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Myth busters needed

A little over a week ago, I got into a tussle with a commenter/twit in the comments thread of this posting. In it, he mocked Victor Davis Hansen's assertion that "democracies don't go to war with each other," calling it bogus. I challenged him to cite a few examples of democracies waging war against each other.

The first one was tough to repudiate: the US Civil War. I argued that the Confederacy wa never a fully established independent nation; otherwise, it would not have been a "civil war."

His second example was laughably easy to shoot down: Israel/Lebanon, 2006. Israel went to war IN Lebanon, not WITH Lebanon; their war was with Hezbollah -- a terrorist Islamist group that holds a good chunk of Lebanon hostage at the behest of their masters in Damascus.

The third one stumped me: The India-Pakistan War from 1947 to 1949. I am by no stretch of the imagination a scholar of that particular part of the world and its history, but a brief poking through Wikipedia showed that both nations became independent of the British Empire in 1947, but India officially became a Republic in 1950 -- and Pakistan in 1956. I don't know what their form of government was between those dates.

That didn't stop the twit, who simply pronounced that "all three of my examples are correct" and "I have several more but I'll keep them in reserve," then declared the matter closed.

I'm not so quick to grant him the victory, so I'm calling in the cavalry -- namely, you folks.

First, were India and Pakistan democracies when they had their war?

Secondly, are there any actual examples of established democracies (note how I'm excluding the US Civil War there) going to war with each other?

Have at it in the comments. I'll be watching with interest.

Comments (68)

Ummm, I think you are playi... (Below threshold)

Ummm, I think you are playing a bit of a semantical game with respect to the "civil" war.

Nevertheless, VDH's claim on the whole pretty much will withstand scrutiny... for one particular reason: in the history of mankind there have been few true democracies.

Pre WWII, Japan's Diet did consist of elected members in one house, but as the Diet as a whole was answerable to the Emperor one would argue it wasn't a true democracy. Likewise Nazi Germany and fascist Italy... there were elections thrown in there somewhere but they really didn't matter.

Pelopponesia, You gi... (Below threshold)

You give me

Boer WarCroatian W... (Below threshold)

Boer War

Croatian War of Independence

Mantis, Britain was an impe... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

Mantis, Britain was an imperial power at that time. A Democratic Republic is seldom if ever an imperial power. By the very nature of a war of independence, there is not two nations yet. Therefore no established democratic government could be established prior to the independence.

Ok....let's call the twit r... (Below threshold)

Ok....let's call the twit right for his examples. That just means that 0.000000236% of democracies have gone to war with each other. You point is made.

Mantis, the Boer War was between South African settlers of Dutch heritage and the British colonial authorities governing SA. Not really between the British and the Dutch.

Fundamentally, war has alwa... (Below threshold)

Fundamentally, war has always been highly democratic, fueled by alcohol and politics though it is; soldiers vote with their feet.

<a href="http://users.erols... (Below threshold)

"Although there is no undisputed case of two democracies at war, the evidence certainly casts doubt on the thesis. In fact, the thesis is not nearly as strong as the statement that no two countries with a McDonald's Restaurant have ever gone to war with one another, so why do you never hear distinguished international diplomats expound on the need to sell more beef patties in the world?"

"The Universal Democracy Peace Formula has been around a long time -- since the days of Immanuel Kant and his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace, in fact. It dates back to an era when democracies were more often hypothetical rather than real, and political philosophers were trying to sell democracy as a path to peace by prophesying that no one really likes war, so if we granted our cannon fodder the chance to decide their fates for themselves, they'd say no, thank you. In fact, it almost sounds like that old adage spouted by monarchs, fascists and dictators for centuries -- Democracies don't have the stomach for war -- and it seems to forget that it doesn't take much to whip a mob into an angry frenzy."

jt: The problem isn't reall... (Below threshold)

jt: The problem isn't really me or you. It's the hack history with ill-considered terminology that VDH uses. If he were trying to rig his thesis in the NARROW confines of 20 or so years of Attic history to cite pure democracy, it would be one thing, but as an apologist for "Democratic" Revolution that the neoJacobi neocons promote, he insists on calling the USA a democracy, which is not strictly correct. Thus the confusion. It began with a false premise (VDH's) which you took up, and which I played along with because, by VHD's (wrong) definition of the term "democracy", I could still win. All the nations in our debate were varieties of democratic republics. Republics! Even Rousseau and deToqueville didn't describe democracy as a political end, but as means to posit the popular rule of law. They were republicans, too.

