Is True Peace Only Possible Among Democracies?

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 10
Words: 2510
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: College

Is true peace only possible among democracies? To answer this question the past, present and future states of many countries must be considered. Numerous peacekeeping efforts are being made today. As the awareness of the need for peace is increasing, more and more countries are joining in the efforts to support the countries, which need a peaceful resolution of conflict and wars.

International peacebuilding has taken place in Paris and it is called “mission civilisatrice.” The goal of the countries united in the fight for peace is centered on the cessation of any violence that is present in the country. It is also aimed at reestablishing the order in the countries that experienced civil war. After the end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the number of such peace missions has greatly increased. Today, there is an increase in the literature that focuses on the provision and retaining of peace. These missions are not only theories on how to manage the conflict and set peace but they lay out the procedures and the necessary steps as well. The main point is to establish a democratic government. It is also desired that these countries increase their standards to the international level and join in the mission to help others. This is the time when the developed and the developing worlds should come together in the common direction towards world peace. This can be seen as a globalization of the world but without the negative effect, which is usually attributed to globalization, in destroying the fabric of the country and its culture. Many peaceful missions have taken place since 1989, in several countries: Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cambodia, East Timor, and the former Yugoslavia. The United Nations (UN) is one of the biggest participants in the fight for peace. UN’s goal is to help the countries, which are in need, to have fair and democratic elections in the countries mentioned above. The Organization of American States (OAS) has taken the necessary steps to help establish a democracy in Nicaragua and El Salvador. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has participated in the mission by helping to develop peaceful societies governed by democracy and making sure that voting stays fair in Bosnia and Kosovo. There has also been significant financial help from IMF and World Bank, which also take a great part in the peacekeeping missions. Since 1990s, USAID and countries like Japan, Canada, Britain, France, the Nordic states, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, have taken a serious effort to provide fair treatment of people in the troubled societies. Unfortunately, there have been some criticisms of the way that these countries try to establish democracies in the societies that are shattered by civil war. These include a very dominant presence, which overtakes the natural order of the society and true wants of the native population. There is also a bias in the peacebuilding organizations themselves. They have a clear tendency to give more predispositions to the countries, which are industrialized democracies. The countries that are members of NATO are all liberal market democracies and the decisions taken are usually put forward by the richest members. And instead of finding ways how to address the poorer nations and help them find new ways of functioning, the members simply try to include their participation in the market economy. Before and during the Cold War the principles of fair elections and democratic ruling were not as West-oriented, as they became after the end of the Cold War and the dissipation of Soviet communism. It was after the year 1991 that the missions started taking a more precise nature and focused directly on establishing peace in the troubled nations. There are several points that the peacebuilders try to implement in attaining peace. One of the ways is to draft up the agreements with particular attention to the details and content. Another one is to provide practical and useful advice on how to reach the concepts identified in the peace agreements. The third point is the implementation of certain conditions that would require the country to change economic and political setup and as a trade-off would receive financial aid for these purposes. And the last way that the peacebuilders try to help is by providing a form of “stand-in” governments, which usually consist of international members who take on the responsibility of governing, after the society has been affected by the war. An example of such governing can be seen in Kosovo and East Timor, where such temporary governments would actively participate in the matters of the country. Their governing could be seen in the registration of vehicles, administrative decision making and even the issue of postage stamps. Such governments have proved to be very effective in restoring peace and order the after wartime (Paris 2002, p. 644).

