Peacemaking by Democracies

By Ripsman, Norrin M.; Welch, David A. | International Journal, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Peacemaking by Democracies


Ripsman, Norrin M., Welch, David A., International Journal


MISCELLANEOUS

The effect of state autonomy on the post-world war settlements

Norrin M. Ripsman

University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002, viii, 272pp, US$45.00, ISBN 0-271-02222-1

Political science, done well, often involves a delicate balancing act. Peacemaking by Democracies is political science at its best. Here the relevant balancing act is between storytelling and formalism, between 'mere' history and methodological fetishism. Norrin Ripsman gets the balance just right, and the result is a book that tells us something both novel and important.

Rightly noting that political scientists in most subfields readily acknowledge that different types of democratic states do things rather differently, Ripsman wonders why it is that students of national or international security tend not to do so. Some - neorealists, for example - do not think domestic forms of government are interesting or relevant at all. There are those who tend to think that democracies behave rather differently from authoritarian or totalitarian states - more traditional realists and liberals, for example - but few consider whether there are interesting differences within the democratic camp. Ripsman wants to find out, and discovers that there are. Democracies in which the executive enjoys considerable foreign-policy autonomy have a much easier time formulating and pursuing unpopular goals, but are disadvantaged in multilateral negotiations vis-a-vis democracies in which the executive operates under severe domestic constraint. Highly constrained leaders can pursue unpopular objectives, if they are willing to try their hands at domestic deception; but this is a costly strategy, carrying with it great risk of subsequent electoral punishment.

Ripsman makes his case by comparing the predictions of a 'Neorealist Model,' a 'Traditional Model' (classical realist/liberal), and an 'Autonomy Model' with respect to the goals of, and the outcomes of negotiations between, the United States, Britain, and France as these countries grappled with the problem of building a stable peace after each of the two world wars. …

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