To answer your questions bo... (Below threshold)

To answer your questions both India and Pakistan were fully functioning democracies after their independence from Great Britain, however they took a while to write their constitutions and declared themselves Republics only in the 1950's. The two countries fought two wars 1965 and 71. 71 was precipitated by India's helping Bangladesh get independence from Pakistan and was also a continuation of their conflict over Kashmir which has been at the heart of their rivalry since the 1940's. Kashmir was the cause of the 65 war.
India is the world's largest democracy and has a very vibrant democracy - Pakistan on the other hand has a history of dictatorships from General Zia to Bush's friend General Mussharaff.

bD, wouldn't it be interest... (Below threshold)

bD, wouldn't it be interesting to see what a future Barbara Tuchman thinks of the disinformation necessary to promote the Left's agendas?

Nor, Wieder, much excuse to turn that mob and run, either.

Mantis,The Croatian ... (Below threshold)

The Croatian War of Independence was just that... the Croatians rising up agains the largely Serbian Yugoslavia to gain independence.

Why bother with Westobro MacBeth? It's like wrestling a pig.

In the spirit of not lettin... (Below threshold)

In the spirit of not letting the Perfect become the enemy of the Good, how about the following:

1. Democracies are less likely to go to war with each other than any other form of government.

2. Democracies are more likely to go to war with each other the less democratic one or both are in actual practice.

3. Democracies are more likely to go to war with each other the less time the government has functioned as a democracy.

Given the above, we can state this another way: The stronger the tradition of democracy in a nation, the less likely it is to wage war on another democracy.

I think that makes the same point VDH was going for, phrased in a way that makes it less concise, but harder to quibble with.

If memory serves, the Confederate Constitution was largely based on the original United States Constitution, give or take the slavery issue. But it was a new democracy at best, and many of the democratic provisions may have been honored more in the breach than the observance as the war progressed and Presidential/Military authority increased both North and South.

To the exent Israel/Lebanon is at issue, Hezbollah isn't democratic and the degree to which the government of Lebanon tolerates its presence, it's not strongly democratic either. And Lebanon may only qualify as a newborn democracy, to the extent it's managed to come out from under the thumb of Syria.

Pakistan/India would certainly come under #3, and possibly #2 even if we assume a 'transitional administration' that eventually established a democracy. How firmly democracy was ever established in Pakistan is an exercise left for the reader.

A nation is not a democracy because it holds elections. It's a democracy when the elections enable the people to remove those in power and replace them with others more to their liking. Unless the rulers fear the next election, it's not a democracy.

<a href="http://users.erols... (Below threshold)
The Croatian War of Inde... (Below threshold)

The Croatian War of Independence was just that... the Croatians rising up agains the largely Serbian Yugoslavia to gain independence.

Both Serbia and Croatia had free elections prior to the war.

Mantis, the Boer War was between South African settlers of Dutch heritage and the British colonial authorities governing SA. Not really between the British and the Dutch.

I'm not talking about the Dutch. The Boer Republics had free elections (though suffrage was limited by race and gender).

How about Argentina and Eng... (Below threshold)

How about Argentina and England in the Falklands War?

My bad - the UK.... (Below threshold)

My bad - the UK.

You forgot the Continuation... (Below threshold)

You forgot the Continuation War, Britain versus Finland during World War II.

Not much fighting between the two, but hey, it was two democracies at war.

Also, when Pakistan was dem... (Below threshold)

Also, when Pakistan was democratic under Benazir Bhutto, they fought with India over Aksai Chin.

Regardless of Pakistan and ... (Below threshold)
Mike Kwarcinski:

Regardless of Pakistan and India's gov't in 1947-1949, they have certainly had battles since they became republics. Also, while I would agree that "democracies" largely do not go to war, that has not prevented "democracies" from declaring war and waging war against non-"democracies," which for me has always been the major critique of the Democratic Peace Theory of IR.

bD, wouldn't it be interest... (Below threshold)

bD, wouldn't it be interesting to see what a future Barbara Tuchman thinks of the disinformation necessary to promote the Left's agendas?_kim

You can read Justin Raimondo's archives at antiwar.com. Always 2 steps ahead. I like him especially because he saw the KLA(alQueda) threat that Serbska/Serbia was trying to elliminate, and was wise to the politically-favored Croatian Republic's designs as well.

