Democracies Up, Violence Down Again, Media Still Blind

June 2, 2009

[First published May 30, 2005] In his May 28, 2005, op-ed piece, “Give Peace a Chance,” in The New York Times (link here), John Tierney points out:

The new edition of “Peace and Conflict,” a biennial global survey being published next week by the University of Maryland, shows that the number and intensity of wars and armed conflicts have fallen once again, continuing a steady 15-year decline that has halved the amount of organized violence around the world.

Tierney is at a loss to explain this and first looks to an economist for an explanation, which is the there is less and less to gain economically from war. And then says:

Of course, wars are also fought for noneconomic reasons, but those, too, seem to be diminishing. The end of the cold war left the superpowers’ proxy armies without patrons, and the spread of democracy made nations less bellicose. (Democracies almost never fight each other.) Mr. Easterbrook calculates that the amount of military spending per capita has declined by a third worldwide since 1985. [Easterbook here]

He has pulled aside the shade and looked out the window, but since this is the only mention of the democratic peace in the whole article, he seems unsure, if not doubting, what he has seen. Again, I will provide some of the compelling evidence in a series of charts.

The following two charts show the rapid increase in democracies and liberal democracies since 1900.

The following chart plots the overall non-freedomness of the international system per year. This is the average rating of nations per year in their degree of freedom (the higher the rating, the less freedom).

The above are based on data from Freedom House (link here)

Now, lets look at the changes in regime type, as plotted by the “Peace and Conflict” study Tierney wrote his op-ed about (link here). See below.

The anocracies are akin to partially free, authoritarian, nations. Note that in these charts around 1990 is the critical year when the number of democracies spurt up and autocracies, those lest democratic, dive down in numbers. Now, lets see what happens to violence since 1946.

All forms of violence are headed down, and the crucial years are between 1985 and 1990, which is just the time when after a continual increase (see the first three charts), the number of democracies jump up. The way to understand this is that in the late 1980s, democracies achieved a critical mass in the international system, a tipping point for violence. Decades ago I predicted this point would be reached eventually, and now it has.

The last two charts taken together well substantiate President Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom, that it, foster freedom to foster peace. Do you think this might have something to do with the media largely ignoring the democratic peace in action, as shown here?


Link of Note

(Spring 2004) By John Mueller

He says:

It seems to me, though, that the most reliable restraints on violent behavior—both by individuals and by states—stem from human nature. For the most part, following the Rodney King prescription, we all—or almost all—actually do really want just to get along. There certainly is a quota of jerks out there, but most people most of the time are inclined to avoid conflict— certainly violent conflict. Their key goal is to live in peace and security, and they do this in part by adopting a live-and-let-live philosophy and by sharpening their skills from a very early age for determining whom to trust and befriend.7 By and large, their instincts predispose them not to belligerence or aggressiveness or even to stand and fight, but rather to flee conflict by removing themselves from threatening situations and moving from neighborhoods that are, or seem, dangerous. What is remarkable about most societies is how small in number, indeed how little in evidence, are the police forces required to maintain acceptable order. . . .

Thus, international war has declined remarkably since 1945 even while
international anarchy continues, effectively, to flourish: no one, surely, would confuse the United Nations or other international bodies with a Hobbesian
Leviathan.

Experience suggests, then, that alarm about international “anarchy” is much
overstressed. Regulation is not normally required, and “anarchy” could become a desirable state.

So, the decrease in violence is due to human nature and learning about violence — it is a natural result of the anarchic international system.

Not only has the democratic peace brought a greater peace to nations, but it has also enabled all kinds of theories explaining this peace to flourish.


Democratic Peace
Books/articles/statistics


Easterbrook End of War

May 31, 2009

[First published June 1, 2005] In a blog on the relationship between the decline of violence and the increase in the number of democracies, I quoted from John Tierney about the decline in violence, and he referred to Gregg Easterbrook’s article “EXPLAINING 15 YEARS OF DIMINISHING VIOLENCE — The End of War?” in The New Republic Online (link here). Unfortunately, the magazine has joined the growing trend to make full articles available on to subscribers.

Well, Colleague sent me a copy and I am posting it in full here. It’s long, but for those interested in the sharp drop in violence, the possible causes, and the democratic peace as an explanation will be rewarded by reading this in two ways. One is in the variety of explanations, so you are not stuck with my explanation. And then, how finally, when he has to mention the democratic peace, he does so in no more than a paragraph in this long work. Which in the context of the other explanations gives you a different view of what I have been treating as the explanation.


Daily explosions in Iraq, massacres in Sudan, the Koreas staring at each other through artillery barrels, a Hobbesian war of all against all in eastern Congo — combat plagues human society as it has, perhaps, since our distant forebears realized that a tree limb could be used as a club. But here is something you would never guess from watching the news: War has entered a cycle of decline. Combat in Iraq and in a few other places is an exception to a significant global trend that has gone nearly unnoticed — namely that, for about 15 years, there have been steadily fewer armed conflicts worldwide. In fact, it is possible that a person’s chance of dying because of war has, in the last decade or more, become the lowest in human history.

