My last post questioned whether Democratic Peace theory is valid. I highlighted a few reasons for why democracies might be less likely to go to war with each other and offered a couple of points which suggest that Democratic Peace theory might be a statical fluke rather than something with solid evidence and backing. There haven’t been that many democracies in human history, and since WWII most democracies have been allies of the United States. This suggest that we may just be experiencing a period of peace between countries that happened to be democratic. Or that we are experiencing peace between allies, which isn’t very surprising at all.
The arguments against Democratic Peace theory come from Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, but Pinker also demonstrates that Democratic Peace theory does hold up against the points I raised in my last post and does have statistical value. Using larger datasets dating back before WWII and the current Long Peace, we see that, “not only do democracies avoid disputes with each other, but there is suggestion that they tend to stay out of disputes across the board.” Democracies are less likely to fight anyone, not just themselves.
The same is not true for autocracies. They are not less likely to fight each other in the way that democracies are less likely to fight each other. This is true regardless as to whether the United States or Britain has been the world’s leading power. It is not just that democracies have been allied with each other that has decreased disputes. When democracies border autocracies, they are less likely to go to war than two autocracies that border each other. The causal reasons I gave in my last post in support of democratic peace seem to hold, and the cynical take that the statistical sample is too small or that democracies are allies of the United States doesn’t have much power in explaining the longer term history of democracies and conflict.