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Democramtion and the Danger o f War known findings of contemporary social science is that no democracies have ever fought a war against each other, given reasonably restrictive definitions of democracyand of war.’ This insight is now part of everyday publicdiscourse and serves as a basis for American foreign policymaking. President Bill Clinton ’s 1994 State of the Union address invoked the absence of war between democraciesas a justificationfor promoting democratization around the globe. In the week following the U.S. military landing in Haiti, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake reiterated that ”spreading democracy . . . serves our interests”because democracies “tend not to abuse their citizens’rights or wage war on one another.”’ It is probably true that a world where more countries were mature, stable democracies would be safer and preferable for the United States. However, countries do not become mature democracies overnight. More typically, they go through a rocky transitional period, where democratic control over foreign policy is partial, where mass politics mixes in a volatile way with authoritarian elite politics, and where democratization suffers reversals. In this transitional phase of democratization, countries become more aggressive and war-prone, not less, and they do fight wars with democratic states. Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder Edward D. Mansfield is Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and author of Power, Trade, and War (Princeton University Press, 2994). Jack Snyder is Professor of Political Science and Director of the lxstitute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. His most recent book is Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Cornell University Press, 2991). The authors thank SergeiTikhonov for assistance with computer programming; Liv Mansfield for preparing the figures; Richard Betts, Miriam Fendius Elman, David Lake, Bruce Russett, Randall Schweller,David Spiro, Randall Stone, Celeste Wallander, and participants at seminars at Harvard and Columbia for helpful comments; and the Pew Charitable Trusts for financial support. 1. Michael Doyle, “Liberalismand World Politics,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 4 (December1986),pp. 1151-1169; Bruce Russett, Grasping the Democratic Peace (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1993).For skeptical views, see David E. Spiro, “The Insignificanceof the Liberal Peace,” lnternational Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 1994), pp. 5046; and Christopher Layne, ”Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” lnternational Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 1994), pp. 549. They are rebutted by Bruce Russett, ”The Democratic Peace: ‘And Yet It Moves’,” lnternational Security, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Spring 1995),pp. 164-175. 2. ”Transcriptof Clinton’sAddress,” New York Times,January 26,1994, p. A17; Anthony Lake, ”The Reach of Democracy:Tying Power to Diplomacy,” New York Times, September 23, 1994, p. A35. Znternntional Security, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Summer 1995),pp. 5-38 0 1995by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 5 International Security 20:l I 6 The contemporary era shows that incipientor partial democratization can be an occasion for the rise of belligerent nationalism and war.3 Two pairs of states-Serbia and Croatia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan-have found themselves at war while experimenting with varying degrees of partial electoral democracy.Russia's poorly institutionalized, partial democracy has tense relationships with many of its neighbors and has used military force brutally to reassert control in Chechnya;its electoratecast nearly a quarter of its votes for the party of radical nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. This contemporary connection between democratization and conflict is no coincidence. Using the same databases that are typically used to study the democratic peace, we find considerablestatisticalevidence that democratizing states are more likely to fight wars than are mature democracies or stable autocracies. States like contemporary Russia that make the biggest leap in democratization-from total autocracy to extensive mass democracy-are about twice as likely to fight wars in the decade after democratization as are states that remain autocracies.However, reversing the process of democratization , once it has begun, will not reduce this risk. Regimes that are changing toward autocracy, including states that revert to autocracy after failed experiments with democracy, are also more likely to fight wars than are states whose regime is unchanging. Moreover, virtually every great power has gone on the warpath during...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 5-38
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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