12 March, 2006

The Democratic Peace hypothesis (part two)

Read part one of this fascinating analysis here.

So the point really is to try and explain this observable phenomenon. Obviously, it could just be coincidence, and maybe in a couple of years' time German soldiers will be marching on Paris once more. But that seems a bit unconvincing and an attempt to retreat from systematising world events. Yet the Democratic Peace is not readily explainable in Kantian terms either. Kant reckoned that republics would be pacific because a politically engaged citizenry would not send themselves off to be butchered. That's all very well, but would lead to republics being equally pacific towards both other republics and authoritarian states. However, in real life, the Democratic Peace only seems to extend between liberal democracies, and they remain perfectly willing to lay into other types of country.

One of my Helicopterview correspondents attempts to explain the Democratic Peace by saying that the open media of liberal democracies makes it easy for them to engage in virtual war with each other, undermining each other's hostile regimes through media subversion. This is an interesting proposition, and does at least have some basis in unique features of liberal democracies. However, I don't think it works. If you look at actually existing liberal democracies, it is hard to see cases where liberal democracy A has bent liberal democracy B to its will by subverting B's media. And given the plurality of views on major international issues held among the leaders of liberal democracies, one could not credibly say that they have all had their consent manufactured in one particular direction (see France & Germany's willingness to engage in symbolic resistance to the US invasion of Iraq, or the Western Europeans' willingness to buy Soviet gas in the early 1980s over the vitriolic resistance of the Americans).

So I think the Democratic Peace has to have another explanation. I am developing ideas as to what that explanation might be, but I may cheat and consult the extensive academic literature on the subject. One way or another I think Helicopterview will be back to this.

One side point made on the mailing list was that over how research on the Democratic Peace can be misapplied. The NeoCons, in their muscular ├╝ber-liberalism have married the Democratic Peace thesis to their quest for US dominance, and produced a wonderfully simplistic idea - that if the USA goes around invading countries and blessing them with pliant democratic regimes then the world will be at peace for ever, and Fukuyama's dream of history's end will finally have arrived. This NeoCon idea is basically a pipe-dream - history is not over-run with examples of countries where democracy was successfully installed at bayonet point.

I am suspicious, though, of the idea that because research into the Democratic Peace can be misused it is therefore dangerous. There is nothing dangerous about the truth, save to those who profit by lies, even if such people are the rulers of this world. Academia should never let itself by dissuaded from lines of inquiry for fear of how the fruits of research could be applied. Gangsterish politicans will always find excuses for doing whatever they want, whether or not there is available research that can be twisted to their purposes. Moreover, any research into anything can be misused by the powerful, so avoiding lines of inquiry that are twistable by the overlords would kill academia.

No comments: