Democratic Peace Theory Essay

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Would the introduction of liberal democracy in all states across the Middle East make the region more peaceful?

In order to answer the essay question, the essay will ultimately have to analyse the validity and soundness of the Democratic Peace Theory (DPT). The essay will begin by outlining the main two aspects of democracies which act as deterrents against conflict – the idea of mutual trust and respect between democracies, and the intertwined concepts of government accountability and public aversion against war. The essay will then highlight the inherent failings of these arguments, with particular relevance to the situation in the Middle East. Through undermining these arguments, the essay will establish that the introduction of liberal democracy across the Middle East will not make the region more peaceful.
Democratic Peace Theory: Outline
The DPT postulates that democratic States share a ‘separate peace’ between themselves (Kant, 1970). This entails that they do not enter violent conflicts with other democratic states, whilst they are constantly hostile and violent towards illiberal regimes (Doyle, 1986). The key reasons underlying this ‘restraint’ against other democracies are twofold: firstly, democracies value, trust and respect democracy in other states, and are thus less inclined to war with them (Russett, 1993). Secondly, since democratic governments are held accountable by its people, and the public is generally ill-disposed towards war, leaders are disinclined to enter conflicts and thus risk losing the support of their electors (Morgan & Campbell, 1991) (Doyle, 1983). Following these core ideas, DPT contends that if all the States across the Middle East were democratic, they would indeed become more peaceful. However, these principles are open for dispute.
Respect and Trust Argument
Firstly, the idea that democracies have mutual trust and respect for one another is arguable. There is abundant evidence that democratic States do not respect or trust other democracies – as demonstrated by the numerous American interventions in democratic regimes in the Cold War era (Rosato, 2003). These interventions were not diplomatic negotiations or peaceful resolves (as DPT proponents would predict (Russett, 1995)), but violent ejections of democratic left-wing governments, often to be substituted by autocratic rules1. The American efforts to destabilise leftists foreign democracies “provide good evidence that democracies do not always treat each other with trust and respect when they have a conflict of interest” (Rosato, 2003, p. 590). Thus, the respect and trust argument is undermined.
Secondly, the claim that trust and respect are a unique result of a democratic political system is somewhat farfetched. Even in cases where democratic states indeed exhibit respect or trust towards other democracies, there is no evidence to suggest that this deference is a unique result of the democratic system (Henderson, 1998). Indeed, there are many examples of relations of respect, trust and assistance between autocratic States throughout the 20th century2. These serve as powerful evidence against the notion that respect and trust between States is dependent upon democracy. Rather, respect and trust between states could be attributed to common cultural attributes, which may include ethnic, linguistic and religious similarities (Henderson, 1998). Whilst the American interventions serve as evidence that democracies have indeed waged war against other democracies (albeit indirectly or covertly), there is no historical occurrence of two ‘Western’ states ever entering violent conflict with one another. This evidence suggests that perhaps it is the reverence of Western value-system which is the cause of trust and respect. In light of this supporting evidence, the causal relationship between democratic political similarity and trust and respect is challenged.
With specific reference to the Middle East, it can be observed that