Was The Democratic Peace Killed–Part I, Bibliographies

August 17, 2009


Before the election of Barack Obama, much was written about the democratic peace, pro and con. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush based their foreign policies on it—as one of its pillars for Clinton, and as the core of Bush’s policy. But now, you hear almost nothing of it. In this and in subsequent blogs, I will try to determine what has happened to the democratic peace.

First, what is the democratic peace? There are the narrow and broad versions. The narrow one, being most well known and researched, simply says that democracies have never made war on each other. This is the most scholarly and scientifically researched idea of international relations, and as a result many students of the field now consider it a political law of the international system. Therefore, promoting democracy in the world is a way to peace, which Bush and Secretary Rice said many times.

The broad version includes the narrow and adds that democracies have the least internal violence and almost no domestic democide. Thus, by fostering human security, democracies serve as a way to peace and human betterment. There is also much research on this version, although discussants of the democratic peace usually have the narrow one in mind.

What are my sources for this? I have two bibliographies of democratic peace research and commentary, one for those published <A HREF=”http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/BIBLIO.HTML”>before 2000</A>, and the other, just completed, <A HREF=”http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/DP.BIBLIO.2009.HTM”>2000 and after</A>. My interest is in the latter, since this will help answer the question about the current status of the democratic peace. To those to whom the democratic peace is an extraordinary idea, and in terms of peace, an unbelievable, idealist one, the earlier bibliography will be very useful. It presents the birth, replication, and early attempts to falsify the idea. Moreover, see my <A HREF=”http://democraticpeace.wordpress.com/”>Democratic Peace Blog</A>, which includes many <A HREF=”http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/Z.BLOG.ARCHIVE.HTM”>analyses of the studies listed in this bibliography.</A>

On balance, the bibliographies show that despite the negative critiques, attempts to falsify it, and assertions about negative cases, the democratic peace still provides a well researched and verified solution to war, democide, domestic violence, and human insecurity.

In Part II on the democratic peace, I will treat the idea within a foreign policy framework (such as Obama’s). The death of this solution to war and human security then will be easier to understand.

The EMP Threat

June 28, 2009

[First published June 27, 2005] During the Cold War, I was intensely focused on the Soviet -American nuclear balance and our deterrence strategies versus a possible Soviet first strike capability. I’ve carried over to our time this focus on city attacks, almost completely forgetting about a fear that a Sovieet EMP nuclear attack was a major danger. I should not have, for now in this era of rogue nuclear states, an EMP attack is the most likely and dangerous, since it requires just one weapon and little accuracy.

On exploding, a nuclear weapon produces a blast of x-and gamma-rays that if triggered high above the United States would devastate the whole country’s infrastructure, disabling power grids, computers, microchips, electronic and electrical systems of information, including cell phones, and components of airplanes, and cars. For an important article on this, read Frank J. Gaffney’s “EMP: America’s Achilles’ Heel “. He is President of the Center for Security Policy and former assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. He says:

The emerging threat environment, characterized by a wide spectrum of actors that include near-peers, established nuclear powers, rogue nations, sub-national groups, and terrorist organizations that either now have access to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or may have such access over the next 15 years, have combined to raise the risk of EMP attack and adverse consequences on the U.S. to a level that is not acceptable.

Worse yet, the [EMP Threat] Commission observed that “some potential sources of EMP threats are difficult to deter.” This is particularly true of “terrorist groups that have no state identity, have only one or a few weapons, and are motivated to attack the U.S. without regard for their own safety.” The same might be said of rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran. They “may also be developing the capability to pose an EMP threat to the United States, and may also be unpredictable and difficult to deter.” Indeed, professionals associated with the former Soviet nuclear weapons complex are said to have told the Commission that some of their ex-colleagues who worked on advanced nuclear weaponry programs for the USSR are now working in North Korea.

Even more troubling, the Iranian military has reportedly tested its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile in a manner consistent with an EMP attack scenario. The launches are said to have taken place from aboard a ship—an approach that would enable even short-range missiles to be employed in a strike against “the Great Satan.” Ship-launched ballistic missiles have another advantage: The “return address” of the attacker may not be confidently fixed, especially if the missile is a generic Scud-type weapon available in many arsenals around the world. As just one example, in December 2002, North Korea got away with delivering twelve such missiles to Osama bin Laden’s native Yemen. And Al Qaeda is estimated to have a score or more of sea-going vessels, any of which could readily be fitted with a Scud launcher and could try to steam undetected within range of our shores.

