Democratic Peace: A Skeptic’s View
by Bevin Chu
May 01, 2006
More and more political scientists are questioning the validity of the theory of “democratic peace.”
To which I can only say, “Not a moment too soon.”
Among these skeptics is Mark E. Pietrzyk, author of “International Order and Individual Liberty: Effects of War and Peace on the Development of Governments.”
In a promotional blurb for his book, entitled “The Democratic Peace: A Skeptic’s View,” Pietrzyk discusses the theory and his doubts:
International Order and Individual Liberty offers a critical examination of one of the most popular ideas among contemporary political scientists: that “democracies do not go to war with one another.” According to the school of the “democratic peace,” the long peace between democratic states since 1945 has demonstrated that democratic norms and institutions help states in the international system transcend traditional concerns about power-seeking and security, allowing for the possibility of a “perpetual peace” between democratic states. This theory has been the basis for recent claims that the establishment of democracy in Iraq could be the foundation for an expanding zone of peace in the Middle East.
Perhaps the most deluded and arrogant of these democratic peace theorists is RJ Rummel, who writes :
“The democratic peace been tested on every democracy that has existed in history most notably by Spencer Weart. See the summary chapter of his book Never At War. Another way of looking at this is that there are 121 democracies today, and there is not a chance of even military action between any of them, much less war. Not even among the European nations, which throughout history have been at each other’s throats. What changed this is that all became democracies.”
As opponents of Operation Deliberate Force and Operation Allied Force know full well, the United States, which democratic peace theorists consider the world’s leading democracy, along with fellow democracies comprising the NATO alliance, initiated an unprovoked war of aggression against the Serbian people in the former Yugoslavia, inflicting countless deaths and untold destruction upon them.
The late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, like him or not, was democratically elected by the Serbian people in what democratic peace theorists refer to as a “free and fair election.” Serbia,.according to democratic peace theorists’ own criteria, was a democracy.
Therefore the US instigated NATO war of aggression against Serbia constitutes a flagrant exception to the boastful assertion that “democracies do not go to war with one another.”
The US instigated NATO jihad against Serbia alone disproves the central tenet of democratic peace theory.
Rummel and Weart apparently missed the Yugoslav Wars when they “tested [the theory of democratic peace] on every democracy that has existed in history.”
But leave their minor oversight aside for the moment. Suppose for the sake of argument that democratic peace theorists were actually correct when they claimed that “democracies do not go to war with one another.”
My reaction would still be, “So what?” Are we supposed to be impressed by that? So what if democracies do not go to war with one another? Democracies go to war against non-democracies, all the time.
By that I don’t mean that peaceful democracies find themselves forced to defend themselves against unprovoked attacks from belligerent non-democracies. I mean that self-righteous, crusading democracies constantly initiate wars of unprovoked aggression against non-democracies that have committed no offense of any kind against the democratic aggressor. Most ironically of all, democracies initiate these wars of aggression in the name of advancing “democratic peace.”
As opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom know full well, the US and UK, two nations which democratic peace theorists would refer to as the world’s “leading” democracies, initiated an unprovoked war of aggression against the Iraqi nation, murdering tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and demolishing most of Iraq’s modern infrastructure and irreplaceable cultural heritage.
If we pause to consider the underlying logic of democratic peace theory, we realize how morally repugnant the boast that “democracies do not go to war with other democracies” actually is.
What democratic peace theorists are arguing, is that democracies do not murder “their own kind,” they murder only “others.” They do not murder democrats. They murder only non-democrats. Am I putting words in their mouth? Hardly. I am merely spelling out the clear implication of their own boast in plain language.
Ku Klux Klansmen do not aggress against one another. They only aggress against non-Klansmen. Are we supposed to be impressed by the fact that Klansmen display benevolence toward fellow Klansmen? Are we supposed to be impressed by the fact that Klansmen burn crosses only on the lawns of non-Klansmen, that Klansmen lynch only those whom they refer to as “niggers” and “kikes?”
What difference is there between the underlying moral calculus in these two examples?
How about none?
Yet in the face of all this, democratic peace theorist RJ Rummel smugly maintains that the solution to “democide” is democracy.
A fan wrote in to Rummel’s weblog, insisting that “The world needs a World Cop. I recommend a Human Rights Enforcement Group, of democracies only, with a test on the two most basic human rights: free speech and free religion.[sic] If the USA can get India on board with this, it could really go — and integrate with the Anglosphere challenge idea.”
Rummel replied, “Agreed. Along similar lines, I’ve been promoting an Alliance of Democracies.”
“Human beings,” as South African author Laurens van der Post observed, “are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.”
The late, great Isabel Paterson wrote about such human beings in her immortal essay, The Humanitarian with the Guillotine.
I applied her prescient insights to modern day liberal democratic “Humanitarian Interventionists” in my 1999 Strait Scoop article, Globocops with Guillotines.
However, an alternative view is that the long peace between democratic states is the result of reverse causation. That is, the current peaceful international order (created by such factors as U.S. hegemony, the solidification of borders, economic growth, and the nuclear revolution) has made it possible for liberal democracy to flourish in many countries which have found it difficult or impossible to build and maintain free institutions in previous eras of international violence and instability. Only states which are relatively secure – politically, militarily, economically – can afford to have free, pluralistic societies; in the absence of this security, states are much more likely to adopt, maintain, or revert to centralized, coercive authority structures. The book concludes with an overall analysis of the nature and causes of the contemporary peace between democracies, and the implications for U.S. foreign policy.
Pietrzyk is correct. What he refers to as “reverse causation,” or rather, reversal of cause and effect, accounts for much of the “peace” that prevails. Much of the “peace” that democratic peace theorists cite is the “peace” between Imperium Americanus and its puppets. Rummel boasts that “there is not a chance of even military action between any of them, much less war.”
Of course there isn’t. How could there be? The American Empire is much too powerful, and her puppets are much too weak for there to be “a chance of even military action between any of them, much less war.” How many democratically-elected leaders in central America dare to defy the American Empire? Only those that have forgotten what happened to Manuel Noriega or Jean-Bertande Aristide.
This of course, is nothing but our old and familiar friend, Pax Americana. Pax Americana has nothing to do with mutual respect among a fraternity of democratic nations for their “fellow democracies.” Pax Americana has to do with resentful submission to the overwhelming military might of Imperium Americanus. For democratic peace theorists such as Rummel to spin the “pax” in Pax Americana as mutual respect between democratic allies, rather than as unilateral bullying of imperial proxies, is disingenuous hypocrisy.
Finally, and most importantly, if democratic peace theorists really want to help “non-democracies” move toward “free, pluralistic societies,” the best thing they can do is mind their own god-damned business!
As Pietrzyk correctly notes, “Only states which are relatively secure – politically, militarily, economically – can afford to have free, pluralistic societies; in the absence of this security, states are much more likely to adopt, maintain, or revert to centralized, coercive authority structures.”
The implications for US foreign policy couldn’t be any clearer.