,
th en we sh ould see th em en-
g ag e
in f ewer
costly
wars since
th ey
know th at
costly
wars th reaten
th eir incumbencies.
However,
th ere is little d if f erence between th e
propensity
f or d emocracies and th at f or autocracies to incur
h ig h
costs. Democracies incur
h ig h
costs in 34% of
cases,
wh ile autocracies
d o so 42% of th e time.
594
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
th at will
likely
be
unwilling
to
protest g overnment pol-
icy . Exclud ing
th e two World
Wars,
d emocratic f atal-
ities in war h ave exceed ed 0.1% of th e
population
in
only
6% of cases. In 60% of
cases,
losses
represented
less th an 0.01% of th e
population
or one in
10,000
people.
Most d emocratic
citizens, th en,
will never be
personally
af f ected
by
war or know
any one
af f ected
by military
conf lict.
Ad d ing
th e
many
militarized d is-
putes involving
d emocracies
streng th ens
th is
f ind ing .
Both th e United States and Britain h ave suf f ered f ewer
th an 100 battle casualties in
approximately
97% of th e
militarized
d isputes
in wh ich
th ey
h ave been involved
(Sing er
and Small
1994). Moreover,
mod ern d emocra-
cies h ave tend ed to h ave
prof essional stand ing
armies.
Members of th e
military , th en, join
th e armed f orces
voluntarily , accepting
th at
th ey may
d ie in th e service
of th eir countries. T h is in turn means th at th eir f amilies
and
f riend s,
th at
is,
th ose wh o are most
likely
to suf f er
th e costs of
war,
are
unlikely
to
speak
out
ag ainst
a
g overnment
th at ch ooses to
g o
to war or are at least
less
likely
to d o so th an are th e f amilies and f riend s of
conscripts.
In
sh ort,
th e
g eneral public
h as little at stake
in most wars and th ose most
likely
to suf f er th e costs
of war h ave f ew incentives to
org anize
d issent.
Second , any public
aversion to
incurring
th e costs of
war
may
be overwh elmed
by
th e ef f ects of nationalism.
In ad d ition to th e
g rowth
of
d emocracy ,
one of th e most
striking
f eatures of th e mod ern
period
is th at
people
h ave come to
id entif y th emselves,
above
all,
with th e
nation state. T h is id entif ication h as been so
powerf ul
th at
ord inary
citizens h ave
repeated ly
d emonstrated a
willing ness
to
f ig h t
and d ie f or th e continued existence
of th eir state and th e
security
of th eir co-nationals.
T h ere
are, th en, g ood
reasons to believe th at if th e
national interest is
th oug h t
to be at
stake,
as it is in
most interstate
conf licts,
calculations of costs will not
f ig ure prominently
in th e
public's
d ecision
process.
T h ird ,
d emocratic lead ers are as
likely
to lead as to
f ollow
public opinion.
Since nationalism imbues
peo-
ple
with a
powerf ul spirit
of
self -sacrif ice,
it is
actively
cultivated
by political
elites in th e
knowled g e
th at
only
h ig h ly
motivated armies and
prod uctive
societies will
prevail
in mod ern warf are
(e.g .,
Posen
1993).
Demo-
cratically
elected lead ers are
likely
to be well
placed
to cultivate
nationalism, especially
because th eir
g ov-
ernments are of ten
perceived
as more
representative
and
leg itimate
th an auth oritarian
reg imes. Any
call to
d ef end or
spread
"our
way
of lif e," f or
example,
is
likely
to h ave a
strong
resonance in d emocratic
polities,
and
ind eed th e h istorical record
sug g ests
th at wars h ave of -
ten
g iven d emocratic lead ers consid erable f reed om of
action, allowing
th em to d rum
up
nationalistic f ervor,
sh ape public opinion,
and
suppress
d issent
d espite
th e
oblig ation
to allow f ree and
open
d iscussion.
Events in th e United States
d uring
both World Wars
h ig h lig h t
th e
streng th
of nationalism and th e
ability
of d emocratic elites to f an its f lames.
Kenned y (1980,
46)
notes th at
d uring
th e F irst World War, Presid ent
Wilson lacked "th e
d isciplinary
f orce of
quick coming
crisis or imminent
peril
of
ph y sical
h arm" but turned
successf ully
to "th e d eliberate mobilization of emotions
and id eas." At th e same time h is ad ministration turned
a blind
ey e to,
or
actively encourag ed ,
th e d eliberate
subversion of antiwar
g roups
with in th e United States.
T h e Roosevelt ad ministration was
equally
successf ul
at
g enerating prowar
sentiment
d uring
World War
II.
Early
in th e war th e
presid ent spoke
f or th e nation in
asserting
th at th e German
f irebombing
of
population
centers h ad "sh ocked th e conscience of
h umanity ,"
and
y et, remarkably ,
th ere was no sustained
protest
in th e
United States
ag ainst
th e
bombing
of
Japanese
cities
th at killed almost a million civilians a f ew
y ears
later.
T h is
abrupt transf ormation,
notes Dower
(1986),
was
mad e
possible by
a massive
propag and a campaig n,
con-
d oned
by
th e
political elite, d escribing
th e
Japanese
as
subh uman and
untrustworth y
"oth ers." In stark con-
trast,
America's allies were
f org iven
all th eir f aults
"Russian Communists were transf ormed into
ag rarian
ref ormers,
Stalin into Uncle Joe..."
