Was The Democratic Peace Killed?–Part III, Foreign Policies

August 27, 2009


I want to compare the democratic peace foreign policies of Presidents G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to that of President Obama, which is uniquely his. I am not interested in particular policies or actions, but rather in specifying the paradigm underlying these policies, its operating procedures, and its world view.

In the last two centuries, Europe and the United States have gone through three foreign policy paradigms. Each was a measured way to keep the peace and deal with crises and threats to the major Powers that could lead to war. After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, European Powers met in numerous conferences and congresses, in addition to consulting with each other, to first establish a new status quo, and subsequently to settle their issues (colonialism, freedom of the seas, navigation, new inventions, and the balance of world power). This is the jaw-jaw diplomacy paradigm. Possible antagonists should talk to each other to settle their differences. Thus, they had conferences on sanitary matters, statistics, maritime issues, free navigation of the Scheld, weights and measures, marine signaling, monetary questions, telegraphic signaling, metric system, railroad transportation, the slave trade, and so on.

When World War I bloodied Europe and reached into remote corners of the world, with nine thousand combat dead, it destroyed any intellectual pretentions that the meeting and talking paradigm led to a stable peace. In the global wreckage, even before the war was over, a new paradigm emerged. Irregular diplomatic gatherings were not enough. There must be a permanent international organization involving all nations and meeting regularly to deal with international issues and conflicts, help settle them, and above all, prevent violence — a League of Nations. Also, it seemed, international law must be refined and developed further to establish the universal rules of international relations and the use and morality of power. Major Powers must pursue disarmament through all means. And diplomacy has to be structured and directed through international organizations and in accord with international law. The goal was a lasting peace.

So, after the war the victors, excepting the U.S., formed the League of Nations. They paid much attention to formulating the international law of war and peace, and creating functional international organizations to meet general international needs. Disarmament conferences met and established the proper or proportional arms permitted the major powers. All this was just the right process to achieve permanent peace, or peace in our time. That intellectual illusion – the political idealist paradigm of international organizations, law, and disarmament — was blown apart by the bombs and 15 million combat dead of World War II.
Then a new paradigm emerged, a rigorous and systematic version of what has existed throughout the history of relationships between independent groups, whether tribes, city-states, or nation-states. This was the emphasis on power as the moderator of these relations, and on the balance of power as the critical instrument for diplomacy to work with. To see how old this idea is, read Thucydides’ History of The Peloponnesian War (perhaps published shortly after 411 B.C.). But after World War II the old idea of power and its balancing was refurbished and systematized in a paradigm called political realism. The primary source of this was the writings of Hans Morgenthau on international relations theory.
His book Politics Among Nations in 1948 was a revelation to many and a basic textbook among diplomats and students (it was mine). It was a paradigm change. Morgenthau claimed that objective laws govern international politics. At the heart, a nation’s interests are defined by power. The realistic diplomat must think in terms of power—of other nations alone or in combination, and how such power affects one’s own nation. With that in view, power must be balanced and diplomacy is the way to do so and to keep the peace. This is now the major paradigm of the American foreign policy establishment, but not necessarily Barack Obama’s.
How then does the democratic peace fit in? It is an opposing paradigm, seen as a return to idealism by the realists and in conflict with their view of foreign policy. More on this in Part IV.

Was The Democratic Peace Killed–Part II, International Relations

August 20, 2009


To understand alternative foreign policies and that of the democratic peace requires understanding their context, which is international relations, also known as world politics, transnational relations, global society. What is the essence of this arena of empires, international organizations, states, nations, governments, groups and individuals –this sphere of diplomacy and war, treaties and alliances, aid and trade, migration and tourists?

To understand this greatest human theater, we must recognize first that international relations compose our largest society. As a society (as do all societies), it has two faces. One is of conflict, change, a struggle and dialectic of power. The other is of an equilibrium in international norms and structures which describe, at any one time, this society. Indeed, without a conflict view of international society, the normal state of affairs is stability, of functions maintaining the society and adjusting states to it. Indeed, within this snapshot view, international conflict appears deviant — an aberration. Consensus and equilibrium rather than conflict would be the defining characteristics of this society.

International society also can be seen as changing configurations of power and balancing. International states continuously enter into new power balances, behaving within existing structures of expectations undergirded by previous balances. These structures exist through time and can become increasingly crystallized, and develop a rule-inertia, which is the sociological counterpart of habit. Some structures of expectations (like the UN Charter) formalize law norms, which define the membership in the structure, the rights and obligations of members, and authoritative roles (positions).

International society is then a complex of informal (one should not lie or aggress) and formal expectations (treaties), involving both general social norms and the official law. It has a defined membership (states), law norms delimiting rights (sovereignty) and obligations (as defined in system wide multilateral treaties, like the UN Charter), and authoritative roles (the Secretary-General of the United Nations; the five permanent members of the Security Council).

Therefore, international relations form an exchange society. It is dominated by bargaining power, which involves international trade, treaties, agreements, tourist and student movements, migration, technical aid, capital flows, exchange rates, and so on. All these activities usually manifest some individual, group, or state giving up something they value for something else they want more.

This does not deny the role of coercion in international society, as in Obama’s demand that Israel freeze its expansion of settlements in the disputed West Bank or else (unspecified), or American use of sanctions to punish North Korea for testing potential nuclear missiles and Iran for continuing development of nuclear weapons,

In this international exchange society, states are generally free to pursue their own interests; social behavior is normally cooperative and contractual. Rewards and promises are the basis of the society. Treaties, commercial contracts, and written agreements provide its explicit framework.

