• Greater Jakarta
  • BINUS @Greater Jakarta
  • BINUS @Bekasi
  • BINUS @Bandung
  • BINUS @Malang
  • BINUS @Semarang
  • About International Relations Program
  • Organizational Structure
  • Partnership
  • Minor Program
  • Mobility Program
  • Enrichment Program
  • Journal of ASEAN Studies
  • Admission Schedule
  • Entry Requirements
  • Tuition Fee
  • Scholarship
  • BINUS UNIVERSITY
  • Activities / Articles / Featured / IRB News / Student Activities / Student Corner

The Logic of Democratic Peace Theory in the Post-Cold War Era

  • Student Activities
  • Student Corner

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Description

The emergence of democratic states in the post–Cold War era has influenced international relations dynamics and has led to receding number of major conflicts between great powers in the world, and after the dissolution of the USSR, it impacted the international system in several ways. The phenomenon of the USA that become the sole world super power makes liberal ideology and democracy also hold strong influence in the international sphere. The structure of a democratic state also makes it harder for the head of the state to declare war.

The international system is currently in a long peace era after the Cold War; there are no major power wars with devastating effects. The emergence of liberal democratic states make the  essay of Perpetual Peace, Kant that stated to attain peace, states must first be democratic. This is because the values embedded in liberal democratic framework actively support the promotion of peace, various attributes and practices of democratic states also factor in the process of maintaining peace. Hence, in an era where democracy is the dominant system in the world, the frequency of major power war has diminished.

Introduction

The proposition of the Democratic Peace Theory states that democratic states do not go to war against each other and can be used to explain the relatively peaceful international system in the post–Cold War era due to the lack of major powers war.  Following the world wars, the world saw the fall of colonialism and the rise of young democratic sovereign states. After that, the fall of the Soviet Union marked the fall of communism in the international sphere as well as the rise of independent states that used to be part of the union. These states, much like the majority of other states in the world, have also adopted a democratic system to replace the former authoritarian system. This emergence of democratic states in the post-Cold War era has influenced international relations dynamics and has led to receding number of major conflicts between great powers in the world.

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

The Cold War refers to the state of tension between two major superpowers, the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), after the world wars. The term “cold” was used because despite the intense conflict between the two sides, no “hot” wars or direct armed conflicts happened during this period of time. Instead, the two opposing nations competed against each other in a series of proxy wars. Proxy wars in this era refer to armed conflicts instigated by the major powers, USA and USSR, which are fought between regional states which are supported by the superpower states. [1]

A prominent example of the proxy wars in the Cold War era is the Korean War, which started in 1950 and ended in 1953. At the end of World War II, the southern part of Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation by American troops and the North by Soviet forces, dividing Korea into two sides at the 38 th parallel. Both sides were supposed to withdraw from Korea when the nation was deemed fit to self-rule. However, when the Cold War emerged, the USSR intended to spread communism into Korea and the United States countered this action as part of the containment policy. These actions then led a war to break out between the two sides, leaving Korea divided for decades after the end of Cold War.

More Proxy Wars Initiated by either The USA or The USSR

While the War never escalated into direct conflict, the tension, as well as the proxy wars initiated by both sides, caused this period to be considered as a major war. The Cold War ended in the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet Union. This war was the last large-scale confrontation among the world’s great powers.

In the Post–Cold War era, the international system is relatively peaceful with no major wars between competing world powers. There has also been a shift in the trends in armed conflicts. Overall, the number of armed conflict occurrences in the post–Cold War era has decreased. [2] According to a report compiled by PRIO in 2016, there is also a downwards trend for interstate conflicts while the trend for intrastate conflicts is generally rising. [3] Therefore, there has been a shift towards asymmetrical armed conflicts – such as between states and insurgence groups – in contrast to the typical symmetrical conflicts trend in the past. Moreover, these conflicts generally only involve states which are not a major or even an emerging power. The frequency of great power war has completely diminished in the post-Cold War period. [4]

The dissolution of the USSR impacted the international system in several ways. First, this phenomenon left the USA to be the sole world super power. At that time, no other state besides the USSR was able to compete with the capabilities of the USA. Other countries in the world at that time were either aligned with the USA and thus pose no threat or they were not strong enough to challenge the United States reign in the international politics.

Decades later, USA remains as the world’s sole hegemony. There might have been some states, such as China and Russia, which are starting to rise up and seem to be getting closer to challenge the United States position as the world’s sole hegemony. Despite this, There may have been some tension between the countries but if there were any kind of hostility, it was not acted upon.

Ideological hostility, which was one of the main factors which brought on the war, was also eliminated. The two major super powers, USA and the USSR, had contrasting political systems and behind those political systems, contrasting ideological views. Due to the contrast between the two ideologies, any attempt to spread one will be seen as hostile by the other nation. The fall of communism left only liberalism standing as the main ideology held by a major power. The democratization process the former Soviet states went through also ensured this. The Soviet dissolution also led to the birth, or rebirth, of fifteen independent states in Eastern and Central Europe. Along with weakening of communism influences, these states went on to adopt democratic system to replace the old authoritarian system. USA even assisted those states through this process and while it was not without difficulties nor entirely successful, it did transform the states ideological view and increased the political freedom of the people in each country.

This democratization process played an important role in promoting and maintaining peace. Visions of world peace have been put on the foundation of the collective peace between democracies. Kant spoke of perpetual peace in which he stated that one of the main pillars for peace is based upon states sharing “republican constitutions” [5] . In this context, the republican constitution Kant refers to corresponds with the main idea of a democratic state; states which have a freedom-based constitution, representative government, and clear separation of power. [6] Thus, adhering to the idea of perpetual peace, the democratization of states brings positive impact on the promotion of peace.

The Logic Behind The Existence of Liberal Democratic States

First, democracies tend to be more prosperous. States that identify as democratic ranked higher in the Prosperity Index of 2016 by Legatum Institute. [7] Meanwhile, states ranked lower in the list are mainly states that identify as autocratic. The prosperity of the people leads to a stable domestic political environment. Internal conflicts are less likely to happen, and less internal turmoil allows the government to focus on the development of the country. Stability and country development go hand in hand and more stability means a state is likely to be stronger. Applied to non-hegemony states, this means that they are less prone to be an object of attack by other states. Even if the state is not a regional hegemony, the internal stability it possesses allows it to maintain a relatively strong influence in the international political sphere and is less vulnerable to be an object of attack.

The amount of power a major power state possesses holds enough deterrent effect. The concern when talking about a major power is whether or not they will initiate a war. Liberals consider wars to be inhumane and therefore, should not be done unless it serves a purpose. One of the main traditional factors that cause a war is political-economy [8] ; War may be used as a way to obtain foreign wealth and resources. A powerful and prospering state will already have fulfilled most of its people’s need economically. Moreover, a democracy will put the social welfare of its people at the top of its priority. Wars are costly; it also threatens the aggregate social welfare of a state. Therefore, for this reason, a major power is unlikely to wage a war.

Liberal ideology and democracy also hold strong influence in the international sphere. A democratic government is seen as the height of civilization and undemocratic states are considered uncivilized. Democracies also tend to trust each other more and are more likely to cooperate in multiple sectors, such as trade and economy, which are important to the survival of the state. In 2013, 123 of 192 recognized states in the world are democratic, though with various levels of democracy implementation. [9] Being undemocratic may pose problems for a state when attempting to form diplomatic relations from the majority of the world and therefore interfere with the state’s effort to survive.

Differences in national attributes, such as governmental system and ideology, have been shown to have a great impact on the likelihood of war. Similar-minded states with identical ideology are more inclined to trust each other and form cooperation. Germany and France are good examples for this case. Due to their similarities, misunderstanding and security dilemma between both states are likely to be minimized as each has an insight to how the other might utilize its power. However, the case differs with the US and North Korea. Due to the differences between both state’s ideologies, predicting the other’s move on how they will exercise their military power is harder. Between these two countries, the security dilemma is very prominent, heightening the tension. The probability of war breaking out between both states is also heightened. For that reason, democracies are expected to maintain peace, at least among similar-minded states.