(Ambrose 1997,
150).
Sentiments like th ese are not aroused
only
in th e
victims of
ag g ression. Alth oug h
L ord Aberd een's
g ov-
ernment was reluctant to
g o
to war with Russia over th e
Crimea in
1854,
"T h ere was no d oubt wh atever about
th e enth usiasm of British
public opinion,
as
expressed
by every
cond uit
open
to it." T h e
protests
of Cobd en
and
Brig h t,
lead ers of th e British Peace
Movement,
"were h owled d own in th e House of
Commons,
in th e
Press,
and at
meeting
af ter
public meeting .... [T h ey ]
were th us th e f irst liberal
lead ers,
and
by
no means th e
last,
to d iscover th at
peace
and
d emocracy
d o not
g o
h and in
h and ;
th at
public opinion
is not an inf allible
specif ic ag ainst war;
and th at 'th e
people,'
f or wh atever
reasons,
can be
very
bellicose ind eed ." T h e next
g ener-
ation of
pacif ists,
th e
opponents
of th e Boer
War, "were
vilif ied in th e
popular press,
h ad th eir
meeting s
broken
up, [and ]
were
subjected
to
ph y sical
attack"
(Howard
1978, 45-46, 68).
T h ese are not isolated
examples.
T h e world 's most
militarily
active
d emocracies-Britain, F rance, Ind ia,
Israel,
and th e United States-h ave
g one
to war 30
times since 1815. In 15
cases, th ey
were th e victims of
attack and th eref ore we sh ould not be
surprised
th at
publics
reacted in a nationalistic f ash ion or were
per-
suad ed to
support
d ecisions f or war. T h ere
are,
h ow-
ever,
15 oth er cases in wh ich one could
plausibly arg ue
th at it was not obvious to th e
public
th at war was in
th e national interest because th ere was no immed iate
th reat to th e h omeland or vital national assets. In 12
of th ese
cases,
th e outbreak of war was
g reeted by
a
spontaneous
and
powerf ul
nationalistic
response or,
in th e absence of such a reaction, policy making
elites
successf ully persuad ed
a
previously uneng ag ed public
to
acquiesce to, and in some cases
support,
th e use of
f orce. In
only
th ree cases-th e F rench and British at-
tack on
Eg y pt (1956)
and th e Israeli attack on L ebanon
(1982)-d id publics
not
spontaneously support
th e war
and remain
opposed
to it
d espite
policy making
elites'
best ef f orts to inf luence th eir
opinions.15
15 Democratic victims: th e United States in World War
II;
Israel in
th e Palestine
War,
War of
Attrition,
and Yom
Kippur War;
Britain in
both World Wars and th e F alkland s
War;
F rance in both World
Wars;
595
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
One
way
to
try
and rescue th e
public
constraint
mech anism would be to combine constraints with re-
spect
f or f ellow d emocratic
polities (e.g .,
Mintz and
Geva
1993).
T h is new
arg ument
would h old th at
d emocracies h ave f ormed a
separate
and
joint peace
because d emocratic citizens are
only
averse to costs
in th eir relations with oth er d emocracies. T h ere
are,
h owever,
several cases th at belie th is claim.16
T h ere
are, th en, g ood
reasons to believe th at
pacif ic
public opinion
d oes not
sig nif icantly
red uce th e likeli-
h ood th at d emocracies will
g o
to war. In th e
majority
of
cases,
th e
public
is
likely
to be unaf f ected
by
war
and th eref ore
ad opt
a
permissive
attitud e toward s th e
use of f orce.
Moreover,
in th ose cases wh ere th e na-
tional interest or h onor is at
stake,
d emocratic
publics
are as
likely
as
any
oth er to
d isreg ard
th e costs of war
and d emocratic lead ers h ave consid erable
opportuni-
ties both to
encourag e
and to
exploit
nationalistic f er-
vor.
Group
Constraint
T h ere are two
problems
with th e
g roup
constraint
mech anism.
F irst,
th ere is little evid ence f or th e claim
th at antiwar
g roups will,
more of ten th an
not, capture
th e d emocratic
policy making process. Second ,
if th e
mech anism is to
explain wh y
d emocracies d o not
f ig h t
one anoth er but also account f or wars in oth er kind s of
d y ad s,
th en
g roup
constraints must be weaker in autoc-
racies th an
d emocracies,
but th is d oes not
appear
to be
th e case.
Capturing
th e State. States are
"representative
insti-
tution[s] constantly subject
to
capture
and
recapture,
construction and reconstruction
by
coalitions of so-
cietal actors"
(Moravcsik 1997, 518). Moreover, th ey
are
imperf ect representative
institutions,
more
likely
to
represent
th ose
g roups
th at are better
org anized
and h ave more at stake in a
g iven
issue. Based on th is
insig h t,
th ere is no reason to believe th at
pacif ic
inter-
est
g roups
will
g enerally
win out over
prowar g roups.
Wh ile liberal
elites,
f or
example, may
be well
org anized
and h ave a
powerf ul
incentive to avoid war with oth er
d emocracies,
oth er more bellicose actors such as th e
military
ind ustrial
complex
are
likely
to h ave
just
as
much at stake and be
equally prof icient
at
f urth ering
th eir own interests.
Ind eed ,
th e h istorical record
sug g ests
th at
propo-
nents of
f oreig n ag g ression
can of ten
prevail
in d omes-
tic d ebates. Owen
(1997)
examines f our cases of th e
United States
g oing
to war in th e nineteenth
century .
