Higher history essay democracy

In addition to improving the lives of individual citizens in new democracies, the spread of democracy will benefit the international system by reducing the likelihood of war.

Democracies do not wage war on other democracies. This absence-or near absence, depending on the definitions of "war" and "democracy" used-has been called "one of the strongest nontrivial and nontautological generalizations that can be made about international relations. Although wars between democracies and nondemocracies would persist in the short run, in the long run an international system composed of democracies would be a peaceful world. At the very least, adding to the number of democracies would gradually enlarge the democratic "zone of peace. Many studies have found that there are virtually no historical cases of democracies going to war with one another.

In an important two-part article published in , Michael Doyle compares all international wars between and and a list of liberal states. Most studies of the democratic-peace proposition have argued that democracies only enjoy a state of peace with other democracies; they are just as likely as other states to go to war with nondemocracies. Two types of explanations have been offered for the absence of wars between democracies.

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The first argues that shared norms prevent democracies from fighting one another. The second claims that institutional or structural constraints make it difficult or impossible for a democracy to wage war on another democracy. The normative explanation of the democratic peace argues that norms that democracies share preclude wars between democracies.


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One version of this argument contends that liberal states do not fight other liberal states because to do so would be to violate the principles of liberalism. Liberal states only wage war when it advances the liberal ends of increased individual freedom. A liberal state cannot advance liberal ends by fighting another liberal state, because that state already upholds the principles of liberalism.

In other words, democracies do not fight because liberal ideology provides no justification for wars between liberal democracies.

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This norm applies between and within democratic states. Democracies resolve their domestic conflicts without violence, and they expect that other democracies will resolve inter-democratic international disputes peacefully. At the most general level, democratic leaders are constrained by the public, which is sometimes pacific and generally slow to mobilize for war. In most democracies, the legislative and executive branches check the war-making power of each other.

These constraints may prevent democracies from launching wars. When two democracies confront one another internationally, they are not likely to rush into war.

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Their leaders will have more time to resolve disputes peacefully. For example, in liberal democracies liberal norms and democratic processes probably work in tandem to synergistically produce the democratic peace. They thus will have few crises and wars. In illiberal or semiliberal democracies, norms play a lesser role and crises are more likely, but democratic institutions and processes may still make wars between illiberal democracies rare. Finally, state-level factors like norms and domestic structures may interact with international-systemic factors to prevent wars between democracies.

If democracies are better at information-processing, they may be better than nondemocracies at recognizing international situations where war would be foolish.

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Thus the logic of the democratic peace may explain why democracies sometimes behave according to realist systemic predictions. The United States will have an interest in promoting democracy because further democratization enhances the lives of citizens of other countries and contributes to a more peaceful international system. To the extent that Americans care about citizens of other countries and international peace, they will see benefits from the continued spread of democracy. Spreading democracy also will directly advance the national interests of the United States, because democracies will not launch wars or terrorist attacks against the United States, will not produce refugees seeking asylum in the United States, and will tend to ally with the United States.

First, democracies will not go to war against the United States, provided, of course, that the United States remains a democracy. The logic of the democratic peace suggests that the United States will have fewer enemies in a world of more democracies. If democracies virtually never go to war with one another, no democracy will wage war against the United States.

Democracies are unlikely to get into crises or militarized disputes with the United States. Promoting democracy may usher in a more peaceful world; it also will enhance the national security of the United States by eliminating potential military threats. The United States would be more secure if Russia, China, and at least some countries in the Arab and Islamic worlds became stable democracies.

Second, spreading democracy is likely to enhance U. The world's principal sponsors of international terrorism are harsh, authoritarian regimes, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, and Sudan. Some skeptics of the democratic-peace proposition point out that democracies sometimes have sponsored covert action or "state terrorism" against other democracies. Examples include U.

In each case, the target state had dubious democratic credentials. And the perpetrator of the alleged "state terrorist" acts in each case was the United States itself, which suggests that the United States has little to fear from other democracies. Third, the spread of democracy will serve American interests by reducing the number of refugees who flee to the United States.

