Argument: Peace by force is actually what allows peace between democracies

Issue Report: Democratic peace theory


Mark E. Pietrzyk. “International Order and Individual Liberty: Effects of War and Peace on the Development of Governments”. 2002 – an alternative view is that the long peace between democratic states is the result of reverse causation. That is, the current peaceful international order (created by such factors as U.S. hegemony, the solidification of borders, economic growth, and the nuclear revolution) has made it possible for liberal democracy to flourish in many countries which have found it difficult or impossible to build and maintain free institutions in previous eras of international violence and instability. Only states which are relatively secure – politically, militarily, economically – can afford to have free, pluralistic societies; in the absence of this security, states are much more likely to adopt, maintain, or revert to centralized, coercive authority structures.

David E. Spiro. “The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace”. International Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Autumn, 1994) – In “Democracies Don’t Fight Democracies” (Peace Magazine, May/June 1999), R.J. Rummel has provided a thorough analysis of how Western democracies are not in the business of waging war with one another. Indeed, if more countries were allowed to operate as democracies war might certainly be reduced. But this will never occur so long as today’s powerful democracies continue to rule the world in an extremely undemocratic fashion. Countries such as Canada, Britain, France and the United States afford their own citizens a substantial degree of democracy. The economic and political powers of these nations are reliant on their continuing domination of global markets, international governing bodies such as the United Nations, and the most powerful military organizations in the world. Western democracies, and their corporate partners, are the richest nations on the planet due to continuing political instability and violent conflict abroad. Multinational corporations, the international arms trade, and gunboat diplomacy make the world’s democracies strong. Most democratic nations exist today because they operate undemocratically on the international stage. And their power is dependent upon the existence of dictatorships and disorder elsewhere. Hence, the relevance and usefulness of Professor Rummel’s study is unclear, if an end to war is to be our objective.

Western democracies export war and poverty, two of the most fundamental barriers to democracy. If inequality breeds conflict and hinders the possibility of democracy, then weapons guarantee war will be the final outcome. Today’s democracies hold a monopoly on all of this. An historical analysis is necessary. Colonialism, genocide, slavery and mercantilism are what made today’s democracies powerful in the first place. Even if various colonies gained independence with relatively little violence, as Rummel states, the ideals of colonialism and exploitation were much more prevalent in practice than the ideals of democracy. It has been a common case of “do as I say, not as I do” ever since. While the governments of North America and Europe demand that democracy flourish in every corner of the globe, it is these same states which, in practice, ensure that democracy is kept out of global economic and political arenas. Today’s democracies demand that humanity’s means of survival be governed in the most undemocratic method possible.