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Do democratic nations fight other democracies and will they in the foreseeable future? The liberal democratic theory quickly answers this interesting query by negating that a democracy would ever go against another democracy. In fact according to the liberal democratic peace theory, if all nations were democratic there would be no wars. It sounds like an ideal situation, but does how realistic is this claim?
Perhaps, already today democracies are waging wars against democracy. The definition of democracy can be narrowed or broadened as pleased by states to manipulate the perceptions of other nations in accordance with their own interests. Ido Oren argues that The Federal Republic of Germany was perceived as a democratic state by the Western world in the 19th century. Nonetheless, as the relationship between Germany and Western nations such as the US, the UK and France was highly vulnerable, in the build-up to World War One Germany was portrayed as a dictatorship even though no regime change had been made. From this example, it appears that the LDPT cannot account for wars between two countries that have claimed to be democratic.
One study, undertaken by Schwartz and Skinner in 2002 argues that the number of wars between democracies is actually incredibly similar to war carried out by non-democracies. The study may be criticised as it identifies wars between young or ambiguous democracies amongst its study targets, yet the undeniable empirical evidence does prove that democracies do enter war with other democracies at times, which provides further quantitative evidence in favour of the theory that the spread of democracy would not necessarily lead to orderly peace at an international level.
Regarding the study of democracies, Kyle Scott (2008) applied a Girardian vision of violence when questioning why liberal democracies do not engage in war with one another. By violence, Kyle Scott intended the violence which is embedded in society and perpetually diffused amongst us. By identifying the link between democracies and war, Scott concluded that if acts of violence are innate in our system then it would appear that ‘non-democracies are merely scapegoats for democracies so that order can be maintained in the community of democracies. Therefore, if the world becomes composed entirely of democracies, there will be no scapegoats left and democracies will fight one another’ (Scott 2008: 46). Normative and structural models of theorising democracy both concur that democracies do not enter conflict with one another and here too we can agree; they simply entertain war with non-democracies. By applying Girard’s theory to the LDPT we can see that the expansion of liberal democracies and peace are highly incompatible.
This has led many to argue that even in the advent of a world of democratic nations the Kantian vision of perpetual peace would remain ‘ideal laid up in heaven’ (Hinsley 1967: 79) and Francis Fukuyama’s theory of the end of history through the universalisation of liberal democratic ideology would not provide a more peaceful order than what we are witnessing today. In fact due to the incontrollable violence all nations are capable of, when all wars against non-democracies are quenched a new war of democracies against democracies may commence in a Hobbesian fashion of ‘war of all against all’. After reading this article along with the previous one hopefully you have gained an insight in the pros and cons of the liberal democratic peace theory. Do you think democracies will fight against one another? Why not comment below!