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Thursday, 8 November 2007

Michael Doyle Democratic Peace Theory

By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Hj Ismail

Since the end of the World War II, nations have tried to emancipate themselves from colonization and other nation’s tyranny and oppression. The idea of balance of power which proved to be useless after World War I, had encourage the free world to promote democracy among the subject states. One of the reasons why such freedom development is coined was to discourage fighting war among states. Such beliefs and political theory is considered new especially towards the post-war scholars. But the origins of such dogma or beliefs is actually had been coined and developed first by Immanuel Kant in the 18th Century through his essay “Perpetual Peace” which was written in 1795.

According to Kant, with democracy come the power of voting and plebiscites. People as a whole act like a thinking drive would never vote and choose to go to war, unless in self defence. The primer reason why people went to war is to seek other resources and expanding political sphere. Such act would involve an act of aggression in precipitate war. But inline with the Michael Doyle’s theory, such democratic nations would not fight war with other democratic nations. Such claimed is much debatable and I will meticulously discuss the theory in this writing on the limitation and influence of Michael Doyle’s theory in explaining war within the democratic regimes.

Democracy and its essence

Although Michael Doyle’s - Democratic Peace Theory is no doubt debatable, but the essence and empirical principal of such claims is worth valued and studied. We know that in the modern era of political dominations and survival, such complex of human systems will not stop to evolved and expand. Such development will create an opportunity in developing new studies and discipline in explaining governmental structure and free world systems. Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace theory shouldn’t only be seen as mere democracy against democracy, but the scope of the study is wide as such, the relationship and conceptual plan can also be dissect in explaining the psychological behaviour of a republican states and parliamentarian states system. Democracy too can be split into many groups as young democratic nations, and old (stable) democratic states which is more complex after a hundred years of evolution such as United States and United Kingdom.

After World War II, comes the end of the world colonization. During the war, world regimes such as United States and Great Britain had felt and benefits from the reciprocal relations between the allied nations in terms of trade, knowledge information and military cooperation. It had created inadvertently a trade route and economic systems of benefiting the world at large. In administering such behaviour in efficient manner, such involved governments need a stable democratic regime which provides executive efficiency. Such endeavour which promotes democratic election among the people’s representative and thus bringing prosperity where individual ownership is encouraged. That situation will then leads to the emerging power through the ballot box, where peoples realize that the war is not the factor which contributes to good living standard and greater equality. The main thrust to such objective is economic viability.

Cold war

The declination of the colonization had encouraged the winners of the World War II to promote freedom and democracy. In fighting the alluring beliefs of world Communism especially among the third world nations, they (the developed world), were ready to jettisoned their colony either it be in Southeast Asia or African States. But the debates between which ideology provides greater freedom is at the height when Soviet Russia claims that their economic Marx system in Russia works in encouraging growth and equality especially among the poor peasants in rural Russia. Such claimed had been seen as a threat especially among the Capitalist states as such President John F. Kennedy once defined the United States and their allies as the “free world” when comparing them (Capitalist states) with Soviet Union. That effort in re-branding the Capitalist states into free world had gives a positive impact that the Soviet Russia is widely considered the oppressor of the free world and war between both super powers is imminent.

Despite the fact, rural peasants in Russia backing up the ideology beliefs that the Communist system promotes by Karl Marx and enhanced by Lenin is the saviour of the Russian people against the despotic leader of Russian Tsar, the free world sees it as the evil hegemonic power of the east waiting to crunch the small states. But major war against the free world and Soviet Union is never been fought except in lesser extent through battle experiments either it be in the east European states or in Vietnam. Such effect of engaging other side of the wall in small wars and not in major scale war was an effort in promoting which sides is better in developing technology using either Capitalistic dogma or Communism collective effort.

Low politics in democracy

The theory that developed and coined by Michael Doyle can be utilize in analyzing political matters and geopolitical issues among the democratic states and inter-relations between democracy and autocratic states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or any feudal states in the modern era. Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace theory to an extent can be used in determining security issues among the modern world. If any particular states that don’t want to fight war against any great superpower especially against any democratic states, then democracy is the answer. The scale or extent of the war which will explode is debatable. But usually, war against another democratic state which is never been fought except in small conflicts which can be defined as war.