Five years ago, two academics — Monty Marshall, research director at the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University, and Ted Robert Gurr, a professor of government at the University of Maryland — spent months compiling all available data on the frequency and death toll of twentieth-century combat, expecting to find an ever-worsening ledger of blood and destruction. Instead, they found, after the terrible years of World Wars I and II, a global increase in war from the 1960s through the mid-’80s. But this was followed by a steady, nearly uninterrupted decline beginning in 1991. They also found a steady global rise since the mid-’80s in factors that reduce armed conflict — economic prosperity, free elections, stable central governments, better communication, more “peacemaking institutions,” and increased international engagement. Marshall and Gurr, along with Deepa Khosla, published their results as a 2001 report, Peace and Conflict, for the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland [reports avaiable here]. At the time, I remember reading that report and thinking, “Wow, this is one of the hottest things I have ever held in my hands.” I expected that evidence of a decline in war would trigger a sensation. Instead it received almost no notice.

“After the first report came out, we wanted to brief some United Nations officials, but everyone at the United Nations just laughed at us. They could not believe war was declining, because this went against political expectations,” Marshall says. Of course, 2001 was the year of September 11. But, despite the battles in Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere that were ignited by Islamist terrorism and the West’s response, a second edition of Peace and Conflict, published in 2003, showed the total number of wars and armed conflicts continued to decline. A third edition of the study, published last week, shows that, despite the invasion of Iraq and other outbreaks of fighting, the overall decline of war continues. This even as the global population keeps rising, which might be expected to lead to more war, not less.

In his prescient 1989 book, Retreat from Doomsday, Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller, in addition to predicting that the Soviet Union was about to collapse — the Berlin Wall fell just after the book was published — declared that great-nation war had become “obsolete” and might never occur again. [A related article by Mueller is here.] One reason the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Mueller wrote, was that its leaders had structured Soviet society around the eighteenth-century assumption of endless great-power fighting, but great-power war had become archaic, and no society with war as its organizing principle can endure any longer. So far, this theory has been right on the money. It is worth noting that the first emerging great power of the new century, China, though prone to making threatening statements about Taiwan, spends relatively little on its military.

Last year Mueller published a follow-up book, The Remnants of War, which argues that fighting below the level of great-power conflict — small-state wars, civil wars, ethnic combat, and clashes among private armies — is also waning. Retreat from Doomsday and The Remnants of War are brilliantly original and urgent books. Combat is not an inevitable result of international discord and human malevolence, Mueller believes. War, rather, is “merely an idea” — and a really bad idea, like dueling or slavery. This bad idea “has been grafted onto human existence” and can be excised. Yes, the end of war has been predicted before, prominently by H.G. Wells in 1915, and horrible bloodshed followed. But could the predictions be right this time?

First, the numbers. The University of Maryland studies find the number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide peaked in 1991 at 51, which may represent the most wars happening simultaneously at any point in history. Since 1991, the number has fallen steadily. There were 26 armed conflicts in 2000 and 25 in 2002, even after the Al Qaeda attack on the United States and the U.S. counterattack against Afghanistan. By 2004, Marshall and Gurr’s latest study shows, the number of armed conflicts in the world had declined to 20, even after the invasion of Iraq. All told, there were less than half as many wars in 2004 as there were in 1991.

Marshall and Gurr also have a second ranking, gauging the magnitude of fighting. This section of the report is more subjective. Everyone agrees that the worst moment for human conflict was World War II; but how to rank, say, the current separatist fighting in Indonesia versus, say, the Algerian war of independence is more speculative. Nevertheless, the Peace and Conflict studies name 1991 as the peak post-World War II year for totality of global fighting, giving that year a ranking of 179 on a scale that rates the extent and destructiveness of combat. By 2000, in spite of war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the number had fallen to 97; by 2002 to 81; and, at the end of 2004, it stood at 65. This suggests the extent and intensity of global combat is now less than half what it was 15 years ago.

How can war be in such decline when evening newscasts are filled with images of carnage? One reason fighting seems to be everywhere is that, with the ubiquity of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, we see many more images of conflict than before. As recently as two decades ago, the rebellion in Eritrea occurred with almost no world notice; the tirelessly globe-trotting Robert Kaplan wrote of meeting with Eritrean rebels who told him they hoped that at least spy satellites were trained on their region so that someone, somewhere, would know of their struggle. Today, fighting in Iraq, Sudan, and other places is elaborately reported on, with a wealth of visual details supplied by minicams and even camera-enabled cell phones. News organizations must prominently report fighting, of course. But the fact that we now see so many visuals of combat and conflict creates the impression that these problems are increasing: Actually, it is the reporting of the problems that is increasing, while the problems themselves are in decline. Television, especially, likes to emphasize war because pictures of fighting, soldiers, and military hardware are inherently more compelling to viewers than images of, say, water-purification projects. Reports of violence and destruction are rarely balanced with reports about the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s population not being harmed.

