Democracy and War: Institutions, Norms, and the Evolution of International Conflict

Democracy and War: Institutions, Norms, and the Evolution of International Conflict

Democracy and War: Institutions, Norms, and the Evolution of International Conflict

Democracy and War: Institutions, Norms, and the Evolution of International Conflict

Synopsis

Conventional wisdom in international relations maintains that democracies are only peaceful when encountering other democracies. Using a variety of social scientific methods of investigation ranging from statistical studies and laboratory experiments to case studies and computer simulations, Rousseau challenges this conventional wisdom.

Excerpt

Do domestic institutions and political norms influence foreign policy decisions? This book examines this question by focusing on one of the most important decisions a political leader will make: whether or not to usemilitary force to resolve inter-state conflicts. When facing conflicts such asterritorial disputes, treaty violations, or threats to nationals abroad, political leaders must determine if military force is an appropriate response to theexternal challenge. Leaders must carefully weigh the probability of success associated with a military solution with the potential domestic andinternational costs of the policy. Domestic political institutions and norms caninfluence this decision process in a number of ways. Over the long term, institutions socialize current and future political leaders regarding acceptable means for resolving political conflicts both at home and abroad. Moreimmediately political institutions determine which members of the political elite participate in the decision regarding the use of force. After a use of force, institutions can facilitate the punishment of leaders who choose to use force and fail to achieve foreign policy objectives, succeed but at a socially unacceptable cost, or violate social standards in pursuit of victory.

More broadly, one can ask whether political institutions influence public policy in general; the answer to this question seems to be an obvious yes. It is common knowledge that the choice of a voting rule for elections, such as proportional representation versus “first-past-the-post, ” can have a decisive influence on subsequent policy choices (Lijphart 1977). Similarly, institutional theorists have shown that the structure of the decision-makingprocess in the legislature can induce equilibrium despite the potential for voting . . .

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