Would a world of democratic states prevent war?

Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other. " (American President Bill Clinton in his State of the Union Address to Congress, Jan. 25, 1994) In 1994, American President Bill Clinton declared that the promotion of democracy was one of the most important factors in ensuring America's security and world peace in the post-Cold War era, a policy of the Clinton administration, which is also supported by the current Bush administration.

Clinton's claims are based on the school of thought of international relations known as "democratic peace". The theory of "democratic peace" was developed in the 1980's, but its roots trace back to the 1790's and the writings of Immanuel Kant. The theory suggests that democratic states are incredibly reluctant to go to war against other democratic states, thus it can be argued that an increase in democratic states would result in greater world peace and ensure America's security.

Students of the "democratic peace" school of thought have spent thousands of hours analyzing wars in order to prove that democracies are more peaceful than other forms of governing regime. They claimed to have proven their point by showing that although the 20th century ranking among the most violent periods in history; there were no wars between well-established democracies. Scholars have also conducted a number of studies to discover if there are any hidden reasons such as economic development, trade, alliances etc, to explain why democracies do not go to war against one another.

However it was concluded that democracy and not any other factor, which is the best explanation for the lack of wars between democratic states. Supporters of the "democratic peace" theory attempt to explain the lack of war between democratic states in several ways. Firstly they claim that democratic leaders are restrained from going to war because of their people's reluctance to accept the human and financial costs of war.

Furthermore because in a democracy, leaders usually share power with a legislature, it prevents leaders from rushing into hasty militant action. Secondly "democratic peace" theorists argue that democracies are more likely to view countries with a similar political system in a better light because they probably share many of the same values, and therefore the likelihood of negotiations rather than war is increased.

Thirdly, "democratic peace" followers assert that war between democratic states is greatly decreased because there are powerful organizations such as the United Nations and NATO, which can act as a go between or check point to help maintain balance in power and prevent petty squabbles between democratic states escalating into a more serious situation. Patrons of the "democratic peace" theory would thus argue that the lack of war between democratic states in the past and the nature of democracy itself, would prevent wars in the future if all countries accepted democracy.

However, the theory of "democratic peace" is not universally accepted by students of international relations and is discredited by those who support the theory of international politics known as realism. In his 1994 State of the Union address promoting the spread of democracy, President Clinton made three major assumptions, firstly that democracy is desired by every nation and secondly that it could easily be exported to every nation.

History has shown that the desire of America for every nation to accept democracy is not always shared by the nations themselves i. e. the USSR, Cuba and China. Different economies and cultural values have shown that the spread of democracy is not always possible. Furthermore, America's own view of itself as a crusading hero bringing the much heralded and glorified system of democracy to undemocratic nations has often lead to America becoming involved in costly and counterproductive foreign interventions which have rarely ended with the results that they had originally hoped to obtain.

The two prime examples of this are Vietnam and Iraq. It will be of no comfort then that America's justification of it's current air strikes on the country of Afghanistan, following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th 2001, is to remove the Taliban, the current rulers of Afghanistan and replace them with a democratic governing body.