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June 30, 2005

A Must Read on War & Peace

Every once in a while there's an extraordinary essay that goes a good deal to help me contextualize many of the debates that fly back and forth among the chatting classes. This one by RJ Rummel is one that I'll certainly use in the future.

How could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other and are generally more peaceful? For one there has been an unfortunate tendency to focus on the many wars of a few democracies while ignoring the many wars of many nondemocracies. Moreover, to the disadvantage of democracies, there is an inclination to treat all wars equally, such that the American invasion of Grenada, the Falklands War, and World War II, are each counted as one war.

Still, how could it be missed that democracies do not make war on each other? The problem is that many who write and speak about these issues do not ordinarily think dyadically. They think of nations as developed or undeveloped, strong or weak, democratic or undemocratic, large or small, belligerent or not. That is, they think monadically.

Since Rummel is in something of a discussion with Dean Esmay, part of the question at hand is refinement of the definition of 'classic liberalism' as expressed through Enlightenment thought and the specifics of:

Kant, de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill, among others, it became an article of classical liberal faith in the 18th and 19th centuries that:

Government on the old system," as Paine wrote, "is an assumption of power, for the aggrandizement of itself; on the new [republican form of government as just established in the United States], a delegation of power for the common benefit of society. The former supports itself by keeping up a system of war; the latter promotes a system of peace, as the true means of enriching a nation.

Good stuff. I am particularly piqued by his context of nationalism which fits very nicely with my globalist perspective. I've relied on the notion of global economic grids that lock us into cooperation, but the neoconservative in me is very encouraged by the argument presented that democracies tend not to war against each other, not only because the republican limit on tyranny but because of shared values of democracy itself.

It is in this context that the 'clash of civilizations' may very well be best expressed, although I'm not so convinced as others that China aims to be or eventually will be an implacable foe. In fact, it is Putin that worries me a bit more, and I am really loathe to 'go there' with regard to Iran, not least because I like the overtures that Mohammad Khatami made when he assumed power. On the other hand, he's out as is Rafsanjani. That's a head scratcher.

However it is clear to me that Rummel is onto something. I'm sure others will make the retrospective case and apply future cautions to foreign policy wonks that our neoconservative and imperial ambitions be restricted to those undemocratic regimes regardless of the WMDs they may or may not possess. I'm with them though I would certainly not make the mistake of the monadists.

So this gives me another reason the put the DPRK coordinates into the cruise missles before I consider other coordinates on the axis of evil. It also makes me sweat just a little less about the prospects for the EU (starring France).

Posted by mbowen at June 30, 2005 01:54 PM

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An important thing to note: Rummel is one of the world's foremost political scientists. He was a finalist for the Nobel prize for his study of democracy and war. You will find his name in political science textbooks and most anyone studying poli-sci at a PhD level knows exactly who the cat is.

This is one of the wonders of the blogosphere--one of the world's pre-eminent political scientists is giving everyone a free seminar here in the blogosphere, and you can drop over there any time and ask him questions, challenge him for references, etc. and if they're serious questions he answers, usually right on his own blog or in his comments.

Posted by: Dean Esmay [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2005 07:33 PM