7.1 Is democracy a better system of government and should it be promoted by peaceful and forceful means?

1. Are critics of the democratic peace right to argue that no adequate explanation has been given for the absence of war among democracies?

  • Advocates of the democratic peace theory stress that there are no historical cases in which democracies go to war with one another. Drawing on Kantian notions of 'Perpetual Peace', this argument is embedded in Kant's notion of republicanism, which assumes that democratic governments are accountable to their citizens who are likely to prefer openness to secrecy and welfare to warfare.
  • However, critics have stressed that democratic states remain highly war-prone in relation to those nations perceived as illiberal:
  • One example, which might be considered here is Case Study 2: The 1990-1 Gulf War and collective security, where George H. Bush led a coalition of international forces, which crushed Iraqi resistance so that the new world order, 'Peaceful settlement of disputes, solidarity against aggression, reduced and controlled arsenals, and just treatment of all peoples', could be achieved. Should democracy be prompted by both peaceful and forceful means?
  • The case study also points to critics' claims that democratic states are often involved in covert operations rather than open warfare: What were the real motivations for the Gulf War of 1990-1, where the USA led a collective international force?

2. Is it the case that public opinion inside many liberal states shows a fundamental scepticism about the link between democracy and good government 'at home'?

  • Those who draw on Kantian notions of 'Perpetual Peace' will be inclined to disagree with this statement.
  • Others have, however, pointed to a recent decline in the stability of democratic states across the globe, including Venzuela, Ukraine, Russia and the failing 'Arab Spring'. Causes for the instability in democratic rule is attributed to economic deficits and resulting low-level public trust in governance.

3. Who benefits from democratic peace-building in post-conflict societies? Contrast short and long-term beneficiaries.

  • For those advocates of global democratic rule, the answer is: everybody. Locally, democratic governance is believed to be the most appropriate form of sustainable development. Globally, as we have seen, the assumption is that democratic rule leads to a peaceful international community of states (see point 1, question 1 above). In this view, international organizations, such as the UN, have an ethical duty to aid in democratic transition periods in all countries.
  • For those opposed to global democracy-promotion, the answer is: only leading Western states. Claiming that these states use international organizations and the rhetorical commitment to global democratic governance to shape the international order to best represent their own self-interests, democratic peace-building has come to be seen as a form of neo-imperialism.