Mueller calculates that about 200 million people were killed in the twentieth century by warfare, other violent conflicts, and government actions associated with war, such as the Holocaust. About twelve billion people lived during that century, meaning that a person of the twentieth century had a 1 to 2 percent chance of dying as the result of international war, ethnic fighting, or government-run genocide. A 1 to 2 percent chance, Mueller notes, is also an American’s lifetime chance of dying in an automobile accident. The risk varies depending on where you live and who you are, of course; Mueller notes that, during the twentieth century, Armenians, Cambodians, Jews, kulaks, and some others had a far higher chance of death by war or government persecution than the global average. Yet, with war now in decline, for the moment men and women worldwide stand in more danger from cars and highways than from war and combat. World Health Organization statistics back this: In 2000, for example, 300,000 people died in combat or for war-related reasons (such as disease or malnutrition caused by war), while 1.2 million worldwide died in traffic accidents. That 300,000 people perished because of war in 2000 is a terrible toll, but it represents just .005 percent of those alive in that year.

This low global risk of death from war probably differs greatly from most of the world’s past. In prehistory, tribal and small-group violence may have been endemic. Steven LeBlanc, a Harvard University archeologist, asserts in his 2003 book about the human past, Constant Battles, that warfare was a steady feature of primordial society. LeBlanc notes that, when the aboriginal societies of New Guinea were first observed by Europeans in the 1930s, one male in four died by violence; traditional New Guinean society was organized around endless tribal combat. Unremitting warfare characterized much of the history of Europe, the Middle East, and other regions; perhaps one-fifth of the German population died during the Thirty Years War, for instance. Now the world is in a period in which less than one ten-thousandth of its population dies from fighting in a year. The sheer number of people who are being harmed by warfare is without precedent.

Next consider a wonderful fact: Global military spending is also in decline. Stated in current dollars, annual global military spending peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been falling since, to slightly over $1 trillion in 2004, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan Washington research organization. Since the global population has risen by one-fifth during this period, military spending might have been expected to rise. Instead, relative to population growth, military spending has declined by a full third. In current dollars, the world spent $260 per capita on arms in 1985 and $167 in 2004.

The striking decline in global military spending has also received no attention from the press, which continues to promote the notion of a world staggering under the weight of instruments of destruction. Only a few nations, most prominently the United States, have increased their defense spending in the last decade. Today, the United States accounts for 44 percent of world military spending; if current trends continue, with many nations reducing defense spending while the United States continues to increase such spending as its military is restructured for new global anti-terrorism and peacekeeping roles, it is not out of the question that, in the future, the United States will spend more on arms and soldiers than the rest of the world combined.

Declining global military spending is exactly what one would expect to find if war itself were in decline. The peak year in global military spending came only shortly before the peak year for wars, 1991. There’s an obvious chicken-or-egg question, whether military spending has fallen because wars are rarer or whether wars are rarer because military spending has fallen. Either way, both trend lines point in the right direction. This is an extremely favorable development, particularly for the world’s poor — the less developing nations squander on arms, the more they can invest in improving daily lives of their citizens.

What is causing war to decline? The most powerful factor must be the end of the cold war, which has both lowered international tensions and withdrawn U.S. and Soviet support from proxy armies in the developing world. Fighting in poor nations is sustained by outside supplies of arms. To be sure, there remain significant stocks of small arms in the developing world — particularly millions of assault rifles. But, with international arms shipments waning and heavy weapons, such as artillery, becoming harder to obtain in many developing nations, factions in developing-world conflicts are more likely to sue for peace. For example, the long, violent conflict in Angola was sustained by a weird mix of Soviet, American, Cuban, and South African arms shipments to a potpourri of factions. When all these nations stopped supplying arms to the Angolan combatants, the leaders of the factions grudgingly came to the conference table.

During the cold war, Marshall notes, it was common for Westerners to say there was peace because no fighting affected the West. Actually, global conflict rose steadily during the cold war, but could be observed only in the developing world. After the cold war ended, many in the West wrung their hands about a supposed outbreak of “disorder” and ethnic hostilities. Actually, both problems went into decline following the cold war, but only then began to be noticed in the West, with confrontation with the Soviet empire no longer an issue.

Another reason for less war is the rise of peacekeeping. The world spends more every year on peacekeeping, and peacekeeping is turning out to be an excellent investment. Many thousands of U.N., nato, American, and other soldiers and peacekeeping units now walk the streets in troubled parts of the world, at a cost of at least $3 billion annually. Peacekeeping has not been without its problems; peacekeepers have been accused of paying very young girls for sex in Bosnia and Africa, and nato bears collective shame for refusing support to the Dutch peacekeeping unit that might have prevented the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. But, overall, peacekeeping is working. Dollar for dollar, it is far more effective at preventing fighting than purchasing complex weapons systems. A recent study from the notoriously gloomy rand Corporation found that most U.N. peacekeeping efforts have been successful.

Peacekeeping is just one way in which the United Nations has made a significant contribution to the decline of war. American commentators love to disparage the organization in that big cereal-box building on the East River, and, of course, the United Nations has manifold faults. Yet we should not lose track of the fact that the global security system envisioned by the U.N. charter appears to be taking effect. Great-power military tensions are at the lowest level in centuries; wealthy nations are increasingly pressured by international diplomacy not to encourage war by client states; and much of the world respects U.N. guidance. Related to this, the rise in “international engagement,” or the involvement of the world community in local disputes, increasingly mitigates against war.

