Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Do Democracies Make Inferior Counterinsurgents? Reassessing Democracy's Impact on War Outcomes and Duration

  • Jason Lyall (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

A core proposition from decades of research on internal wars asserts that democracies, with their casualty-averse publics, accountable leaders, and free media, are uniquely prone to losing counterinsurgency (COIN) wars. Yet one should question this finding, for two reasons. First, existing studies overwhelmingly adopt no-variance research designs that only examine democracies, leaving them unable to assess their performance relative to autocracies. Second, these studies do not control for confounding factors that bias causal estimates. Democracies, for example, typically fight wars of choice as external occupiers, while most autocracies face homegrown insurgencies, a function in part of divergent levels of state capacity possessed by democratic and autocratic combatants. This study corrects for both problems using a new dataset of insurgencies (1800–2005) and matching to test whether democracies experience significantly higher rates of defeat and shorter wars. No relationship between democracy and war outcomes or duration is found once regime type is varied and inferential threats are addressed.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Abrahms Max. 2007. Why Democracies Make Superior Counterterrorists. Security Studies 16 (2):223–53.
Arreguín-Toft Ivan. 2005. How the Weak Win Wars: A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Art Robert J., and Richardson Louise. 2007. Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the Past. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Ashworth Scott, Clinton Joshua D., Meirowitz Adam, and Ramsay Kristopher W.. 2008. Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. American Political Science Review 102 (2):269–73.
Bennett W. Lance. 1990. Toward a Theory of Press-State Relations in the United States. Journal of Communication 40 (2):103–27.
Bennett D. Scott, and Stam Allan C. III 1998. The Declining Advantages of Democracy: A Combined Model of War Outcomes and Duration. Journal of Conflict Resolution 42 (3):344–66.
Berrebi Claude, and Klor Esteban F.. 2008. Are Voters Sensitive to Terrorism? Direct Evidence from the Israeli Electorate. American Political Science Review 102 (3):279301.
Biddle Stephen. 2006. Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon. Foreign Affairs 85 (2):214.
Biddle Stephen, and Long Stephen. 2004. Democracy and Military Effectiveness: A Deeper Look. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48 (4):525–46.
Blaufarb Douglas. 1977. The Counterinsurgency Era: U.S. Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present. New York: Free Press.
Boot Max. 2002. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books.
Box-Steffensmeier Janet M., and Jones Bradford S.. 2004. Event History Modeling: A Guide for Social Scientists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bueno de Mesquita Ethan, and Dickson Eric. 2007. The Propaganda of the Deed: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and Mobilization. American Journal of Political Science 51 (2):364–81.
Byman Daniel, and Waxman Matthew. 2002. The Dynamics of Coercion: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Claessen Erik. 2007. Discouraging Hearts and Minds: Democracies and Insurgencies. Military Review (May–June):97103.
Clodfelter Michael. 2002. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500–2000. New York: McFarland and Co.
Cohen Eliot. 1984. Constraints on America's Conduct of Small Wars. International Security 9 (2):151–81.
Cohen Samy. 2008. Democracies at War Against Terrorism: A Comparative Perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Collier David, and Levitsky Steven. 1997. Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research. World Politics 49 (3):430–51.
Collier Paul, and Hoeffler Anke. 2004. Greed and Grievance in Civil War. Oxford Economic Papers 56 (4):563–95.
Correlates of War. 2006. Inter-State War Data, 1816–1997. Available at ⟨http://www.correlatesofwar.org⟩. Version 3.0. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Desch Michael C. 2002. Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters. International Security 27 (2):547.
Diamond Larry. 2005. Lessons from Iraq. Journal of Democracy 16 (1):923.
Dobbins James, McGinn John G., Crane Keith, Jones Seth G., Lal Rollie, Rathmell Andrew, Swanger Rachel M., and Timilsina Anga R.. 2003. America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND.
Downes Alexander B. 2007. Restraint or Propellant? Democracy and Civilian Fatalities in Interstate Wars. Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 (6):872904.
Downes Alexander B. 2008. Targeting Civilians in War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Downes Alexander B. 2009. Are Democracies as Smart and Tough as We Think They Are? Reassessing Theories of Democratic Victory in War. International Security 33 (4):951.
Eckstein Harry. 1975. Case Study and Theory in Political Science. In Handbook of Political Science, edited by Greenstein Fred and Polsby Nelson, 79138. Vol. 7. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Edelstein David M. 2008. Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Eggenberger David. 1985. An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. London: Dover.