In th ree of h is
cases,
one of th e two
major political
parties
was
opposed
to war but f ailed to avert it. In th e
f ourth
case,
th e antiwar
g roup
was smaller and also lost
out to th e
prowar g roup. Similarly , Sny d er (1991)
f ind s
th at both Britain and th e United States h ave
ad opted
ag g ressive f oreig n policies
in th e
past
as
prowar g roups
h ave
ef f ectively captured
th e state.
Britain's expan-
sionist
policy
in th e mid d le of th e nineteenth
century
owed much to th e f act th at
imperialist g roups
were able
to inf luence
policy making : "Imperial id eolog ists
were
able to h ave a
larg e impact
because of th eir
apparent
monopoly
on
expertise
and ef f ective
org anization,
and
because of th e ambivalent interest of th e aud ience."
In th e American
case, d espite
a Cold War consensus
ag ainst
involvement in
"h ig h -cost,
low benef it end eav-
ors,"
th e United States became involved in both Korea
and Vietnam as a result of coalitional
log rolling (Sny d er
1991, 206, 209).17
In
sum,
th ere are
g ood
reasons to
believe th at
pacif ic
interest
g roups may
not
g enerally
inf luence th e
f oreig n policies
of d emocratic states.
Autocratic Constraint. Autocratic lead ers
ty pically
represent
th emselves or narrow selectorates and th ese
g roups
h ave
powerf ul
incentives to avoid war.
T h e f irst reason f or
avoid ing
war is th at wars cost
money
and
solving
th e
problem
of war f inance ulti-
mately poses
a th reat to an autocrat's h old on
power.
T h e
arg ument
h ere is
straig h tf orward .
T h e costs of war
h ave risen
exponentially
since th e mid d le of th e nine-
teenth
century
and
g overnments
h ave h ad to
f ig ure
out
h ow to meet th ese costs.
Alth oug h
th e
money
can th eo-
retically
be raised with or with out th e consent of th ose
f rom wh om it is
d emand ed ,
in
practice
"non-consensual
sources of revenue h ave
g enerally proved
less elastic
th an taxation based on consent."
Participation
in war
h as, th eref ore, tend ed to
g o
h and in h and with
expan-
sion of th e f ranch ise
(F erg uson 2001, 32-33, 77, 80; see
also F reeman and Snid al
1982).
T h is
being
th e
case,
autocrats h ave a
powerf ul
incentive not to
g o
to war
f or f ear of
trig g ering
social and
political ch ang es
th at
may d estroy
th em.
T h e nature of civil
military
relations in civilian-
led auth oritarian states
provid es
anoth er incentive f or
Ind ia in th e
Sino-Ind ian,
Second
Kash miri,
and
Bang lad esh Wars;
and
Britain, F rance,
and th e United States in th e Boxer Rebellion.
Wars
supported by public
or to wh ich
public acquiesced
even
th oug h
th ey
were not
clearly
in th e national interest: th e United States in th e
Mexican-American, Spanish -American, Korean, Vietnam,
and Gulf
Wars and World War
I;
Israel in th e Sinai and Six
Day Wars;
Britain
in th e Crimean
and
Ang lo-Persian Wars;
F rance in th e Roman Re-
public and Sino-F rench Wars. I only consid er th e major protag onists
in
any g iven
war
and , th eref ore,
exclud e cases like Britain's d ecision
to
support
th e United States in th e Gulf War.
Also,
I
only
consid er
public opinion early
in a war since it is
presumably
th is initial reaction
th at concerns
policy makers
th e most.
Democratic
peace
th eorists could still claim th at th ese
examples
d o not invalid ate th e
public
constraint mech anism because th ere are
many
more
examples
wh ere d emocracies h ave not escalated a crisis
or h ave
pulled
back f rom th e brink because lead ers
anticipated public
opposition.
T h ese nonevents are d if f icult to observe but if th ere are
a lot of
th em,
th en 12
examples
of
public
constraints not
operating
d o not
provid e
conclusive
proof
th at th e mech anism
g enerally
f ails
to
operate. Proponents
of th e d emocratic
peace
h ave
not, h owever,
uncovered a
larg e
number of such non-events.
16
Britain and F rance over
Belg ium (1830-32),
th e Near East
(1838-
41),
T ah iti and
T ang ier (1844),
and F ash od a
(1898);
Britain and th e
United
States
in th e
Oreg on Crisis (1845-46),
th e T rent Af f air
(1861),
and th e Venezuelan Crisis (1895-96); Britain and th e Boers in th e
Boer War
(1899-1902);
F rance and
Germany
in th e Ruh r Crisis
(1923); arg uably F rance, Britain,
and
Germany
bef ore World War
I;
Peru and Ecuad or in th e Amazon in th e 1980s and
1990s;
and Ind ia
and Pakistan over Kash mir in th e 1990s. See Howard
1978; L ay ne
1994, 1997;
and Rock 1997.
17
Sny d er arg ues th at d emocracies are mod erate
overexpand ers
rath er th an extreme
overexpand ers
because
open
d ebate
encourag es
quick learning .
T h e f act
remains, h owever,
th at wh ile
th ey may
be
smart about th eir
overexpansion, th ey
are still
prone
to it.