The spread of democracy has made another significant contribution to the decline of war. In 1975, only one-third of the world’s nations held true multiparty elections; today two-thirds do, and the proportion continues to rise. In the last two decades, some 80 countries have joined the democratic column, while hardly any moved in the opposite direction. Increasingly, developing-world leaders observe the simple fact that the free nations are the strongest and richest ones, and this creates a powerful argument for the expansion of freedom. Theorists at least as far back as Immanuel Kant have posited that democratic societies would be much less likely to make war than other kinds of states. So far, this has proved true: Democracy-against-democracy fighting has been extremely rare. Prosperity and democracy tend to be mutually reinforcing. Now prosperity is rising in most of the world, amplifying the trend toward freedom. As ever-more nations become democracies, ever-less war can be expected, which is exactly what is being observed.

For the great-power nations, the arrival of nuclear deterrence is an obvious factor in the decline of war. The atomic bomb debuted in 1945, and the last great-power fighting, between the United States and China, concluded not long after, in 1953. From 1871 to 1914, Europe enjoyed nearly half a century without war; the current 52-year great-power peace is the longest period without great-power war since the modern state system emerged. Of course, it is possible that nuclear deterrence will backfire and lead to a conflagration beyond imagination in its horrors. But, even at the height of the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union never seriously contemplated a nuclear exchange. If it didn’t happen then, it seems unlikely for the future.

In turn, lack of war among great nations sets an example for the developing world. When the leading nations routinely attacked neighbors or rivals, governments of emerging states dreamed of the day when they, too, could issue orders to armies of conquest. Now that the leading nations rarely use military force — and instead emphasize economic competition — developing countries imitate that model. This makes the global economy more turbulent, but reduces war.

In The Remnants of War, Mueller argues that most fighting in the world today happens because many developing nations lack “capable government” that can contain ethnic conflict or prevent terrorist groups, militias, and criminal gangs from operating. Through around 1500, he reminds us, Europe, too, lacked capable government: Criminal gangs and private armies roamed the countryside. As European governments became competent, and as police and courts grew more respected, legitimate government gradually vanquished thug elements from most of European life. Mueller thinks this same progression of events is beginning in much of the developing world. Government and civil institutions in India, for example, are becoming more professional and less corrupt — one reason why that highly populous nation is not falling apart, as so many predicted it would. Interstate war is in substantial decline; if civil wars, ethnic strife, and private army fighting also go into decline, war may be ungrafted from the human experience.

Is it possible to believe that war is declining, owing to the spread of enlightenment? This seems the riskiest claim. Human nature has let us down many times before. Some have argued that militarism as a philosophy was destroyed in World War II, when the states that were utterly dedicated to martial organization and violent conquest were not only beaten but reduced to rubble by free nations that initially wanted no part of the fight. World War II did represent the triumph of freedom over militarism. But memories are short: It is unrealistic to suppose that no nation will ever be seduced by militarism again.

Yet the last half-century has seen an increase in great nations acting in an enlightened manner toward one another. Prior to this period, the losing sides in wars were usually punished; consider the Versailles Treaty, whose punitive terms helped set in motion the Nazi takeover of Germany. After World War II, the victors did not punish Germany and Japan, which made reasonably smooth returns to prosperity and acceptance by the family of nations. Following the end of the cold war, the losers — the former Soviet Union and China — have seen their national conditions improve, if fitfully; their reentry into the family of nations has gone reasonably well and has been encouraged, if not actively aided, by their former adversaries. Not punishing the vanquished should diminish the odds of future war, since there are no generations who suffer from the victor’s terms, become bitter, and want vengeance.

Antiwar sentiment is only about a century old in Western culture, and Mueller thinks its rise has not been given sufficient due. As recently as the Civil War in the United States and World War I in Europe, it was common to view war as inevitable and to be fatalistic about the power of government to order men to march to their deaths. A spooky number of thinkers even adulated war as a desirable condition. Kant, who loved democracy, nevertheless wrote that war is “sublime” and that “prolonged peace favors the predominance of a mere commercial spirit, and with it a debasing self-interest, cowardice and effeminacy.” Alexis De Tocqueville said that war “enlarges the mind of a people.” Igor Stravinsky called war “necessary for human progress.” In 1895, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. told the graduating class of Harvard that one of the highest expressions of honor was “the faith … which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty.”

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a counter-view arose — that war is usually absurd. One of the bestselling books of late-nineteenth-century Europe, Lay Down Your Arms!, was an antiwar novel. Organized draft resistance in the United Kingdom during World War I was a new force in European politics. England slept during the ’30s in part because public antiwar sentiment was intense. By the time the U.S. government abolished the draft at the end of the Vietnam War, there was strong feeling in the United States that families would no longer tolerate being compelled to give up their children for war. Today, that feeling has spread even to Russia, such a short time ago a totalitarian, militaristic state. As average family size has decreased across the Western world, families have invested more in each child; this should discourage militarism. Family size has started to decrease in the developing world, too, so the same dynamic may take effect in poor nations.