Given how one nuclear weapon exploded high above the United States would be a catastrophe as well as disable our ability to respond to the attack, this puts North Korean and Iranian nuclear developments in a new and more dangerous light.

Link of Note

“Will Bush’s Idealism Lead U.S. To Lose ‘War With Islam’?” (6/7/05) Book Review by Mort Kondracke

Kondracke says:

It certainly is no summer beach read, but you’ll be edified – and lots of people will be angered – by Robert Merry’s new book, “Sands of Empire,” a rich and deep critique of President Bush’s alleged “Crusader State” foreign policy.

I think that Merry, president and publisher of Congressional Quarterly, is far too pessimistic in saying that Bush is leading the country toward “calamity” by pursuing a policy of “humanitarian imperialism.” But Merry not only argues his case forcefully, he also bases it on intellectual history dating to the 17th century.

Colleague says: The book — Robert Merry — Sand of Empire — argues that Bush is going to undermine the US because he is in the tradition of utopian idealists who try to impose values, which as any good conservative can tell you, can’t be done…

Kondracke does the review, and notes the author has a core view centered on two schools of history: Progress vs. Cycles. Bush is a Progress guy, while “reality” is more Cycles (as with Huntington)….

The book seems most flawed in its apparent utter lack of understanding about democracy — that democracy is not an imposition of values, but the very antithesis. In fact, democracy is the only form of government that is explicitly anti-utopian: there is no state imposition of values; rather the state is a mechanism by which people can work out the inherent conflicts about values, peacefully.

Why can’t these otherwise bright people remember basic civics-govt 101 lessons? Maybe because they never really learned them. Maybe because the book is really a front for the more important agenda: hate – defeat Bush. Maybe because even though the author of the book is the publisher of Congressional Quarterly, he can’t see what is in front of him: peaceful resolution of an endless series of conflicts, without utopian value impositions by the state. Maybe because the guy is really not too bright after all….

Visualizing democide
Graphical experiments on visalizing democide

It’s Not Hopeless — There Is An Antidote

June 4, 2009

[First published May 16, 2005] Ryan Barnard lest this comment on the Thursday, March 03, 2005 Refract Blog:

So many atrocities, both epic and personal. So much sorrow in the world. Two options: turn a blind eye or work to change things. But all of these atrocities repeat, over and over again in the course of human history, in so many different societies. That suggests that it’s not cultural, that it’s human nature. Perhaps an aberration of human nature, but biologically wired nonetheless. And so how can one hope to ever make a difference?

So much suffering. So little of it need ever happen.

I really want some encouragement… I feel so hopeless. What can anyone do…?

This feeling gets to me, since I believe the evidence is persuasive — there is more than hope, there is an outright solution. And one that is desirable in itself. This is fostering global democratic freedom. I wrote a blog on this some months ago, ” Yes, There is Hope—Great Hope” ( Link here)

Rather than repeat that blog, I will present in figures some of the evidence. All are from my “Statistics of Democide” (link here). The first figure is 17.3 below. Note how the number murdered by governments rises at the high centralized power, high totalitarian end, while it’s lowest (virtually zero) at the low power, democratic end (liberal democracies). This already tells us what to do about democide. Diffuse and democratize power.

Figure 1.3 shows the rise and fall of democide with the rise and fall of totalitarian states. There is the slight rise in foreign democide by democracies during World War II (1941-1945), which is a reflection of illegal (Geneva Conventions) Allied urban bombing of German, and later Japanese cities. The others in the plot are authoritarian states, like Italy, Hungary, and China (Chiang Kai-chek).

Figure 17.2 is the best of the lot. It’s the result of a factor (component) analysis of various measures of politics and democide for over 200 nations. The result shows that political power and totalitarianism are aligned with each other and both almost completely with the total genocide, domestic democide, and democide rate (annual per capita). Democracy, however, is completely opposed. It is as though democide forms a tight cone of behavior, and down the center of that behavior, a causal force acting on it is totalitarianism, while democracy is a driving against it.

The easiest to understand figure and by virtue of that, maybe the most powerful is 17.5 below. This is a plot of domestic democide logged against the range of power, where the size of the point in the plot represents the amount of democide. Domestic democide is plainly a logarithmic function of power. That is, as power increases, domestic democide just does not increase additively, but by magnitudes – by a factor of ten.