Liberal states tend to not use coercive powers in attaining its objectives with other liberal states. Liberalism upholds the value of freedom and human rights, utilizing military power may go against these values as it may cost the lives and freedom of civilians in the target state. Democracies will avoid exercising coercive means unless necessary. This condition makes it more likely for democracies to prefer peaceful negotiations to reach an agreement. Soft power –influencing other states through cultures and knowledge – or smart power – a combination between soft and hard or coercive power – are preferred by democracies.

Preference for soft and smart power leads to better diplomatic relations. Negotiations and communication will be done more frequently among democratic states than among states with different ideologies. Overall, this results in better relations between states. Increased communication also reduces the likelihood of misunderstanding to occur. As a result, states intentions are more clearly understandable by the other and the probability of a conflict to break out is reduced.

Liberals tend to be more pacific. It does not mean that they will not participate in a war. As stated before, liberals believe that a war must serve a purpose. A democratic state is also very likely to promote democracy in autocratic states. In such condition, a democracy is inclined to intervene and even launch military operations to make way for a regime change, turning the situation into some sort of a “crusade” for democracy. Such is the case with USA and states in the Middle East region. In its attempt to promote democracy, the USA often interferes with foreign states affairs and it also had had occurrences where it used military forces to achieve its objectives. A prime example for this is the 2003 US intervention in Iraq.

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Despite this, it is important to note that the majority of the world is democratic, just like USA which is the hegemony in the post-Cold War period. It is also true for emerging world powers such as China and Russia. While it may be argued that these states have deeply flawed democratic system, these states still hold some similarities with the current super power. In this situation, the super power has no reason to launch an attack by saying that it is an attempt to spread democracy nor is it likely for a war caused by ideological hostility to occur. Other states that could potentially rise to major power status such as India and Brazil are also democracies. Thus, peace is likely to be maintained among major powers in the post-Cold War era.

Interdependence among democratic states is also an important factor in maintaining peace in the post-Cold War period. With the emergence of democratic states, liberal trade flourishes in the international system as it is one of the main characteristics of liberal states. It is considered to be a way to increase the aggregate social welfare of the people. Thus, democracies more often than not support trade relations with minimum barrier, allowing goods to flow freely between both sides. Prolonged trade relation causes population from both states to be dependent on each other to gain income or obtain certain resources. Wars are costly, even more so if both sides economies are deeply connected, which is more likely to be the case between democratic states.  The more economically interdependent a state is in relation to another, the more devastating the impacts of war will be to its economy. Therefore, to preserve its economy, democratic states are unlikely to wage war against each other.

Lastly, the will of the people in democratic states also play role in preserving peace. Due to its high regards towards the welfare of the people as well as freedom, democracies are theoretically people-driven, even nations that have flawed democracy still goes along with the population’s voice to an extent. When a state is people-driven, it is unlikely for that state to declare war unless it is for self-preservation measure. The rationale behind this is the fact that a war is costly and requires public mobilization Wars will cause part of the population to be drafted, the economy will also suffer as state budget will mostly be spent on war efforts, and infrastructures will likely be destroyed. Civilians end up bearing the brunt of wars whether their state is the victor or not.

The Major World Power in The post-Cold War Period

The structure of a democratic state also makes it harder for the head of the state to declare war.  Unlike autocratic states, democratic states tend to have a higher level of transparency in its governance structure. In autocratic states, state leaders would have no problem declaring war since no other power in the state since their power is absolute in state. Meanwhile, civilians of a democratic state can easily perform check and balance towards the government’s policy and decisions, including those regarding war and conflicts.  A democratic government structure also allows the population to deliver their aspirations through multiple channels and adhering to what has been stated before; the population is inclined to vote against a war.

Despite the numerous armed conflicts it is involved in, the United States is only involved in extra state wars in foreign lands; the only part of the USA population put at risk is those who are in the military, the combatants who are drafted.  The United States, prioritizing its population’s welfare, is unlikely to declare interstate war which directly involves itself since doing so will threaten the security population.

The international system is currently in a long peace era after the Cold War; there are no major power wars with devastating effects. Incidentally, this era also sees the emergence of liberal democratic states. In his essay of Perpetual Peace, Kant stated that to attain peace, states must first be democratic. This is because the values embedded in liberal democratic framework actively support the promotion of peace. Various attributes and practices of democratic states also factor in the process of maintaining peace. Hence, in an era where democracy is the dominant system in the world, the frequency of major power war has diminished.

Bar-Siman-Tov, Y. (1984). The Strategy of War by Proxy. Cooperation and Conflict, 19 (4), 263-273. doi:10.1177/001083678401900405

Chan, S. (1984). Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Are the Freer Countries More Pacific? Journal of Conflict Resolution, 28 (4), 617-648. doi:10.1177/0022002784028004003

Doyle, M. W. (1983). Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 12 (3), 205-235.  And   Doyle, M. W. (1983). Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2 . Philosophy & Public Affairs, 12 (4), 325-353

Dupuy, Gates, Nygard, Rudolfsen, Strand, & Urdal. (2016). Trends in Armed Conflict 1946-2015 (Rep.). Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo.

Farber, H. S., & Gowa, J. (1997). Common Interests or Common Polities? Reinterpreting the Democratic Peace. The Journal of Politics, 59 (02), 393-417. doi:10.2307/2998170

Hegre, H. (2000). Development and the Liberal Peace: What Does it Take to be a Trading State? Journal of Peace Research, 37 (1), 5-30. doi:10.1177/0022343300037001001

How Many Democratic Nations Are There? (2016, December 05). Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.borgenmagazine.com/many-democratic-nations/

Lake, D. A. (1992). Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War. American Political Science Review, 86 (01). doi:10.2307/1964013

Levy, J. S. (1988). Domestic Politics and War. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 18 (4), 653. doi:10.2307/204819

Levy, J. S., & Thompson, W. R. (2011). The Arc of War: Origins, Escalation, and Transformation . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

Owen, J. M. (1994). How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace. International Security, 19 (2), 87-125. doi:10.2307/2539197

Pinker, S. (2012). The Long Peace. In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined . NY, NY: Penguin Books

Prosperity Index 2016 (Rep.). (2017). London: Legatum Institute.

Russett, B. M. (2009). Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses. European Journal of International Relations, 15 (1), 9-36. doi:10.1177/1354066108100051

Ray, J. L. (1998). Does Democracy Cause Peace? Annual Review of Political Science, 1 (1), 27-46. doi:10.1146/annurev.polisci.1.1.27

Russett, B. M. (1993). Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War world . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sarkees, Meredith Reid and Frank Wayman (2010). Resort to War: 1816 – 2007. Washington DC: CQ Press

[1] Bar-Siman-Tov, Y. (1984). The Strategy of War by Proxy. Cooperation and Conflict, 19 (4), 263-273. doi:10.1177/001083678401900405

2 Sarkees, Meredith Reid and Frank Wayman (2010). Resort to War: 1816 – 2007. Washington DC: CQ Press

3 Dupuy et al. (2016). Trends in Armed Conflict 1946-2015 (Rep.). Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo.

4 Levy, J. S., & Thompson, W. R. (2011). The Arc of War: Origins, Escalation, and Transformation . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press., p. 8

5 Russett, B. M. (1993). Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War world . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press., p. 4

7 Prosperity Index 2016 (Rep.). (2017). London: Legatum Institute.

8 Levy, J. S., & Thompson, W. R. op. cit., p. 54-86

9 How Many Democratic Nations Are There? (2016, December 05). Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.borgenmagazine.com/many-democratic-nations/

Cornelia Febriani Tjandra ( 2001589781 )

International Relations Student – BINUS University

Last updated : November 19, 2018 00:00

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Your browser is not fully compatible with the features of our website.