The countries that generate the most refugees are usually the least democratic. The absence of democracy tends to lead to internal conflicts, ethnic strife, political oppression, and rapid population growth-all of which encourage the flight of refugees. The results of the U. The number of refugees attempting to flee Haiti for the United States dropped dramatically after U. In addition to reducing the number of countries that generate refugees, the spread of democracy is likely to increase the number of countries that accept refugees, thereby reducing the number of refugees who will attempt to enter the United States.

Fourth, the global spread of democracy will advance American interests by creating more potential allies for the United States. Historically, most of America's allies have been democracies. In general, democracies are much more likely to ally with one another than with nondemocracies. Fifth, the spread of democracy internationally is likely to increase Americans' psychological sense of well-being about their own democratic institutions. Part of the impetus behind American attempts to spread democracy has always come from the belief that American democracy will be healthier when other countries adopt similar political systems.

To some extent, this belief reflects the conviction that democracies will be friendly toward the United States. But it also reflects the fact that democratic principles are an integral part of America's national identity.


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The United States thus has a special interest in seeing its ideals spread. Finally, the United States will benefit from the spread of democracy because democracies will make better economic partners.

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Democracies are more likely to adopt market economies, so democracies will tend to have more prosperous and open economies. The United States generally will be able to establish mutually beneficial trading relationships with democracies. And democracies provide better climates for American overseas investment, by virtue of their political stability and market economies. Although many political scientists accept the proposition that democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with one another, several critics have challenged claims of a democratic peace.

By the late s, proponents and critics of the democratic peace were engaged in a vigorous and sometimes heated debate. Critics have presented several important challenges to the deductive logic and empirical bases of the democratic peace proposition. They have argued that there is not a convincing theoretical explanation of the apparent absence of war between democracies, that democracies actually have fought one another, that the absence of wars between democracies is not statistically significant, and that factors other than shared democratic institutions or values have caused the democratic peace.

The critics of the democratic peace have presented vigorous arguments that have forced the proposition's proponents to refine and qualify the case for the democratic peace. These criticisms do not, however, refute the principal arguments for the democratic peace.


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As I argue below, there is still a compelling deductive and empirical case that democracies are extremely unlikely to fight one another. Moreover, the case for spreading democracy does not rest entirely on the democratic-peace proposition. Although those who favor promoting democracy often invoke the democratic peace, the debate over whether the United States should spread democracy is not the same as the debate over the democratic peace. Even if the critics were able to undermine the democratic-peace proposition, their arguments would not negate the case for spreading democracy, because there are other reasons for promoting democracy.

More important, the case for promoting democracy as a means of building peace remains sound if the spread of democracy merely reduces the probability of war between democracies, whereas "proving" the democratic peace proposition requires showing that the probability of such wars is at or close to zero. Several criticisms of the democratic peace proposition fault the logic that has been advanced to explain the apparent absence of war between democracies. These arguments do not rest on an assessment of the empirical evidence, but instead rely on analyses and critiques of the internal consistency and persuasiveness of the theoretical explanations of the democratic peace.

Critics have offered four major challenges to the logic of the democratic peace: a there is no consensus on the causal mechanisms that keep democracies at peace: b the possibility that democracies may turn into nondemocracies means that even democracies operate according to realist principles; c the structural-institutional explanation of the democratic peace is flawed, not least because its logic also would predict that democracies are less likely to be involved in any wars, not just wars with other democracies; and d the normative explanation of the democratic peace is unpersuasive.

The Argument: The first, and most general criticism of the deductive logic of the democratic peace proposition holds that the lack of agreement on what causes democracies to avoid war with one another calls the proposition into question. Response: The fact that several theories have been advanced to explain the democratic peace does not mean that we cannot be confident that democracies are unlikely to fight one another.

There is no reason to assume that a single theory explains all the cases in which democracies have avoided war with one another. It is possible to be confident in an empirical finding even when many different explanations account for it.