There is much more I could present, such as what happens when many other variables are held constant. But for my purpose here, which it to prove the existence of an antidote to democide, these figures should serve.

Link of Note

” Can institutions resolve ethnic conflict?” (February 2000) By William Easterly, World Bank


High quality institutions, such as rule of law, bureaucratic quality, freedom from government expropriation, and freedom from government repudiation of contracts, mitigate the adverse economic consequences of ethnic fractionalization identified by Easterly and Levine 1997 and others. In countries with sufficiently good institutions, ethnic diversity does not lower growth or worsen economic policies. High quality institutions also lessen war casualties on national territory and lessen the probability of genocide for a given amount of ethnic fractionalization.

Translation of World Bankanese: Among countries with ethnic divisions, the liberal democracies among them are least likely to commit genocide.

Freedom's Principles
An interactive book-in-the-making blog

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

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

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

Measuring Victory In The War On Terror

May 20, 2009

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[First published September 12, 2005] During World War II, one could measure the progress of the war by the territories taken from the enemy, and the change in the front lines. So far, we have no such measure of our war on terror. I will now offer one.

Assumption 1: free countries — liberal democracies — do not sponsor terrorism or support it against other free countries.
Assumption 2: if the whole world were liberal democratic, terrorism would be defeated in that:
2a. They would not have a support base
2b. The remaining isolated gangs of terrorists would be treated as criminals.
2c.Democracies would combine forces to defeat those that remain, e.g., in the Philippines

Therefore, the progress of global liberal democratization measures the progress of the war on terrorism.

Okay, then how to measure the progress of liberal democratization? Freedom House has been rating nations on their freedom since 1972, giving a 1 to 7 rating their civil liberties, and then to their political rights. Adding these two ratings together, a 2 to 4 joint rating is what they define as a free country and what I will define as a liberal democracy. The worst rating on each is a 7, so a joint rating of 14 for a country is what they define as an unfree country and what I call totalitarian. See their ratings over the years here.

To get my democratization score, I will do this:

Take the average of the civil liberties and political rights rating for each country for each year. For a liberal democracy, this will average to 1 or 2, and to 6 or 7 for the worst unfree countries.

Then I will average all these averages across all countries for a year. If all countries are liberal democracies in a year, the average of the averages will be no greater than 2; if all counties were unfree for a year, the average of the averages would be greater than 6.

A problem is that I want to measure increasing democratization, but increasing democratization is so far measured by decreasing average ratings. So, to get the measurement moving in the proper direction, I will subtract each average of the averages from 7, the maximum possible. I will call the result the modified ratings. Then the modified 0 to 1 rating will mean all countries are unfree for a year, while 5 to 6 will mean all are liberal democratic.

With this understanding, I plotted the modified ratings in the figure below. I have set it up so that it is easy to see the progress in democratization, and thus by my assumptions, the current progress in the war on terror. I have fitted various trend estimates to the plot, such as a log, or polynomial fit, but all agree with what you can see. The trend line is up, and if it continues this way the world will be democratic in 3 or 4 decades, or liberally democratic in about two or three decades after that (to fit an equation just to determine the exact number of years to democracy or liberal democracy would be misplaced precision, given the uncertainties involved).

From now on, I will try to do this table year-by-year as a measure of the progress of the war on terror [not done, but will do in a new blog when I complete republishing these old blogs several months from now], not to mention the fulfillment of the democratic peace in the ending of war, democide, famine, and mass impoverishment.

Link of Day

“Of Minds and Metrics,” By Michael Barone (8/29/05)

Barone says:

Metrics are hard to come by in the war on terrorism. We can know the number of improvised explosive devices that go off in Iraq and the number of suicide bombers there, but we can only guess at whether these numbers represent the last throes of a terrorist movement or its continuing growth. We can count the number of days the Iraqi parliament has moved the deadline for drafting a constitution–seven, as this is written–but cannot be sure what the effect of a finally drafted constitution will be. We can note that some 220,000 Iraqis took part in deliberations over the constitution and that the Iraqi electricity supply now exceeds that of prewar levels.

Written with the excellence I’ve come to expect from Barone

Links I Must Share

“Reassessing the war on terror” By Harlan Ullman:

: Several weeks ago, the Pentagon led an attempt to rename President Bush’s global war on terror as the global struggle against violent extremism. Many commentators took this effort as a sign of a policy reassessment within the administration. But the name change was stillborn by the president himself, who in a subsequent speech pointedly referred to the global war on terror more than a dozen times.