The Democratic Peace Theory

It has been argued that the absence of war between democratic states ‘comes as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations.’ [1] Although statistically the probability of war between any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states. [2] This democratic peace proposition not only challenges the validity of other political systems (i.e., fascism, communism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism), but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasises balance-of-power calculations and common strategic interests in order to explain the peace and stability that characterises relations between liberal democracies. [3] This essay argues, however, that the structural and normative arguments of the democratic peace theory together offer a far more logical and convincing explanation for this seeming anomaly. Furthermore, in line with Immanuel Kant’s theory of perpetual peace, I argue that the global spread of democracy will result in greater international peace if this occurs in parallel with the strengthening of economic interdependence and international organisations. The difficulty lies in the significant risk of instability inherent in the process of democratisation and the uncertainty that remains in an ‘incomplete Kantian world’ where the Hobbesian state of anarchy has not yet entirely disappeared from the international system.

Structural Explanation

Of the two main variants of the democratic peace theory, the structural account argues that it is the institutions of representative government, which hold elected officials and decision-makers accountable to a wide electorate, that make war a largely unattractive option for both the government and its citizens. [4] Because the costs and risks of war directly affect large segments of the population, it is expected that the average voter will throw the incumbent leader/party out of office if they initiate a losing or unnecessary war, thus, providing a clear institutional incentive for democratic leaders to anticipate such an electoral response before deciding to go to war. [5] This view does not assume that all citizens and elected representatives are liberal-minded, but simply that democratic structures that give citizens leverage over government decisions will make it less likely that a democratic leader will be able to initiate a war with another liberal democracy. [6] Thus, even with an illiberal leader in place, institutions such as free speech, political pluralism, and competitive elections will make it difficult for these leaders to convince or persuade the public to go to war. [7]

Normative Explanation

Proponents of the normative/cultural perspective, by contrast, argue that shared democratic and liberal values best explain the peace that exists between democratic states. [8] According to this view, democratic political culture encourages peaceful means of conflict resolution which are extended beyond the domestic political process to other democratic states because leaders in both countries hold a reasonable expectation that their counterparts will also be able to work out their differences peacefully. [9] Political ideology, therefore, determines how democracies distinguish allies from adversaries: democracies that represent and act in their citizens’ interests are treated with respect and consideration, whereas nondemocracies that use violence and oppression against their own people are regarded with mistrust and suspicion. [10] The importance of perception means that even if a particular state has ‘enlightened citizens and liberal-democratic institutions,’ unless other democratic states regard it as a genuine liberal democracy then the democratic peace proposition will not hold. [11] This argument can, therefore, explain a number of contentious cases: Americans did not consider England democratic in 1812 because England was a monarchy (War of 1812) and liberals in the Union did not consider the Confederacy a liberal democracy because of their use of slavery (American Civil War). [12]

Although some scholars regard the institutional and normative explanations as mutually exclusive, a much more intuitive and persuasive defence of the democratic peace theory emerges from combining these two viewpoints. Thus, the particular democratic practices that make war with other liberal democracies unlikely – free and fair elections, the rule of law, free press, a competitive party system – are driven by both ‘converging expectations about what conventional behaviour is likely to be’ (institutions) and ‘standards for what behaviour ought to be’ (norms). [13] These two explanations are complimentary and mutually reinforcing: cultural norms influences the creation and evolution of political institutions, and institutions help generate a more peaceful moral culture over time. [14]

Criticism of the Theory

A great deal of criticism of the democratic peace theory is focused on methodology. It is argued that the subjectivity of the specifics definitions adopted in such highly empirical studies is likely to significantly affect the results, making it difficult to validate the theory with certainty. [15] But this is largely undermined by a large number of studies that show democracies are highly unlikely to fight each other irrespective of the definition of democracy, the type of cases considered, or the dispute/war threshold. [16] Furthermore, there has already been a significant increase in the number of democratic-democratic dyads from less than 2% of all political dyads in the 19 th century, to 13% from 1900-1945, and 11% over the 1946-89 period without any major conflict. [17]

More substantial criticism comes from scholars whom, while not questioning the empirical findings, put forth contending arguments to explain the causal relationship between democracy and peace. Realists argue that it is not common polities but rather common interests that can best explain the low incidence of wars between democracies. [18] Beginning with the Cold War, they point out that democratic states have been far more likely to formally align themselves with other democracies than in the century before, suggesting that common strategic interests are a more important factor than domestic political processes. [19] Thus, the particular structure of the international political system is the key factor determining how states will act. [20] But the realist critique has been largely disproven by studies that have persuasively found that democracy, rather than alliance, prevents conflict and war; nonaligned democracies are less likely to fight each other than aligned nondemocracies; and two nondemocratic states that share common interests are more likely to fight each other than two democracies that do not share common interests. [21]

Monadic Explanation

Of course, the point on which critics of the democratic peace theory are largely correct is that liberal democracies are not significantly less likely to go to war with other nondemocratic states. The available evidence largely disproves the monadic proposition that democratic states are less prone to use force regardless of the regime type of the opposing state. [22] This is likely due to the fact that democratic states still function in an ‘incompletely Kantian world’ where democracies have only recently gone from being a minority to the slight majority within the post-Cold War period. [23] Power politics, therefore, is still a necessary reality for most democratic states, particularly given the high levels of conflict between mixed dyads. [24] Nonetheless, there are a number of important advantages for democracies: they are more likely to enter low-level conflicts than full-scale wars; more willing to refrain from escalating disputes into an actual war; [25] and less likely to initiate the use of violence against another state. [26]

More importantly perhaps, democracies that do initiate war are more likely to win than nondemocratic states. [27] Because public support for war in democracies decreases considerably over time, there is a strong incentive for democratic leaders and decision-makers to not only choose to initiate only wars that they can win, but ones they can win quickly. [28] Although there are a number of notable exceptions, such as the U.S.-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, this does suggest that the global spread of democracy would bring additional benefits beyond simply reducing the possibility of war between democratic states. This would include a greater number of low-level conflicts in proportion to full-scale wars, an increase in the number of states less likely to either initiate war or escalate non-violent confrontations into war, and a greater number of short, successful wars as opposed to long and protracted wars. Thus, even though an increase in the number of democratic states may not reduce the overall number of democratic-nondemocratic conflicts, this should not detract from these largely positive qualitative changes one would expect to occur.

Dyadic Explanation

A much more substantial argument comes from the dyadic proposition of the democratic peace theory: the observation that democracies create a separate and joint peace among other democratic states. [29] With an autocratic-democratic dyad, if the autocracy is replaced with a democracy it is argued that the likelihood of conflict will drop by 33 percent. [30] Moreover, beyond conflict and war, the evidence suggests that interstate rivalries among democracy dyads are also exceedingly rare and that a change in regime (from nondemocracy to democracy) will not only reduce the propensity for conflict or rivalry between any two states, but will actually accelerate this trend more rapidly over time. [31] It similarly follows then that coalitions of democratic states will also be better able to maintain mutual commitments and obligations because the institutional constraints of liberal democracy make it difficult to reverse any mutual commitments made through autonomous and accountable political institutions. [32] This predictability is not only absent for nondemocracies due to the lack of transparency and openness of their political systems, but actually negatively impacts their ability to win wars: the number of democratic partners increases the probability of winning a war by 62% whereas the number of nondemocratic partners decreases this likelihood by 44%. [33] What this suggests is that democracies should work to strengthen their formal alliances not only for normative or ideological reasons but for the expected efficiency gains this would provide and as a practical way of avoiding the collective action problems that frequently plague nondemocratic or mixed regime coalitions.