The democratic governments have been able to avoid war and this shows that they have a number of policies in place. The threat to use force comes as a last resource and is partly dictated by the citizens and their protection. It is greatly noticeable that the cooperation between the counties with democracy is beneficial to the partnering nations. Compared to the countries where there is anarchy, the people live in constant fight with the hope to someday attain victory. The political system of the world makes cooperation very hard but not impossible. One of the most important aspects of democracy between democratic countries, is the citizens and the opinions and relationship they have with the population of the fellow country. Another point relates to those in power and the policymakers and the absence of any military threats towards other countries. And the last point pertains to the help that the countries provide for each other in times of crisis (Layne 1994, p. 10). It is a proven fact that democratic countries go to war with each other only at the last resort. There have been numerous times in history when a conflict of interest arose and it led to very unstable times but nonetheless the issues were resolved peacefully. It is the responsibility of the governments to support their own democratic policies and resolve conflicts without violence. This leads to the democratic countries trying to establish the same understanding on an international scale. At the same time the non-democratic countries are not trusted and respected and this is exactly why democratic countries were ready to go to war with non-democracies (Rosato 2003, p. 587). Even though it is thought of as a fact, the absence of war between democracies, there have been some questions that make it seem untrue. The first one is the imprecise nature in the definition of words “war” and “democracy”. The second one points to the fact that wars are very rare and the absence of such between democratic countries is simply an accident. And the third one deals with the proof and true reasons why there are no wars between democracies. John M. Owen in his article titled “How Liberalism Produces Peace” argues that the reason for the democratic peace is the fact that these countries are liberal. Also the democratic countries have the freedom of speech and very often the leaders end their conflict publicly, whereas non-liberal leaders are often pushed towards war by the population and the threat from another country (Owen 1994, p. 89).

In the study of the reasons why there is peace between democracies, realism is the method that is used most often. It is governed by the criteria that all states move towards power and security, while having an anarchic system. And in reality it is the international system and not the governments themselves that determine the policies of the country. Several studies tried to find out the real reason why there were no open conflict wars between democracies. Some research showed that alongside war there were questionable conditions: civil strife, trade practice, covert subversion. At the same time there was crisis management, alliance membership, international treaties and dispute mediation. In reality it is hard to establish if the democratic countries are more peaceful. There have been countless research that tried to prove if this fact is indeed true. The results showed controversial information; with some even being that this statement is not true. The problem lies in the times that these researches were carried out and the way the society and the world organizations defined war and conflict. Very often it was said that the only thing that these countries avoided, was openly violent conflict. But there were many instances when tensions heated up and democracies started to prepare and update their military establishments. But in the nineteenth century, after the World War II, there has been an undeniable decline in the conflict between democratic countries (Chan 1997, p. 60). In his article “The Answer, or An Answer? Evaluating the Democratic Peace Proposition” James Lee Ray states that people often mistake the reason of how certain conclusions are reached. It is the wrongful, hasty conclusion that one fact causes another and no real research is done to find the true connection between the two events. The fact that there is no war amongst democratic countries should not be searched in the mere fact that they are democracies. The answer lies somewhere within the policies and the world view that the governments and the citizens of those countries have. International relations are filled with factors that need a close study over several decades, in order to find the true reasons for the absence of war (Ray 1998, p. 370). Michael Banks talks about the need for programs, which focus on the study of international conflict resolution. He mentions that for some reason people believe that peace means that there are no conflicts or arguments that might arise. It is only the absence of violence. The misunderstanding of conflict and their reasons, leads people to believe that they are non-existent or consider the reason as minor when in reality it is quite significant. Peace is defined by harmony and stability and the absence of war. It is the goal of every nation to preserve the already set order and not allow for any internal or international conflict to upset that order. It is the responsibility of the state to provide constant safety and conditions favorable for a peaceful existence. He also points to the fact that the international countries, which have the most power in the world, are the ones that set the affairs for the smaller countries. These superpowers are defined by their military support and the governing order that has been reached. There are also factors that influence the world economy and market, which are set by these powerful nations. The absence of open war conflict means that these countries are trying to maintain the status of “wise and peaceful” states, so that their influence over others will not be diminished. It is also a common misconception of what must be done in order to reach peace. The proposed peace education focuses on the study of international relations and the training in diplomacy. This is why such proposed programs have been rejected by the international organizations. There have been several proposals for the attainment of peace. The liberals suggest the disarming of the military while conservatives are apt for armed control. There has been an idea that in case disarming does take place, if there was a chance of war breaking out, the peaceful countries would gather their forces in advance. This would create a great amount of force and deter any violent conflict. Another point that is made is the fact that the national peace is attained through a single government, which deals with the issues in their own countries, while world peace and international relations require the cooperation of many governments and the policies that must be set in place are very hard to determine. An option that supposes some merit is the attainment of peace through justice. It is another hard to define subject but it seems as most promising. Justice determines order and fairness, with some actions that are punished and others, which are forgiven. As all societies have some form of justice, it would be easier to align the common laws to make up the international rules of peace. The constant problem with reaching peace is that the policies that are made internally by the governments, all focus on justice but a different story is seen when the actions of governments become international. Those with all the power are very hard to control, they have the freedom of actions and there is no one above the policymakers, so they can manipulate the system to their advantage. A reoccurring problem with establishing a democracy in a country is the constant abuse of certain groups of people and their absence from the political processes. This can be seen from cases in Europe, Africa and Middle East, where people are alienated and often become victims of genocide, even in the twentieth century (Banks 1980, p. 269). There were instances when the governments tried to set up rules based on the principle of honor. The violation of certain regulations requires a voluntary sanction, which was based on the country’s moral code. But sometimes there was much international pressure, which made such sanctions mandatory. The Security Council defined instances when threats to the peace were so serious that necessary steps in the persecution of unwanted action had to be taken. Even though the enforcement of such regulations was a good idea, it took some time in the administration of the laws. It is crucial that such regulatory actions be applied immediately, otherwise they lose their effect. At other times there was an extreme difficulty to control the adherence to the rules because of the diverse locations and uneven distribution of economical and political power (White 1997, p. 109). There was even The Law of Weaponry, which prohibited the manufacturing and the use of certain weapons that were considered especially deadly. Biological weapons and those of mass destruction were included in the list (Kalshoven 2000, p. 208). History has shown that there were many attempts at creating world peace and order within the nations and around the world. The international judiciary system implemented many laws but the downside was that these actions by the judges were not seen and thus appeared as non-existent. The laymen, politicians and the public at large must take great care in paying attention to the enforcement of said rules in the preservation of peace (Bougrov 1987, p. 156).

