Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Never at War

Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another

Spencer R. Weart
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Never at War
    Book Description:

    This lively survey of the history of conflict between democracies reveals a remarkable-and tremendously important-finding: fully democratic nations have never made war on other democracies. Furthermore, historian Spencer R. Weart concludes in this thought-provoking book, they probably never will. Building his argument on some forty case studies ranging through history from ancient Athens to Renaissance Italy to modern America, the author analyzes for the first time every instance in which democracies or regimes like democracies have confronted each other with military force.Weart establishes a consistent set of definitions of democracy and other key terms, then draws on an array of international sources to demonstrate the absence of war among states of a particular democratic type. His survey also reveals the new and unexpected finding of a still broader zone of peace among oligarchic republics, even though there are more of such minority-controlled governments than democracies in history. In addition, Weart discovers that peaceful leagues and confederations-the converse of war-endure only when member states are democracies or oligarchies. With the help of related findings in political science, anthropology, and social psychology, the author explores how the political culture of democratic leaders prevents them from warring against others who are recognized as fellow democrats and how certain beliefs and behaviors lead to peace or war. Weart identifies danger points for democracies, and he offers crucial, practical information to help safeguard peace in the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14774-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Investigating the Puzzle of Democratic Peace
    (pp. 1-23)

    With the patient brutality of a beating by mobsters, artillery shells fell one by one into the old city of Dubrovnik. The streets, once busy with citizens and tourists, were strangely quiet in November 1991, aside from intermittent explosions and the occasional crack of sniper fire. Dubrovnik’s citizens huddled in their cellars and talked about their enemy, the Serbs.

    “I have stones,” a Croatian sculptor told a reporter. “I think I could throw them on their heads. I was a kind of pacifist. Never hated anybody. But now?”¹

    People reading the news in Western Europe and America, people who perhaps...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Ancient Greece: Definitions and a Pattern of Peace
    (pp. 24-37)

    In 413 B.C. an army of desperate Greeks set off on their last march. These were men of Athens who had sailed all the way to Sicily to attack Syracuse, the island’s chief power. In three years of bloody struggle, the Athenians had failed to penetrate the city’s massive walls, and now they were retreating. But Syracusan troops were ahead of them, waiting at the dry mountain passes behind makeshift walls of stones. A number of the Athenians battled through and marched on until they arrived at a river. Possessed by thirst, the men broke ranks and crowded in, trampling...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Medieval Italy: Wars Without States
    (pp. 38-55)

    In 1257 the city of Bologna concluded a war by sending an embassy to a neighboring town. Bologna was not represented by a nobleman, as was customary, but by a commission: a shoemaker, a leatherworker, a fisherman, and a blacksmith. The idea that a community of ordinary men could manage their own affairs, an idea dead for a thousand years, had returned.¹

    Medieval Italy offers us cases equally distant from the ancient and the modern worlds. An Italian city would have looked as strange to a citizen of ancient Greece as it does to us. An approaching traveler would see,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Rise of Republican States, Ideals, and Alliances
    (pp. 56-74)

    In 1342 a group of Florentines received the appalling news that Pisa had defeated their city in a battle. A grieving knight turned to the burgher Giovanni Villani and demanded to know how God could have allowed such a thing. After all, the Pisans were notorious sinners, enemies and persecutors of the Holy Church! Villani agreed that there was more charity in Florence in a day than in Pisa in a month, but he pointed to a different kind of explanation. In the maneuvering leading up to the battle, each Florentine faction had acted selfishly, while the Pisans had united...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Political Culture of Peace
    (pp. 75-93)

    When Dante journeyed through Hell, one of the most horrible things he saw was Count Ugolino of Pisa and the archbishop Ruggieri frozen together in ice up to their shoulders. The count was bending his head over to gnaw on the archbishop’s scalp, taking eternal revenge on the enemy who had ordered him and his young sons locked up together until they starved to death. The wrathful Ugolino was a shocking image of the effects of enmity. Dante himself, near the lowest point of his journey, indiscriminately cursed the entire population of iniquitous Pisa. It was typical of the Florentines...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Swiss Republics: Defining an Enemy
    (pp. 94-112)

    For most of its history Switzerland has been no place for a restful vacation, but a laboratory of wars. Some of these conflicts were between republics, for the Forest State democracies had neighbors of a different stripe. A peasant from a backwoods democracy, carting cheeses down from his stony meadows to sell within the walls of a city-republic like Bern or Lucerne or Zurich, would have felt badly out of place. Hawkers and beggars would have been swarming in the maze of smelly streets while fat burghers strutted past in jackets with silver clasps. At the city’s center, the Rathaus,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Oligarchy, Intervention, and Civil War
    (pp. 113-134)