There is even a chance that the ascent of economics to its pinnacle position in modern life reduces war. Nations interconnected by trade may be less willing to fight each other: If China and the United States ever fought, both nations might see their economies collapse. It is true that, in the decades leading up to World War I, some thought rising trade would prevent war. But today’s circumstances are very different from those of the Fin de siècle [turn of the century]. Before World War I, great powers still maintained the grand illusion that there could be war without general devastation; World Wars I and II were started by governments that thought they could come out ahead by fighting. Today, no major government appears to believe that war is the best path to nationalistic or monetary profit; trade seems much more promising.

The late economist Julian Simon proposed that, in a knowledge-based economy, people and their brainpower are more important than physical resources, and thus the lives of a country’s citizens are worth more than any object that might be seized in war. Simon’s was a highly optimistic view — he assumed governments are grounded in reason — and yet there is a chance this vision will be realized. Already, most Western nations have achieved a condition in which citizens’ lives possess greater economic value than any place or thing an army might gain by combat. As knowledge-based economics spreads throughout the world, physical resources may mean steadily less, while life means steadily more. That’s, well, enlightenment.

In his 1993 book, A History of Warfare, the military historian John Keegan recognized the early signs that combat and armed conflict had entered a cycle of decline. War “may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents,” Keegan wrote. Now there are 15 years of positive developments supporting the idea. Fifteen years is not all that long. Many things could still go badly wrong; there could be ghastly surprises in store. But, for the moment, the trends have never been more auspicious: Swords really are being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The world ought to take notice.


Visualizing democide


No, Poverty is not the Cause

April 27, 2009

[First published April 27, 2005] It is a common myth that revolutionaries and terrorists are spawned by poverty, and thus have an understandable desire to overthrow the system or global order that they feel is responsible. Eradicate poverty, it is argued, and one furthers human welfare, peace, and good will.

Nice thoughts about poverty, and who doesn’t wish to help the very poor get a better life? But poverty is not the causative agent it is made out to be for revolution and terrorism. Not for war either, or collective violence. Empirical investigation shows that a country’s poverty has little correlation with its foreign and domestic violence. Moreover, a look at the biographies of leading revolutionaries and terrorists makes clear that they come from middle and upper class families, and are usually well educated.

Then what is the cause? In general, it is the socio-political structure of a society and its culture. Whether they are rich or poor, developed or underdeveloped, industrialized or not, democratic countries, with the resulting democratic culture, have a minimum of such violence. There is a clear relationship here. The less democratic a country, the more likely it will suffer from internal violence, including revolutionary violence and domestic terrorism of some kind.

The democratic peace even operates at this level.

As to what stimulates violence in nondemocracies, it is usually contextual, such as ethnic-racial violence aided and abetted by the government, protest demonstrations that turn into extreme violence over new regulations or repression, the assassination of a popular opposition leader, peasant uprisings over government controls, etc. Where the ruling government is always a “they” versus “us” on every major political or socio-economic issue, even minor demonstrations can turn into a countrywide conflict front that soon breaks into bloody rebellion and revolution.

Not incidentally, the cure for massive poverty is the same cure as for violent revolution and terrorism. It is democratic freedom.


Link of Note

”Understanding Terror Networks” (11/1/04) By Marc Sageman (Foreign Policy Research Institute)

Marc Sageman was a CIA case officer in Afghanistan between 1987–89 and is now a forensic psychiatrist. This essay is based on his book, Understanding Terror Networks.

The 400 terrorists on whom I’ve collected data were the ones who actually targeted the “far enemy,” the U.S., as opposed to their own governments. I wanted to limit myself for analytical purity to that group, to see if I could identify anything different from other terrorist movements, which were far more nationalistic.

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing—the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they’re just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.


Freedom's Website


Still No Wars Between Democracies

March 23, 2009

Still, No Wars Between Democracies

[First published July 13, 2005] Thanks to Dean Esmay for referring me to Matthew White’s page that raises questions about the democratic peace. I know of White’s useful Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century , and have used his statistics in my own research. He is careful, thoughtful, and systematic in what he presents, so when he questions the democratic peace, he has to be answered.

First, he presents the pros and cons about the various possible exceptions to the democratic peace. Keep in mind that the democratic peace, among other propositions, says that democracies don’t make war on each other. So, a true negative example thunders against this. Many have been proposed such exceptions, such as the War of 1812, the Boar War, WWI and Germany, democratic Finland being allied with Hitler in WWII, and the American Civil War. The sheer number of these exceptions and the weight of all the pros that White provides gives the impression that there has to be something to at least one or more of them. I have not studied them all, but those I have spent some time on in my own research, such as Germany in WWI, the case of Finland, the Boar War, and the Civil War simply cannot be treated as true exceptions. Others who have investigated these possible exceptions, in addition to the rest of them on White’s list, agree. In particular, I point you to Bruce Russett’s Grasping the Democratic Peace , James Lee Ray’s Democracy and International Conflict , and Spencer R. Weart’s, Never At War. Russett and Ray are political scientists, Weart is an historian. See also my democratic peace bibliography and my Q & A, which answers questions about some of these supposed exceptions (use the search command to find them).