As far a historian's take on the designs of the internationalist far left? Paul Johnson's Modern Times has a chapter titled "The Bandung Generation".

Wasn't Argentina taken over... (Below threshold)

Wasn't Argentina taken over by a military coup prior to the Falklands. In fact, the fail of the Falklands was somewhat its undoing?

OK, so if you require estab... (Below threshold)

OK, so if you require established democracies and widely recognized periods of independence, and thus don't count the United States Civil or Revolutionary wars, how about the War of 1812?

The German Empire pre-World War I was moderately democratic, with a fully elected lower house.

During World War II, Finland and Britain were nominally at war with each other, in consequence of the British alliance with the Soviet Union.

The most recent fighting I can think of between established and independent democracies was the 1995 Alto-Cenepa war between Peru and Ecuador.

Thanks, bD, as a mark of my... (Below threshold)

Thanks, bD, as a mark of my naivete, I'd never heard of this Johnson dude.

Did you know that it is a proven medical fact that force to the buttocks at ejaculation increases the chance of pregnancy? I'm glad to see a man so in tune to the forces of nature.

As there is an exception to... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

As there is an exception to any rule, why not this one. Funny, those on the left will find anything to prove a point, but when it comes to questioning global warming, it is decided. Curious that.

- itismedavidArgen... (Below threshold)

- itismedavid

Argentina wasn't a democracy at the time of the Falklands War:

"Jorge Rafael Videla's dictatorship, started in 1976, began its fall in 1982 after the defeat in the Falklands/Malvinas war, and ended in 1983 with the democratic election of president Raúl Alfonsín." (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Argentina)

- Ken McCracken

Hmm, perhaps I should add to my list:

4. The more democratic a nation, the more likely it will be to try and wage shorter and/or less destructive wars?

- Jeff Boulier

Given my phrasing, we'd also need to make a list of the least democratic governments, and compare them. I don't require there be no wars between democracies, but that the strength of the democratic traditions vary inversely with the probability of war between them, and perhaps their destructiveness.

I would be suprised to find the list for democracies longer.

In any event, the nominal form of government cannot be an accurate standard, largely because *everybody* calls their government a (people's) democratic republic, or whatever, because no other foundation for government retains any legitimacy in international circles. But the legitimacy isn't in the name, but the traditions. The stronger the traditions, the more reliable the observation that began this thread.

The most essential tradition? The power of the people to direct, or at least correct, the actions of those entrusted with power.

Remember "the exception tha... (Below threshold)
Mickey Mouse:

Remember "the exception that proves the rule..."

Funny, as I was reading bry... (Below threshold)

Funny, as I was reading bryanD's responses to Jay in the other thread, I thought to myself, "What a pompous ass." And lo and behold, the very next comment was Jay telling bryan he was an ass.

I'd like to see Hanson himself wipe the floor up with bryanD in such a debate.

I'm not refuting anyone's version of history here, (most of history is not my forte) but I'm certainly not inclined to argue even that which I do know with people who preface their arguments with a categorization of their opponent right off the bat with labels like "neocon" because they like the derogatory way it sounds. It sets the tone as one of more personal attack than actual debate of the subject. Notice how, in the last thread, bryanD used 90% of his commentary regarding Hanson's article criticizing Hanson himself.

I am inclined, however, to listen to VDH over bryanD's noisemaking.

Hey Bryan, how are the building 7 re-creation experiments going?

Most reasonable argument I'... (Below threshold)

Most reasonable argument I've heard yet, Rickbert.

Hey Bryan, how are the b... (Below threshold)

Hey Bryan, how are the building 7 re-creation experiments going?

He he. (Warning: DU link, but very funny)

That was exactly why I aske... (Below threshold)

That was exactly why I asked Bryan that question, Mantis :-) Is that not some of the funniest stuff you've ever seen?

What about the <a href="htt... (Below threshold)

What about the Cod Wars between the UK and Iceland... that got pretty nasty at some points. (As anyone who's been to a chippy in Britain will know, we do like our Cod.)

- KapowWell, I've ... (Below threshold)

- Kapow

Well, I've heard rumors there are documents that won't be declassified for decades. Only then will we know how close the UK came to nuking Reykjavík...


