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The debate involving the role that democracy plays in causing peace has been a contentious subject concerning international relations. It is evident that no democratic state has wedged war on another democratic state, resulting in the assumption that with more states embracing democracy, there is the likelihood that armed conflicts will reduce leading to the creation of a peaceful international system (Dorff, 2005). The expectation that war might be eliminated using institutional means is not a new concept. Advocates of the democratic peace theory cite Kant’s 1795 essay titled “Perpetual Peace” as the foundation basis of the theory. Presently, proponents of democratic peace theory are embarking on the exploration of the empirical statistical correlation between democracy and peace (Robinson, 2001). The adherents consider this observation as inherent feature of democracy, such as restraints positioned on decision-makers due to the separation of powers and the need to adhere to the will of the people. However, the repetition of war has been a continuous attribute of human history; this implies that those claiming that increased democratic governance will result in a significant decrease in armed conflicts in future need a high standard of proof. In this paper, I argue that the empirical support for DPT is extremely narrow, and that the logical justifications for the theory are weak. As a result, there is inadequate warranty for too much confidence in the view that spreading democratic government will result in a more peaceful world. The paper also examines how democratic peace theory is a reflection of liberal ideas in international relations.
The basis of support for DPT is the studies that point out steady and statistically significant predispositions to conclude that democratic states do not engage in armed conflicts (Robinson, 2001). These statistical findings are consistent with the historical record that indicates few cases of armed confrontation between democratic countries. Proponents of democratic peace emphasize the decentralization is the solution towards the attainment of world peace (Robinson, 2001). Even so, a superficial review of the historical record highlights probable counterexamples like the Civil War and the war of 1812; an inclusion of these wars in the statistical data is likely to change the findings significantly. DPT advocates claim that such examples were excluded on accounts that they were not democratic governments; this is contestable using a case-by-case analysis. The argument is that the adherents selected the data with the prime objective of supporting the theory (Robinson, 2001). Provided the statistical data used in the analysis are arbitrary and threshold of a democratic system is selected at the discretion of the research, the validity of the findings subject to skepticism.
The argument for democratic peace draws on compelling theoretical foundations, just as the evidence examined. Structural factors like accountability of democratic leaders and deliberation of decision-making due to separation of power have functioned as restraining factors in some scenarios. An inference from this observation is that although democratic states may not fight one another, they are less likely to refrain from armed confrontations with non-democratic states. The fact that three significant historical standard-bearers of democracy have participated in most wars after World War II poses a need for further reflection regarding the feasibility of democratic theory. This compels the need to assess the features of democratic culture. Advocates of democratic peace theory hold the view that compromise and peaceful resolution of conflicts within democratic systems are also propagated to external relations. This draws on the view that international disputes between democratic states are handled by individuals, who have the experience required to resolved competing values and national interests. However, the reality is that democracy is associated with impulsiveness, Manichaeism, and self-interest. An example is the recent US invasion in Iraq, which can be viewed as the manipulation of people’s fears with the objective of suppressing the checks and balances that are supposed to be offered by the separation of powers. Averagely, peoples’ influences on decision-making in democratic systems are somewhat mixed. Even though they play an integral role in preventing costly wars that would be destructive within the national boundaries, there is minimal reluctance to initiate an armed conflict outside national borders, especially when the conflict can be passed on to marginalized entities within the citizenry. Therefore, even if it is fully acknowledged that democracies cannot fight one another, the apparent tendency of more aggressive democratic states to readily initiate armed conflicts questions the effectiveness of democracy in sustaining global peace.
How is This Theory a Clear Reflection of the Thinking behind Liberal Ideas of International Relations?
Liberalism in the context of international relations has the primary objective of seeking ways to achieve lasting global peace and cooperation in international relations. It is evident that liberal tendencies in international ideas and democratic peace theory share a common goal of establishing and sustaining global peace. This draws on the effect that the types of domestic political regimes and internal politics have on international relations. The assumption is that if democracy creates peace at the state level, then there is a high likelihood that the same peace processes will be applied at the global level. The limitation associated with applying liberal ideas in international relations is that liberal states have been reported to engage in armed conflicts with non-liberal states.
The paper has evaluated the evidence and arguments used to support DPT and found them deficient. Although there is adequate empirical evidence to assert that democracy may, under specific circumstances, result in a more peaceful global society, there are also examples of aggression linked to democracy. From a personal standpoint, I hold the view that democracy does not guarantee international peace. There is the need to take into consideration the various forms of democracies, particularly the variations in behavior of larger states that have old democratic traditions and a high emphasis on autonomy and new democracies that are inclined towards internationalism. The available evidence bases only on a limited number of generations and geographical areas that have similar cultural backgrounds. It is vital to evaluate long-term actions under diverse conditions before the acceptance levels are obtained.