Academic journal article Military Review

Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another

Academic journal article Military Review

Never at War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another

Article excerpt

NEVER AT WAR: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another by Spencer R. Weart. 432 pages. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 1998. $35.00.

The United States and its allies recently witnessed the late Soviet Union's democratization. We believed the transformation of our enemy's domestic political institutions would transform its foreign and military policies, making it far less a threat to world peace. Why did we believe this, and were we right?

Are democratic nations really less likely to resort to war than autocracies or dictatorships-be they hereditary, communist, fascist or fundamentalist? Spencer R. Weart's book Never at War contains one of the most definitive discussions of this issue. After a panoramic investigation of world history from antiquity to the present, Weart concludes that yes, democracies are inherently peaceful. In the last paragraph he says that the most effective way to "attain universal peace [is] to achieve universal democracy."

Weart's exhaustive research confirms America's seat-of-the-pants intuition. Exactly why democracy promotes peace is another issue--one that does not attest to the inherent wisdom of our preconceptions. Traditionally, Americans distrust government and officialdom. We tend to believe democracies are more pacific than dictatorships because they give more power to "the people," who have vested interest in peace, and less power to the government, which has a vested interest in expanding its own powers through edicts and expenditures. Because war enhances state power, it is naturally attractive to government. According to this logic, if democracy is peaceful, it is largely because the people govern and not the office-holding class. …

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