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Democratic peace theory and historical examples.

Red_Dave

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The subject of democratic peace theory (the idea that democratic states don't fight each other) has come up on here a few times. Aside from the fact that there are plenty of historical exceptions to this rule (Philippine-American war, Irish war of Independence etc) one of my hunches is that democracies havent fought it each other simply due to the fact that they have little to fight about anyway. Democratic peace theorists on the other hand would explain this using regime type.

For example Joanne Gowa (playing devils advocate) sums up this argument by saying
“The checks and balances that define a democracy
constrain the autonomy of its leader. These constraints apply a fortiori to decisions
involving force, delaying the dispatch of troops abroad even in international crises. As
such, they create a window of opportunity that diplomats can exploit to settle conflicts of
interests without recourse to arms.”*

However if this was the case you would think that there was some example of two democracies having some dispute that they would have fought over were it not for democratic constraints, so presumably there would be some case where two democracies came to the brink of war and then stopped. Does such an example exist?
*http://web.mit.edu/polisci/research/wip/dempeace_final.pdf p5
 

Goshin

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I am always wary of broad generalizations and absolutes in politics.

For instance, simply defining what is a "Democratic nation" is difficult. Some nations have the FORMS of democracy without the substance. Then there's the question of "pure democracy" vs "representative democracy", and the question of who gets to vote or hold office, and the question of civil rights and so forth.

Usually we end up just assuming that we're talking about the sort of governments that currently exist in the USA, Britain, Canada, and most of Western Europe. Well there's actually a LOT of variation just in that group, but we'll set that aside for now and accept the popular assumption for the sake of argument.

I would disagree with the assertion that two "Democratic" nations would NEVER go to war with each other...

I would however, support this statement: "Democratic nations rarely engage in wars of aggression against other democratic nations, absent substantial provocation or dire necessity."

And this one: "Autocracies, Oligarchies, Fascists and Theocracies are generally more likely to engage in wars of aggression than Democratic Republics."

Nations go to war mainly for one of these reasons:

1. Expansion, either of territory or influence, or the acquisition of resources.
2. Defense, including pre-emptive attack of a nation that seems to be a threat.
3. Other vital conflicts of intrest that are insoluble through diplomacy.

I think Number 3 is worth further consideration. Two "democratic" nations (whatever that really means) could still find themselves in an insoluble conflict of intrests. If both nations needed resources available in a border region to prevent their economies from collapsing, and there wasn't enough resource in that border region to share between the two of them, that might do it.
 
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The subject of democratic peace theory (the idea that democratic states don't fight each other) has come up on here a few times. Aside from the fact that there are plenty of historical exceptions to this rule (Philippine-American war, Irish war of Independence etc) one of my hunches is that democracies havent fought it each other simply due to the fact that they have little to fight about anyway. Democratic peace theorists on the other hand would explain this using regime type.
Wars are fought when there is an economic basis which permits it. Essentially countries are able to wage conventional warfare when their economies aren't too tied together. "Democracies" are integrated very heavily into the global market, and to one another, and because of that war between democratic countries is less likely. It's not because they're democratic; it's because they're more interdependent upon one another and the world market.
 
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Let me clarify, after having Harry Guerrilla thank me, that I wasn't saying that democratic countries are inherently more peaceful, but rather that conflicts merely materialize in different forms than conventional warfare, the most prominent being diplomatic conflicts, economic sanctions, small scale incursions, etc...
 

Harry Guerrilla

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Let me clarify, after having Harry Guerrilla thank me, that I wasn't saying that democratic countries are inherently more peaceful, but rather that conflicts merely materialize in different forms than conventional warfare, the most prominent being diplomatic conflicts, economic sanctions, small scale incursions, etc...
Aww what the hell?

You're right though.
Through trade and mutual benefit they usually don't war with each other.
 

DrunkenAsparagus

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Democracies have gone to war with each other, but except for a few civil wars, no two sides have gone to war if they each have a McDonald's.
 

