Democracies don't go to war unless they have to, and if they have to, they make dang sure that they win. Or so we've been told. In Democratic Militarism, Jon Caverley paints a very different picture. Best of all, he shows that the exceptions to this rule (if you can even call it that) cannot be attributed to corruptions of the process. When democracies fight unnecessary wars, poorly, they do not do so because of elite capture, popular propaganda, or a breakdown of civil-military relations. No, that's democracy at work.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) about domestic politics helps us understand variation in the likelihood of international conflict. I focused particularly on whether the spread of democracy explains Europe's transformation from one of the most violent parts of the world to one of the most peaceful and how the the fear of coups and rebellion in Sub-Saharan Africa helps explain why there have been so few interstate wars there.
You've perhaps heard that democracy and peace tend to go together. Closest thing to a law and all that. So, we've obviously got a correlation. The question is whether that reflects democracy \(\rightarrow\) peace or democracy \(\leftarrow\) \(z\) \(\rightarrow\) peace, where \(z\) might concern economic or geographic factors. Various attempts at resolving the debate have been made,1but my sense (based largely on what I've heard at conferences recently) is that a lot of people who are broadly sympathetic to these critiques still aren't quite sold.
One thing that might help move the conversation forward is the introduction of a clear argument for exactly how and why some third factor might produce a spurious correlation between democracy and peace—one that not only provides an explanation for empirical regularities that have already been established but points us in the direction of new ones we've yet to uncover. In this post, I analyze a formal model that I think offers us exactly that.2
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) on international institutions, specifically the impact they have on patterns of armed conflict. The first half focused on peacekeeping, which works better (under some conditions) than many appreciate, while the latter focused on how international institutions can deter bad behavior even if they lack enforcement power. The argument, which I previously laid out (in a somewhat different form) here, is that international institutions need not have the power to punish so long as the statements they make have an impact on the likelihood that someone else will do so.
If institutions issue reports condemning bad behavior, which they don't always catch, but never go out of their way to praise good behavior, then one might think that they only influence beliefs when they issue reports. But that's not correct, at least if governments are even weakly Bayesian. Every time a report is not issued about a given state violating international law or otherwise misbehaving, a little more information is revealed.
I am an assistant professor of political science who studies international relations. My interests include international conflict, domestic politics, bargaining theory, formal theory, and the empirical implications of theoretical models.