Do Democracies Go To War?

Do Democracies Go To War? This statement is a question that can be answered by both a yes or no. The answer to the question depends on how one can argue his or her case. First, it is essential to understand the meaning of the word democracy. The word democracy is derived from an ancient Greek word “demoskratos.” The simple meaning of this Greek word is “people power.” Theorists have argued that the word democracy should mean, a system of government that is governed by the people. These people can either exercise they powers directly or indirectly. When people exercise power directly implies that they help in the process of decision making without using representatives. This process of decision making may involve either public participation where people air their views or through referendums. When people exercise power indirectly means that people choose representatives who air the majority’s views. These two types of government represent democracy.

The question, Do Democracies Go To War? Has two sides, however, it is necessary that we understand the concept of war. There are several forms of war. The first one is the military war which involves a state engaging another state in active military action.  Economic wars involve one state banning or giving sanctions of goods from another country. The last one is the cultural war which entails a state baning another’s states cultural practices in their country.  This conflict implies that a sovereign state engaged another state, for example, US and Iraq in 2002. Economic wars involve that one state bans commodities from another state, for example, Zimbabwe and Europe. Lastly, cultural war means that a state bans cultural practices of another state from getting practiced in their country. In this case, I will consider military war.

The first side of the question is, democracies do not go to war. Several theories have been put forward in favor of democracies do not go to war. The first theory is the democratic peace theory. This theory is the oldest theory that got published in 1975 by Immanuel Kant. Kant in his essay “Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch” argues that democracies do not go to war with other democracies. Kant supports his argument by the fact that democratic countries are more peaceful when compared to non-democratic countries hence are likely to relate well. He further states in his paper that peace exists in countries that are republics. States that are considered to be republics usually practice democracy hence becoming less violent.

In this paper, Immanuel Kant further illustrates two types of peace. The first type of peace is the “monadic peace.” In this type of peace, Kant argues that states willingly live at peace. The second type of peace illustrated by Kant is the “dyadic peace.” In this type of peace, Kant argues that states avoid engaging each other into conflict. This theory is feasible for two reasons. The first reason is that wars are expensive. Usually, democracies are characterized by socio-economic development. If two democracies get involved in a conflict, it is easier for both of them to compromise for the sake of peace. They well understand that conflict that leads to war may destroy their infrastructure thus resulting in losses that cannot be compared to the benefits of the war. A good example of war losses is the Iraq war. The federal government spent a lot of resources during the war. The benefits of this war would not be compared to the expenses the federal government incurred. The second reason that makes this theory feasible is the fact that democracies create a culture that allows negotiations. In the event of negotiating, individual states compromise and there is an amicable solution. An excellent example of successful negotiations is the Iran nuclear deal during the Obama presidency. During this time the Obama administration successfully negotiated with Iran to shut down their nuclear weaponry. These negotiations averted a growing crisis that would have cost both America and Iran.

The other theory championed in favor of democracies do not go to war is the political similarities in common. This theory comes to play between 1997 and 1998. The brains behind this theory were Hegre and Simon Jackman. The two authors argue that the similarities in common between states contribute much of the peace stability. However, this is evident in most countries that have open democracy like the US and Canada. There is no conflict between the two countries mainly because they believe in the same form of government whereby the majority rules.

On the contrary, states with no democracy tend to conflict a lot in countries with democracy. A good example is Russia and the US. The last theory in favor of democracies do not go to war is the “capitalist peace theory.” This theory argues that the economic model of states contributes a significant proportion of peace stability. Countries according to this theory with the same economic model are most likely to have less conflict. In 2003 Hegre argued that for peace to thrive, economic development is an essential factor.

The second side of the question is, democracies go to war. Idealistically speaking, it is true that democracies have gone to war against each other. The “Democratic peace theory” is insufficient. The insufficiency of this theory arises from the fact that other factors play a role in peace stability. The first limitation the “Democratic peace theory” is conflict. It can be argued that the political structure of a country is not sufficient to prevent it from waging war in the event of a crisis. This argument has been historically proven correct. There are various incidences where the ‘Democratic peace theory” has proven to be insufficient. The first case happened in 1812. In 1898 the Americans waged war against the Britons. In this year, the Americans engaged the Spaniards in a war. The third case happened from 1914 to 1918. This incidence was world war I. The Europeans got divided into two opposing factions leading to world war I. the fourth case was during the Israeli war for independence. This case happened in 1947, and they were fighting against Lebanon. In 2006, there was a repeat of 1947. Israel again locked horns with Lebanon. The last scene took place in 2008. This conflict involved Georgia against Russia, Ossetia, and Abkhazia. All these instances prove that “Democratic peace theory” is limited.

Democracy is associated with power. The Greek word that gave birth to democracy means “people power,” therefore it is tough to separate the two words democracy and power. The literal meaning of the word power is the ability to control world politics to influence an outcome. These world politics may involve people, governments or organizations. For example, the EU has created a single currency that maximizes the economic prowess of Europe or Israel’s influence in the UN’s security council decisions over the contested west bank region. These two examples illustrate what power is. There are three types of power; the first one is hard power. This power is achieved through force. Usually, this happens whenever a big state is engaging with a small state. In this case, the big state intimidates the tiny country to submission. An excellent example of hard power is the effective execution of Gadhafi as well Saddam Hussein. The US intimidated Saddam to submission. The second type of power is soft power. This power is achieved through influence and persuasion. A good example of soft power is Israel’s rally at the UN security council over the issue of the west bank. The last type of power is smart power. This smart power is whereby force, influence, and persuasions are used. Smart power combines both the soft and hard power to achieve its results. An excellent example of smart power is the overthrowing of Zimbabwean former president Robert Mugabe. He was persuaded and later forced to leave the office for his predecessor.

It is not easy for an individual or government to get power. The process of searching power can create two scenarios. The first scenario is the peace that is characterized by non-violent activities. This peace usually happens when there is a successful transfer of power from one government to another. This successful power transfer often happens in democracies. The second scenario is a conflict. This case occurs in non-democratic environments. This conflict is generally associated with chaos and violence that may lead to deaths and destruction of property. Environments that promote conflicts include places where elections are not free nor fair or areas where there is a dictatorship. In this scenario, people regroup to overthrow the incumbent dictator thus leading to conflicts. Two theories have been championed regarding power and the process of getting power. The first theory talks about realism. The theory of realism advocates for the use of hard power to gain power from other people or governments. This theory further argues that the acquired power should be maintained.

On the other hand, there is the theory of liberalism. This theory advocates for the use of soft power. According to this theory, it is better for one to use international cooperation alongside soft power to attain power. In other words, this theory advocates for democracy. This soft power is essential because it helps to avert conflict whereas hard power promotes conflict.


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