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
ruling g roups
to avoid war. Since civilian control of th e
military
is of ten more tenuous in autocracies th an in
d emocracies, nonmilitary
lead ers of autocratic states
h ave a
powerf ul
incentive to maintain weak militaries
f or f ear of d omestic
coups.
T h e
problem,
f rom a
f oreig n
policy stand point,
is th at states with weak militaries are
vulnerable to
f oreig n ag g ression.
T h us an absolute ruler
f aces a "d ual
problem" accord ing
to Gord on T ullock
(1987, 37): "[H]e may
be overth rown
by
h is
neig h -
bor's
armies,
or
by
th e armies h e
org anizes
to d ef end
h im
ag ainst
h is
neig h bors."
Because
th ey recog nize
th is
problem,
civilian auth oritarian lead ers will
g enerally
pref er
to avoid rath er th an
wag e
war.
A d if f erent set of f actors can inh ibit th e war
prone-
ness of
military
d ictators.
F irst,
since
th ey
must d evote
consid erable time and
energ y
to
repressing popular
d issent at
h ome, th ey
h ave f ewer
military
resources to
d evote to external wars.
Second ,
because th e
military
is used f or internal
repression
it is
unlikely
to h ave a
g reat
d eal of societal
support
and will be ill
equipped
to d eal with external enemies.
T h ird ,
lead ers wh o as-
sume control of th e
army
run th e risk of
being
h eld
personally responsible
f or
any subsequent
f ailures and
may
not be
prepared
to take th at risk.
F inally ,
time
spent org anizing military campaig ns
is time
away
f rom
oth er
g overnmental
d uties on wh ich a d ictator's tenure
also
d epend s (And reski 1980;
T ullock
1987, 37;
see also
Dassel
1997).
In
sum,
it is not clear th at states beh ave as th e
g roup
constraint mech anism
sug g ests. Alth oug h
d emocracies
and autocracies h ave selectorates of
d if f ering
size and
allow social
g roups
d if f erent levels of access to th e
poli-
cy making process, th ey may
neverth eless
ad opt
similar
policies.
Not
only
are d emocratic
g overnments
able to
resist th e inf luence of antiwar
g roups,
but
th ey
are in
f act
subject
to
capture by prowar g roups. Autocracies,
on th e oth er
h and ,
of ten
represent g roups
th at h ave
a vested interest in
avoid ing f oreig n
wars
(see, e.g .,
Peceny , Beer,
and
Sanch ez-T erry 2002).
Slow Mobilization
T h e h istorical record of f ers scant
support
f or th e claim
th at th e
complexity
of
mobilizing
d iverse
g roups
in
d emocracies slows d ecisions to use f orce.
American
presid ents
h ave of ten circumvented or
ig -
nored ch ecks and
balances, th ereby speed ing up
th e war
d ecision
process.18
T h e United States h as taken
military
action abroad more th an 200 times
d uring
its
h istory ,
but
only
f ive of th ese actions were wars d eclared
by
Cong ress,
and most were auth orized
unilaterally by
th e
presid ent (Rourke 1993, 11). Circumventing
th e d emo-
cratic
process
h as taken several f orms. Some
presid ents
h ave
simply
claimed th at matters of national
security
are more
important
th an
observing
th e constitution.
Jef f erson was th e f irst to assert th at
obey ing
th e con-
stitution was th e mark of a
g ood presid ent,
but th at
"th e law of
necessity ,
of self
preservation,
of
saving
our
country
wh en in
d ang er,
are of th e
h ig h er oblig ation"
(75).
Anoth er common tactic h as been to red ef ine th e
action as
any th ing
but a
war, th ereby obviating
th e
need f or consultation or d ebate.
Wash ing ton
ad d ed h ot
pursuit
and
preemption
to th e
presid ent's prerog atives,
Jackson
popularized reprisals,
and Wilson
unilaterally
auth orized
interventions,
most
notably
in Russia af -
ter World War
I.
Alternatively , presid ents
h ave used
th eir
powers
to
put troops
in h arm's
way
in ord er to
precipitate
wid er conf licts. Both Polk's actions
prior
to th e Mexican American War and Roosevelt's tactics
prior
to America's of f icial
entry
into World War
II
f it
th is
pattern. F inally ,
incumbents of th e Wh ite House
h ave of ten
simply ig nored Cong ress.
T ruman ord ered
f orces into Korea with out even
asking Cong ress
f or
retroactive
support,
and at th e
h eig h t
of th e
"Imperial
Presid ency ,"
Nixon
rejected
th e need f or
cong ressional
auth ority
wh en h e invad ed Cambod ia.
Wh ile ef f orts h ave been mad e to ensure th at ch oices
f or war and
peace
are
subject
to
open
d ebate-
notably
with th e
passag e
of th e War Powers Resolution
(1972)-ch ecks
and balances h ave
g enerally
f ailed to
operate
and th ere h ave been
f requent
violations of th e
spirit
if not th e letter of th e Resolution
(Rourke 1993,
119-38).
T h e Gulf War
provid es
a recent
example.
Bush
ad ministration of f icials d ecid ed to launch
Operation
Desert Sh ield with out
consulting Cong ress
and
repeat-
ed ly put
of f a
cong ressional
vote
f earing
th at it
mig h t
g o ag ainst
th em. T h e d ecision f or Desert Storm was
also mad e
unilaterally .