More positively, that there has not been any war between democracies despite a rapid growth in the number of democratic dyads within the international system (and thus an increase in the probability of conflict between democracies), [34] points to a significant trend: the incidence of conflict should gradually decline over time if more countries become democratic. [35] This is important not only because liberal democracies must still retain military force as a means to prevent or defend themselves from aggression in the current international system, but because democracies are more likely to receive challenges and threats to their security while this peace still remains ‘separate.’ [36]

Democratisation

There are two notable reasons, however, why the global spread of democracy may actually undermine prospects for international peace and they both have to do with the difficulties associated with the process of democratisation. First, a number of studies have shown that democratic transitions which occur when a country’s political institutions are particularly weak (often at the outset of the transition from autocracy to democracy), or when the elites within that country are threatened by the democratisation process itself (by having to respond to a wide and divergent range of newly-formulated interests), have a greater likelihood that this process will trigger aggressive nationalist sentiment and/or the outbreak of civil or inter-state war. [37] If political institutions are weak at the early stages of a transition, the rising demand for mass participation can provide an incentive for elites to adopt nationalist, ethno-religious, or populist policies, yet, crucially, before these elites can be held sufficiently accountable to the wider electorate. [38] A number of examples can be cited ranging from Napoleon III’s France, Wilhelmine Germany, and Taisho Japan to more recent cases such as Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic (the Yugoslav Wars), Peru and Ecuador in the late 1980s/early 1990s (Cenepa War 1995), Ethiopia’s 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea following the collapse of the Dergue dictatorship, and the 1999 India-Pakistan war after limited moves towards democratisation in both Pakistan and Kashmir. [39] This also extends to the observation that the vast majority of civil wars over the past century have occurred within transitional or mixed regimes, as opposed to either democratic or authoritarian regimes, which are more able to effectively contain repression by democratic or violent means, respectively. [40] Taking this into account, therefore, it is far more likely that a country will be able to successfully consolidate its transition if democratisation occurs according to a particular historical sequence: the emergence of a national identity, followed by the institutionalisation of the central government, and then mass electoral and political participation. [41]

The second problem relates to the first: most countries undergoing a transition to democracy will not necessarily be in a position to follow this particular sequence, yet even if they are it is not guaranteed that liberal democratic states will be able or willing to help. It is, therefore, important to be aware of the obvious limits of external military intervention. Even if liberal states adopt a cautious cost-benefit analysis in which they only intervene or assist states when they are certain that there is substantial and legitimate internal support present and when they have the consent of international bodies such as the UN (i.e., in Korea, Libya, Afghanistan), the act of helping overthrow an authoritarian regime may undermine those very liberal norms and values underpinning the democratic peace. [42] That the costs associated with such interventions are often quite considerable and can be difficult to justify domestically also means that even if there is a clear moral argument for helping authoritarian states democratise, political and economic considerations may still prevail. Similarly, although it is often states undergoing democratic transitions that initiate wars, their military weaknesses and political and social instability can also make them attractive targets for attack. [43] This was the case for East Timor following its independence vote in 1999 and Iran after its 1979 revolution when they were invaded by Indonesian and Iraqi forces respectively. [44] Thus, even though there is a very clear normative benefit to increasing the number of democracies within the international system, there is a real risk of instability and conflict if the transition does not establish the institutional preconditions for effective and accountable governance prior to mass political participation and elections, and if it takes place within an unstable regional/international environment. [45]

Wider Implications

Similarly, how liberal states conduct their foreign policy on an individual basis and collectively at the international level will largely determine whether the Kantian system can be successfully expanded. It is often argued by realists that the democratic decision-making process itself deprives policymakers of the necessary ‘coherence, long-range planning, flexibility and secrecy’ required to conduct an effective foreign policy. [46] According to this view, public opinion exerts an autonomous influence on the actions of political leaders that can distract democratic states from focusing on the most important imperatives: power and security. [47] But, as mentioned earlier, the very political institutions and patterns of behaviour that characterise liberal democracies also allow these states to best defend themselves and adopt a more cautious and effective approach to the use of force, thereby achieving the ‘best, securest, and safest outcomes for the most people.’ [48] Therefore, this not only challenges the key assumptions underlying realism – that normative goals preclude a clear and accurate analysis of international affairs – but the idea that relative military capabilities and the distribution of power among great powers alone should dictate foreign policy strategy. [49] Rather, democracies can best guarantee their own security by empowering their citizens and strengthening institutional checks and balances because these very factors have been shown to uphold the democratic peace and facilitate a more prudent foreign policy. [50]

At the international level, the recent increase in the number of democratic states provides a unique opportunity to reconstruct the norms and values underpinning the international system to more accurately reflect the peaceful interactions of democracies. [51] This would ideally mean strengthening the two other aspects of the Kantian system: international organisations and economic interdependence. Although the democratic peace represents the possibility of ‘uncoerced peace without central authority,’ [52] it is also the case that this liberal order has been best served when there has been a liberal state (i.e., the United States after World War II) that is both able and prepared to sustain the economic and political foundations of the wider liberal society beyond its own borders. [53] Strengthening a dense network of inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) that extend this responsibility to a larger number of democratic states and encourages greater cooperation among members through greater consultation and coordination, such as the WTO, IMF, World Bank, UN, and International Criminal Court, would arguably provide a stronger foundation for extending this perpetual peace outwards. [54] This also builds on studies that have shown the constraining effect of IGOs is greatest for politically relevant dyads – ‘contiguous pairs of states and pairs that include at least one major power’ – which also happen to account for the majority of interstate disputes and conflict. [55] Focusing efforts to more proactively include the largest nondemocracies (China, Vietnam, Russia, Iran) into this liberal international order, and to strengthen those elements of constitutional liberalism (rule of law, institutional checks on power, individual freedoms) lacking in illiberal democracies (Belarus, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Romania, Malaysia etc.) would arguably help consolidate the democratic peace most effectively. [56]

This is also the case for economic cooperation and interdependence. The observation that the likelihood of conflict between any two states with high levels of bilateral trade will be 33% lower than if those states only had an average level of economic interdependence suggests that democratic states will greatly benefit from upholding a liberal international economic system free of protectionism and mercantilist policies. [57] Because maintaining free and open trade relations rests on the assumption that market-based forces, rather than violence or coercion, will determine future economic transactions, the accompanying sense of mutual dependence will often act as a restraint on the use of military force. [58] Any accompanying increase in the quantity or quality of interstate communication is also likely to make it easier for democracies to understand the intentions and preferences of nondemocracies as well as their willingness to adhere to mutual agreements and commitments. [59]

The institutional and normative aspects of the democratic peace proposition, thus, provide a very clear, logical reason why the global spread of democracy will result in greater international peace: democratic political institutions make it difficult for governments to initiate war without the consent of the electorate, and the accompanying cultural norms mean democracies will favour a peaceful means of conflict resolution with one another. Of course, this would not necessarily reduce the overall incidence of war as the monadic proposition that democracies are less likely to use conflict regardless of regime type does not hold. But this would still produce a positive qualitative change: democracies are less likely to initiate wars, escalate nonviolent disputes into full-scale war, or engage in long and protracted military conflicts. More importantly, an increase in the number of democracies would extend the liberal peace to a greater number of countries, and increase the probability of winning war – arguably providing a strong normative and practical rationale for liberal states to conduct a more Wilsonian foreign policy. Recognising the inherent difficulties implicit with the democratisation process, however, greater effort should be made to encourage the consolidation of political institutions prior to mass political/electoral participation in transitional states. Strengthening international organisations that embody liberal norms and values, and encouraging economic interdependence with nondemocracies would also help mediate the strategic uncertainty and misperceptions that exist where the Kantian peace meets the Hobbesian state of anarchy.

