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The Democratic Peace Theory: Merits and Demerits Analytical Essay

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Peace is an essential aspect that any country ought to uphold for the better growth and development of the country. However, peace is dictated by the type of regime that a given state has in its leadership. Some countries would prefer a democratic system.

Others use the capitalist way of administration, whereas there are a few countries that exercise dictatorship as a form of administration.

The democratic peace theory has been argued to support the liberal theory of international relations. However, there is also a thought that the democratic peace theory is a failed form of administration.

This paper will discuss the democratic peace theory, its merits and demerits, the reasons for its contribution to the international relation, and the reasons for its rejection by some scholars.

Democratic Peace Theory

According to Reiter (2012 p. 1), democratic peace refers to the idea that certain democracies are safe as well as peaceful in other foreign relations.

It is the assumption that through democracy, nations will be peaceful with relations that they have with their international allies Democratic peace is anchored on the premise that peace is attainable when elements of negativity are banished from the international sphere (Reiter 2012, p. 3).

However, Gobatti claims that it is impossible to have democratic peace or even to study democratic peace theory and its application without mentioning the place that war has in this type of governance (2000, p. 22).

He continues to explain that, many democratic countries are always looking for ways to benefit from other nations at the minimum costs possible.

In other words, a democratic country will use international relations to gain maximally from other nations at the least cost implications. Some may, however, decide to enter into some of an agreement that can result in a mutually beneficial situation, says Hobson (2011, p. 1904)

Aviles (2005, p. 34) reveals that democracies are less likely to engage in war than other forms of rulership. This can be contributed to the fact that these countries tend to use negotiations while dealing with the international community.

Aviles (2005, p. 35) continues to reveal that countries that have not established firm democracies tend to be unstable in terms of peace than countries that do not practice democracy.

This is attributed to the fact that the process in which the less democratic country goes through to attain full democracy is commonly characterized by internal wars, where the different communities fight over the limited resources and the hunger and thirst for power (Palan 2000, p. 576).

There are two explanations for the democratic peace; the monadic explanation and the dyadic view of democratic peace, says Guadro (2013, p. 6).

With a monadic view of democratic peace, there is an assumption that a democratic country will maintain peace with other international communities regardless of whether those foreign communities are of democratic view of peace or not (Douglas 1997, p. 408).

In addition, it holds the thought that, countries do not need to engage in any form of war unless when provoked in the form of an attack; thus, they need to fight back as a way of protection. (Douglas 1997, p. 409). This can be argued as an advantage to the country that practices such a democratic peace position.

The reason is that a country that does not believe so much in violence will not invest highly in the military. It will not recruit as many military personnel as those countries that believe in the power and might of war.

As a result, Mousseau (2003, p. 486) admits that the cost implicated in maintaining a small military group and less sophisticated weapons is reduced.

This has also been confirmed by Slaughter (1995, p. 720) who says that it is even better to invest heavily in the health and medicine sectors rather than having sophisticated weapons. Such a country will thus shift its focus to other developmental goals that the ruling government has.

Examples of such developmental goals would be the improvement in industrialization, tourism, mining, agriculture, among others.

On the other hand, this form of democratic peace can be seen a weakness in the country might not be able to rescue itself in the event that there is a serious invasion of a country that has strong military power and highly sophisticated weapons (Chioza, Giacomo & Goemans 2011, p. 35).

Dyadic democracies are typically associated with various European countries, says Ray (1995, p. 68). Also on this list are Canada and the United States of America. According to Gobatti (2000, p. 22), this type of democracy tends to reduce its perseverance in countries that are not considered as more democratic.

In other words, countries in a dyadic form of democracy may engage in war with countries that do not primarily hold onto a democracy from of administration.

This is believed to be part of their international relations with the international community. Macmillan (2003, p. 234) admits that, such democracies as dyadic democracy are seen as to support various wars that are fought against non-democratic countries.

Liberal Theory in International Relations

According to Mousseau (2003, p. 491), international relations can be looked at in three ways. There are the realism approach, institutionalism approach, and the liberal approach to international relations. Slaughter (1995, p. 717) admits that the realist approach to international relations is the widely used approach.

It uses the realist nature of events to address to various issues that are affecting the countries in consideration. Mousseau (2003, p. 492) reveals that this approach is anchored on the assumptions that the international community is made up of different states that are unique and governed differently.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that the different nations will be in an agreement over any matter should these countries meet to discuss issues affecting them (Mousseau 2003, p. 492).

In institutionalism, various aspects of rules and principles are integrated with decision-making, where different nations have to follow certain laid rules and principles as the founding principles of their interaction.

This, as explained by Slaughter (1995, p. 719) results in signing of international agreements that govern the way international communities will relate to each other.

According to Douglas (1997, p. 410), these agreements require commitments from each country as a violation of the same would lead to sanctions and other far-reaching consequences that are imposed by the country that feels agitated, says Palan (2000, p. 581).