After going through the exceptions, White concludes that the democratic peace depends on the definition of democracy and war. Researchers know this, of course, and have done different things about it. One is to collect their own data according to very clear, replicable criteria, while others have used data on democracy and war that have a wide reputation for their validity. Two sources especially have been important. One is the statistics on war collected by Melvin Small and J. David Singer, such as their data on wars during 1816 to 1992. I have used this in my research (see the table in the upper right here) as have hundreds of others. I should say that Small and Singer do not accept the democratic peace, which makes their classification of wars and democracies since 1816 particularly important. For democracy, in addition to the Small and Singer classification, which I am one of the few to use, there is the very popular and respected Polity data, which provides a scale for measuring the degree to which a country is democratic or autocratic. For additional data sets used in replicating the democratic peace, go here.

What is noteworthy about all the different data on democracy and war whose definitions or criteria slightly differ, is that those using them have come out with the same conclusions: there is a democratic peace. Replications have well established this to the point that students of international relations say it is the best-tested proposition in the field and almost has the status of a law.

Now, White also lists 39 wars 1945-1999, and says that six “might have been between democracies,” which means they might not have been, but still he makes much of it in calculating the probability of this happening by chance. Rather than deal with his might have been, I’m going to actually collect data from two sources on democracy and international violence between countries. The source I will use for violence is compiled by Monty G. Marshall on “Major Episodes of Political Violence 1946-2004,” ; for democracy, I will use Freedom’s House’s “All Country Ratings from 1972-2003″. Freedom House is not a proponent of the democratic peace (I don’t recall them ever mentioning it), so we can treat their data as independent of this proposition. Similarly with Marshall, who along with Ted Gurr, is the author of the Peace and Conflict Survey 2005 that I referred to in my last blog for ignoring the democratic peace.

From Marshall’s data, I’ll include as violence any that is indicated in his data as “international.” This is a hard test, since it includes violence short of war. From Freedom House, I will use their Free (F) rating of a country for a year as defining a liberal democracy in terms of civil liberties and political rights.

First, how many liberal democracies are there versus the total number of countries. For five years spans after 1972 and ending with 2003 (year, number of liberal democracies, total number of countries):

1972, 43, 148
1975, 39, 158
1980, 50, 162
1985, 55, 166
1990, 64, 165
1995, 75, 191
2000, 85, 192
2003, 87, 192

Now, for the classification of violence between types of regimes (F = free, PF = partly free, NF = not free, where F-F = between free countries, etc.)

F-F = 0
F-PF = 6
F-NF = 11
PF-PF = 5
PF-NF= 4
NF-NF= 20

So, between which countries is there the least violence ? Between liberal democracies. Which countries are the most violent towards each other? Nondemocracies. All as precisely predicted by the democratic peace. A note on statistical tests. Think of this subjectively. Here you have all these liberal democracies for each of thirty-one years, and none of them have violence between them. This is not a matter of just five or ten democracies, but by the end of the 1990s, there are over eighty. This number is not my reckoning, but that of Freedom House. And by Marshall’s data, in spite of so many democracies, none had violence between them vs. 20 cases of violence between the nonfree ones during these years.

Now, some people don’t llike subjective statistics, so lets calculate the probability. There are 46 cases of international violence, and six alternative ways that could occur (e.g., F-F, or PF-PF). Let the number 1 stand for the F-F alternative, and the other five numbers for each of the others. Throw a six-numbered die 46 times, and what is the probability that it will never come up with a 1? The probability that it will not come up a 1 in one throw is 5/6. So, the probability of no 1 in 46 throws is 5/6 to the 46th power (assuming each case of violence is independent), which is a probability of happening by chance of 8.017E-36, or about the probability of one being hit by a meteor. Obviously, there has to be something more than chance here. And what is that something? Surprise. It is two countries having democratic governments. That is, the democratic peace.

Link of Note

“DOES DEMOCRACY CAUSE PEACE?” By James Lee Ray. In Annual. Review of Political Science 1998. 1:27-46.

ABSTRACT
The idea that democratic states have not fought and are not likely to fight interstate wars against each other runs counter to the realist and neorealist theoretical traditions that have dominated the field of international politics. Since the mid-1970s, the generation of new data and the development of superior analytical techniques have enabled evaluators of the idea to generate impressive empirical evidence in favor of the democratic peace proposition, which is reinforced by substantial theoretical elaboration. Some critics argue that common interests during the Cold War have been primarily responsible for peace among democracies, but both statistical evidence and intuitive arguments cast doubt on that contention. It has also been argued that transitions to democracy can make states war-prone, but that criticism too has been responded to persuasively. The diverse empirical evidence and developing theoretical bases that support the democratic peace proposition warrant confidence in its validity.

Yep.
Democratic Peace
Books/articles/statistics


Willful Blindness?

January 27, 2009

[First published July 12, 2005] In spite of being repetitive, I’m gong to keep writing about this as long as the press and academics keep misunderstanding or ignoring the reason for the recent decline in violence. In “Researchers see lowest levels of war in the world since ’50s,” (no free link), published in the National Weekly Edition of the Washington Times, David R. Sands points to the 2005 edition of the Marshall-Gurr “Peace and Conflict Survey, which shows a sharp drop in violence while the number of democracies has rocketed. But these and other academics, and Sands do not connect the dots. For the statistical analyses of this, see my Democratic Peace clock.

