How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace by John M. Owen NOTES
The InterDemocratic Peace through liberalism:
Between two liberal democratic states, peace will prevail if they recognize each other as liberal (88); if one
perceives the other as illiberal, the states tend towards war (96)
Two mechanisms cause this: liberal ideology and liberal democratic institutions (93)
Liberalism is defined as the view of abstract man in a state of nature in which he is equal to all other men
(93) with selfpreservation and material wellbeing as his supreme preferences. Liberalism s ends are life
and property, and its means are liberty and toleration (94).
There are two requirements for a state to be liberal: that its people are generally enlightened, and that its
institutions are enlightened (94).
Liberal ideology distinguishes states based on regime type (and not power disparities as would realism);
thus those states that are also liberal are natural allies, though to be predictable and trustworthy, and those
thought illiberal pose a threat (95).
Liberal institutions, which allow checks on the ruling power through free speech and elections, moderate
the national discourse in favor of a liberal foreign agenda. A liberal regime reaches out to other liberals and
pushes for war with the illiberal, whereas the illiberal regime in the same state, though desiring war with the
first and peace with the second, is constrained by liberal politics (99101).
from Owen, P. 102, "How Liberalism..."
There are six hypotheses to test if this causal mechanism is true (103104):
1. Liberal states trust others perceived as liberal and mistrust those perceived as illiberal.
2. When the liberal state recognizes the liberalization of another state, it expects good relations.
3. Liberal states believe others like them share their ends, and that illiberal states do not.
4. During a crisis, liberal states will change their opinions with the Other only if the Other changes their
5. During crisis bargaining, liberal elites push for their agenda.
6. During crisis bargaining, politicians are constrained by a liberal agenda.
There are four historical cases that test these hypotheses, all involving the United States before the World
Wars to control for differences between states and the unique politics of twentieth century polarity (104):
1. FrancoAmerican relations (179698): a quasiwar in the Caribbean between the United State and
France did not become a full war, in large part because, despite being illiberal, France was recognized by
the Republicans as a sister republic (105).
Republicans trusted France and mistrusted Great Britain (106)
Republicans had cheered the French revolution and expected pacific relations (106) Republicans claimed that the French shared their ends, and that the British did not (106)
Republicans did not change their favorable assessment of France during the crisis even considering the
XYZ affair (107)
Republicans agitated against war with France (107)
The president and the congressional federalists were constrained by the republicans from declaring war on
2. AngloAmerican relations (180312): pressured both by France and by Britain, America opted for war
with Britain in 1812 largely because it did not see that state as liberal (108).
Republicans mistrusted England, and some still trusted Napoleonic France (108)
Republicans claimed that England did not share their ends (109)
Republicans defined England as nondemocratic before and during the crisis (109)
Republicans agitated for war (109)
Statesmen followed republican ideology (109)
3. AngloAmerican relations (186163): Britain was now a liberal democracy, but did not view the Union
or Confederacy as liberal because of their ambivalence to (or acceptance of) the slave trade; only after the
Emancipation Proclamation did British opinion shift to the Union (111).
British liberals trusted the Union (111)
After the emancipation proclamation, liberals wanted better relations with the Union and believed the Union
shared liberal ends (112)
Liberals agitated against intervention after the proclamation (112)
The British cabinet was constrained by liberalism from intervening in the civil war (112)
4. AngloAmerican relations (189596): as the United States sought to exert its influence in the
Western Hemisphere, a border crisis between British Guiana and Venezuela almost sparked war, but the
crisis was resolved and never again had such a crisis between the two liberal democracies occurred (114).
Americans had observed Britain democratizing in the 1880s and had begun to expect better relations (114)
Most Britons saw the United States as trustworthy (115)
Both Americans and Britons continued to see each other as liberal during the crisis (116)
American [and British] liberals agitated for peace (117)
Owen presents some concluding qualifications:
There are two possible syntheses between liberalism and realism or idealism: that the balanceofthreat
theory (Walt) include regime type as an indicator of threat, or that anarchy leads to selfhelp only under
some circumstances (Wendt, Lumsdaine) and that states must hold certain beliefs about each other before
they fear each other (123).
Democratic peace is not necessarily perpetual, as threats to liberalism threaten the peace: sometimes it
cannot fulfill the material expectations it raise[s] and other times is destroy[s] traditional values and sources
of meaning (125).
Essay Critqueing John M Owen et al advocating 'The Democratic Peace Theory through Liberalism':
It has been argued that the absence of war between democratic states comes as close as anything we
have to an empirical law in international relations.  Although statistically the probability of war between
any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of
different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the
use of military violence between democratic states. This democratic peace proposition not only
challenges the validity of other political systems (i.e., fascism, communism, authoritarianism,
totalitarianism), but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasises balance
ofpower calculations and common strategic interests in order to explain the peace and stability that
characterises relations between liberal democracies. This essay argues, however, that the structural and
normative arguments of the democratic peace theory together offer a far more logical and convincing
explanation for this seeming anomaly. Furthermore, in line with Immanuel Kants theory of perpetual peace,
I argue that the global spread of democracy will result in greater international peace if this occurs in parallel
with the strengthening of economic interdependence and international organisations. The difficulty lies in
the significant risk of instability inherent in the process of democratisation and the uncertainty that remains
in an incomplete Kantian world where the Hobbesian state of anarchy has not yet entirely disappeared from
the international system.
