Ballots and Bullets

Ballots and Bullets: The Elusive Democratic Peace

Joanne Gowa
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Ballots and Bullets
    Book Description:

    There is a widespread belief, among both political scientists and government policymakers, that "democracies don't fight each other." Here Joanne Gowa challenges that belief. In a thorough, systematic critique, she shows that, while democracies were less likely than other states to engage each other in armed conflicts between 1945 and 1980, they were just as likely to do so as were other states before 1914. Thus, no reason exists to believe that a democratic peace will survive the end of the Cold War. Since U.S. foreign policy is currently directed toward promoting democracy abroad, Gowa's findings are especially timely and worrisome.

    Those who assert that a democratic peace exists typically examine the 1815-1980 period as a whole. In doing so, they conflate two very different historical periods: the pre-World War I and post-World War II years. Examining these periods separately, Gowa shows that a democratic peace prevailed only during the later period. Given the collapse of the Cold War world, her research calls into question both the conclusions of previous researchers and the wisdom of present U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

    By re-examining the arguments and data that have been used to support beliefs about a democratic peace, Joanne Gowa has produced a thought-provoking book that is sure to be controversial.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2298-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
    Joanne Gowa
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    As a replacement for the Cold War strategy of containment, the Clinton administration has adopted a foreign-policy strategy designed to enlarge the “community of democratic nations.”¹ This strategy, it maintains, “serves all of America’s strategic interests—from promoting prosperity at home to checking global threats abroad” (1996, 32). It does so, according to President Clinton, because “democracies rarely wage war on one another” (1993,3).

    The administration’s action finds a sympathetic echo, if not a raison d’être, in much of the recent international relations literature. Based upon multifaceted theoretical foundations and systematic empirical analyses, a series of studies concludes that democratic...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Analytic Foundations of the Democratic Peace
    (pp. 12-27)

    In this chapter, I examine the microfoundations of the peace that is said to prevail between democratic polities. As I noted in chapter 1, three explanations have been offered: one emphasizes the role of norms; the second assigns the principal explanatory role to trade; and the third focuses upon the checks and balances that are embedded in democratic polities. I consider each in turn.

    Contributors to the democratic-peace literature assume that outcomes in international politics cannot be understood without reference to domestic political factors. In their view, these outcomes do not depend only upon the differences between states that result...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Legislators, Voters, and the Use of Force Abroad
    (pp. 28-43)

    In this chapter, I examine whether independent legislatures and elections influence the use of force abroad. I do so because the extent to which the practices conform to the principles of democratic polities is unclear. In addition, systematic empirical analyses of the structural-constraint explanation are rare, and those that do exist have generated weak and inconsistent results. Morgan and Campbell (1991), for example, find that executive-legislative parity does not have a consistently significant effect on dispute escalation. Leeds and Davis (1997) report that elections and the propensity of democratic states to engage in international disputes are unrelated.¹ Gaubatz (1991), however,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Reinterpreting the Democratic Peace
    (pp. 44-67)

    The results of the analyses of dispute-rate data presented in this chapter differ markedly from those in the existing literature. They show that war and other militarized disputes between democratic states are relatively rare only during the Cold War. Between 1816 and 1914, members of pairs of democratic states are no less likely to engage each other in war or in other militarized disputes than are their nondemocratic counterparts.

    The first section describes the data and research design used to reexamine the empirical foundations of the democratic-peace hypothesis. The results of the empirical analyses are then presented and discussed.


  9. CHAPTER 5 Interests and Alliances: Comparing Two International Systems
    (pp. 68-88)

    The results presented in the last chapter do not conform to the predictions of the democratic-peace hypothesis. However, they are consistent with conventional wisdom about major-power interactions in the pre- 1914 multipolar international system and in its post World War II bipolar replacement. That is, the interests of major powers, irrespective of regime type, were relatively fluid before World War I. After 1945, however, an enduring conflict of interests between the superpowers generated a pattern of consistent common interests between democratic states.

    Cross-temporal variation in relative dyadic dispute-rate patterns seems to reflect this difference. All else equal, states that have...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Explaining Relative Dispute-Rate Patterns
    (pp. 89-108)

    The analyses in chapter 4 showed that violent disputes do not occur at a consistently lower rate between democracies than between other states. More specifically, they showed that neither the incidence of wars nor that of lower-level disputes differs across country pairs before World War I. Between the wars, the evidence is mixed: war rates do not differ by dyad types, but democratic states are less likely than are other states to engage each other in lower-level MIDs. War and dispute rates between democratic states are significantly lower than are those between nondemocracies only during the Cold War.

    In this...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 109-114)

    The appeal of the democratic-peace hypothesis to U.S. decision makers is not hard to understand. As in the case of earlier efforts to export democracy to Latin America, it allows them to pursue a foreign-policy strategy that responds to “the powerful grip of liberal tradition” on U.S. beliefs about political and economic development (Packenham 1973, 20). Its appeal is further enhanced by the results of a series of empirical studies of the democratic peace.

    The abrupt demise of the Cold War and the dissolution of the former Soviet bloc reinforced the attraction of this literature to policy makers. As critics...

  12. References
    (pp. 115-128)
  13. Index
    (pp. 129-136)