It is clear that there are laws that are directed towards the creation and maintenance of peace. Not only each nation has them, but there are also international laws set up by the world’s organizations and United Nations. Even though there is some evidence that supports the view that peace exists only between democracies, the definition of peace is still a very relative and lucid concept, which must be defined universally.


Banks, M 1980, ‘Four conceptions of peace’, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13 no. 2 pp. 258-273.

Bougrov, E 1987, ‘The United Nations and the maintenance of international peace and security’, Brill Archive, Lancaster.

Chan, S 1997, ‘In search of democratic peace: Problems and promise’, Mershon International Studies Review, vol. 41 no. 1, pp. 59-91.

Kalshoven, F 2000, The centennial of the 1st international peace conference: Reports & conclusions, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Cambridge.

Layne, C 1994, ‘Kant or Cant: The myth of the democratic peace’, International security, vol. 19 no. 2, pp. 5-49

Owen, J 1994, ‘How liberalism produces democratic peace’, International Security, vol. 19 no. 2, pp. 87-125.

Paris, R 2002, ’International peacebuilding and the ‘Mission Civilisatrice’, Review of International Studies, vol. 28 no. 4, pp. 637-656.

Ray, J 1998, ‘The answer, or an answer? Evaluating the democratic peace proposition paths to peace: Is democracy the answer?’, Mershon International Studies Review, vol. 42 no. 2 pp. 369-371.

Rosato, S 2003, ‘The flawed logic of democratic peace theory’, The American political science review, vol. 97 no. 4, pp. 585-602.

White, N 1997, ‘Keeping the peace: The United Nations and the maintenance of international peace’, Manchester University Press, New York.