Choi, Ajin. “The Power of Democratic Competition.” International Security 28, no. 1 (Summer 2003): 142-53.

Davenport, Christian, and David A. Armstrong II. “Democracy and the Violation of Human Rights: A Statistical Analysis from 1976 to 1996.” American Journal of Political Science 48, no. 3 (July 2004): 538-54.

Doyle, Michael W. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 1.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 205-35.

______. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12, no. 4 (Autumn 1983): 323-53.

______. “Liberalism and World Politics.” The American Political Science Review 80, no. 4 (December 1986): 1151-69.

Elman, Miriam Fendius. “The Need for a Qualitative Test of the Democratic Peace Theory.” In Paths to Peace: Is Democracy the Answer? , edited by Miriam Fendius Elman, 1-57. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997.

Farber, Henry S., and Joanne Gowa. “Polities and Peace.” International Security 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995): 123-46.

Gelpi, Christopher F., and Michael Griesdorf. “Winners or Losers? Democracies in International Crisis, 1918–94.” American Political Science Review 95, no. 3 (September 2001): 633-47.

Hensel, Paul R., Gary Goertz, and Paul F. Diehl. “The Democratic Peace and Rivalries.” The Journal of Politics 62, no. 4 (November 2000): 1173-88.

Jervis, Robert. “Theories of War in an Era of Leading-Power Peace.” The American Political Science Review 96, no. 1 (March 2002): 1-14.

Layne, Christopher. “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace.” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 5-49.

Levy, Jack S. “Domestic Politics and War.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 (Spring 1988): 653-73.

Mansfield, Edward D., and Jack Snyder. Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War . Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2005.

Maoz, Zeev. “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?” International Security 22, no. 1 (Summer 1997): 162-98.

Mearsheimer, John J. “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War.” International Security 15, no. 1 (Summer 1990): 5-56.

Owen, John M. “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace.” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 87-125.

Ray, James Lee. “Wars Between Democracies: Rare, or Nonexistent?” International Interactions 18, no. 3 (1993): 251-76.

______. Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation of the Democratic Peace Proposition . Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Reiter, Dan, and Allan C. Stam. Democracies at War . Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Russett, Bruce. “Can A Democratic Peace Be Built?” International Interactions 18, no. 3 (1993): 277-82.

______. Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World . Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.

______. “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses.” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 9 (2009): 9-36.

Russett, Bruce, and John R. Oneal. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations . New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Spiro, David E. “The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace.” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 50-86.

Zakaria, Fareed. “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 76, no. 6 (November/December 1997): 22-43.

[1] Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics and War,” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 (Spring 1988): 661-62.

[2] Michael W. Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 1,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 213-15, 17; Christopher F. Gelpi and Michael Griesdorf, “Winners or Losers? Democracies in International Crisis, 1918–94,” American Political Science Review 95, no. 3 (September 2001): 633-34; Bruce Russett, “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses,” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 9 (2009): 11-12.

[3] Michael W. Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics,” The American Political Science Review 80, no. 4 (December 1986): 1156-57.

[4] Russett, “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses,” 21-22; Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993), 38-40.

[5] Russett, “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses,” 21-22.

[6] John M. Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 123-24; Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2005), 23-27.

[7] Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” 123-24.

[8] Miriam Fendius Elman, “The Need for a Qualitative Test of the Democratic Peace Theory,” in Paths to Peace: Is Democracy the Answer? , ed. Miriam Fendius Elman (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1997), 11-12.

[10] Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” 89-90.

[11] Ibid.: 96-97.

[13] Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 29-30.

[14] Bruce Russett and John R. Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 53; James Lee Ray, Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation of the Democratic Peace Proposition (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1995), 33-37.

[15] David E. Spiro, “The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace,” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 55, 62; James Lee Ray, “Wars Between Democracies: Rare, or Nonexistent?,” International Interactions 18, no. 3 (1993): 252-54.

[16] Zeev Maoz, “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?,” International Security 22, no. 1 (Summer 1997): 175-77; Ray, “Wars Between Democracies: Rare, or Nonexistent?,” 269-70.

[17] Maoz, “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?,” 190.

[18] Henry S. Farber and Joanne Gowa, “Polities and Peace,” International Security 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995): 145-46.

[20] Christopher Layne, “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” International Security 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1994): 10-12; John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War,” International Security 15, no. 1 (Summer 1990): 12-13.

[21] Maoz, “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?,” 175-77; Gelpi and Griesdorf, “Winners or Losers? Democracies in International Crisis, 1918–94,” 45-46.

[22] Elman, “The Need for a Qualitative Test of the Democratic Peace Theory,” 14-18; Layne, “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” 12-13.

[23] Russett, “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses,” 13-14.

[25] Democratic states are, however, more willing to enter into non-violent confrontations even if they generally refrain from escalating these disputes into war.

[26] Russett, “Democracy, War and Expansion through Historical Lenses,” 14.

[27] Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam, Democracies at War (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002), 10-11.

[28] Ibid., 178-79.

[29] Elman, “The Need for a Qualitative Test of the Democratic Peace Theory,” 10-14.

[30] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 114-16.

[31] Paul R. Hensel, Gary Goertz, and Paul F. Diehl, “The Democratic Peace and Rivalries,” The Journal of Politics 62, no. 4 (November 2000): 1187.

[32] Ajin Choi, “The Power of Democratic Competition,” International Security 28, no. 1 (Summer 2003): 144-45.

[33] Ibid.: 146-49. Ajin Choi elaborates that, ‘According to the results of the marginal impact analysis presented in Table 1, the number of democratic partners variable increases the probability of winning a war by 62 percentage points as this variable moves from its minimum to maximum value and all other variables are set at their mean or modal values. The number of nondemocratic partners variable, on the other hand, decreases the probability of winning by 44 percentage points under the same conditions.’

[34] Maoz, “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?,” 190.

[35] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 114-16, 22-24.

[36] Gelpi and Griesdorf, “Winners or Losers? Democracies in International Crisis, 1918–94,” 645-46; Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 302. It is argued that the perceived reluctance of liberal democracies to use force may actually lead to a greater number of military challenges in spite of their military capabilities because the openness of their political system paradoxically only makes their bargaining tactics credible to opponents when they appear willing to use force.

[37] Christian Davenport and David A. Armstrong II, “Democracy and the Violation of Human Rights: A Statistical Analysis from 1976 to 1996,” American Journal of Political Science 48, no. 3 (July 2004): 551-53; Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 265-66.

[38] Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 39-40.

[39] Fareed Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” Foreign Affairs 76, no. 6 (November/December 1997): 36-38; Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 4-6.

[40] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 70-71.

[41] Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 16-19.

[42] Bruce Russett, “Can A Democratic Peace Be Built?,” International Interactions 18, no. 3 (1993): 279-80.

[43] Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 33-34.

[44] Ibid., 4-6, 13-14.

[45] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 116-22; Mansfield and Snyder, Electing To Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War , 273-74.

[46] Levy, “Domestic Politics and War,” 659-61.

[47] Reiter and Stam, Democracies at War , 195-97.

[49] Layne, “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” 49; Reiter and Stam, Democracies at War , 195-97.

[50] Reiter and Stam, Democracies at War , 202-05; Choi, “The Power of Democratic Competition,” 153.

[51] Russett, “Can A Democratic Peace Be Built?,” 280-81; Ray, Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation of the Democratic Peace Proposition , 204-06.

[52] Robert Jervis, “Theories of War in an Era of Leading-Power Peace,” The American Political Science Review 96, no. 1 (March 2002): 11.

[53] Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 1,” 232-33.

[54] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 280-81; Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics,” 1157-58.

[55] Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 280-81.

[56] Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy,” 25-26.

[57] Michael W. Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12, no. 4 (Autumn 1983): 347-48; Russett and Oneal, Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations , 277-80.

[58] Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 1,” 231.

[59] Choi, “The Power of Democratic Competition,” 144-45.

