The world's principal sponsors of international terrorism are harsh, authoritarian regimes, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and Sudan. Some skeptics of the democratic-peace proposition point out that democracies sometimes have sponsored covert action or "state terrorism" against other democracies. Examples include U. In each case, the target state had dubious democratic credentials.
And the perpetrator of the alleged "state terrorist" acts in each case was the United States itself, which suggests that the United States has little to fear from other democracies.
Third, the spread of democracy will serve American interests by reducing the number of refugees who flee to the United States. The countries that generate the most refugees are usually the least democratic. The absence of democracy tends to lead to internal conflicts, ethnic strife, political oppression, and rapid population growth-all of which encourage the flight of refugees. The results of the U. The number of refugees attempting to flee Haiti for the United States dropped dramatically after U.
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In addition to reducing the number of countries that generate refugees, the spread of democracy is likely to increase the number of countries that accept refugees, thereby reducing the number of refugees who will attempt to enter the United States. Fourth, the global spread of democracy will advance American interests by creating more potential allies for the United States.
Historically, most of America's allies have been democracies. In general, democracies are much more likely to ally with one another than with nondemocracies.
Fifth, the spread of democracy internationally is likely to increase Americans' psychological sense of well-being about their own democratic institutions. Part of the impetus behind American attempts to spread democracy has always come from the belief that American democracy will be healthier when other countries adopt similar political systems.
To some extent, this belief reflects the conviction that democracies will be friendly toward the United States. But it also reflects the fact that democratic principles are an integral part of America's national identity. The United States thus has a special interest in seeing its ideals spread. Finally, the United States will benefit from the spread of democracy because democracies will make better economic partners. Democracies are more likely to adopt market economies, so democracies will tend to have more prosperous and open economies. The United States generally will be able to establish mutually beneficial trading relationships with democracies.
And democracies provide better climates for American overseas investment, by virtue of their political stability and market economies. Although many political scientists accept the proposition that democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with one another, several critics have challenged claims of a democratic peace. By the late s, proponents and critics of the democratic peace were engaged in a vigorous and sometimes heated debate. Critics have presented several important challenges to the deductive logic and empirical bases of the democratic peace proposition.
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They have argued that there is not a convincing theoretical explanation of the apparent absence of war between democracies, that democracies actually have fought one another, that the absence of wars between democracies is not statistically significant, and that factors other than shared democratic institutions or values have caused the democratic peace. The critics of the democratic peace have presented vigorous arguments that have forced the proposition's proponents to refine and qualify the case for the democratic peace. These criticisms do not, however, refute the principal arguments for the democratic peace.
As I argue below, there is still a compelling deductive and empirical case that democracies are extremely unlikely to fight one another. Moreover, the case for spreading democracy does not rest entirely on the democratic-peace proposition. Although those who favor promoting democracy often invoke the democratic peace, the debate over whether the United States should spread democracy is not the same as the debate over the democratic peace.
Even if the critics were able to undermine the democratic-peace proposition, their arguments would not negate the case for spreading democracy, because there are other reasons for promoting democracy. More important, the case for promoting democracy as a means of building peace remains sound if the spread of democracy merely reduces the probability of war between democracies, whereas "proving" the democratic peace proposition requires showing that the probability of such wars is at or close to zero.
Several criticisms of the democratic peace proposition fault the logic that has been advanced to explain the apparent absence of war between democracies. These arguments do not rest on an assessment of the empirical evidence, but instead rely on analyses and critiques of the internal consistency and persuasiveness of the theoretical explanations of the democratic peace. Critics have offered four major challenges to the logic of the democratic peace: a there is no consensus on the causal mechanisms that keep democracies at peace: b the possibility that democracies may turn into nondemocracies means that even democracies operate according to realist principles; c the structural-institutional explanation of the democratic peace is flawed, not least because its logic also would predict that democracies are less likely to be involved in any wars, not just wars with other democracies; and d the normative explanation of the democratic peace is unpersuasive.
The Argument: The first, and most general criticism of the deductive logic of the democratic peace proposition holds that the lack of agreement on what causes democracies to avoid war with one another calls the proposition into question. Response: The fact that several theories have been advanced to explain the democratic peace does not mean that we cannot be confident that democracies are unlikely to fight one another.
There is no reason to assume that a single theory explains all the cases in which democracies have avoided war with one another. It is possible to be confident in an empirical finding even when many different explanations account for it. For example, it is empirically true that all human beings eventually die. The discovery of evidence to refute this proposition would have profound biological, philosophical, and theological implications, not to mention its effects on retirement planning and the future of the Social Security system. But there are many causes of death, each of which rests on a different logic of explanation.
People die in wars, accidents, and violent crimes, as well as from AIDS, heart disease, numerous types of cancer, and Alzheimer's Disease, among many other factors. In some cases, the causal logic of the explanation of death is very clear. It is well understood how a bullet through the heart leads to death. In other cases, including many infectious and chronic diseases, the precise biological and physiological processes that cause death are not fully understood. Nevertheless, the variety of causal mechanisms and our incomplete understanding of many of them do not lead us to the conclusion that some human beings will not die.
