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The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2003

The University of Chicago


Democratic peace theory is probably the most powerful liberal contribution to the debate on the causes of war and peace. In this paper I examine the causal logics that underpin the theory to determine whether they offer compelling explanations for the finding of mutual democratic pacifism. I find that they do not. Democracies do not reliably externalize their domestic norms of conflict resolution and do not trust or respect one another when their interests clash. Moreover, elected leaders are not especially accountable to peace loving publics or pacific interest groups, democracies are not particularly slow to mobilize or incapable of surprise attack, and open political competition does not guarantee that a democracy will reveal private information about its level of resolve thereby avoiding conflict. Since the evidence suggests that the logics do not operate as stipulated by the theory's proponents, there are good reasons to believe that while there is certainly peace among democracies, it may not be caused by the democratic nature of those states.

© 2003 by the American Political Science Association

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