Written by: Kevin Placek Written at: University of Melbourne Written for: Dr. David Mickler Date written: November 2011

Further Reading on E-International Relations

  • Harnessing Alterity to Address the Obstacles of the Democratic Peace Theory
  • Kant, Doyle, and the Democratic Peace Thesis: A Postcolonial Critique
  • The Implicit Imperialism of Democratic Peace
  • A Pareto Optimal Peace: How the Dayton Peace Agreement Struck a Unique Balance
  • Neopatrimonialism and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria
  • Hungary’s Democratic Backsliding as a Threat to EU Normative Power

Please Consider Donating

Before you download your free e-book, please consider donating to support open access publishing.

E-IR is an independent non-profit publisher run by an all volunteer team. Your donations allow us to invest in new open access titles and pay our bandwidth bills to ensure we keep our existing titles free to view. Any amount, in any currency, is appreciated. Many thanks!

Donations are voluntary and not required to download the e-book - your link to download is below.

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Revista Minerva Universitária

Ensaios, críticas e crónicas de estudantes, docentes e investigadores.

Edição: Maio 2023

A estética do “numinoso” nas nouvelles orientales de marguerite yourcenar, a estranha alegria de alguns sectores políticos aquando da morte dos seus inimigos, family romance llc (werner herzog, 2019) – o papel da ficção no novo real, happiness: capitalism vs. marxism: the peterson and žižek debate, charlton heston e a sua trilogia conservadora, democratic peace theory: kant’s heritage and its flaws .

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Democratic Peace Theory has been an important discussion topic in the International Relations field since the mid-twentieth century, a time when the number of demo-liberal societies rose sharply on the international stage, as a direct consequence of worldwide decolonization processes, eventually becoming the predominant form of government towards the end of the 20 th century. In this essay, I will trace back the Kantian origins of this theory to the famous essay Toward Perpetual Peace (1795), which is widely regarded as the philosophical core of the aforementioned theory, since it presented the three tenets that are key aspects of current research projects: republicanism, federations of republics and universal hospitality. I will also address common misunderstandings of Kant’s writings and explore the institutional and normative flaws of the claims proposed by Democratic Peace Theory proponents. Texto de Tomás Correia, PhD Candidate – Philosophy, University of Beira Interior, Department of Communication, Philosophy and Politics. Reviewed by Ricardo Fortunato. Keywords: democratic peace theory, democratic triumphalism, representative democracy, Kant . Cover image: The House of Commons at Westminster, an engraving published as Plate 21 of Microcosm of London, 1808.

1. Introduction

For Immanuel Kant, universal freedom of choice, unrestricted from any constraints and culminating in actions exercised in accordance with pure reason is a value of the upmost importance, one which he tried to extrapolate to the way all societies function. The pursuit of worldwide justice and freedom were put to paper on one of Kant’s most recognizable essays – Toward Perpetual Peace (1795). Kant advances three different mechanisms (embodied in definitive articles) which, he argues, will promote peace between states. The first argument revolves around the condition that every state should have a republican constitution, as a way of creating an accountability mechanism based on the need for “ public approval before the government can decide on the use of military force ” (Mello, 2016, p.2). The second argument proposes that only a federation of states can overcome an anarchic, and often lawless, international system. The third and last argument consists in guaranteeing universal hospitality for every individual (one of the precursors of what we recognize as “Human Rights” today) and promoting what Kant labelled as “ the spirit of commerce ” (Kant, 1991, p.10), both of which, cumulatively, will lead to more amicable relations between states.

The Democratic Peace Theory shares many similarities with Kant’s writings and the influence of the Prussian author on the research programs which address the theory is notorious. Modern academics claim that “ democracies rarely fight one another because they share common norms of live-and-let-live and domestic institutions that constrain the recourse to war ” (Rosato, 2003, p.1). However, this claim has been widely criticized, especially on its normative and institutional frameworks, leading to some discredit in academic circles. Nonetheless, it still maintains its status as an important theoretical explanation for decision-makers in areas of foreign policy, especially in the Western democratic world, spear-headed by the United States of America, where its influence has shaped political action since Wilson’s Presidency in 1912.

Taking into account that the Democratic Peace Theory is intertwined between different fields, namely Political Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, an adequate study of the theory requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Consequently, in this essay, I will start by clarifying the Kantian basis of the theory’s claims through a deconstruction of the three tenets presented by Kant, while addressing some of its common misinterpretations. I will also question the validity of those claims, present some critiques to the overall concept of the possibility of “democratic peace” and analyze its abusive use by political authorities in order to legitimize democratic “crusades”.

2. On Kant’s Definitive Articles

2.1 republics and representative democracy.

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Toward Perpetual Peace is commonly regarded as the philosophical precursor of most democratic peace claims (Manan, 2014). The First Definitive Article suggests that one of the fundamental conditions for extended peace is that every state should have a republican constitution based on an adequate representation of the will of the people, separation of powers and respect to the rule of law. Representation is a key feature in Kant’s idealist project of peace. Kant rejects direct democracy in lieu of a representative government; otherwise, since every man would control both the legislative and executive power, such as in the case of the ancient Greek polis, this would mean that “ democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the single individual without his consent ” (Kant, 1991, p.6). This distinction is of the upmost importance to Democratic Peace Theory proponents, as the constraints on political elites are a huge part of the claims for the absence (or, at least, the drastic reduction) of instances of war between democracies. As Gruyer (2005, p.1) suggests, representative democracies are “ governed by citizens who see the security of their property obtaining only under the universal rule of law rather than by proprietary rulers who can always see a neighboring state as a potential addition to their own personal property ”.

The fact that representation is an integral part of Kant’s republicanism implies that political elites – the representatives – are in a constant accountability relation towards the citizens they represent, binding themselves to fulfil the volonté générale . Failing to do so has negative consequences for the representatives, since they will be more vulnerable to criticism by the media and the electorate, which will promptly remove them from office and from power positions. Rosato (2003, p.587) provides an explanation on how this mechanism works:

Accountability derives from the fact that political elites want to remain in office, that there are opposition parties ready to capitalize on unpopular policies, and that there are regular opportunities for democratic publics to remove elites who have not acted in their best interests. Moreover, several features of democracies, such as freedom of speech and open political processes, make it fairly easy for voters to rate a government’s performance. In short, monitoring and sanctioning democratic leaders is a relatively straightforward matter. Rosato (2003, p.587)

This powerful accountability mechanism leads to the main institutional argument for democratic peace. Institutions and political processes in representative republics hold leaders accountable to an enormous range of social groups, lobbies and political adversaries that, more often than not, are opposed to war. War, in theory, only becomes possible if democratic leaders are able to achieve vast popular support for their actions. This is particularly relevant among Western liberal democracies, due to the fact that the dawn of neo-liberalism brought about a heavy international economic interdependence, leading to the sprouting of influential economic groups that oppose to war on terms of the expected costs it poses on investment and international trade. The argument can be summed up in simple terms: domestic groups are often opposed to war because it is usually costly, is deemed morally wrong or there are political gains to be had from opposing groups.

Inherent to accountability, the informational deterrent mechanism also supports democratic peace claims, based on two other factors: transparency and mobilization. Precisely because accountability exists in representative democracies, information must be shared among all citizens. Democratic institutions are usually characterized by their transparency in decision-making processes and reliable signaling to other states in times of crisis. As Mello (2016, p.3) argues: “ Democratic institutional procedures foster transparency and they enable a clear communication of political goals. Hence, uncertainty is reduced and misjudgement about a leader’s intentions becomes less likely ”. Transparent crisis-solving mechanisms work as a way to counter-act a rising security dilemma. If state A sees a rise in the military capacities of state B, state A will also try to improve its military capacity, leading to yet another response from state B, in an ad aeternum cycle of escalating tensions. The Democratic Peace Theory suggests that this phenomenon is less frequent if both states make their intentions clear. This way, misjudgments regarding other leader’s intentions are less common, leading to a de-escalation of tensions between states.