A shallow analysis that lives up to my expectations.

” StrategyPage Looks At War on Terror Metrics”:

. . . discusses US strategy in the war on terror and then addresses the difficulty of measuring success in this intricate war.”

This is Austin Bay’s blog, and this article is informative and worth reading.

” Scoring the war on terrorism”:Presents five measures of success and concludes:

There is no easy long-term strategy that guarantees success. Instead, the United States and its allies must accept the inevitability of a large, global movement bent on murder as a form of political expression. With skill and energy; we can beat it back. Outright defeat will be far harder. That may depend ultimately on the proverbial draining of the political swamp. But by any measure it is a very large swamp.

RJR: another important article to make time for.

Democratic Peace Clock
More on the progress of
democracy via a clock

Global Violence In Sharp Decine

May 19, 2009

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[First published September 14, 2005] Once all countries are liberal democracies, government sponsored terrorism will end. This does not necessarily mean the end of terrorism per se, for there well may be disaffected clans, cults, tribes, other minorities, and individuals (remember the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh) who may employ terrorism.

But, even then, the overall severity (number killed) of internal violence in the world will be much less than when were there dictatorships scattered about. The latest evidence for this is the chart below showing the sharp decline in conflict/violence with the growth of global democratization ( shown here , here, AND here). I’ve shown other plots of the decline in violence (see here, but this time the source of the data for the chart is different. In this case, it is the data of Strand, Wilhelmsen, and Gleditsch for 1946-2004, and is on the internet (here). The chart is from the UN’s Human Development Report for 2005 (here).

click to enlarge

Note the decline in every kind of conflict, most involving violence. As global democratization progressed and dictatorships declined, a critical mass of liberal democracies was achieved between 1985 and 1990, and thereafter the impact of the accumulated democracies caused the decline of all kinds of international and internal conflict/violence. This is as it should be by theory, by the democratic peace propositions, and by the cross-national empirical results.

And thus I feel comfortable in saying that a fully liberal democratic world will not know government sponsored terrorism and much less individual and group terrorism than we see today.

Link of Day

“National Security Watch: Terrorism by the (new) numbers “ By Kevin Whitelaw (7/6/05)

Whitelaw says:

In a rare public release, the U.S. intelligence community’s National Counterterrorism Center has assembled a new set of terrorist attack statistics that provides a more complete–and disturbing–picture of the global terrorist threat. In all, the NCTC found some 3,192 separate terrorist incidents in 2004, involving 28,433 victims (including 6,060 people who were killed). Iraq was the site of more than a quarter of all attacks last year, followed by India, Nepal, and the Gaza Strip. Iraqis were also 27 percent of the victims of the attacks. Twenty-two percent were Nepalese, and 9 percent were Russian (most from the bloody school hostage crisis in Beslan by Chechen rebels). Iraq accounted for six of the 10 deadliest terrorist incidents.

Links I Must Share

“Terrorism Knowledge Base”:

A comprehensive Databank of Global Terrorist Incidents and Organizations>

A reference for your active file.

“Al-Zarqawi Said to Declare ‘Fierce War'”:

Audiotape Purportedly of Al-Zarqawi Declares ‘Fierce War’ on ‘Evil Principle of Democracy’

And yet most Democrats and the major media do not believe we are at war, or at least don’t act as though we are.

“UN warns poverty fuels terror”:

The US Government’s neglect of commitments to alleviate global poverty is fuelling the creation of impoverished states that are breeding grounds for terrorism, a United Nations (UN) adviser said.”

Some experts can’t think past poverty. IT’S THUG REGIMES THAT FUEL TERRORISM.

“Judicial Cliches On Terrorism “:

Last week U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced a defendant to prison for plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport. In the course of the sentencing, the judge criticized the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 policies, such as the use of military tribunals and the detention of enemy combatants. He said that “the message to the world from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart.”

Altogether, now: WE ARE AT WAR. Americans are dying in combat; our enemies, such as Al-Zarqawi above, have announced that they are out to kill us, destroy our country, and take away our freedom. Already, about 3,000 civilians have been murdered in a sneak terrorists attack on the United States, more than the soldiers, airmen, and sailors killed in the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

“God Save Us” By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.:

The West is in a death struggle with Islamofascism.

Final novel in the Never Again Series

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