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Debate: Democratic peace theory

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Is the democratic peace theory correct?

Background and Context of Debate:

The democratic peace theory (or liberal peace theory or simply the democratic peace) holds that democracies — usually, liberal democracies — never or almost never go to war with one another.

The original theory and research on wars has been followed by many similar theories and related research on the relationship between democracy and peace, including that lesser conflicts than wars are also rare between democracies, and that systematic violence is in general less common within democracies.

The democratic peace theory has been extremely divisive among political scientists. It is rooted in the idealist and classical liberalist traditions and is opposed to the previously dominant theory of realism. However, democratic peace theory has come to be more widely accepted and has in some democracies effected policy change.

Presidents of both the major United States parties have expressed support for the theory. Former President Bill Clinton of the Democratic Party: "Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other." Current President George W. Bush of the Republican Party: "And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.... I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy." The United States Congress has passed the Advance Democracy Act which states: "Wars between or among democratic countries are exceedingly rare, while wars between and among nondemocratic countries are commonplace, with nearly 170,000,000 people having lost their lives because of the policies of totalitarian governments."

From Democratic peace theory at Wikipedia. Some of the debate is copied from List of possible exceptions to the democratic peace theory at Wikipedia and used under the Gnue Free Documentation License.

Contents

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Theory: Is democracy instrumental to peace or do geopolitics play a larger role?

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Yes

  • Power kills; absolute power kills absolutely "Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War". Hawaii.edu - "It is true that democratic freedom is an engine of national and individual wealth and prosperity. Hardly known, however, is that freedom also saves millions of lives from famine, disease, war, collective violence, and democide (genocide and mass murder). That is, the more freedom, the greater the human security and the less the violence. Conversely, the more power governments have, the more human insecurity and violence. In short: to our realization that power impoverishes we must also add that power kills."
  • Democracy promotes harmonious and cooperative inter-state relations Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works?. Yale University Press. 2004. ISBN 0-300-10777-3. pp 33.- Liberal democracy does not only have domestic virtues. It is also the only system of governance for which harmonious and co-operative inter-state relations are a natural outcome. This important proposition was put forward by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in his tract Perpetual Peace. Liberal democracies may fight with other states, but have no reason to fight with one another. When Norman Angell, the British liberal, wrote in his subsequently derided masterpiece, the Gran Illusion, published in 1909, that a war among the great powers could only prove mutually ruinous, he was correct...Liberal democracy is conducive to harmonious international relations because the prosperity of a nation derives not from the size of the territory or population under its direct control, but from the combination of internal economic development with international exchange. The insight is the heart of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. It was not just a point about economics, but an equally original and important point about international relations. Mercantilism - the view that the aim of trade is the accumulation of treasure - was worse than bad economics. It was also lethal politics, because it led to conflict where conflict was unjustified."
  • Democracies share democratic values that help maintain peace James Baker III - "We believed that the defeat of communism and the rise of the democrats created an unprecedented opportunity. We hoped to build our relations with Russia, Ukraine, and the other new independent states on the basis of democracy and free markets: what we came to call a "democratic peace," the type of peace we enjoyed with Germany and Japan. This peace would be based on shared democratic values, not just converging interests. While the democratic impulse in Russia and in most of the new independent states of the Commonwealth was genuine, these nations had little in the way of democratic traditions, and we were far from certain that democracy would take root. But we did not want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pursuing a pure balance-of-power policy that assumed from the outset that these states would eventually return to authoritarianism."[1]
  • Democracy drives economic growth and integration, reducing violence.
  • Democracy increases information flows, which reduces violence.


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No

  • Powerful democracies are frequently aggressive and violent Imagine you are visiting an aquarium that features a large shark tank. There are 100 sharks in the tank. Ninety-five of the sharks are either docile or too small to injure a human. There are, however, five hungry great whites. Certainly, the overwhelming majority of the sharks are harmless, but would you swim in that tank? Similarly, we should not ask, are democracies peaceful?, but is the United States peaceful? Are the other militarily powerful democracies – United Kingdom, France, India, Israel, peaceful? History shows they are not. See, Figure No. 6. As Gowa writes, "Theory suggests and empirical studies confirm that major powers are much more likely than are other states to become involved in armed disputes, including war."


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Voters: Are voters more peaceful?

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Yes

  • Citizens that choose their leaders are more peaceful. Talbott's version, "Countries whose citizens choose their leaders . . . are more likely than those with other forms of government to be reliable partners in trade and diplomacy, and less likely to threaten the peace."



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No


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Processes: Are democratic decision-making processes more likely to produce peace?

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Yes

  • The desire to get re-elected constrains war-making Immanuel Kant. "Perpetual Peace.". 1795 - "But there is another important theoretical thrust regarding the impact of regime type that relies less on the idea that democracy evokes normative commitments to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and more on the idea that "leaders in democracies might avoid wars against other democratic states...because they feel that fighting such wars might be harmful to their chances of staying in power" (Ray 1995, p. 40). Bueno de Mesquita et al (1992), Bueno de Mesquita & Siverson (1995) find that interstate wars do have important impacts on the fate of political regimes, and that the probability that a political leader will fall from power in the wake of a lost war is particularly high in democratic states."


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No


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Pretext for war: Is the democratic peace used as a pretext for war?

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Yes

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No

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Majority: Does majority rule help or jeopardize peace?

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Yes

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No

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Ethnic division: Does democracy help constrain or amplify ethnic divisions?

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Yes


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No


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Non-democracies: Do democracies fight non-democracies, and is this OK?

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Yes

  • Democracies mostly only engage in defensive wars with non-democracies.


