The American, Mexican, Turkish,
and Chinese Revolutions
"As revolutions have begun, it is natural to expect that other revolutions will follow."
— Thomas Paine, 1791
What were the international effects of the American, Mexican, Turkish, and Chinese revolutions? Although the evidence presented here is not definitive, these four cases support the basic claim that revolutions intensify security competition and increase the risk of war. Each of them exhibited some or all of the destabilizing dynamics found in the three previous cases, and each state approached the brink of war at least once.
Yet three of these revolutions did not lead to all-out war. The absence of war following the American, Mexican, and Turkish revolutions is best explained by the participants' awareness that the use of force was likely to be costly and difficult. These revolutions did not foster powerful fears of contagion, and each took place in geopolitical circumstances that further discouraged the use of force. In other words, the relationship between these revolutionary states and foreign powers was characterized by a powerful condition of defense dominance. Thus, even when serious conflicts arose, the use of force was seen as neither necessary nor appealing. By contrast, fear of contagion and counterrevolution was widespread after the Chinese Revolution, whose international consequences were similar to those of the French, Russian, and Iranian cases.
At first glance, the American Revolution seems an obvious exception to the main argument of this book. Contemporaries saw the War of American Independence and the creation of the United States as an event with poten