    LibertyandUnion, now and forever, one and inseparable!” The famous maxim that Daniel Webster proposed in 1830 stands as a warning that men who are ready to die for liberty may follow the same ideology to kill for union. Republican solidarity is no fanciful vision, but a conviction so strong that it can drive people to war. Typically this means civil war—which poses a tough challenge to ideas about mutual peace. When people in a single nation form armies that seize distinct territorial bases and march against each other, the situation is comparable to international warfare, and such...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Republics Versus Autocracies
    (pp. 135-145)

    Americans were pleased to learn in 1811 that King George III was hopelessly insane. Not only was their old enemy laid low, but the Prince of Wales had become regent. The old king had kept as ministers a set of Tories who scorned and abused the upstart United States, but his son’s Whig friends were more conciliatory. It turned out, however, that the prince had befriended Whigs chiefly to annoy his father, and as regent he left the Tories in power. It was the last time that British royalty had a chance to exercise decisive power over foreign affairs. The...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Well-Established Republics Versus Authoritarian Regimes
    (pp. 146-163)

    The two navies had been maneuvering warily for years in the gusty English Channel, and tempers were strained. In May of 1652 the Dutch admiral Cornelius Tromp was escorting a convoy of merchantmen when he was accosted by English warships under Robert Blake. Both commanders were bold sea dogs, both held strong political opinions, and both served oligarchic republics. Blake sailed up to Tromp’s ship and sent a shot across his bow, to warn the Dutchman to dip his flag in the customary acknowledgment of English sovereignty in the channel. When Tromp failed to respond, the English began to fire...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Well-Established Republics Versus Newborn Republics
    (pp. 164-178)

    The Ruhr: the industrial heartland of the German Republic, a hundred towns thundering with machinery. In January of 1923 the grimy streets were patrolled by squads of French soldiers. Four years after the First World War ended they had marched into the Ruhr and seized its mines and factories to enrich France. Although not actual war, it was a hostile invasion that left millions of Germans impoverished and humiliated, contributing to the eventual rise of Nazism. Here is an excellent place to search for the exact processes that can push hostility between modern democracies to the point of grave harm....

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Authoritarian Diplomacy
    (pp. 179-200)

    In 1802 Anthony Merry, a young diplomat just arrived from Britain, rode through Washington City to the President’s House to present his credentials. Resplendent in ceremonial dress with gold lace and sword, Merry was appalled to find President Thomas Jefferson lounging in casual clothes, threadbare and not entirely clean. Jefferson was only underscoring his democratic ways, but Merry believed the American was delivering a studied insult. Worse misunderstandings arose at diplomatic receptions in the following months. When the guests proceeded into the dining room Jefferson customarily insisted on egalitarian catch-as-catch-can seating, but the British envoy and his wife felt that...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE Republican Diplomacy
    (pp. 201-219)

    It did not look like territory worth fighting over. The strip along the Rio Grande was parched scrubland that barely supported a few tumbledown ranches, and the U.S. Army soldiers who trudged to the river in 1846 were not happy to be there. Mexican troops were gathering nearby, angry because the region had always belonged to Mexico. It seemed likely that somebody would get shot.

    That was what President James Polk was hoping would happen. He had ordered troops into this territory, where the United States had only the flimsiest legal claim, on the pretext that the Mexicans were preparing...

  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Imperialist Aggression by Democracies
    (pp. 220-243)

    In June 1954 Guatemala City was boiling with rumors of war. A clandestine radio station had come on the air, announcing that a rebel army was advancing on the capital. Mysterious airplanes circled over the city at night, now and then dropping bombs. Meanwhile, the U.S. government reported that the populace had risen to expel the Communist-dominated regime. As the tension became unbearable, generals of the Guatemalan army met with President Jacobo Arbenz. They had never liked his government, and now they told him that they could not defend it—or at any rate would not. Exhausted by the pressures,...

  17. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Leagues of Republics
    (pp. 244-269)

    In the broad market square of Athens, where people from a hundred shores strolled and gossiped in the sunlight, there once stood a statue of Liberty. In 377 B.C. the Athenians erected alongside the statue a marble stele the height of a man. The statue is lost, but modern archaeologists shoveling through the rubble found twenty fragments of the stele and fitted them together to read. The stone bears an invitation to join a league of independent states with at least sixty members—a league of democracies.¹

    As I noted in chapter 6, statistical studies show that modern democracies have...

  18. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Crusading for Democracy
    (pp. 270-296)

    When the French overthrew their monarchy, people who longed passionately for

    liberty in their own lands set out for Paris. In 1790 France’s newly elected National Assembly welcomed representatives at a ceremonial session. Spaniards, Poles, Greeks, and Turks in exotic costumes took turns declaiming that the French example was inspiring their people to throw off their chains, while the manager of the ceremony, a revolutionary from Prussia, claimed to speak for the “human species” as a whole. The French agreed that a new democratic age was coming: tyrannies everywhere would collapse, undermined by their own vices. Of course it might...

  19. APPENDIX Military Confrontations Between Approximately Republican Regimes of the Same Kind
    (pp. 297-318)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 319-412)
  21. Index
    (pp. 413-424)