Engelhardt Michael. 1992. Democracies, Dictatorships and Counterinsurgency: Does Regime Type Really Matter? Conflict Quarterly 12 (3):5263.
Fearon James D., and Laitin David D.. 2003. Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War. American Political Science Review 97 (1):7590.
Feaver Peter D., and Gelpi Christopher. 2004. Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Finnemore Martha. 1996. National Interests in International Society. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Fortna Page. 2004. Where Have All the Victories Gone? War Outcomes in Historical Perspective. Paper presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, September, Chicago.
Freedom House. 2008. Freedom in the World Index. Available at ⟨http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=15⟩. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Galula David. 2006a. Counterinsurgency Warfare. New York: Praeger.
Galula David. 2006b. Pacification in Algeria, 1956–58. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND.
Gartner Scott Sigmund. 2008. The Multiple Effects of Casualties on Public Support for War: An Experimental Approach. American Political Science Review 102 (1):95106.
Geddes Barbara. 2003. Paradigms and Sandcastles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Gelpi Christopher, Feaver Peter D., and Reifler Jason. 2005/06. Success Matters: Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq. International Security 30 (3):746.
Gleditsch Kristian Skrede, and Ward Michael D.. 2006. Diffusion and the International Context of Democratization. International Organization 60 (4):911–33.
Hammes Thomas X. 2004. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. New York: Zenith Press.
Hartzell Caroline A., and Hoddie Matthew. 2007. Crafting Peace: Power-Sharing Institutions and the Negotiated Settlement of Civil Wars. University Park: Pennsylvania University Press.
Hashim Ahmed S. 2006. Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Hegre Håvard, Ellingsen Tanja, Gates Scott, and Gleditsch Nils Petter. 2001. Toward a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816–1992. American Political Science Review 95 (1):3348.
Ho Daniel E., Imai Kosuke, King Gary, and Stuart Elizabeth A.. 2007. Matching as Nonparametric Preprocessing for Reducing Model Dependence in Parametric Causal Inference. Political Analysis 15 (3):199236.
Ho Daniel E., Imai Kosuke, King Gary, and Stuart Elizabeth A.. 2009. MatchIt: Nonparametric Preprocessing for Parametric Causal Inference. Available at ⟨http://gking.harvard.edu/matchit⟩. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Hoffmann Stanley, Huntington Samuel P., May Ernest R., Neustadt Richard N., and Schelling Thomas C.. 1981. Vietnam Reappraised. International Security 6 (1):326.
Horne Alistair. 1977. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962. New York: New York Review Book.
Horowitz Shale, and Sharma Deepti. 2008. Democracies Fighting Ethnic Insurgencies: Evidence from India. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 31 (8):749–73.
Imai Kosuke, King Gary, and Stuart Elizabeth A.. 2008. Misunderstandings among Experimentalists and Observationalists About Causal Inference. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 171 (2):481502.
Inbar Efraim. 2003. Democracies and Small Wars. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass.
Iyengar Radha, and Monten Jonathan. 2008. Is There an “Emboldenment” Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq. NBER Working Paper No. 13839. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Jebb Cindy R., Liotta P. H., Sherlock Thomas, and Beitler Ruth Margolies. 2006. The Fight for Legitimacy: Democracy vs. Terrorism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Jentleson Bruce. 1992. The Pretty Prudent Public: Post-Vietnam American Opinion on the Use of Military Force. International Studies Quarterly 36 (1):4974.
Kalyvas Stathis N. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilcullen David. 2006. Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency. Military Review (May-June):103–8.
King Gary, Tomz Michael, and Wittenberg Jason. 2000. Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):347–61.
King Gary, and Zeng Langche. 2006. The Dangers of Extreme Counterfactuals. Political Analysis 14 (2):131–59.
Krepinevich Andrew F. Jr. 1986. The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Krepinevich Andrew F. Jr. 2005. How to Win in Iraq. Foreign Affairs 84 (5):87104.
Krueger Alan B., and Laitin David D.. 2008. Kto Kogo?: A Cross-Country Study of the Origins and Targets of Terrorism. In Terrorism, Economic Development, and Political Openness, edited by Keefer Philip and Loayza Norman, 148–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Laird Melvin R. 2005. Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam. Foreign Affairs 84 (6):2243.
Lake David A. 1992. Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War. American Political Science Review 86 (1):2437.
Lyall Jason. 2009. Does Indiscriminate Repression Incite Insurgent Violence? Evidence from Chechnya. Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (3):331–62.