Bush
arg ued
th at h e d id not
need a
cong ressional
resolution and was d etermined
to avoid
asking
f or auth orization lest th is
imply
th at
th e Executive d id not h ave th e f inal
say
on matters of
war. His reaction to
Cong ress's
auth orization of th e
use of f orce is instructive: "In
truth ,
even h ad
Cong ress
not
passed
th e resolution I would h ave acted and or-
d ered our
troops
into combat. I know it would h ave
caused an
outcry ,
but it was th e
rig h t th ing
to d o. I was
comf ortable in
my
own mind th at I h ad constitutional
auth ority .
It h ad to be d one"
(Bush
and Scowcrof t
1998, 446).
In
sum,
th e slow mobilization mech anism d oes not
appear
to f unction as claimed . Democratic lead ers f re-
quently
d ecid e th at
protecting
wh at
th ey
d eem to be
th e national interest
requires
swif t and d ecisive ac-
tion. Wh en
th ey
believe such situations h ave arisen
th ey
h ave been able and
willing simply
to
by pass
th e
d emocratic
imperative
of
open
d ebate and consensus
d ecision
making .
Surprise
Attack
Democracies are no less
capable
of
carry ing
out sur-
prise
attacks th an oth er kind s of
states.19
T h e main
reason f or th is is th at an attacker's
reg ime ty pe
is
larg ely
unrelated to th e success or f ailure of an attack.
18 T h e f ocus h ere is on American
f oreig n policy .
Oth er
d emocratically
elected lead ers h ave
ad opted
similar tactics to initiate
military
action
with
only
minimal
leg islative input.
T h is
parag raph
relies on
Reveley
1981, 135-69,
and Rourke
1993,
63-106.
19
A
surprise
attack is an attack
ag ainst
a
targ et
th at is not
prepared
f or it d ue to mistaken estimates of
wh eth er, wh en, wh ere,
and h ow
th e
enemy
will strike
(Betts 1982, 11).
597
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
"Analy sis
of
surprise attacks,"
notes Kam
(1988, 37),
"sug g ests
th at th e
intellig ence community
seld om f ails
to
anticipate
th em
owing
to a lack of relevant inf orma-
tion. In most cases th e victim
possesses
an abund ance
of inf ormation
ind icating
th e imminence of th e attack."
Instead ,
th e common wisd om h old s th at attacks ach ieve
surprise
because d ef end ers cannot
id entif y
th e relevant
sig nals
amid st th e
"noise,"
and because of
cog nitive
or
org anizational sh ortcoming s (Betts 1982, 87-149;
Kam
1988, 7-212).
In
sh ort, reg ard less
of wh eth er attackers
are d emocratic or
autocratic, th ey
d o not
appear
to
be able to
keep
th eir attacks
secret;
attacks ach ieve
surprise
because d ef end ers are
poor
at
evaluating
in-
f ormation.
Even if we
accept
th at th e ach ievement of
surprise
is
a f unction of th e
transparency
of th e
attacker,
th ere is
little h istorical
support
f or th e claim th at d emocracies
are less able to conceal th eir intentions or
impend ing
actions. T h ere h ave been
approximately
10 cases of sur-
prise
attack since th e
beg inning
of World War
II.20
T wo
of th ese
attacks,
th e British -F rench -Israeli coalition's
attack on
Eg y pt (1956)
and th e Israeli initiation of th e
Six
Day
War
(1967),
were carried out
by
d emocracies.
T h ere are not
enoug h
cases to make
any
statistical
claims but we sh ould note th at d emocracies h ave mad e
up approximately
one th ird of
state-y ears
since
1939,
and
th eref ore,
one would
expect
on th e basis of ch ance
alone to see th ree
surprise
attacks
by
d emocracies in
th is
period . T h eref ore,
d emocracies d o not
appear
to
be less
likely
th an nond emocracies to launch
surprise
attacks.
Israel, F rance,
and Britain
planned
th e Suez War of
1956 in such
secrecy
th at even Eisenh ower was sur-
prised by
th e attack wh en it came
(Betts 1982, 63-65).21
Day an,
th e Israeli Ch ief of
Staf f , eng ag ed
in a success-
f ul
campaig n
of d eliberate
d eception lead ing
outsid e
observers to believe th at
any
attack would
merely
be
an extend ed
reprisal campaig n. Meanwh ile,
th e rele-
vant d ecision makers in Britain
justif ied secrecy
in stark
terms: "It is never
ag reeable
to h ave to
ref use,
in th e na-
tional
interest,
inf ormation to th e House of Commons.
But it h as to be d one f rom time to time"
(L loy d 1978,
250).
If d emocratic
g overnment
of f icials believe th at
th e national interest is at
stake, th ey
will sacrif ice d is-
closure to
military necessity . Similarly ,
Israel ach ieved
surprise th roug h d eception
in
launch ing
th e Six
Day
War
(1967). Day an,
th en th e d ef ense minister, publicly
stated th at Israel was in no
position
to
reply
to th e
blockad e of th e Strait of T iran, th at th e Israeli
army
could not remain mobilized f or an extend ed
period ,
th at th e
army
could
f ig h t successf ully
af ter
suf f ering
a
f irst
strike,
and th at
d iplomacy
must be
g iven
a
ch ance,
all in a successf ul
attempt
to lull th e Arabs into a f alse
sense of
security . Only
38 h ours later Israel attacked
(Betts 1982, 65-68; Van Evera
1999, 66-67).