For an example, there are debates that the main reason for United States to invade Iraq in 2003 is to promote democracy which will be an example among the Arab States in the region which at the time being are governed by an autocratic regimes or monarch’s rule. If democracy prevails in Iraq, it will be a major threat issues for neighbouring country such as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia or Southern Arab nations. To an extent, there are attempts by the neighbouring Arab countries to ensure democracy in Iraq to fail. By invading Iraq in 2003, President Bush had send a signal in saying that United States will only allied themselves with the democratic government. It had created an impact whereby Muammar Ghadaffi upon seeing Saddam Hussein fall in Iraq, tried to open Libyan borders and integrate his nation with the free world of the West in expressing that axis leaders of the Arab world.

Democratic norms and civil society

The Democratic World Peace Theory developed by Michael Doyle also is an extension of Immanuel Wallerstein’s World System Analysis. Such connectivity and trade relations experienced by the related nations are very much affecting the outcome in creating equilibrium among the world states. Most of the democratic country in the world today is developed and such economic influence then will impose an impact on the peripheries and semi-peripheries states to act as the same manner as the core group. Such economic inter-reliant is seen as promoting democracy and creating an efficient market norms for the trading states to interact. We know that in economy, the most efficient management will gain mostly from any business partnership or business relation. In providing such efficient administering executives, that particular system will need a free society that will provide an efficient individual to execute such tasks.

Plus, more people are provided with freedom and power of choosing. More nations will prosper to greatness and freedom. In doing so, such nations will have to have a democratic elections within the states. By empowering individuals, then societies or certain nations will become more efficient and smart. A smart society will shun any conflict arises and will try to solve any conflict arise in a good manner at the same time avoiding war. By empowering individuals and give them the power of ownership, individuals which resided the highest helm of executive branch will then work for the sake of public interest and not posturing towards any particular groups in making judgments. Such traits of efficient working manner will guard the safety of the public as a whole.

The theory of Democratic World Peace also can be used in justifying wars against the non-democratic regimes in current situations. The situations in the Middle East and North Korea are a perfect example explaining such claims. For the democratic nations such as lead by the United States, Japan and South Korea, war against the North Korea is inevitable. This is because there is no any democratic organization and individual freedom in North Korea. The state is governed through autocratic hereditary leader that was passed to the heir after that particular leader is dead. The reality of having no democracy process or any effort in moving towards individual freedom can be used by the free world as an alibi to wage war against Pyongyang and remove the despotic leader as had been done in Iraq. North Korea is considered as a threat to the free world.

Capitalism and free trade

The World Democratic Peace theory also can be used in promoting capitalism and free trade. By exemplified the workable Capitalistic states as such can be seen in Chinese Taipei, and South Korea had vested such a pressure for the Communist state of China and North Korea to adopt the same ideology in avoiding being a failed state that is contributed by a failed economic system. Even though such claims doesn’t really show a clear evidence of effectiveness, but when Hong Kong was given back to the Republic Peoples of China, Hong Kong was govern by a different entities which is based in Kowloon and not in Beijing. Such action and method of governance is seeing by critics as retaining the efficiency of the past Democratic regimes.

The major superpower of the West intermittently had interfered and interjects into the problems of a failed region such as in Africa and Balkans. Such policy of political intervention is seeing by the citizens of the free world as a necessary action in promoting democracy. Such as what had been debated in the Security Council and the much needed active role by the United Nations in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Darfur. Due to the incompetent governance and autocratic rule of the African tribes, it is a responsible task for the free world in promoting civil government and democracy in Africa. Same what had happened in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule, there are no democratic process and individual freedom in Afghanistan which then encouraged and pressured the United States to remove such inclusive government and replace it with a more competent and democratic government which proved to be more moderate and progressed.

Definition of democratic states by Michael Doyle’s Theory

Perhaps the defects and weaknesses of Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace Theory is that its limitation in gaining its absolute reputation for its validity in explaining democracy in details. There are a numbers of limitations by the theory which makes it doubtful in explaining a detail relation between intra-democratic states. The definition of Democracy which is applied by Michael Doyle’s is ambiguous and unclear. What can be defined as democratic states? Is it the regular plebiscites which were held or the governmental mechanism which overseeing and monitoring free society as a whole? There are evidence that democracy also can be set up in an oligarchic way which is governed by a selected few and providing a society with unprecedented efficiency in the art of governance such had been experienced in Switzerland and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

According to Joseph P. Schumpeter, the power of a democratic nation also is debatable. To what extent that a democratic government can make decision in compromising a minority group’s future such as what had happened in Australia. How much power and influenced that a minority group can have in people’s parliament or democratic senates? Is the endeavour in guarding the interest of a small minority is considered undemocratic or to what extent is the power of Human Rights organizations should be vested with? These are the issues that should be addressed in implementing democracy and one of the ways of doing such is by having a civil society. Can democratic states and democratic government wage war against another democratic regime? What extent of democratic mechanism are we talking about and to what degree a conflict that arises can be determined as war? Those are limitation of democracy that needed a detail examination before Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace Theory can be study and examine.

