Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace by Christopher Layne NOTES
International Security pages 549
Layne critiques the causal logic of DPT and compares its predictive power to that of
realism. He first identifies to strands of DPT: (a) institutional constraints and (b)
democratic norms and culture. He argues that (a) is not persuasive and so DPT actually
rests on (b). In contrast to DPT, structural realism argues that unit level factors do not
alter the structure of international politics. Because survival and security are always at
risk, democratic states respond similarly to both democratic and nondemocratic rivals.
DPT Two Strands
a. Institutional constraints [i.e. Doyle]
i. Decisionmakers accountable to public opinion. Layne argues that
if this were true, it would act as a constraint on relations with all
states, not just democracies. Democratic public opinion is also not
ii. Checks and balances within democratic political structure,
particularly executive selection, political competition and pluralist
FP decisionmaking process. Not a persuasive explanation
because focuses on an IV that is associated with but not exclusive
b. Democratic norms and culture [i.e. Russett]
i. Shared domestic commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes
ii. Democracies develop positive perceptions of other democracies,
that they are like us, through a learning process.
Layne argues that DPT identifies a correlation and not a causal link, and furthermore the
universe of cases from which DPT can be tested is small because:
Few democracies from 18151945
Possibility that any dyad goes to war is small, b/c wars are relatively
Not all dyads created equal significant dyads must represent a case
where war is a real possibility (involving both opportunity and reason)
This smalln universe increases the importance of exceptions to the DP and how
DP theorists classify democracies. For instance, the U.S. civil war is typically not
included because it is classified as an internal conflict. Yet, if democratic norms and
culture fail to prevent the outbreak of civil war within democracies, what reason is there
to believe that they will prevent the outbreak of interstate wars between democracies?
(41) Also, was Wilhelmine Germany a democracy? Or at least, any less democratic than
France and the UK? (In all three countries, foreign policy insulated from parliamentary
control) If so, does WWI represent an invalidation of DPT?
Layne proposes that the DP might reflect a situation of secondimage reversed. If
a state s internal political structure is highly influenced by external factors, this generates
a selection process determining which states become democracies and which dont.
Greater external security facilitates a more democratic political structure and a lower
propensity/need to fight.
Lastly, Layne argues that the belief in a democratic zone of peace has dangerous
consequences for U.S. foreign policy. Because it links American security to the nature
of other states internal political systems, DPTs logic inevitably pushes the U.S. to adopt
an interventionist strategic posture. (46) This is dangerous because liberal IR theory is
based on hope not fact.
Empirics [Read only if interested]
Layne undertakes an empirical test of four near misses (democracies almost went to
war) to assess relative explanatory power of DPT and realism. Employs a processtracing
approach. These represent easy cases for DPT because the effect of democratic norms
should have been reinforced by economic interdependence or special relationships
Indicators of DPT:
i. Public opinion should be strongly pacific
ii. Policymakers should refrain from making threats or preparations
for threatening activity against other democracies
iii. Democracies should go to great lengths to accommodate each
other in crises.
Indicators of realism:
i. Ratio of national interest to democratic respect the more vital the
issue at stake, the more likely FP shaped by realist imperatives
rather than democratic norms. [how does one assess this?]
ii. Leaders should be attentive to strategic concerns and relative
distribution of military capabilities.
iii. Broader geopolitical considerations should account significantly for crisis outcome.
The Trent Affair U.S. and UK (1861)
American arrest of two Brits on a UK ship triggered aggressive reaction by British public
and hardline policy by government (diplomatic demand, military preparations and
embargoes). Additionally, British policymakers believed that Englands resolve,
credibility, and reputation were at stake internationally. (18) Despite strong prowar
opinion in Northern states, the Lincoln administration submitted to British demands b/c
could not afford a simultaneous war with the UK and the Confederacy. France also
supported British demands, and American officials were well aware of the prowar
sentiment of British public. Strategic considerations, not democratic culture/norms,
explain why war was avoided.
Venezuela crisis U.S. and UK (18956)
U.S. intervened diplomatically in AngloVenezuelan border dispute to assert regional
hegemony in Western hemisphere. UK rejected American demands. Both sides
recognized real possibility of war and the dispute escalated. Then in 1896, UK changed
its position, resulting in peace settlement of dispute. This was due to strategic
considerations, i.e. UK constrained from going to war by an unfavorable BOP with US
and by a deteriorating international situation (no allies). Both sides did consider war as a
legitimate component of their diplomatic strategy. No evidence that public opini