Liberalism is the third and the best alternative to both realism and institutionalism approaches to international relation. According to Aviles (2005, p. 46), liberalism is an approach that has attracted different theories that explain its operation, and among the notable ones being the ‘liberal internationalism’ by Wilsonian.

According to Chioza, Giacomo and Goemans (2011, p. 40). The main aim of liberalism is to achieve lasting cooperation as well as the peace that would be enjoyed internationally.

Chioza et al. (2011, p. 41) add that liberalism also tends to address the various approaches that can be used to achieve international peace. It uses other theories such as the ‘democratic peace theory’, ‘commercial peace theory’, ‘institutional peace theory’, and the ‘international law.

Democratic Peace Theory and the Liberal theory in International Relations

According to Reiter (2012, p. 10), the democratic peace theory holds the thought that there is no need for war unless the practicing country has been so pressed that there is no other alternative to counter the attack other than to fight back.

On the other hand, liberal theory tends to advocate for an international community that is peaceful with increased cooperation, says Hobson (2011, p. 1910). There is a collaboration between what the democratic peace theory hold to and what the liberal theory advocates for, admits Hobson (2011, p. 1911).

If nations could resort to the democratic view of administration, then the entire world could be a peaceful place to be, where war is rare and the different nations are united and collaborates in various agendas (Sucharov 2009, p. 6).

There are cases where the democratic peace theory has been used to address peace that is advocated for by the liberal theory.

According to Chioza et al. (2011, p. 43), the UN General Assembly has in the past called for nations to sign peace agreements and declarations that they would not engage in a war for their selfish reasons, other than when provoked and their security threatened.

Chioza et al. (2011, p. 41) go on to say that there are quite a considerable number of countries that have agreed to this UN General Assembly requirement on promoting global peace.

According to Ray (1995, p. 50) the results have been tremendous. The number of wars against nations has reduced significantly to a point where only wars that are related to the terror attacks and threats are being fought by some of the countries that signed the agreement (Ray 1995, p. 51).

Chioza et al. (2011, p. 43) say that among the reasons that makes it possible to intertwine the democratic peace theory with the liberal theory is that many countries are in dire need of peace. Hobson (2011, p. 1914) adds that no country wishes to see its members dying as a result of the war that could have been prevented otherwise.

As Palan (2000, p. 583) puts it, in democratic countries, a ruler is re-elected only if he performed according to the expectation of the voters.

Palan (2000, p. 583) continues to say that, one of the major determinants of the success of a ruler is the ability to promote peace. Those who are seen as promoting peace are likely to be re-elected back to the office.

On the contrary, those who do not seem to promote peace as required for by the voters are normally not re-elected. It is therefore easy to agree with Macmillan (2003, p. 240) who says that democratic peace theory is crucial in promoting international relations as it is peace that is at the heart of any international relations.

According to Palan (2000, p. 584), democratic peace encourages economic growth among the countries that practice this form of administration. The economy of any country is dependent on the political stability of a country.

Aviles (2005, p. 50) agrees with this as he is quoted as saying that in a country that is marred by war, then the establishment of industries is hampered, people no longer go to their places of work and are instead made to flee to safer places.

Houses are burnt with businesses looted. To this effect, the economic development of such countries is staggering (Aviles 2005, p. 50).

On the contrary, in a country where the political field is stable, then there are hardly wars that are reported to emanate from such a country. New industries will be established, jobs will be created, no houses will be burnt and no businesses will be looted.

As a result, the economic growth of such a nation will grow at a higher rate because of the efforts that are made by the stakeholders.

Therefore, this explains why the democratic peace theory promotes the liberal theory of international relations. Countries that practices democratic peace will have its economy stable and can even collaborate with other countries to promote peace at an international platform (Aviles 2005, p. 52).

Another reason that explains why the democratic peace theory is necessary for supporting liberal theory of international relations is the fact that in a democratic country, leaders tend to listen to what the public is saying (Slaughter 1995, p. 739).

If the public is not heard, then the leaders in such a nation are assured of being ousted from power especially during general elections. To this effect, many leaders in democratic nations promote peace and economic growth because they would not love to see themselves out of power soon.

Mousseau (2003, p. 505) reports that leaders in democratic nations tend to come together to promote what their public desires. Given that a majority of the public in democratic nations want peace, then the liberal theory of a peaceful world can be realized.

It is possible to come to terms with anyone who has the same goals and ambitions as yours. Similarly, it is possible for nations that have the same goals come together and unite for the achievement of those shared goals.

This is the case with democratic nations. Hobson (2011, p. 1920) says that democratic countries tend to have common interests. This unites them even more and thus there is the promotion of peace.

Douglas (1997, p. 413) claims that democratic nations promote what can be termed as a transnational community.

This is to mean that although these nations have their policies that govern them, they tend to embrace what other nations believe and the way that the leadership in that country carries out its authoritative operation.