Red_Dave

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Democracies have gone to war with each other, but except for a few civil wars, no two sides have gone to war if they each have a McDonald's.
Sorry to be pedantic but there were plenty of Mcdonalds in Argentina during the Falklands conflict. I'ld largely agree with Khayembii Communique in that there is tendancy for democracies to 'fight' each other via other means (Hence the removal via proxy of Arbenz in Guetamala, Mossadeq in Iran, and Goulart in Brazil via C.I.A backed coups) but many would argue that this proves the distency of democracies to face each other head on thus validating democratic peace theory rather then invalidating it.
 

Demon of Light

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I would say one reason democracies rarely go to war is because the mechanisms of democracy allow them to achieve the same ends without conflict. That is to say, they can manipulate the process and insure the ends they desire are reached.

Of course, are we taking into consideration covert means of war? The rise of democracy has also coincided with an increase in the covert use of force. Intelligence agencies have become more capable of influencing events in other countries then they once were. How many democracies has the democratic U.S. removed through acts of covert violence? Do we take this into consideration?

Then there is the issue of World War I. Arguably the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia were both democratic in the European context and both were pursuing further liberalization and democratization of their countries at the time war erupted.
 
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Then there is the issue of World War I. Arguably the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia were both democratic in the European context and both were pursuing further liberalization and democratization of their countries at the time war erupted.
World War 1 happened because of conflicts between different relatively isolated economic spheres of interest.
 

DrunkenAsparagus

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Sorry to be pedantic but there were plenty of Mcdonalds in Argentina during the Falklands conflict.
To join you in being pedantic the first Argentinian McDonald's came about in 1986, 4 years after the war.
 

Demon of Light

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World War 1 happened because of conflicts between different relatively isolated economic spheres of interest.
Actually, I would say that isn't true either. Economic ties with the Germans were quite significant among the Allies. Rather it arose from a system of alliances activated by what would otherwise have been a relatively minor conflict.
 

Orion

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It doesn't matter if the whole world is a democracy, every nation will still compete and they'll have to fight eventually if resources become scarce. Also, even as a whole world of democracy comes into play, we will still find ways to be divided so that not all nations are viewed on the same level as some others.

Our leaders don't know how to avoid war, even in the 21st century. Peace is not merely the absence of war, it is a state of mind.
 

Red_Dave

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I would say one reason democracies rarely go to war is because the mechanisms of democracy allow them to achieve the same ends without conflict. That is to say, they can manipulate the process and insure the ends they desire are reached.
But as I pointed out in the OP if this was the case then we would see an example of the mechanisms of democracy preventing a war. I cant think of one (except maybe that Greece and Turkey have had some near misses when both countries were democratic) nor can i even think of any disputes between democratic states that would be anywhere near significant enough to fight about anyway. States in the first world (where most democracies are) simply dont have anything to fight about whether they are democratic or not, and as you point about when it comes to disputes between first world and third world states then there is always covert action.
 

cpwill

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I think Number 3 is worth further consideration. Two "democratic" nations (whatever that really means) could still find themselves in an insoluble conflict of intrests. If both nations needed resources available in a border region to prevent their economies from collapsing, and there wasn't enough resource in that border region to share between the two of them, that might do it.
indeed; a classic example of that might be the result of Palestinian elections; which placed Hamas in power and constituted a de facto declaration of war against Israel
 

cpwill

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It doesn't matter if the whole world is a democracy, every nation will still compete and they'll have to fight eventually if resources become scarce. Also, even as a whole world of democracy comes into play, we will still find ways to be divided so that not all nations are viewed on the same level as some others.
Democracy, however, also seems not completely seperable from that beautiful engine of prosperity; the free market; which will make those resources more plentiful and available.
 

Fiddytree

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I believe there is validity to the claim and yet inherit limitations considering the lack of observable time we are dealing with. "The End of History" was not that long ago, and the slow but steady rise of the Democratic regime is not much older.
 
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MKULTRABOY

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Not Just that but considerations that the peace is a result of cultural considerations and American hegemony.
 

Fiddytree

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Huntington always did have a ring of truth to him, I agree.
 
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Demon of Light said:
Actually, I would say that isn't true either. Economic ties with the Germans were quite significant among the Allies. Rather it arose from a system of alliances activated by what would otherwise have been a relatively minor conflict.
Proof of what was the true social, or rather, the true class character of the war is naturally to be found, not in the diplomatic history of the war, but in an analysis of the objective position of the ruling classes in all the belligerent countries.
 
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