The foreign policies of democratic countries differ from those of countries with military dictatorship, communism, party rule, and one-party rule. Interests and values coexist in the democratic nations, thus enhancing their common understanding of issues that affect them. In democratic countries, public opinion plays a key role in influencing the government’s decision-making. As argued by Immanuel Kant, peace can only be achieved when states are able to control the power of the ruling class (Kissinger, 1994). Countries that see themselves as democratic find other forms of governance difficult. They see their policies as more advanced compared with those of others’. Hence they want to force other countries to adopt their policies. This has contributed to the increasing number of wars between democratic and non-democratic states, like Iran and Israel and western states versus countries in the Middle East.
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The contention by liberalism that democratic countries do not go to war with each other is true to some extent. History has proved that democracies have a tendency to keep up a peaceful and non-violent relationship with each other, compared to other forms of governance (Waltz, 1979). Liberalists argue that democratic states are able to do this because of the following reasons.
Firstly, liberalism argues that good conduct, obedience to the law, and international organizations are capable of transforming the basis for relations among nations. Unlike realists, they contend that human nature is not essentially evil, and they are able to coexist and collaborate with each other. As a result, good relations among these states become possible as they choose to co-operate with each other as a community and not just as independent and single units. Democracies have been known to work and relate very well with each other and therefore reduce the chances of waging war against each other.
According to realism, states are unitary actors who use their powers to pursue their own selfish interests to meet their goals. Realists argue that the international system is anarchic, and as a result, states use power as a form of leverage during the process of bargaining (Morgenthau, 1948). In a conflict situation, countries have been known to apply several kinds of leverages to meet a more favourable outcome. The overwhelming majority of international transactions occur through bargaining, persuasion or reward, and not violence. Liberalism disagrees with this and contends that order can also be achieved by norms and institutions that work through reciprocity, collaboration, and law.
Liberalism further differs from realism on the concept of rationality. For realists, rationality means that an actor maximizes its own interests in the pursuit of its foreign policy. Liberalists, however, believe that rational actors are capable of forgoing short-term national interests to further the long period of the well-being of the community they belong to. As a result, states will live peacefully together, since each actor tries to pursue not just their interests but also the interests of all the parties involved.
According to Immanuel Kant, though states are autonomous units they can join international organizations like the UN and that international co-operation is a sensible option for states instead of them going to war.
Realists see war and violence as being rational, but for liberals, war and violence are unreasonable as they harm the collective good of the nations and the long-term well-being of the state. Liberalism also opposes the realists’ assumption that the international system is anarchic. They argue that order achievement by the nations is choosing to work with each other and that with the ever-expanding web of interdependence and collaboration, nations can live peacefully with each other.
Liberalists further also states that nations are not unitary actors. Instead, they argue that in the international system, international bargaining among and within bureaucracies, interest groups and other actors with divergent goals and interest groups reduce conflicts in the international system.
Liberalists, unlike realists, believes that force is not a proper form of leverage as it is a costly way to influence other actors. For them, nonmilitary means like diplomacy, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping help them not to resort to war. They further argue that war is not necessary since its outcome is usually uncertain. Instead, states should use international organizations, laws and norms to create stable contexts for bargaining. In democracies, conflicts tend to occur less often since most of these nations are capitalists which economic exchanges have resulted in significant correlation. However, the assumption that democratic states never conflict may not last for long. This is because democratic states continue to increase, and the contention that they can never fight may not hold up for long.
The arguments by the liberals are convincing since though international organizations have not completely achieved their functions; their creation has resulted in relative peace in the world. There has been no third world war, and this attributes to the role of the United Nations in the international arena. Furthermore, the complex relationships created by trade have led to relative order in the world. Countries are bound by trade treaties hence bringing about peace and working together.
Kissinger,. Henry A. Diplomacy. New York: Simon& Schuster, 1994. Print.
Morgenthau, Hans. Politics Among Nations. New York: Knopf, 1948. Print.
Waltz, Kenneth N. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979. Print.