POL208Y1 Lecture Notes - Democratic Peace Theory, Gulf War, Perpetual Peace
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Pol208 w/13 Tuesday January 11th
Democratic Peace Proposition:
The Democratic Peace Proposition is straight forward, It states: democracies rarely fight each
other. Doesn’t say if democracies are less war prone against non democratic areas. Argument is
about relationship between democracies. This proposition is at the core of liberalism in world
politics. Liberalists call for freedom from arbitrary authority. Negative freedoms: Freedom of
conscience, press, speech, key to liberalists. Call for positive freedom, political social and
economic rights. Also calls for democratic participation and representation; necessary to
guarantee negative and positive freedoms.
Liberal democracies do not fight each other precicely because they are democracies. It is the
nature of the regime that makes them more peaceful regarding each other. The type of regime is
the crucial variable. Run against what we have seen in the first term about the constraint give by
the international system. The realists always argue that it is the condition of anarchy that
imposes a certain type of behaviour for states.
Building of European union is about enlarging the democratic peace theory. To new members,
the conditions to become a member, first one is to be a democracy. The assumption is that among
democracies you will not fight amongst each other.
Emmanual Kant. 1795: “The perpetual Peace” In a time where liberal regimes were few.
Perpetual peace will be guaranteed when nations will accept three articles of an imaginary treaty.
1) The civil constitution of the state must be republican. Political society where freedoms
mentioned before are guarantees. Liberal republics will establish peace among themselves
through pacific unions.
2)Pacific Union: treaty among those republics. The treaty maintains itself prevent wars and
steadily expand. By that treaty, relationship between the republican regimes are settled. It is a
slow, difficult process where setbacks (conflicts) will happen. The slow establishment of a
pacific union is more an ideal than a reality. For Kant that is the best way to acheive peace. The
expansion of the pacific union is the more difficult point. Trust must be built, but trust can be
destroyed. The pacific union is not a single peace treaty (as opposed to versailles). It is a process
of slowly expanding the zone of republican regime. Not a treaty abolishing all wars. Not a world
government. Kant was opposed to a world government (dictatorship); he wantd instead a
nonagression pact; a collective security agreement.
3)Principle of universal hospitality; basic recognition of rights or forevers, as well as citizens. A
Tourist will have the same rights as a citizen. Among the republican regime, doesn’t matter
where you’re coming from.
Karl Dutch: How a relationship between a state could bring about peaceful relations. “Security
Community”; the more intense, more dense, a relationship between two countries citizens are,
the less likely these two countries will go to war against each other. If you have peaceful
relationships between individiuals, you will have peacefulness between states. One step needed;
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the decision by the state to abolish/delete all the defensive infrastructure at its border.
Cultural Norms Model:In a democracy, disputes are resolved without force. True democratic
political or judicial process. Threat of violence, is this considered legitimate? Decent is
expected/needed. All citizens are expected to share these norms and practices; peaceful
resolutions of conflict. The hypothesis: Culture, norms and practices that allow comprimsed
negotiations and peaceful resolution of conflict at home will automatically apply to the
relationship with another democracy. Assumption: a conflict between ottawa and washington
would be resolved peacefully. Relationship is lower between Ottawa and Moscow. Democratic
credential of moscow are not as high as that of washington. If you have a problem, or a conflict
of interest between two democracies, the leaders will automatically apply what they are doing at
home. This expectation however, does not apply to dictatorships. You cannot rely on another
leader in a dictatorship to have the same kinds of norms and democratic cultures. Norms of
regulated compromise, peaceful transfer of power are to externalize among democracies.
According to normative model, democratic peace theory exists, because decision makers expect
to be able to sort conflict by nonviolent means. Therefore, democracies will follow norms of
peaceful conflict resolution. Democracies will expect other democracies to behave similarly. The
more stable the democracy, the stronger these norms will apply. Regarding relationships with
non democracies, the leaders use violence to sort internal conflict, therefore, to deal with external
conflict, the same standards would apply. Emphasis on norms and democratic values.
Structural/Institutional Model: domestic democratic constraint and structure. : In a democracy,
the decisions to go to war are far more difficult to take than in a dictatorship. Key argument used
by kant; institutional constraint, democratic leaders have to convince their population/citizens the
merits of war. Democracies are constrained in several ways. Leaders need to ensure a broad
popular support. Public opinion needs to be convinced about the causes and the cost of conflict.
Different levels in tehse kind of constraints according to the regime type. One example: 2003,
U.S invades Iraq. Question for some allies was dow e follow the U.S agenda, or do we oppose it?
First Gulf War 1991; Invasion of Iraq by Kuwait. Bush goes before U.S congress for a
declaration of war. Got it with 2 votes.
Makes a difference if your armed forces are organized around a voluntary, or conscription
system. If it’s voluntary (professional soldiers); the state among public opinion are less sullied
than that of a conscription system. Conscription system; it is harder to convince the public of
going to war.
Conflict in Vietnam; any U.S citizen could be called to serve in Vietnam. So the public dissent/
opposition is far more important with a conscription system.
Afghanistan; not conscription.
In democracy, power checks of balance, it is more difficult to go to war. Division of power, need
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for a public debate, need for widespread support, all these slow the decision down. It reduces the
likelihood of a surprise attack. For Iraq, 6 months of an intense debate to go to war. Leaders of
democracies will expect in their relationship with other democracies, that these leaders are also
constrained. So time will be given for peaceful resolution. Likelihood of a surprise attack among
democracies is low because of constraint of a democratic regime. With Non democracies, that
does not apply the expectaiton that a dictatorship can decide to go to war immediately, the
possibility of a surprise attack is there. The room of maneuver, the time space does not exist
regarding dictatorship. The constraint of democracies about decisions to go to war are always
difficult to assess.
Running around the flag: the public, at large may embrace the prospect of a conflict/war. 1914:
mobilization embraced. National spirit may embrace conflict. Reaction in U.S after 9/11.
Key Argument of Owen(?): Importance of perception. What matters is how states perceive each
other. One country may be a democracy by objective standards (elections, checks and balances,
minimal institutional framework), but if that country is perceived as a non democracy by other
states, then the democratic peace argument is less likely to be at play. Liberal democracies must
consider foreign state to be part of the circle of liberal democracy. Perception among the players
that matter the most. Perception about democratic Russia is a key aspect for any relationship with
Moscow. Example: 19th Century American Vs. France/ Great Britain. Perception at that time,
were not related to liberal regimes. These countries did not look at themselves as part of
democracies. Which is why Democratic peace argument did not function. In the case of Franco-
German conflict in 1923, same applied. France did not recognize Germany as a democratic
nation. For french, Wilmar regime was already dead/irrelevant. Key aspect for democratic peace
theory to work; perception among state.
Realist counter Argument:
If democratic peace proposition is true, then their understanding of internal relations are wrong.
If nature of a regime is the crucial viable between relationship of states, then the international
system/core characteristics of Anarchy does not matter.
The counter argument:
1) Democratic peace theory is statistically insignificant. In history of the world, the democratic
peace theory does include very few cases. Liberal democracies are few. Any positive statistical
evidence that two democracies don’t fight each other, may be true, but they are insignificant.
Even if it’s true, it’s for different reasons, rather than the nature of the regime. Underline the
distance between two countries.
Debate about the role of models inside democratic peace. Realists will underline fact that the
pressure to convince public opinion and role of public opinion is more ambigious than the
democratic peace theory will tell. The fact that war is embraced by population (fact that
democracies are not by definition, more peaceful). Democratic societies can be as war prone as
any other regime, but the most important line is to underline other factors that explain peace.
Peace is not the monopoly of liberals.
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