Jay this has been talked to... (Below threshold)

Jay this has been talked to death 1000 times on the internets.

Just google it.

As anyone who's been to a c... (Below threshold)

As anyone who's been to a chippy in Britain will know, we do like our Cod.)
Posted by: Kapow

Mmmmm! Worthy thread diversion! I've had the Icelandic version. In the speed line at the mess hall every day! (Now I'm stuck in Catfishland. Blechhh!)

"I am inclined"-Posted by: Oyster

"Inclined oyster" Let me guess: 400 lbs fatass.

I see mantis is basically on my side, doing something with chicken wire...

Kim is trying to seduce me again...(intellesting!!)

What, you desire pregnancy?... (Below threshold)

What, you desire pregnancy? Is this a temporary belief?

In the end, we should appro... (Below threshold)
Richard Romano:

In the end, we should approach the issue like we approach the book of Proverbs in the Tanach: they are not ironclad promises, but generally applicable principles which normally yield positive results.

The same is for democracies--generally speaking, they will not go to war with eachother and produce positive results on the world stage; however, given human nature and its limitations/faults, democracies could engage in warfare over border issues or value issues.

I see mantis is basicall... (Below threshold)

I see mantis is basically on my side

Only if by "side" you're talking about this hemisphere.

World War I. Germany had a... (Below threshold)

World War I. Germany had a parliament, and it had to approve the war. The Kiser, had much more power, (it was in forgen policy, and the appointment of the PM) then the British King, but Germany was a functioning parliamentary democracy. It was ware England was 75 before in development. WE WOULD vary happy if Iraq was at this level of democratic development.

I liked 'You can lead a hor... (Below threshold)

I liked 'You can lead a horitculture, but you cannot make her think'. I own the pocket edition, but have missed that one. Thanks, mantis.

A good point, frank, it was... (Below threshold)

A good point, frank, it was interlocking alliances that brought these democracies to war, not the will of the people. hat tip Barbara Tuchman, the Guns of August, and the Proud Tower.

I'll point out again that i... (Below threshold)

I'll point out again that it is a variable coalition of the functioning democracies that is the greatest force for peace now, in the near past, and probably forever more. Aren't you glad?

Chaco war- Paraguay v. Boli... (Below threshold)

Chaco war- Paraguay v. Bolivia in the 1930's (Bolivia's President was Daniel Salamanca, Paraguay is parlimentarian)

The Soccer War (Honduras v. El Salvador) (on second thought, I think Honduras had a military dictatorship then. But i still mention it because I think it is a silly name for a war.)

The American Civil War hard... (Below threshold)

The American Civil War hardly counts. The CSA was never recognized as a nation by the USA - it was always classified as a rebellion. And, while the individual Confederate states held democratic elections, the President was chosen by electors appointed by the state legislatures "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct ..." No democratic process required: if the state decided to select electors by lottery, they could.

Davis was initially appointed by the convention as interim President.


The fixation on democracies making war with each other is interesting. Certainly, examples are few and far between and, saving perhaps the India-Pakistan wars, controversial as to whether they apply.

The major worldwide war in which we are now enmeshed is not a war between democracies and totalitarian governments, though. It is between western culture itself and the death cult of radical Islamism.

There's one of those neocon... (Below threshold)

There's one of those neocon ideas that is liberal and progressive.

Words. Bah.

1. Indo-Pak war in 47-49 wa... (Below threshold)

1. Indo-Pak war in 47-49 was really more of a civil war/war of independence, resulting from poorly-imoplemented British partition and hurried departure (see: Arab-Israeli War, same timeframe).

2. India was recognizably a democratic republic except during the period when Indira Gandhi declared an emergency and ruled by decree (mid-1970s).

3. Pak has a much more checkered history, with brief periods of democratic rule punctuated by civil-military dictatorship.

4. At least one of the Indo-Pak wars (1971) resulted from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) seeking independence from the rest of Pakistan (there were roughly 1000 miles separating East Pakistan from the rest of it!): the Indian government intervened on the side of the rebels and ultimately forced Pak to acquiesce in Bangladeshi independence.

5. Different subject: Germany in 1914 may have had an elected Reichstag, but the instruments of foreign and security policy were firmly in the hands of the monarchy. Under no circumstances is it plausible to argue that Germany was a democracy within the meaning of the term here!