I addition to this, the Marshall-Gurr survey points to a study by Victor Asal and Amy Pate that shows that the governments practicing political discrimination against their ethnic groups has almost been cut in half while those trying to remedy past discrimination has quintupled.

It seems almost willful blindness to miss the role of democracy in all this, especially when one considers how others try to explain the decrease in violence. The most often cited reason is the end of the Cold War, which also ended the U.S. and Soviets indirectly fighting the Cold War through the Third World. I find this an amusing reach, since the most prevalent explanation for conflicts after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was that it took the lid off conflicts that the U.S. and soviets kept a lid on so that they didn’t escalate into direct violence between them. The expectation at that time among students of war and violence was that violence and war would increase in the 90s.

Another explanation is that the European Union and the U.N. have played a significant role in the decline of violence. I don’t see it. If anything, the E.U. and U.N. failed miserably in preventing the Bosnian and Kosovo violence, and then there is the U.N. and Rwanda, Sudan, and Burma. By its own reckoning, its peacekeeping efforts have been a failure.

Then there is the claim that war is an international institution that is becoming discredited and obsolete and is dying out like dueling and slavery did.

Since the huge increase in the number or democracies (about 120 today) is recognized, how can they not see the connection and completely ignore the voluminous democratic peace literature that makes the connection (bibliography here). I’m almost willing to say its willful blindness, since the Marshall-Gurr survey provides empirical support for President Bush’s claim that promoting freedom will promote peace. To my knowledge, no commentator or academic (I’m retired) has made the connection between the sharp decline in war/violence, the soaring number of democracies, and Bush’s Forward Strategy of Freedom.

Strange.


Link of Note

“Laying to Rest the Autocratic Peace (2004) By Karen K. Peterson
Presented at “Journeys in world Politics,” University of Iowa

Professor Peterson is a political scientist at Vanderbilt University.

,Abstract
This research focuses on militarized interstate conflict between pairs of nondemocratic states. It is based in part on a categorical indicator of regime type that is more comprehensive than the dichotomous indicator currently used in most research. My measure distinguishes among the different types of democratic and non-democratic regimes found in the international system between 1816 and 2001. I then use my new measure in conjunction with the existing Correlates of War Militarized Interstate Dispute data to analyze the conflict propensity of different types of regimes.

As part of a larger project, I present findings below related to the conflict behavior of pairs of non-democratic states. Regardless of how I conceive of the idea of regime similarity, I find no evidence of an autocratic peace at either the initiation or escalation phases of militarized interstate conflict, suggesting that the notion of an autocratic peace that functions in a manner similar to the democratic peace lacks empirical support.

Her conclusion makes it clearer, “. . . there is something unique about joint democracy that reduces the likelihood of conflict initiation and escalation and that non-democratic regimes do not possess this quality.”
Democratic Peace
Books/articles/statistics


Nation Building and the History of Force

January 21, 2009

[First published January 19, 2006] Political Scientist James L. Payne is an excellent and thoughtful scholar in the traditional vein (no quantitative methods), and many years ago I used his book, The American Threat: National Security And Foreign Policy, as a text in my national security class. He has recently published an article, “Deconstructing Nation Building: The results are in and the record isn’t good “ in which Payne says:

When plunging into war, hope generally triumphs over experience. The past—the quiet statistical tabulation of what happened when this was tried before—tends to be ignored in the heat of angry oratory and the thump of military boots. At the outset, it is easy to believe that force will be successful in upholding virtue and that history has no relevance. Lately, this confidence in the force of arms has centered on nation building, that is, the idea of invading and occupying a land afflicted by dictatorship or civil war and turning it into a democracy. . . . Nation building by military force is not a coherent, defensible policy. It is based on no theory, it has no proven technique or methodology, and there are no experts who know how to do it. The record shows that it usually fails, and even when it appears to succeed, the positive result owes more to historical evolution and local political culture than anything nation builders might have done.

RJR: Payne identifies 51 cases (and gives the list) of attempted nation building by Britain and the U.S. since 1850, and in which they succeeded in 14 cases — 27 percent. This is the basis of his conclusion. But, he does not take into consideration that “nation building” was not the intent of the intervention or war, but the consequences of military success, as it was for Italy, Japan, and Germany after their defeat in WWI, and Afghanistan and Iraq recently. Then what is Britain or the U.S. to do after winning the battles. Occupy the country and control it, as though by imperial rule? Leave and let some bloody gang take over the country again, with a new possibility of violence down the road? Or democratize? Given the importance of globalizing democracy for eventually solving the horrendous evils of war and democide, that 27 percent of the cases were successful is great. But Payne does not understand this relationship between democracy and violence.

This is clear in his recently published book, A History Of Force: Exploring The Worldwide Movement Against Habit Of Coercion, Bloodshed, And Mayhem (2004). Payne analyzes the role and progress of force in history, and finds that:

As far as we can tell from the historical record, we live in a much more peaceful world than has ever existed. Humans are less vicious, less inclined to inflict physical injury than they used to be. Within this broad picture there are of course deviations and exceptions, cases where certain regimes and cultures have exhibited temporary increases in violence. But these exceptions cannot obscure the larger pattern. As the following chapters show, the evidence for a decline in the use of force is massive, so broad and so obvious as to make the point something of a self‑evident truth. (p.7)

To show this, he presents the chart below (p. 15).

