Wrong, Wrong, Wrong Again
Why can’t they get it right? Here we have a solution to war (see here)—the democratic peace—and reporters, commentators, and editorialists continue to mischaracterize and misinterpret it. For centuries, plans to end war have filled library stacks with books. They have emphasized balancing power, diplomacy, international law, cultural exchanges, trade, collective security, arms control, and international organizations like the League of Nations and U.N. All have failed. Now, finally, scientists and historians have discovered that democracies never have made war on each other, nor are any likely to do so today, even though there are about 120 of them. The obvious implication is that fostering democracies will reduce the number of international wars (as it has already) and eventually, as all nations become democratic, end them.
Stop and think of this for a moment. A solution to WAR! This is breathtaking. But, the media treats this thoroughly tested solution as through a recipe for lemon pie.
Example 1. In a commentary, William R. Hawkins writes: “The Ukraine crisis further discredits the liberal notion, popular in the 1990s, of a ‘democratic peace’ ending international conflict via the voting booth.” Wrong. DP refers to war, not conflict. Second, democracy does not mean just voting. The Soviet Union had elections, but strictly one-party. You were free to vote for anyone, as long as it was the candidate selected by the Communist Party.
Example 2. In ”Get Out Of The UN, Start Over” Paul M. Weyrich writes: “Democracies are not perfect, but by and large they do not start wars.” Wrong. Democracies have started many wars, although compared to nondemocracies these are much less lethal. Rather, democracies do not start wars against each other. Never have.
Example 3. BBC News wrote an editorial ”Do democracies fight each other?” in response to Presidents Bush and Clinton emphasizing DP in their speeches. After referring to one of my publications, the BBC pointed out that many historians disagree, and referenced two who wrote on it. They first mislabeled DP as “democratic pacificism,” and then claimed that the idea was falsified by such wars “as US and Mexico in 1848, the American Civil War, the Boer War and World War I.” Wrong. Mexico, the Confederacy, and the Boers were not democracies. And Germany in World War I was not a democracy in foeign and military affairs. These and other cases have been studied in detail by students of DP and found to be no exceptions. See for example, the historian Spencer R. Weart’s Never At War (his summary chapter is on my website). The BBC also consulted an economist, who claimed that, “Disputes between Canada, the US, Britain, Norway, Iceland, Spain and Portugal have escalated into violence, sometimes involving naval gunfire.” Excuse me, but this was not war. Nor was anyone killed or injured in these warning shots across the bow.
[First published January 3, 2005] The DP is now the basis of our foreign policy, and well understood by the leaders of many other democracies. All of us have a hard job ahead of us to educate the media, intellectuals, and academics in what DP is, and the research upon which it is based. World peace depends on it.
Link of Note
“We” (12/4/04) by Tod Lindberg
Although DP is mentioned, Lindberg does not focus this thoughtful article on it. Rather, he asks, “Will the United States ever go to war with Germany or France? Will France ever go to war with Germany?” This is now unthinkable, and the heart of his article explains why. And that why serves well as a partial explanation for DP.