6. The Finland/Britain thing (Why just Britain? Why not include all the Allies? In the same formal sense, Finland was at way with all of them.) is silly: the British never came anywhere close to fighting the Finns, who--as the name "Continuation War" might suggest--merely considered themselves "co-belligerents" with the Germans against the Soviet Union, and were content to take back such lands as the Russians had stolen from them in 1939-1940.

7. Bottom line: the "rule" is an artifact of two historical circumstances that are no longer true: (1) prior to WW2, and especially WW1, there were very few democracies to begin with, and (2) between WW2 and the fall of the Wall, no democracy was willing to risk a war that might spiral out of control and end up in a US-USSR confrontation that might go nuclear.

You can lead a horticultura... (Below threshold)

You can lead a horticultural living, but she's gotta wanta sprout.

The history of democracies ... (Below threshold)

The history of democracies is too short for this theory to be tested. And... there's a big, huge problem with it, most of the democracies have come into being with the US as their protector.
I'm not sure what would happen first if the US were to leave Europe, democracies would get into some ugly wars, or much of EUrope (old Europe) would no longer be democracies. War and dictatorship, it's what they do.

An example of (near) democracies fighting is also the UK against Holland in the 1600's. They fought at least 3 or 4 wars and they were as close to democracies as you could get at the time.

It depends on your definition of a democracy. For instance, was the US a democracy in the 19th century? Not by today's standards since more than half the adult population couldn't vote (women, poll taxes, Jim Crow, etc.). If the US was a democracy in the 19th century, then so was Athens and Holland in the 17th century and the UK and.....
If not, then we are pretty much only talking about a less than 100 year history of democracies. That's way too short especially since much of that period is an enforced Pax Americana (we kept, or tried to keep, the peace in the free parts of the world while the USSR tried to screw it all up).

It sounds good, but it's unproven at best and disproven (as can be seen by the above examples) at worst.

How about Argentin... (Below threshold)
How about Argentina and England in the Falklands War?

Argentina was ruled by military dictatorship, ruled by three generals who led a coup against Peron, thus did not qualify as a democracy. It was not Great Britain that attacked first, it was Argentina. As we can see, the Brits kicked their butts all the way back to Buenos Aires.

Granted it was toy scale, b... (Below threshold)

Granted it was toy scale, but those Greeks, a lot of them voted, some of them with their feet.

Oh, and <a href="http://fre... (Below threshold)

Oh, and this guy believes in it. I don't find him very persuasive but some do.

Wars between democracies:</... (Below threshold)

Wars between democracies:

Athens vs. Syracuse (409B.C.)
Athens vs. Megara (427B.C.)
Athens vs. Mantinea (426B.C.)
Ahtens vs. Miletus (412B.C.)
Athens vs. Thebes (369B.C.)

US vs. Canada, War of 1812 (although arguable, as Canada was still a British colony at the time).
US vs. Mexico, 1848.
Chile vs. Peru (1879 War of the Pacific)
U.S. vs. Philippine Republic (1899)
Spanish-American War (1898)
Sonderbund War (Zurich, Bern, et. al. vs. Lucerne (1847)
U.S. vs. Guatemala (1954)
Codfish War (Britain vs. Iceland 1972, 1975)
Serbia vs. Slovenia (1991)
Serbia vs. Croatia (1991)

Poland (democracy) vs. Lithuania (democracy), 1918.

...Of course, this all depends on exactly how one defines "Democracy". Which can actually be a pretty complicated definition. For example, a lot of current European nations still have nominal nobility; one could also argue that full participatory democracy has only existed in the US in the past 100 years. Some would even say only since the voting rights efforts of the 1960's...

Nevertheless, I'd have to say that, IMHO, "Democracies don't make war on each other" is not historically supported.

I can think of five example... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

I can think of five examples where two nations that were true republics or democracies went to war with each other. All five examples occured in 1861-1865

They were:

In 1861 the following sovereign nations declared war war on the United States of America. The United States reciprocated. Hostilities concluded with occupation of these United States in June 1865, which ended only after formal peace treaties were signed in 1866.

The nations that declared war on the United States were (in order of declaration):

1. The Choctaw Nation
2. The Chickasaw Nation
3. The Seminole Nation
4. The Creek (or Muskogee) Nation
5. The Cherokee Nation

Other Indian nations may also have declared war, but I am focusing on these five for the following reasons:

1. All had written Constitutions.

2. All had legislatures elected by the citizens of the nation, and all legislatures (as of the time war had been declared) were chosen through fair and contested elections.