Nor d oes
th e
ability
of d emocratic
g overnments
to maintain se-
crecy appear
to be restricted to extreme cases of sur-
prise
attack. T h e United States
kept
its d ecisions f or
war f rom th e British bef ore th e War of 1812, L ord
Grey
d id not
publicize
h is
ag reement
to d ef end F rench
Ch annel
ports prior
to World War
I,
and Roosevelt d id
not reveal h is
ag reements
with Ch urch ill
prior
to World
War II.
Democratic
politics
are
ty pically
marked
by
th e
open
d iscussion of
d if f ering opinions
in
multiple public
f o-
rums,
but th is ch aracterization d oes not
appear
to h old
wh en d emocratic lead ers
perceive
a th reat to th e na-
tional interest. In such circumstances th e
requirement
f or
transparency
and consensus can be
d ecisively
sub-
ord inated to th e twin
requirements
of
military
success:
secrecy
and
speed .
Inf ormation
T h e available evid ence
sug g ests
th at d emocracies can-
not
clearly
reveal th eir levels of resolve in a crisis.
T h ere are two reasons f or th is.
F irst,
d emocratic
pro-
cesses and institutions of ten reveal so much inf orma-
tion th at it is d if f icult f or
opposing
states to
interpret
it.
Second , open
d omestic
political competition
d oes
not ensure th at states will reveal th eir
private
inf or-
mation.
T ransparency may
contribute little to
peace
be-
cause a lot of inf ormation is not
alway s g ood
inf orma-
tion.
Simply
because d emocracies
provid e
a substantial
amount of inf ormation about th eir intentions f rom a
variety
of sources d oes not mean th at th eir
opponents
will f ocus on th e
appropriate
inf ormation or th at th e
inf ormation will be
interpreted correctly .
In a crisis
with a
d emocracy ,
th e oth er state will receive
sig nals
not
only
f rom th e
d emocracy 's appointed neg otiators
but also f rom
opposition parties,
interest
g roups, public
opinion,
and th e med ia.
Decid ing
wh ich
sig nal
is
truly
representative
is a d if f icult task. Moreover, ind ivid uals
f aced with an
overwh elming
amount of inf ormation are
likely
to resort to mental sh ortcuts based on
existing
views of th e
ad versary
or
analog ous
situations in th e
past
to make sense of it. Inf ormation
contrad icting
th e
accepted
wisd om is
likely
to be
ig nored
and conf irma-
tory
evid ence will be
h ig h lig h ted .
Ad d itional inf orma-
tion
may , th en, h ave a
limited impact
on
perceptions
(e.g .,
Jervis
1976).
In sh ort, th e mistake h as been to
equate plentif ul inf ormation with
perf ect
inf ormation.
If th e inf ormation is
plentif ul,
th ere is no reason to
believe th at states will come to a
mutually acceptable
ag reement.
On th e oth er h and , if th e inf ormation is
perf ect,
th en states
may avoid war.
20
I h ave compiled th e
f ollowing
list
using
Betts
(1982)
and Kam
(1988): Germany 's
attack in Western
Europe (1940); Germany 's
at-
tack on
th e Soviet Union (1941); Japan's attack on
Pearl Harbor
(1941); North Korea's attack on South Korea (1950); Ch ina's entry
into th e Korean War
(1950); Israel, Britain,
and F rance's attack on
Eg y pt (1956);
Ch ina's attack on Ind ia
(1962);
Israel's attack on
Eg y pt
(1967);
th e Soviet attack on Czech oslovakia
(1968);
and th e Arab
attack on Israel
(1973). I h ave exclud ed cases of
surprise
attack in th e
context of an ong oing war based on th e assumption th at, reg ard less
of th eir reg ime ty pe, once th ey are in a war states will enf orce secrecy
and
try
to ach ieve
surprise
as a matter of
military necessity .
T h ere
are,
of
course, several instances of d emocracies
ach ieving surprise
d uring
wars. T h ese includ e th e British
bombing
of th e Italian f leet in
T aranto (1941), th e D-d ay land ing s (1944),
and th e American assault
at Inch on (1950).
21
T h e f act th at th ree d emocratic
g overnments
were involved in suc-
cessf ul collusion is
especially powerf ul
evid ence of th e
ability
of
d emocracies to maintain
secrecy .
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American Political Science Review Vol.
97,
No. 4
T h ere is
g ood
evid ence f or th ese claims. Bernard
F inel and Kristin L ord
(1999)
h ave
h ig h lig h ted
th e
neg ative
ef f ects of
transparency
in seven case stud ies
of interstate crises between 1812 and 1969.
T h ey
f ind
th at
open political sy stems
d o ind eed
provid e
a
g reat
d eal of
inf ormation,
but its sh eer volume eith er h as
conf used th ose wh o observe it or h as
merely
served to
reinf orce th eir
prior misperceptions.
In
1967,
f or exam-
ple,
Nasser was "overwh elmed
by
th e 'noise' of Israeli
d omestic
politics"
and "h ad
enoug h
inf ormation to see
wh atever h e wanted and conf irm
existing mispercep-
tions about Israeli intentions"
(F inel
and L ord
1999,
334-35).
Democracies
may
not be better at
sig naling
th eir
intentions,
and even if
th ey are,
th ese intentions
may
be
prone
to
misperception.