Accounting for the absence of wars between democracies is somewhat similar to explaining why people die. Several causal mechanisms explain the absence of wars between democracies. In some cases, democracies avoid war because the distribution of power in the international system gives them strong incentives to remain at peace. In at least some of these cases, democratic decision-making processes may make democracies "smarter" and better able to recognize systemic incentives.
When states share liberal values, they are unlikely to go to war because fighting one another would undermine liberal values such as respect for individual freedom. As John Owen has argued, democratic institutions may reinforce the incentives for peace provided by shared liberal principles. Proponents of the democratic peace need to refine the logic of each explanation and identify the conditions under which they apply, but the multiplicity of explanations does not mean that the democratic peace is invalid. The Argument: A second criticism of the logic of the democratic peace argues that democracies cannot enjoy a perpetual peace among themselves because there is always a possibility that a democratic state will become nondemocratic.
This possibility means that even democracies must be concerned about the potential threat posed by other democracies. John Mearsheimer argues that: "Liberal democracies must therefore worry about relative power among themselves, which is tantamount to saying that each has an incentive to consider aggression against the other to forestall future trouble. Response: There are four reasons for rejecting claims that fears of democratic backsliding compel democracies to treat other democracies as they would treat any nondemocratic state.
First, the historical record shows that mature, stable democracies rarely become autocracies. Second, democracies are able to recognize and respond to states that are making a transition from democracy to authoritarianism. Democratic states thus can pursue a policy of accommodation toward other democracies, hedge their bets with more cautious policies toward unstable or uncertain democracies, and abandon accommodation when democracies turn into nondemocracies.
There is no reason to assume that democracies will become autocracies overnight and then immediately launch attacks on democracies. Third, like some other realist arguments, the claim that states must give priority to preparing for an unlikely dangerous future development rests on flawed logic. It assumes that states must base their foreign policies almost entirely on worst-case scenarios. Similar logic would imply that, for example, citizens in any country should act on the basis of the assumption that domestic law and order might collapse into anarchy and violence.
Fourth, the claim that democracies must worry about the relative power of other democracies which may become autocracies relies on the same shaky logic that predicts that states cannot cooperate because they need to worry about the relative gains achieved by other states. The relative-gains argument holds that in international politics, cooperation is rare because it often gives greater gains to one state, and these relative disparities in gains can be turned into advantages in power than can be used to threaten the state that gains less.
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In practice, however, relative-gains concerns vary and are often almost nonexistent. The Argument: Critics of the structural-institutional explanation of the democratic peace make the following arguments. First, the structural-institutional model fails to explain why democracies go to war with nondemocracies, even though they do not fight other democracies.
If leaders of democracies are constrained from going to war by the public, this constraint would also prevent democracies from fighting nondemocracies. Second, critics argue that the public is often just as warlike as the leaders that they are supposed to constrain. Public jingoism and enthusiasm for war accompanied the outbreak of World War One and helped cause the Spanish-American War.
The structural-institutional model thus erroneously assumes that the people are usually more pacific than their leaders. The end of conscription in many countries and the tendency for wars to be fought by volunteer professional armies may further erode public opposition to the use of force. Response: The criticisms of the structural-institutional explanation of the democratic peace are not persuasive, for four reasons.
First, this explanation can account for why democracies only avoid wars with other democracies, because democracies may behave differently toward states i. Democracies may distinguish between states on the basis of their political institutions, and pursue different policies toward those that are constrained by democratic institutions.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman argue that "some political institutions help foster beliefs Democratic institutions are visible signs that the state in question is likely to face high political costs for using force in its diplomacy. Thus the institutional argument does not actually predict that democracies will pursue peaceful policies toward all types of states. Second, the institutional-structural explanation, properly formulated, need not rest on the assumption that the public is peace-loving while leaders are eager to go to war.
Some proponents of the democratic peace proposition, including Immanuel Kant, have assumed that the people are less eager to favor war, because they will ultimately be forced to pay its costs. In a democracy, the executive branch, legislative branch, and the public all constrain each other's ability to make rash and hasty decisions for war.
Third, the critics overlook how the existence of domestic constraints in a pair of democratic states can enable a democratic dyad to spend more time seeking a peaceful settlement of a conflict than a dyad with one or no democracies. If both states in a crisis are unable to mobilize quickly, they will have more time to resolve the crisis without war. Bruce Russett argues: "If another nation's leaders regard a state as democratic, they will anticipate a difficult and lengthy process before the democracy is likely to use significant military force against them.
They will expect an opportunity to reach a negotiated settlement. Finally, critics of the institutional-structural explanation have not addressed the claim that democratic institutions endow democracies with better information-processing capabilities that enable democracies to limit the myths that cause war and to avoid wars when international circumstances render war unwise.
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The Argument: Scholars skeptical of the democratic peace proposition have not criticized the normative explanation for the democratic peace as much as they have argued against the structural-institutional explanation.