3. All were recognized as sovereign and independent nations by the United States government.

4. All of these nations issued a formal declaration of war as a result of either legislation introduced in the national assembly or a national plebicite (the Cherokee Nation).

These are the only examples that I know of where truly representative governments exchanged declarations of war and then actually fought a full-blown war. Canada was a colony in 1812. In most of the other examples cited, the nations were lacked truly representative governments (Mexico, Serbia, Poland) or really did not fight a full-out war (Codfish War)

For "Hostilities con... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

"Hostilities concluded with occupation of these United States in June 1865"

"Hostilities concluded with occupation of these nations by the United States in June 1865"

I'd argue that the U.S. was... (Below threshold)
Locomotive Breath:

I'd argue that the U.S. was not a true democracy until there was universal sufferage with women being granted the right to vote in 1920. Thus the Civil War, the war of 1812 don't count, etc. You could extend this argument to other countries. This significantly narrows the range of countries that could be considered true democracies.

The other side of defining ... (Below threshold)

The other side of defining "democracy", is the usefulness of the idea that "democracies don't invade democracies" after the definition.

For example, if we go with the definition of allowing women to vote, then 2 of the most powerful Middle Eastern countries, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are not democracies.

The overall idea behind the... (Below threshold)

The overall idea behind the statement that "democracies don't make war on democracies", is that:

a) democracies, based on the will of the people, tend to result in reasonable government

b) reasonable governments tend not to make war on other reasonable governments

I think this principle ignores why ALL nations make war: they want to get another nation's stuff, or they feel another nation is threatening their own stuff. Period. All the rest is window dressing.

This quite "reasonable" behavior, that can come from democracies as well as oligarchies and dictatorships. And thus you can have a reasonable democracy like Athens making war on many other similarly people-ruled (or at least influenced) governments; the US making war on less powerful democracies (the Indian nations, Mexico, the Philippines, a decaying Spain); etc. etc.

Did Jim actually inc... (Below threshold)

Did Jim actually include the Cod war in his list? Now, that's some funny sh*t.

Defining war can almost be ... (Below threshold)

Defining war can almost be as tricky as defining a democracy. :)

I actually don't know anything about the codfish war. I'll look it up; it seems like a crazy little bit of history.

The "cod war" is just under... (Below threshold)

The "cod war" is just under the typical definition of war, isn't it?


Territories of nations in dispute in international waters; ramming of ships; international intrigue (one ship flying Soviet colors for some reason)...but no one was killed, no territory taken.

I think this is alot of non... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

I think this is alot of nonsense about these normally Western Christian democracies being so civilised and unwarlike. Democracies have been just as brutal as dictatorships and have prevented colonies from becoming self governing. The Spanish American War, especially the war, in the Phippines is a rather benighted example. "
"The influential San Francisco Argonaut was more candid "We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but unfortunately, they are infested with Filipinos."

"President McKinley said he spent many sleepless nights agonising about the Philippines until God told him ( the same God that had Bush's ear) to keep the islands and "uplift and civilise and Christianize them....By 1902, US Senate hearings and scores of Army court martial trials found that US occupying forces were guilty of "war crimes." General Robert Hughes admitted he ordered the burning of villages and murder of women and children. When asked by a Senator if this was "civilised warfare," he answered, "These people are not civilised." 2,800 military actions continued until 1911, took 200,000 Filipino lives, and the US suffered 4,234 combat deaths. "(So I guess we are making progress in Iraq). Taken from Splendid Little War - Long Bloody Occupation (scroll down).God Bless America! and democracy.

The value of the lessons of... (Below threshold)

The value of the lessons of Mahan have allowed us to forget the atrocities and duplicities committed by us in the Philippines, besides which, the errors in Iraq seem innocent.

Democratic Peace Theory is ... (Below threshold)

Democratic Peace Theory is not as simple as "no democracies go to war against each other," mainly for the reason that democracy is not a binary state. There are gradients to democracy, and this has profound implications for the results of any tests. This is why some studies include the Spanish-American war, and some do not, because they do not consider Spain to be sufficiently democratic at the time, but instead was more of an oligarchy run through rigged elections. Some studies have found that transitional democracies tend to be more prone to war than any other state due to their internal instability. Thus, when testing DPT, you're better off looking at something that's been high on either the Polity or Freedom House data sets for a sustained period.