In
response, proponents
of th e inf ormational
story
arg ue
th at it is th e
sig nal
sent
by opposition parties
th at
provid es
th e most cred ible evid ence of a state's
intent: If
th ey support
th e
ad ministration,
th en th e state
is
committed ,
oth erwise it is not
(Sch ultz 2001,
95-
97).
T h ere are two
problems
with th is
arg ument. F irst,
th ere is
powerf ul support
f or th e claim th at th e
g eneral
public
and
opposition g enerally "rally
round th e
f lag "
and
support g overnments d uring
crises. Kenneth Waltz
neatly
summarizes th is
f ind ing :
"T h e f irst ef f ect of an
international crisis is to increase th e Presid ent's
popu-
lar
stand ing .
One
may
wond er if th is is so
only
wh en th e
response
of th e Presid ent is f irm or h e oth erwise
g ives
th e
impression
of
being
able to d eal with th e situation
ef f ectively ....
It
is,
in
f act,
not
necessary
to ad d such
qualif ications
to th e statement"
(Waltz 1967, 272).22
In-
d eed ,
Sch ultz notes th at d emocratic
g overnments
th at
h ave issued d eterrent th reats h ave received
opposition
support
84% of th e time
(Sch ultz 2001, 167).
More-
over,
d emocratic lead ers can lead rath er th an f ollow
public opinion d uring
international crises
by
control-
ling
wh at inf ormation reach es th e
public
and
by
ex-
ploiting
th e med ia.
Reach ing h ig h
of f ice in a d emoc-
racy rests,
to a
larg e d eg ree,
on
persuad ing voters,
and
one would th eref ore
expect
d emocratic
g overnment
of f icials to be
especially ad ept
at
sh aping public opin-
ion. Wh at th is means is th at d emocracies
may
of ten
not be able to
sig nal
th eir
private
inf ormation. Since
publics
and
oppositions g enerally rally
to th e
g overn-
ment's sid e or are
persuad ed
to
support
th e ad minis-
tration
d uring crises,
and h ostile states know th is to
be th e
case, opposition support
is not an inf ormative
sig nal.
Second , in th e f ew cases wh ere
opposition par-
ties h ave
spoken
out
ag ainst military action, d emo-
cratic
g overnments
h ave been
prepared
to take ac-
tion noneth eless. In oth er word s, wh en
opposition
statements sh ould lead us to
expect
th at a
g overn-
ment would not be resolved on war, th ey
h ave instead
been
prepared
to escalate
d isputes. Examples
are not
h ard to f ind :
(1)
T h e F ed eralists
opposed
war with
Britain in 1812, but Mad ison went to war noneth eless;
(2)
T ruman went to war in Korea
d espite
th e
protests
of Senate
Republicans; (3)
th e British L abour
Party
publicly opposed
action
ag ainst Eg y pt
in
1956,
but th e
Ed en
g overnment plotted
and executed an attack on
Eg y pt
with th e
g overnments
of F rance and
Israel;
and
(4)
several Democrats
publicly opposed
th e Gulf War in
1990-91,
but th e
Bush
ad ministration was d etermined
to act. In
sh ort,
th ere d oes not
appear
to be a
strong
correlation between d eclarations
by opposition parties
and d ecisions to avoid war.23
In
sum,
th e
purported
inf ormational
properties
of
d emocratic institutions are
unlikely
to
improve
th e
prospects
f or
peace.
It is not clear th at d emocracies
can reveal
private
inf ormation or th at it will be inter-
preted correctly ,
and even in cases wh ere
sig naling
and
interpretation
are accurate th ere are reasons to d oubt
th at th is will remove th e cause of war.
CONCL USION
T h e causal
log ics
th at
und erpin
d emocratic
peace
th e-
ory
cannot
explain wh y
d emocracies remain at
peace
with one anoth er because th e mech anisms th at make
up
th ese
log ics
d o not
operate
as
stipulated by
th e
th eory 's
proponents.
In th e case of th e normative
log ic,
liberal
d emocracies d o not
reliably
externalize th eir d omestic
norms of conf lict resolution and d o not treat one an-
oth er with trust and
respect
wh en th eir interests clash .
Similarly ,
in th e case of th e institutional
log ic,
d emo-
cratic lead ers are not
especially
accountable to
peace-
loving publics
or
pacif ic
interest
g roups,
d emocracies
are not
particularly
slow to mobilize or
incapable
of sur-
prise attack,
and
open political competition
of f ers no
g uarantee
th at a
d emocracy
will reveal
private
inf orma-
tion about its level of resolve. In view of th ese
f ind ing s
th ere are
g ood
reasons to d oubt th at
joint d emocracy
causes
peace.
Democratic
peace
th eorists could counter th is claim
by pointing
out th at even in th e absence of a
g ood
ex-
planation
f or th e d emocratic
peace,
th e f act remains
th at d emocracies h ave
rarely f oug h t
one anoth er. In
ad d ition to
casting
d oubt on
existing explanations
f or
th e d emocratic
peace, th en,
a
compreh ensive critique
sh ould also of f er a
positive
account of th e
f ind ing .
One
potential explanation
is th at th e d emocratic
peace
is in f act an
imperial peace
based on American
power.
T h is claim rests on two observations.
F irst,
th e
d emocratic
peace
is
essentially
a
post-World
War II
ph enomenon
restricted to th e Americas and Western
Europe. Second , th e United States h as been th e d om-
inant
power
in both th ese
reg ions
since World War II
and h as
placed
an
overrid ing emph asis
on
reg ional
peace.