Douglas (1997, p. 413) adds that there is the high possibility that democratic communities will promote each other in terms of culture, especially during the times of national calamities.

This can be supported by the reality that many democratic nations have the tendency to promote the tourism sector of their democratic like countries.

Also, it is possible to witness several democracies offerings to assist other democratic countries in times of calamities as floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. This is the exact promotion of transnational community.

On the other hand, there are those who feel that democratic peace theory do not in any way contribute to the international relation that is attributed to international peace.

Douglas (1997, p. 413) reveals that such people hold the thought that it is the capitalist way of doing things that contributes to enhanced international relations rather than democratic peace.

Douglas continues to say that such activities as market growth and increased trade among nations are the driving forces of peace.

Such schools of thought maintain that nations with a capitalist way of administration are more likely to enter into collaboration with other countries in an effort to strengthen trade ties. It is this kind of collaboration that promotes international relation and not democratic peace, claims.

Another reason that is given in opposition to the contribution of democratic peace to the international relation is the fact that some leaders are naturally secretive.

Douglas (1997, p. 414) says that such leaders are not willing to engage with other nations as they think that in so doing, then their administrative system might be at risk.

Douglas admits that, the secrecy among such leaders could be due to their cruel way of rulership or simply because they have a military approach of rulership where one’s secrets are not supposed to be given to the opposing side.

These types of leaders make it difficult to promote international relations through democratic peace.

Douglas (1997, p. 413) adds to the reasons that do not support the contribution of democratic peace to the fact that wars against nations are not necessarily caused by the kind of regime that is applied by the ruling leaders.

He says that wars on nations are mainly due to the perspective of the individuals that are in power. Whether or not a country will go to war against another country will depend on the decisions of the few selected individuals that are at the centre of leadership.


Democratic peace theory holds the thought that it is possible for nations to coexist without the need to engage in a war. In a democratic nation, war is not the first option to seek for attention from the international community. However, there are two types of democracies; monadic and dyadic forms of democracies.

In a monadic democracy, there is the assumption that that the democratic country will remain peaceful to all countries without considering their view and support of the democratic regime.

In a dyadic democracy, the democratic nation tends to support attacks to nations that seem to oppose democracy. There is a good contribution that democratic peace theory makes to the support of the liberal theory of international relations.

Leaders in a democratic nation tend to listen to what the public is saying regarding certain issues as a way of engaging the masses. The leaders are compelled to support peace with the international community rest they be ousted from power in a general election.

Most of the democratic regimes share the same interests. This explains why many of the democratic nations join hands in support of the international collaboration and unity.

On the other hand, some people hold the thought that the democratic peace theory does not necessarily lead to better international relations compared to the capitalist way if the administration is to be credited for such relations.

List of References

Aviles, W 2005, ‘The democratic-peace thesis and U.S. relations with Colombia and Venezuela’, Latin American Perspectives, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 33-59.

Chiozza, G & Goemans, HE 2011, Leaders and international conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Cuadro, M 2014,Democracy, intervention and liberal strategy’, The Economist, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 3-8.

Douglas, A 1997, ‘Press freedom and the democratic peace’, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 405–414.

Gobetti, Z 2000, A revision of the theory of democratic peace, Bologna University Press, Bologna.

Hobson, C 2011, ‘Towards a critical theory of democratic peace’, International Studies, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 1903-1922.

Kahl, CH 1999, ‘Constructing a separate peace: constructivism, collective liberal identity, and democratic peace’, Security Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 94–144.

Macmillan, J 2003, ‘Beyond the separate democratic peace’, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 233-243.

Mousseau, M 2003, ‘The nexus of market society, liberal preferences, and democratic peace: interdisciplinary theory and evidence’, International Studies Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 483-508.

Oneal, J & Bruce, R 2000, ‘Comment: Why ‘an identified systemic analysis of the democracy–peace nexus’ does not persuade’, Defence and Peace Economics, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 197–214.

Palan, R 2000, ‘A world of their making: an evaluation of the constructivist critique in international relations’, Review of International Relations, vol. 26, pp. 575-598

Rasmussen, MV 2003, The West, civil society and the construction of peace, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire.

Ray, JL1995, Democracy and international conflict: an evaluation of the democratic peace proposition, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia.

Risse-Kappen, T 1995, Cooperation among democracies: The European influence on U.S. foreign policy, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Slaughter, M 1995, ‘Liberal international relations theory and international economic law’, American University International Law Review, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 717-743.

Sucharov, M 2009, Theory and research in international relations, Carleton University Press, Loeb.

Wendt, A 1999, Social theory of international politics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK

Widmaier, WW 2005, ‘The democratic peace is what states make of it: a constructivist analysis of the US–Indian ‘NearMiss’ in the 1971 South Asian crisis’, European Journal of International Relations, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 431–455.

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