The other definitional problem you have is what qualifies as a war. The standard definition is any conflict that results in the death of 1000 people in a year is a war. It's arbitrary, but that's the best working definition going around. Others disagree. Joanne Gowa (Ballots and Bullets) included threats or displays of force that do not lead to war in her analysis of DPT. Not surprising, she found that there was no such thing as the democratic peace before World War II.

This theory also refers to wars between STATES, which is why civil wars, wars of independence, and anything to do with the American Indians is excluded.

Finally, as in all things in political science, one instance that violates the conditions does not disprove the theory. If a single instance of a case running contrary to model is enough to disprove causation, then you might as well toss everything out the window, as nothing causes anything under those conditions in international politics. Instead, polisci operates off of statistical analysis, most commonly ordinary least squares regression, although PROBIT and TOBIT analysis are very common.

Instead of arguing the point here, I'll just recommend some books. Read and decide for youself:

Joanne Gowa's Ballots and Bullets, though if you don't understand statistics this will make your head hurt.

Charles Lipson's Reliable Partners

James Lee Ray's Democracy and International Conflict

David A. Baldwin's Neorealism and Neoliberalism, while not directly on point, will provide grounding in the major theoretical debate in which DPT is occurring.

Kim good of you to see the ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Kim good of you to see the parallel but how many ends of innocence must we go through. No one has mentioned Chile's 9/11 in 1973. Tell this Democratic Peace Theory to them. This was the oldest pre-eminent democracy in South America. and the role of the US.aiding and abetting the coup.
From Wikipedia.

"I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves." -- Henry Kissinger

"Not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. Once Allende comes to power we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty." -- Edward M. Korry, U.S. Ambassador to Chile, upon hearing of Allende's election.

"Make the economy scream [in Chile to] prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him"

"The worst violence occurred in the first few months after the coup, with the number of suspected leftists killed or "disappeared" soon reaching into the thousands. In the days immediately following the coup, the National Stadium was used as a concentration camp holding 40,000 prisoners. Some of the most famous cases of "desaparecidos" are Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen who was tortured and killed during the coup itself; Chilean songwriter Víctor Jara, murdered while held prisoner at the Chile Stadium immediately after the coup, and the October 1973 Caravan of Death for those who praised democracy."

addendum. "Make the economy... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

addendum. "Make the economy scream [in Chile to] prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him" -- Richard Nixon, orders to CIA director Richard Helms on September 15, 1970

Democracies seldom go to wa... (Below threshold)
Frank Warner:

Democracies seldom go to war with one another. Why not?

Because of their openness and accountability.

Democracies are open enough to reveal what their major plans are, and to explain what their most serious complaints happen to be. Openness tends to make their actions more predictable. Other nations receive notice of disputes in plenty of time to work them out.

The accountability of democratic governments also makes them less likely to start wars with other democracies. Governments are much more leery of risking lives when they know they'll be held accountable by a free press, independent courts, free opposition parties and free elections.

On the other hand, the secrecy and unaccountability of dictatorships makes them much more prone to war and to great atrocities.

But what is a democracy? I'd argue a nation doesn't have an established democracy until it's gone through enough elections to produce at least three changes of leadership, prinicipally changes of political party control in either the executive or legislative branches.

The "Civil War" really wasn... (Below threshold)

The "Civil War" really wasn't one. In a civil war 2 or more forces fight to take control of a country. The CSA didn't want to take over the US; they wanted to leave it. Ergo, no Civil War.

How about the soccer war be... (Below threshold)

How about the soccer war between Honduras and El Salvador?

The wars started by dictato... (Below threshold)

The wars started by dictators and the wars to stop dictators' abuses made the 20th century the bloodiest century ever. On top of that deadly record, in those same 100 years dictators killed more of "their own people" through mass slaughters and intentional famines than all the world's wars combined.

That's a pretty good argument for freeing the world faster. Imagine the breakthroughs we'd see in the arts and sciences if we didn't have to spend so much time and energy mopping up after dictators and listening to excuses for them.

Imagine no dictators. All that freedom, and a lasting peace, too. The things we'll do.






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