Of the two main variants of the democratic peace theory, the structural account argues that it is the
institutions of representative government, which hold elected officials and decisionmakers accountable to a
wide electorate, that make war a largely unattractive option for both the government and its citizens.
Because the costs and risks of war directly affect large segments of the population, it is expected that the
average voter will throw the incumbent leader/party out of office if they initiate a losing or unnecessary war,
thus, providing a clear institutional incentive for democratic leaders to anticipate such an electoral response
before deciding to go to war. This view does not assume that all citizens and elected representatives are
liberalminded, but simply that democratic structures that give citizens leverage over government decisions
will make it less likely that a democratic leader will be able to initiate a war with another liberal democracy.
 Thus, even with an illiberal leader in place, institutions such as free speech, political pluralism, and
competitive elections will make it difficult for these leaders to convince or persuade the public to go to war.
Proponents of the normative/cultural perspective, by contrast, argue that shared democratic and liberal
values best explain the peace that exists between democratic states. According to this view, democratic
political culture encourages peaceful means of conflict resolution which are extended beyond the domestic political process to other democratic states because leaders in both countries hold a reasonable
expectation that their counterparts will also be able to work out their differences peacefully. Political
ideology, therefore, determines how democracies distinguish allies from adversaries: democracies that
represent and act in their citizens interests are treated with respect and consideration, whereas
nondemocracies that use violence and oppression against their own people are regarded with mistrust and
suspicion. The importance of perception means that even if a particular state has enlightened citizens
and liberaldemocratic institutions, unless other democratic states regard it as a genuine liberal democracy
then the democratic peace proposition will not hold. This argument can, therefore, explain a number of
contentious cases: Americans did not consider England democratic in 1812 because England was a
monarchy (War of 1812) and liberals in the Union did not consider the Confederacy a liberal democracy
because of their use of slavery (American Civil War).
Although some scholars regard the institutional and normative explanations as mutually exclusive, a much
more intuitive and persuasive defence of the democratic peace theory emerges from combining these two
viewpoints. Thus, the particular democratic practices that make war with other liberal democracies unlikely
free and fair elections, the rule of law, free press, a competitive party system are driven by both converging
expectations about what conventional behaviour is likely to be (institutions) and standards for what
behaviour ought to be (norms). These two explanations are complimentary and mutually reinforcing:
cultural norms influences the creation and evolution of political institutions, and institutions help generate a
more peaceful moral culture over time.
Criticism of the Theory
A great deal of criticism of the democratic peace theory is focused on methodology. It is argued that the
subjectivity of the specifics definitions adopted in such highly empirical studies is likely to significantly affect
the results, making it difficult to validate the theory with certainty. But this is largely undermined by a
large number of studies that show democracies are highly unlikely to fight each other irrespective of the
definition of democracy, the type of cases considered, or the dispute/war threshold. Furthermore, there
has already been a significant increase in the number of democraticdemocratic dyads from less than 2% of
all political dyads in the 19th century, to 13% from 19001945, and 11% over the 194689 period without any
More substantial criticism comes from scholars whom, while not questioning the empirical findings, put forth
contending arguments to explain the causal relationship between democracy and peace. Realists argue
that it is not common polities but rather common interests that can best explain the low incidence of wars
between democracies. Beginning with the Cold War, they point out that democratic states have been far
more likely to formally align themselves with other democracies than in the century before, suggesting that
common strategic interests are a more important factor than domestic political processes. Thus, the
particular structure of the international political system is the key factor determining how states will act.
But the realist critique has been largely disproven by studies that have persuasively found that democracy,
rather than alliance, prevents conflict and war; nonaligned democracies are less likely to fight each other
than aligned nondemocracies; and two nondemocratic states that share common interests are more likely
to fight each other than two democracies that do not share common interests.
Monadic Explanation Of course, the point on which critics of the democratic peace theory are largely correct is that liberal
democracies are not significantly less likely to go to war with other nondemocratic states. The available
evidence largely disproves the monadic proposition that democratic states are less prone to use force
regardless of the regime type of the opposing state. This is likely due to the fact that democratic states
still function in an incompletely Kantian world where democracies have only recently gone from being a
minority to the slight majority within the postCold War period.  Power politics, therefore, is still a
necessary reality for most democratic states, particularly given the high levels of conflict between mixed
dyads. Nonetheless, there are a number of important advantages for democracies: they are more likely
to enter lowlevel conflicts than fullscale wars; more willing to refrain from escalating disputes into an actual
war; and less likely to initiate the use of violence against another state.
More importantly perhaps, democracies that do ini