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No

Unless we assume that it is morally irrelevant when democratic governments kill people in nondemocratic countries, the bellicose record of democratic governments must be considered. The fact that democracies have been rare in history cannot whitewash democracies per se. The fact is that democracies attack."


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"Democracy": What are the arguments regarding the definition of "democracy"?

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Yes

  • Democratic peace applies to liberal democracies, which do not war. While some illiberal democracies have engaged in war against each other, no liberal democracies have done so. Therefore, if we include only liberal democracies in the Democratic Peace theory, it holds.


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No

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Should countries try to follow the Democratic peace theory?

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Yes

  • Democracies are founded on similar principles so they should not go to war. All democracies are founded on the same principle, and government's should focus on combating dictatorship before attacking democracies.
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No


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Did the 2006 Lebanon War follow the democratic peace theory?

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Yes

  • Lebanon is not a liberal democracy according to Freedom House in its 2006 report (for the year 2005). The last available Polity ranking for the year 2003 states "Foreign occupation". Syria controlled much of the politics in Lebanon until the Cedar Revolution in 2005 and regime after that is less than 3 years old. The Lebanese general election, 2005 after the Cedar Revolution has been described as "free but not fair" by the newspaper Washington Post. The different religious groups are allocated parliamentary seats not proportionate to the number of voters. The whole public sector is similarly divided. Everyone from the President and the Speaker of Parliament down to police and college professors are chosen according to the individual's faith.
  • Israel battled the organization Hezbollah, which exerted control over the southern part of Lebanon, and not the Lebanese army. The UN notes that "a group engaged in the democratic political process of opinion formation and decision-making cannot simultaneously possess an autonomous armed operational capacity outside the authority of the State. More broadly, the existence of armed groups defying the control of the legitimate Government, which by definition is vested with a monopoly on the use of force throughout its territory, is incompatible with the restoration and full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of the country."
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No

  • Israel is an established democracy. Lebanon has had a democratic system since its independence. The Lebanese general election, 2005 has been described as free, credible, fair, well managed and peaceful by United Nations observers and its Security Council. The electoral law was accepted by all major parties, although there is also agreement that it needs to be reformed. Allocation of parliamentary seats according to faith is in accordance with the principals of consociationalist democracy as advocated by Arend Lijphart.
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Did the Cenepa War follow the democratic peace theory?

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Yes

  • Alberto Fujimori had made an auto-coup in 1992 and took on dictatorial powers. This means that the war followed the democratic peace theory?
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No

  • Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and the Ecuadorian President were democratically elected. This means that two democracies were at war, showing an exception to the democratic peace theory.
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Did the Eritrean-Ethiopian War follow the democratic peace theory?

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Yes

  • There were no elections in Eritrea before the war. Authoritarian regime not respecting civil and political liberties. Poorly functioning democracy in Ethiopia.
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No

  • Both countries were technically democracies. As two democracies were at war, this is an exception to the democratic peace theory.
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Did the Yugoslav wars follow the democratic peace theory?

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Yes

  • Yugoslavia was not a true democracy. List of possible exceptions to the democratic peace theory - Wikipedia "Yugoslavia did not fulfill the criteria for a liberal democracy. Frequent and arbitrary changes of election laws and districts occurred, even retroactively after elections. Press freedom greatly restricted. Slobodan Milosevic's regime controlled the state television and radio broadcasts. Electoral manipulation including: massive double voting, "voting" of persons being permanently absent or deceased, the pressure on employees by the management of ";socially owned companies", organized planting of already prepared voting ballots into the polling boxes, forging of electoral records and election board records, alteration of the election results made by electoral commissions, the large-scale annulment of the election results by courts rulings, and changing the number of participating voters in order to fulfill the legal requirements for the validity of the elections."
NB: Yugoslavia changed it's name to Serbia years after the wars.
Editor's comment: This argument doesn't really make sense because it describes the post-war Yugoslavia or Serbia (which means it has nothing to do with the wars but the post-war conditions in Serbia), have it your way. And the democratics peace theory does not apply to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia because it actually is not a democratic state. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Federal_Republic_of_Yugoslavia
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No

  • Slobodan Milosevic, the leader of Serbia, won several elections. List of possible exceptions to the democratic peace theory - Wikipedia "Slobodan Milosevic, the leader of Serbia, won several elections. The NATO nations participating in Operation Allied Force were democratic. At time of Kosovo War, Milosevic's party was in a coalition with two others, and the Serbian Parliament contained a broader range of political parties than is common in nations such as America, Britain and Japan. The government had invited the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe into Serbia to judge on 1996 election fraud, and had accepted its rulings even though they went against Milosevic's party.Milosevic had made election of Yugoslav president into a ballot by the whole electorate rather than just by the legislature."
  • The country's restrictions on extremists were not preventing democracy List of possible exceptions to the democratic peace theory - Wikipedia "As the opposition to Milosevic in Serbia in this period was often composed of extreme nationalists (such as the Serbian Renewal Movement that organized the March 9, 1991 protest, the Serbian Radical Party and the Democratic Party of Serbia), it is hard to decide what restrictions on the opposition were legitimate. Many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, believe that neo-fascist groups should have special restrictions on their activity. The fact that the vast majority of convictions under the Law on Information were for the opposition may not necessarily demonstrate undemocratic exercise of power."
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Motions:

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Yes

  • democracies rarely if ever go to war against each other.
  • democracies tend to be more peaceful than dictatorships.
  • democracies tend to have less internal violence.
  • this tendency toward peacefulness is structural, that is, related to the nature of democracy, not an accident or coincidence.


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No

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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No

See also

External links and resources:

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