This international society is governed by the United Nations, a libertarian government. The secretary General is its executive, and the General Assembly and Security Council, its lower and upper legislative bodies. The International Court of Justice is its judiciary; and the various international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Meteorological Organization, are its administrative structure. Sanctions are applied, as when the Security Council voted an embargo on Iraq due to its support for terrorism and WMDs. The UN may even support a major war as it did to defend South Korea from North Koreans aggression in 1950. Nonetheless, states can ignore UN resolutions. By international law, states are guaranteed the rights of sovereignty, independence, and equality. These rights take precedence over this world government.

International relations is therefore a confederation, the weakest form of federation, in which each constituent-member state retains sovereignty and a monopoly of force is denied the central government. Its functions are janitorial, meeting international crises when called upon by states; resolving international conflicts when requested; providing judicial judgments upon appeal; and above all, through the network of international governmental and non- governmental organizations, providing an administrative structure for international transactions among states, groups, and individuals.

In essence, international relations is an exchange society with a libertarian political system. No government monopolizes force, no empire encompasses all of international relations.

Contrary to the intuition of many, international violence does not distinguish international relations. It is more peaceful than many states. Some states and those areas under their control are governed by terror and repression, where arrests, beatings, torture, and possibly death at the hands of the government are a constant threat. Such was the case under Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Mao. In the last century, states murdered about 262,000,000 people, while international and domestic wars accounted for about 55,000,000 war-dead.

Many believe international relations to be a state of nature: the relations between states are seen as though states were so many people living in a condition of anarchy, where each preys on the other and life is brutish and short. Each state is presumed to be insecure, all in a state of war, violence is the norm, and individual morality is alien to that of states. Coercive power is therefore supposed the regulator of international relations and diplomacy and war, its two faces. And therefore, a world government that monopolizes force, a global leviathan, is thought necessary to provide security and prevent violence. Many do not recognize that this state of nature is a fiction.

Just consider relations among Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland where there is simply no expectation of or disposition to violence. They are democracies. Problems arise in their relations, conflicts do occur, but none prepares for or entertains the possibility of violence against the other. They benefit, as do other democracies, from the democratic peace.

Indeed, the expectation of and disposition to violence between states is limited to very few bilateral relations, all involving nondemocracies, the most important of which today are the United States versus separately Iran, North Korea, and Russia; North versus South Korea; India versus Pakistan; Greece versus Turkey; Israel versus her neighbors and Iran; and Ethiopia versus Somalia. In a world of over 8,000 pairs of states, this propensity to violence is remarkably limited. In fact, because of the greater extent of transactions between nations and their contractual relations, international relations could better be characterized as a state of peace. This, especially in contrast to what goes on in many states.

Now, clearly, statesmen find the future essentially chaotic and unpredictable. They believe themselves governed by the “chain of circumstance.” But as with violence, this unpredictability covers only certain relations for particular times. Much of international relations comprise clear expectations, high predictability, strong patterns. Conditions and patterns of trade, tourist regulations and flows, communications and transportation, diplomatic rules and principles, alliances and even the behavior that would cause a war, are known. We could hardly travel to another country or interact were it otherwise. Or does anyone doubt that at least a local war is most likely if the U.S. bombs Iran’s growing nuclear capacity?

International relations are no more chaotic than affairs within states. They are not anarchic. They are not normless, ruleless, nor lawless. They are not a state of war and violence is not the norm. States are not universally insecure. Coercion is not the rule. Rather, international relations comprise a global society and world culture with a limited government. Relations are generally harmonious, contractual. Bargaining power dominates. Reciprocity is the rule. Antagonism, conflicts, and violence exist, but generally less in intensity than within many states. Yes, states conflict, but it is astonishing that they do not conflict more often and more violently than they do.

In summary, in essence, international relations is an exchange society based mainly on bargaining power, not coercion or force, with a limited, libertarian world government.

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=”https://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.

Progress in Global Democracy

August 8, 2009

Democracy map globr


We now have a clear enough understanding of the Obama foreign policy so that I can critique it from the perspective of the democratic peace. To do so, I must return to the question of global democracy, and the democratic peace. As you should know if you had followed my democratic peace blog (an outline of the content is here), I believe that by theory and its historical tests, democracy is a road to global peace and human security. Democracies have not made war on each other; have minimal domestic violence; commit the least democide by far. Democracies have no famines. All this may shock some of you, but see the proof on my website and the above mentioned democratic peace blog.

However, this theory and its tests have been applied generally to previous centuries and were done a decade ago by many researchers (see the bibliography of this research here.). More recent research has produced arguments calling the democratic peace wrong or a myth. I shall go over all this and report on it here and on the democratic peace blog.

For now, I just want to link you to the best sites on the progress of democracy and globalization. One to check is Freedom House. It tracks and evaluates political changes in all countries, and rates each country as free (liberal democracies), partially free (which include electoral democracies), or not free. Its count for liberal and electoral democracies in 2008 (labeled for 2009, and mapped above) is 119. Of these, 89 are free—liberal democracies. This exceeds the critical number of democracies required to reduce violence and war in the world .

For ten years now there has been among the democracies, a top level World Movement for Democracy that includes democratic, activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders. It has biennial global assemblies of all these members, the last held in Kyiv, Ukraine. Most important, its major purpose is the promotion of democracy. It has its own website, and also a monthly DemocracyNews.

Finally, the most significant journal in this area is the Journal of Democracy. It says of itself:

The Journal of Democracy is far and away the most important forum for current debates about the nature and spread of liberal democracy around the world. It is an indispensable tool for anybody interested in comparative politics or international relations. A model for how to present serious intellectual content in a clear and accessible way, a standing rebuke to both the slop that often passes for political journalism and the irrelevant gibberish that often passes for social science.