T h ere are th ree reasons we sh ould
expect
d emocratic
peace th eory 's empirical
claims to h old
only
in th e
post-
1945
period . F irst, as even
proponents
of th e d emo-
cratic
peace
h ave ad mitted , th ere were f ew d emocracies
22
On th e rally ef f ect see Mueller 1970. Rourke
(1993) arg ues
th at
th e extension of th e Presid ent's
power
over d ecisions to use f orce
h as owed as much to
Cong ress's willing ness
to d ef er to h im
d uring
international crises as to h is seizure of such
powers.
23
Kirsch ner (2000) sug g ests th at even if all
parties
know each oth ers'
private inf ormation,
th ere are still
g ood
reasons to
expect
th em to
g o
to war.
599
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T h e F lawed
L og ic
of Democratic Peace
T h eory
November 2003
in th e international
sy stem prior
to 1945 and even f ewer
th at were in a
position
to
f ig h t
one anoth er. Since
1945,
h owever,
both th e number of d emocracies in th e in-
ternational
sy stem
and th e number th at h ave h ad an
opportunity
to
f ig h t
one anoth er h ave
g rown marked ly
(e.g .,
Russett
1993, 20). Second ,
wh ile members of d ou-
ble d emocratic
d y ad s
were not
sig nif icantly
less
likely
to
f ig h t
one anoth er th an members of oth er
ty pes
of
d y ad s
prior
to World War
II, th ey
h ave been
sig nif icantly
more
peacef ul
since th en
(e.g .,
F arber and Gowa
1997).
T h ird ,
th e f arth er back we
g o
in
h istory
th e h ard er it
is to f ind a consensus
among
both sch olars and
poli-
cy makers
on wh at states
qualif y
as d emocracies. De-
pend ing
on wh ose criteria we
use,
th ere
may
h ave been
no d emocratic wars
prior
to
1945,
or th ere
may
h ave
been several
(see, e.g ., L ay ne 1994; Ray 1995;
Russett
1993; Spiro 1994).
Since
th en, h owever,
we can be
f airly
certain th at d emocracies h ave
h ard ly f oug h t
each oth er
at all.
Most of th e
purely
d emocratic
d y ad s
since World
War II can be f ound in th e Americas and Western
Europe. My analy sis
includ es all
pairs
of d emocracies
d irectly
or
ind irectly contig uous
to one anoth er or
sep-
arated
by
less th an 150 miles of water between 1950 and
1990
(Przeworski
et al.
2000;
Sch af er
1993).
T h is
y ield s
2,427
d ouble d emocratic
d y ad s,
of wh ich
1,306 (54%)
were
comprised
of two
European states,
465
(19%)
were
comprised
of two American
states,
and 418
(17%)
comprised
one American state and one
European
state.
In
sh ort,
90% of
purely
d emocratic
d y ad s
h ave been
conf ined to two
g eog raph ic reg ions,
th e Americas and
Western
Europe.
American
prepond erance
h as
und erpinned ,
and con-
tinues to
und erpin stability
and
peace
in both of th ese
reg ions.
In th e Americas th e United States h as suc-
cessf ully ad opted
a
two-prong ed strateg y
of
d riving
out th e
European
colonial
powers
and
selectively
in-
tervening
eith er to ensure th at
reg ional
conf licts d o
not escalate to th e level of serious
military
conf lict or
to install
reg imes
th at are
sy mpath etic
to its interests.
T h e result h as been a
reg ion
in wh ich most states are
prepared
to toe th e American line and none h ave
pre-
tensions to alter th e status
quo.
In
Europe,
th e
expe-
rience of both World Wars
persuad ed
American
poli-
cy makers
th at U.S. interests
lay
in
preventing
th e con-
tinent ever
returning
to th e
security competition
th at
h ad
plag ued
it since th e
Napoleonic
Wars.
Major
ini-
tiatives
includ ing
th e Marsh all
Plan,
th e North Atlantic
T reaty , European integ ration,
and th e f orward
d eploy -
ment of American
troops
on German soil sh ould all
be viewed f rom th is
perspective.
Each was
d esig ned
eith er to
protect th e
European powers
f rom one an-
oth er
or to constrain th eir
ability
to act as
sovereig n
states, th ereby preventing
a return to
multipolarity
and
eliminating
th e
security
d ilemma as a f actor in
European politics. T h ese
objectives
continue to
pro-
vid e th e basis f or
Wash ing ton's European policy tod ay
and
explain
its continued attach ment to NAT O and its
support
f or th e eastward
expansion
of th e
European
Union. In sum, th e United States h as been
by
f ar th e
most d ominant state in both th e Americas and Western
Europe
since World War II and h as been committed ,
above
all,
to
ensuring
th at both
reg ions
remain at
peace.24
Evaluating
wh eth er th e d emocratic
peace f ind ing
is
caused
by d emocracy
or
by
some oth er f actor such
as American
prepond erance
h as
implications
f ar be-
y ond
th e
acad emy .
If
peace
and
security
are ind eed a
consequence
of sh ared
d emocracy ,
th en international
d emocratization sh ould continue to lie at th e h eart of
American
g rand strateg y .
But
if ,
as I h ave
sug g ested ,
d emocracy
d oes not cause
peace,
th en American
poli-
cy makers
are
expend ing
valuable resources on a
policy
th at,
wh ile
morally praiseworth y ,
d oes not make
America more secure.
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