Lyall Jason, and Wilson Isaiah III 2009. Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars. International Organization 63 (1):67106.
Mack Andrew. 1975. Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars: The Politics of Asymmetric Conflict. World Politics 27 (2):175200.
Malkasian Carter. 2006. Signaling Resolve, Democratization, and the First Battle of Fallujah. Journal of Strategic Studies 29 (3):423–52.
Manski Charles F. 1995. Identification Problems in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Marshall Monty G., and Jaggers Keith. 2006. Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2006. Available at ⟨http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm⟩. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Marston Daniel, and Malkasian Carter. 2008. Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. New York: Osprey Publishing.
Merom Gil. 2003. How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State, Society, and the Failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morgan Stephen L., and Winship Christopher. 2007. Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morrow James D. 2007. When Do States Follow the Laws of War? American Political Science Review 101 (3):559–72.
Mueller John E. 1973. War, Presidents, and Public Opinion. New York: Wiley and Sons.
Mueller John E. 1994. Policy and Opinion in the Gulf War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Munck Gerardo L., and Verkuilen Jay. 2002. Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices. Comparative Political Studies 35 (1):534.
Nagl John A. 2005. Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaysia and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pape Robert A. 2005. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.
Parker Tom. 2007. Fighting an Antaean Enemy: How Democratic States Unintentionally Sustain the Terrorist Movements They Oppose. Terrorism and Political Violence 19 (2):155–79.
Polk William R. 2007. Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq. New York: HarperCollins.
Przeworski Adam, and Limongi Fernando. 1997. Modernization: Theories and Facts. World Politics 49 (2):155–83.
Record Jeffrey. 2007. Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books.
Regan Patrick M. 2002. Third-Party Interventions and the Duration of Intrastate Conflicts. Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (1):5573.
Reiter Dan, and Stam Allan C.. 2002. Democracies at War. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Reiter Dan, and Stam Allan C.. 2003. Understanding Victory: Why Political Institutions Matter. International Security 28 (1):168–79.
Ricks Thomas E. 2006. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin.
Rubin Donald B. 2006. Matched Sampling for Causal Effects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Russett Bruce, and Oneal John R.. 2001. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. New York: Norton.
Saunders Elizabeth. 2007. Wars of Choice: Leadership, Threat Perception and Military Interventions. Ph.D. diss., Yale University.
Sekhon Jasjeet S. 2006. Alternative Balance Metrics for Bias Reduction in Matching Methods for Causal Inference. Available at: ⟨http://sekhon.berkeley.edu/matching⟩. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Slantchev Branislav L. 2004. How Initiators End Their Wars: The Duration of Warfare and the Terms of Peace. American Journal of Political Science 48 (4):813–29.
Stephan Maria, and Chenoweth Erica. 2008. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. International Security 33 (1):744.
Summers Harry G. Jr. 1982. On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War. New York: Presidio Press.
Thompson Robert. 1966. Defeating Communist Insurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam. London: Chatto and Windus.
Tomz Michael, Wittenberg Jason, and King Gary. 2003. Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results. Version 2.1. Available at: ⟨http://gking.harvard.edu⟩. Accessed 7 October 2009.
Trinquier Roger. 2006. Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
U.S. Army. 2007. Field Manual No. 3–24. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Valentino Benjamin, Huth Paul, and Balch-Lindsay Dylan. 2004. “Draining the Sea”: Mass Killing and Guerrilla Warfare. International Organization 58 (2):375407.
Wade Sarah Jackson, and Reiter Dan. 2007. Does Democracy Matter? Regime Type and Suicide Terrorism. Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 (2):329–48.
Weeks Jessica. 2008. Autocratic Audience Costs: Regime Type and Signaling Resolve. International Organization 62 (1):3564.
Weinberg Leonard. 2008. Democratic Responses to Terrorism. New York: Routledge.
Wilkinson Paul. 2006. Terrorism Versus Democracy: The Liberal State Response. 2d ed.New York: Routledge.
Zaller John, and Chiu Dennis. 2000. Government's Little Helper: U.S. Press Coverage of Foreign Policy Crises, 1946–1999. In Decisionmaking in a Glass House, edited by Nacos Brigitte L., Shapiro Robert Y., and Isernia Pierangelo, 6184. New York: Roman and Littlefield.
Zhukov Yuri. 2007. Examining the Authoritarian Model of Counter-Insurgency: The Soviet Campaign Against the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Small Wars and Insurgencies 18 (3):439–66.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 22
Total number of PDF views: 452 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 743 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.