There are arguments that the role and nature of Republican states and parliamentarian states systems also determined a decision made by those governments in waging war. Take for an example of the Pakistan situation where much of the democratic government which claimed by the winning parties as democratic, but at the same time still shadowed by tribal influence and autocratic rule of the military general. Coup by coup had been experienced and the decision of such government in waging small wars with India on the issues of Jammu-Kashmir can be seen as a testament of to what extent a democratic state can be considered democratic? But one of the advantages of the democratic government in making a decision to go to war is its mechanism in scrutinizes the decision taken in the people’s parliament. This will gave an executive and people’s representatives in going public and venture into open debate on such intentions. Inadvertently, such an act will then send clear and reliable information regarding the intentions of democracies to other states, plus there will be pressures to resolute a conflict arises through political solutions by the United States and United Nations for the country that want to go to war.

Young democracy

For the young democratic regime of the world which still doesn’t possessed the most important governmental mechanism which is a civil society, the challenge and prone to war is quite obvious. By experiencing years of political struggle to emancipate themselves from colonial rule, young democratic states ventured themselves into a liberal states which postulate to war in ending disputes. The reason being is that there are no public interest to uphold and no economic perpetuity for nation’s development except nationalism agenda in waging war. According to research done by Michael Doyle’s and a number of political analyst, Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace Theory have a possible exceptions to the democratic states which are young. Many of them therefore added a qualifier, typically stating that the peacefulness apply to democracies older than three years (Doyle 1983), (Russet 1993), (Rummel 1997), (Weart 1998). Rummel argued that, for a young democratic government to be fully applied, time is needed for the democratic culture to settle in.

Ones had to examine too on the issues of a conflict system when studying Michael Doyle’s Democratic Peace Theory. The nature of a conflict itself is a precursor for wars and why battle is fought between two states. Most of the historical conflict had been initiated by one autocratic general or leader and not by collective government decision making mechanism. According to Reiter and Stam (2003), autocracies initiate’s conflicts against democracies more frequently than democracies do against autocracies. There are proven governmental mechanism in utilizing oligarchic approach in handling internal differences such as in Malaysia when sole party of Malay based UMNO is grasping the political helm of Malaysian lifestyle and much of the decision making made, posturing towards the interest of the Malays race. That political solution works in ending economic differences of the three main races of Malaysia.

Political structure

For a democracy to be fully settled in into a young democratic regime there had to be democratic norms. Such norms need to be built up by years of democratic experiments through internal differences and numerous public interest issues. Until democratic norms is fully settle in, young democratic regime is still prone in making decision to engage in any battle or war for a quick solution. To have such norms also, what was needed is the democratic political structure. Reason why most of the young democratic states of the world still engage in major conflict are there is no intact and balance democratic structure which can be accounted for settling conflicts. Such can be seen from what happened in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Cambodia. To have a relying democratic mechanism, peoples need to have a political structure which they can account to when the time comes.

Dyadic and monadic

The argument put up by Michael Doyle’s in his theory is solely based on the dyadic beliefs that democracies do not fight war one another. But scholars had taken his theory to a whole new concept in explaining conflict arises by claiming that the world is operating in monadic manner. Monadic means that, democracy is more peaceful in nature. Although the war and conflict are still fought between democratic states (young or established democracy), but the nature of the combating war is that it is less lethal and lesser effect than wars which are fought between democratic and non-democratic states.

Factors which are involved in explaining why war does not clash among the democratic states are the economic factors. Such factors involved wealth, growth and interdependence with each other. Such an economic alliance will create a political stability of win-win situation and interdependent of each other. The current world is no more like Pax-Britannica or Pax-Romana where the winners will gain an absolute gain. But more peaceful such can be explained when we discuss on the issues of Realism VS Democratic Theory.


1.Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism and Socialism, 1997. Michael Doyle, W. W. Norton;
2.Perpetual Peace, 1972. Immanuel Kant, Garland Pub;
3.On War, 2007. Carl Von Clausewitz, Oxford University Press; and
4.The Prince, On War & The Art of War, 2007. Niccollo Machiavelli, Arc Manor.


Anonymous said...

Degeneracy follows every autocratic system of violence, for violence inevitably attracts moral inferiors. Time has proven that illustrious tyrants are succeeded by scoundrels.

Anonymous said...

Hey - I am certainly glad to discover this. great job!

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