Other deterrent factor that leads to less war-prone foreign policy is the fact that democracies have very complex military mobilization processes, especially on the early stages of a potential military conflict. In order to prepare a country for war, political leaders usually have to undergo public institutional process, such as requesting authorization from the legislative body. This process is often cumbersome and drags on for months, giving more time for diplomatic (or at least non-violent) resolutions of conflicts. Rosato (2003, p.587) branches this argument in two different mechanisms:

The “slow mobilization” mechanism holds that democracies cannot mobilize quickly because persuading the public and potential anti-war groups to support military action is a long and complex process. The “surprise attack” mechanism shares this insight but also notes that mobilization takes place in the public domain, thereby precluding the possibility of a surprise attack by a democracy.

Therefore, democratic governments are averse to war because they are answerable to their citizens (Doyle, 1986). A state with an executive power that is answerable to a wide variety of social, legal and political institutions, according to a principle of separation of powers and accountability is, in theory, highly constrained and less likely to engage in belligerent activities.

2.2. The Federation of Republics

The second Kantian tenet for peace is the need for a federation of republics which is able to externalize the internal norms of republics. Kant immediately identifies the anarchic nature of the international system, recognizing that states “ are a standing offence to one another by the very fact that they are neighbors ” (Kant, 1991, p.7). The absence of an international central authority explains why states can only rely on themselves in order to apply the necessary means to ensure their own survival and pursue their own interests. What Kant proposes, in order to solve this issue, is, according to Caranti (2013) an international organization which enables the different competing powers to leave the state of nature that characterizes the international system.

Kant does not, however, make the claim that a federation of republics is a proto-universal state. Contrary to the individual in a state of nature, states are legitimate entities, with autonomy and sovereignty that has to be respected; in Kant’s own words, states “ already have a lawful internal constitution, and have thus outgrown the coercive right of others to subject them to a wider legal constitution in accordance with their conception of right ” (Kant, 1991, p.7). There is an important caveat which has to be addressed is order to understand this: does Kant refer to a federation composed only by republics or are the entrance criteria less restricted? If Kant’s goal is to achieve worldwide peace, assuming that relations between republics tend to be less warlike and more amicable, then a closed club of republican democracies is no more than a truism. Denying access to well-intentioned states in transitional stages of democratization is a self-debilitating strategy for perpetual peace. Caranti (2013) argues that applying a strict “only-republican” criterion leads to an undermining of the federation itself:

(…) if the relations between two democracies would really need the presence of a joint peace treaty to remain peaceful, then two embarrassing consequences would follow: 1) the normative logic of the theory would collapse (democracies are supposed to respect each other, not to avoid wars between them only if they find them ultimately inconvenient); 2) the role of the federation would be reduced to avoid rare cases in which democracies find war between them useful. Caranti (2013)

It is not plausible to think that Kant supported a closed club with such a marginal role for the maintenance of peace. What is argued is that the federation should be composed by states that aim to be republican representative democracies, not just the ones that already fill the criteria. This way, diplomatic channels are always open between states, independently of their (formal) republican status, providing more transparency and clearer signaling among them, thus creating conditions for peaceful resolutions of conflicts, international trade and universal hospitality.

2.3 Hospitality, Cosmopolitanism and Commerce

On his third and last tenet for perpetual peace, Kant proposes that one of the essential elements for peace between states is a cosmopolitan right for individuals to visit other states and be received with dignity. A cosmopolitan right arises from the communal ownership of the earth’s surface and becomes “ a necessary complement to the unwritten code of political and international right, transforming it into a universal right of humanity ” (Kant, 1991, pp.9-10). This universal right acts as a sine qua non for international trade relations and is intrinsically connected to what Kant calls “ the spirit of commerce ”. What can be extracted from this argument is that by providing a universal right of hospitality to every single individual, Kant tries to secure a prerequisite for extended trade relations (Caranti, 2013).

Caranti further develops his argument by suggesting that Kant introduced a right which has a powerful normative force even without any institution to enforce it, thus laying the foundation of human rights that are considered a compelling tool for peaceful relations intra and inter-state. More than merely establishing a right of visiting or supporting economic interdependence, Kant’s “ universal hospitality ” should be interpreted as an endorsement of a borderless world, where people are united under a single banner of mutually agreed norms (in this case, human rights), thus guaranteeing a permanent uphold of such norms. As Caranti (2013) concludes:

In this sense, the third article pertains to cosmopolitan right. Through the Third Definitive Article, Kant paves the way of a global community that is best understood as the social side of a supranational entity, of which the federation of peoples and later on the world republic is the institutional coté . On the present reconstruction, then, the third article focuses on the conditions that avoid peoples’ reciprocal closure. It deals with those “good practices” needed to make sure that societies influence one another, know one another, and thus decrease the level of reciprocal diffidence. Mutual knowledge is thus the primary goal of the Third Definitive Article and the exchange of goods is just one of the means through which that end is effectively rendered. Caranti (2013)

3. Normative Flaws

The normative argument for democratic peace holds that “ democracies externalize their domestic norms of conflict resolution when interacting with other states in the international system ” (Mello, 2016, p.2). Supporters of this argument assume that states extrapolate their domestic norms when dealing with other states. This democratic ethos , which incorporates norms like dialogue, compromise and peaceful conflict resolution, is expected to exist only when democratic states are interacting with other democratic states (Layne, 1991). However, perception plays an important role on this argument, since it will only be efficient if democratic leaders see other leaders as equally democratic. This leads to two deficiencies in the argument: 1) It only works for inter-democracy relations; 2) It only works if it is well established that both states are stable democracies, not only formally, but also ethically.

If the normative argument were to hold true, the extrapolation of peaceful democratic norms would lead to a lenient conduct on part of democracies in their dealings with other states, democratic or not. However, the argument falls short of its promises. Democratic Peace Theory legitimates pro-democracy intervention in non-democratic states based on the assumption that only democracies can guarantee international peace. Chan (1997, p.59) suggests “ this thesis can fuel a spirit of democratic crusade and be used to justify covert or overt interventions against others ”. A practical example for this is the United States’ foreign policy since the early 20 th century, which has been based on the belief that international promotion of democracy, at any cost, is both useful to promote international peace and enhance United States’ security. This claim has been extensively used by democratic leaders to justify wars of “liberation”, as in the case of President Wilson and the war with Imperial Germany, President Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia Herzegovina and Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (Manan, 2014). Rosato (2003) takes this argument even further, noting that the “interest of state” frequently overrides any respect for democratic norms. The United States’ undermining of left-leaning democracies during the Cold War is enough of a proof to discredit the normative argument. Examples such as the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador or Chile (at the time already fairly established democracies), in an effort to contain socialist advances, implies that democracies are not reluctant to use violence on other democracies if they see their interests affected.

4. Institutional Flaws

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

The institutional argument suggests “ that risk-averse democratic leaders are restrained in their decision-making by a requirement for public support, especially for decisions on war and peace where the human and material consequences can be immense ” (Mello, 2016, p.3). Accountability in democratic regimes can be divided in two different factors: public constraints and group constraints. Firstly, the impact of the former can be mitigated by the fact that the burden of war typically falls on a small subset of the population (Rosato, 2003). Almost all modern democracies have professional armed forces, which are publicly financed, that carry out the military needs of the state. In modern warfare, only a fairly limited number of individuals actually partakes in military affairs, as opposed to the conscription mechanism adopted in the earlier 20 th century. In the case of a conflict, the professional army deals with the threat and the only tangible costs are the potential loss of a marginal number of citizens and an eventual increase in military expenditures. Secondly, the growth of democracy also brought an increase of citizenship bonds towards the state, which helped minimize the assessment of the costs of war by the general public. Thirdly, democratic political elites have the power to establish narratives that enhance nationalist feelings, since they are perceived as the “voice” of the people, often leading public opinion (instead of following it). Although Democratic Peace Theory portraits most groups in a democracy as anti-war (in coherence with intra-democratic norms), Rosato (2003, p.596) also critiques this view by acknowledging that different groups have varying degrees of influence over decision-makers, arguing that “ other more bellicose actors such as the military industrial complex are likely to have just as much at stake and be equally proficient at furthering their own interests ”.