Now, although Payne writes as though he is the only one to discover this, other’s have shown this decline, and I have presented their data in several blogs (“Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines,” “Democracies Increase, Violence decreases, Media Still Blind,” and “World Conflict in Sharp Decline”)

About this decline, Payne says:

But, for most people, the observation seems to be wrong — and not merely wrong, but irresponsibly wrong and irritatingly wrong. Swayed by a number of fallacies and distortions, they are convinced that, compared to the past, we live in particularly vicious, bloody times. They therefore are disposed to reject out of hand any study that purports to find the opposite. Even if you can get them to look at some of the evidence and to agree that the facts do indeed indicate a dramatic decline, they are convinced against their will, so to speak. In their minds there remains a bedrock of contrary conviction that will continually reassert itself. For example, they will demand still more data to support the conclusion that force has decline — never noticing that the have no data to support their conviction that is has not declined. (pp. 7-8)

RJR: All true, but then, how does he explain that others don’t see this massive decline? By three factors: people tend to focus on the here and now, there is a “vested interest in perceiving a violent world,” and “sampling bias in the mass media.” And how does he explain the decline?

The routes whereby uses of force are abandoned are often quite unexpected, even mysterious-so mysterious that one is sometimes tempted to allude to a higher power at work. Time and again one encounters violent practices so rooted and so self-reinforcing that it seems almost magical that they were overcome. One is reduced to pointing to “History” to explain how this immensely beneficial policy — a reduction in the use of force — has been gradually imposed on a human race that has neither consciously sought it nor agreed with it. (p. 29)

Mysterious? Hardly. It’s the growth in democracies, which now comprise 121 countries in the world out of 192, and nothing mysterious about this.

Payne sent me a copy of this book in manuscript, which I read, and then pointed out to him that he missed the importance of the growth of democracy. Apparently, he could not accept this, for he made no change in his book, nor will you find anything on the democratic peace in his index. He does, however, address the fact that democracies seem to employ less force than other regimes, but he says that it is not democracy that comes first, but the fall in violence. Violence decreases and this encourages democratization. I suppose he would say that the causation runs from the great decline in force to the great increase in democracies.

Payne writes as though the hundred or so democratic peace articles and books do not exist, and in that sense, his book would fit into the 1950s or 60s, rather than 2004. How could he refuse to recognize the democratic peace, as also does Frank Denton in his Knowing the Roots of War: Analyses and Interpretations of Six Centuries of Warfare, which is on my website. Both are historians who, with the traditional distain of such scholars, refuse to recognize the value and results of scientific research on history. They don’t understand the philosophy and methods of research, they cannot believe that quantitative research is better than their educated mind focused on historical events, and thus they do not recognize the results of such research.

And this goes even more for the commentators, analysts, and editorialists who struggle to explain the sharp decline in violence of the last decades.


Is The U.S. The Most Violent Of All?

January 18, 2009

[First published February 3, 2006] I’ve had the most respected academics in peace research tell me flatly that the United States is the most violent nation in the world. And after I’ve given lectures and speeches on the democratic peace, some questioners have said or implied the same thing. This myth has been widely believed among peace researchers and is a matter of religious faith on the left.

In response, I would point out the bloody wars in Africa and Asia not involving the U.S., including the Iraq-Iran war which cost about a million lives. Then, I would note the worst domestic democides, including that of Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and so on, and compare the top annual domestic democide rates (the percent of the population murdered per year of the regime) to that for the U.S. (I always had a special page in my notes with the figures):

U.S. = .000016
USSR = .42
Communist China = .12 (if 1959-1962 famine treated as nondemocidal)
Hitler’s Germany = .09
Pol Pot’s Cambodia 8.16

And, I would add, here are the average overall domestic democide rates (average percent of the population murdered) for types of regimes.

Democracies = .043, of which the U.S. = .001
Authoritarian regimes = 1.1
Totalitarian regimes = 3.9, of which communist = 5.2

Particularly note how small the annual rate is for the U.S. even compared to the average for democracies.

But, the leftist mind assumes that there has to be something bloody wrong with the U.S. (in addition to its raging imperialism, blood sucking capitalism, and ardent support for right wing dictators), and so they fall back on the civil murder rate. They say, “No one is secure in America, since Americans murder each other at a rate greater than any other nation, and that’s why it is the most violent nation in the world.”

Well, this can be easily checked on the Internet, such as through The International Crime Victim Survey and here. From the latter source, I reproduce its rank ordered list of murder’s per nation per capita.

Note that the U.S. is not only 24th, but that its murder rate is tiny compared to the top four nations. It is 6.9% of Colombia’s, 8.6% of South Africa’s, 13.2% of Jamaica’s, and 21.2 % of Venezuela’s.

The next time a so called “anti-war” activist, self-righteous “peace researcher,” or blathering leftist declares that the U.S. is the most violent nation in the world, kindly tell them that their ignorance is only exceeded by their ideological blindness.


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