Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World

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Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World

By Bruce Russett
Princeton University Press, 1993
173 pp. $19.95

Veteran Yale international-relations theorist Bruce Russett and his collaborators provide a valuable counterpart to the Singer-Wildavsky volume above by methodically examining the proposition that democracies do not fight each other. Russett finds this to be an extraordinarily robust conclusion, examining and rejecting the counterexamples (e.g., the Boer War, the Spanish-American War, U.S. covert action against Guatemala and Chile) often raised to refute the thesis. Russett similarly discounts alternative explanations for democratic peace, such as the view that it is the product of international institutions, or simple geographical distance. He argues that peace is the product of shared norms and institutions that severely constrain the ability of one modern democracy to fight another. Russett concludes by worrying that the democratic peace may be violated by a number of the new democracies emerging after the Cold War, where democracy is tied to intolerant nationalism and ethnicity. While the methodological apparatus can make for tough going at points, the book presents a challenge to realists while providing a rigorous undergirding to what has become a widespread view.

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