Democratic peace theory proponents also claim that information and transparency lead to a clear signaling of intentions; this is not always the case. Rosato (2003, p.598) summarizes the main counter-argument: “ democratic processes and institutions often reveal so much information that it is difficult for opposing states to interpret it (…) domestic political competition does not ensure that states will reveal their private information ”. This leads to an overload of information, making almost impossible to determine the truly representative signal, with political leaders often using “mental shortcuts” to establish what is expected from the other state. Succinctly, a lot of information is not necessarily good information.

Democratic Peace Theory offers a persuasive and comprehensive approach on international relations that counter-acts the realistic account of the international system (Pugh, 2005). Its Kantian core suggests that perpetual peace can only be obtained through an osmotic process of diffusion of republican principles. It is also important to note that, in order to achieve peace, a federation of states based on republican principles is most effective when it enlarges the scope of admission to all willing states and not just to de facto republics. Additionally, interconnectedness, mutual knowledge and economic interdependence compose an integral part of Kant’s trinity of peace.

The legitimacy of this theory is not just an academic concern, as it is still widely used by political elites in the Western world. Blind acceptance of its claims can lead, as Layne argues (1994, p.46), to potentially dangerous conclusions: “ If democracies are peaceful but non-democratic states are “troublemakers” (…) the former will be truly secure only when the latter have been transformed into democracies ”. The theory, however, is unable to sustain most of its claims. In its normative logic, it is highly disputable if democracies are actually externalize their domestic norms of trust, dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts when interacting with other states. Additionally, more often than not, national interest easily overcomes the internalized democratic ethos of the population and their representatives, which are recurrently able to exacerbate feelings of nationalism. In its institutional logic, accountability rarely works as proposed by democratic peace theorists, as warmongering groups are expected to influence decision-makers as strongly as non-bellicose groups do. Conjointly with the fact that military professionals suffer the largest part of the burden of war and that the costs for the rest of the population is usually not significantly impactful, the accountability mechanisms become discredited (Rosato, 2003). Lastly, information and transparency do little to help political leaders of other states assess the real intentions of democracies, often leading to misconceptions that can be even more prejudicial than having no information at all, as it leads to decisional shortcuts.

In short, democratic peace theory proposes, at best, a convincing, although mostly illusory, peace. As a conceptualization of Kant’s “Definitive Articles for a Perpetual Peace”, modern-day proponents fail to provide convincing arguments to establish that peace can only be maintained by the spread of democracy. More often than not, democracy is a consequence of peace, not a cause (Mello, 2016) and is still widely used as an academic cover for widespread structural violence based of forceful externalization of democratic principles by well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided, democratic leaders.

Bibliography:

Caranti, L. (2013). Perpetual Peace and Liberal Peace: Three Misunderstandings , Columbia University. Available at: http://www.kant-online.ru/en/?p=58 [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].

Chan, S. (1997). In Search of Democratic Peace: Problems and Promise, Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 41, Nº. 1.

Doyle, M. (1986 ). Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs , American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, Nº. 4.

Fukuyama, F. (2012). The End of History and the Last Man . London: Penguin.

Guyer, P. (2005). Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts . Steven M. Cahn, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Huntington, S.P. (2002). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order . London: The Free Press.

Kant, Immanuel (1991). Toward Perpetual Peace , in Kant: Political Writings , 2. ed., H Reiss, Cambridge and University Press.

Layne C. (1994). Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace International Security , Volume 19, Nº 2, pp. 5-49.

Manan, M. (2014). The Democratic P eace Theory and Its Problems , Jurnal Ilmiah Hubungan Internasional, Vol 10, Nº 2.

Mello, P. (2016). Democratic Peace Theory . Social Science Perspectives, SAGE.

Pugh, J. (2005). Democratic Peace Theory: A Review and Evaluation . CEMPROC Working Paper Series.

Rosato, S. (2003). The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory . American Political Science Review, 97(04), 585–602.

Rosato, S. (2005). Explaining the Democratic Peace . American Political Science Review, 99(03), 467–472.

Outros Artigos

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

A narrativa do silêncio e a procura da “palavra exata” em Eugénio de Andrade: Uma leitura crítica de Ostinato Rigore (1964)

democratic peace theory is based on what logic

Rei Édipo: do Texto Clássico ao Questionamento Pós-Moderno

IMAGES

  1. PPT

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

  2. Democratic Peace Theory: A Review and Evaluation

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

  3. Democratic Peace Theory in International Relations

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

  4. PPT

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

  5. PPT

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

  6. Liberal/Democratic Peace Theory

    democratic peace theory is based on what logic

VIDEO

  1. Modern Political Thought

  2. Shahar Kvatinsky

  3. Simulation Theory: Better Than Intelligent Design Theory?

  4. Contemporary political theory & DECLINE OF POLITICAL THEORY 9

  5. logical Reasoning theory Based Questions

  6. Political Theory

COMMENTS

  1. What Is the Traditional Democratic Theory?

    The traditional democratic theory emphasizes the values of liberty, equality and justice in any system of governance. It promotes the rule of majority, while protecting minority rights and maintaining the readiness to compromise.

  2. What Is Ethical Formalism?

    Ethical formalism is a type of ethical theory that defines ethics based on a logic that holds if something is defined as right or wrong, then it is right or wrong 100 percent of the time. Ethical formalism places more emphasis on logic than...

  3. What Is the Democratic Process?

    A democratic process is a practice that allows democracy to exist. Democracy is based on the idea that everyone should have equal rights and be allowed to participate in making important decisions.

  4. The Logic of Democratic Peace Theory in the Post-Cold War Era

    Kant spoke of perpetual peace in which he stated that one of the main pillars for peace is based upon states sharing “republican constitutions”[

  5. Democratic peace theory

    "The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory". American Political Science

  6. The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory

    Democratic peace theory is probably the most powerful liberal contribution to the debate on the causes of war and peace. In this paper I examine the causal

  7. The Democratic Peace Theory

    ... theory together offer a far more logical and convincing explanation for this seeming anomaly. ... “Can A Democratic Peace Be Built?” International

  8. Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory: Summary.

    The article “Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory” by Sebastian Rosato, offers a new perspective on the logic behind the democratic peace

  9. The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory

    ... democracy” interchangeably throughout my discussion of the normative logic to mean states based on both liberal and democratic norms. On liberal theory and

  10. Democratic Peace Theory

    What Is the Democratic Peace Theory? Within the field of political science, democratic peace theory is the theory that democratic states are generally more

  11. The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory

    Democratic peace theory-the claim that democracies rarely fight one another because they share common norms of live-and-let-live and domestic institutions that

  12. Democratic Peace Theory: Kant's Heritage and Its Flaws

    Inherent to accountability, the informational deterrent mechanism also supports democratic peace claims, based on two other factors:

  13. The Democratic Peace Theory and Its Problems

    “The Flawed Logic of. Democratic Peace Theory”, American Political. Science Review, Vol. 97 No. 4 (November), p. 585. Miriam Fendius Elman. 1997. “Introduction.

  14. Evaluating the Normative and Structural Explanations of Democratic

    PDF | Originating from the work of Immanuel Kant, Democratic Peace Theory proposes that democracies rarely, if ever, fight war against other