In This Review

Ballots and Bullets: The Elusive Democratic Peace
Ballots and Bullets: The Elusive Democratic Peace
By Joanne Gowa
Princeton University Press, 1999, 144 pp.

The democratic-peace argument, which holds that democracies tend not to fight each other, is one of the few lawlike generalizations in international relations. It has also inspired the Clinton administration's strategy of expanding the zone of democracy. Now Gowa has come out with the most important and sustained critique of this premise. Using sophisticated statistical techniques, she argues that aside from the Cold War era democracies were in fact no less likely to fight with each other than with nondemocracies; conventional realist arguments best explain the incidence of war between states, and power determines the state interests that drive foreign policy. To Gowa, the democratic-peace phenomenon is really a side effect of the Cold War system, not an inherent trait of state behavior. States that do ally with each other are driven by common security fears; they may be less inclined to fight each other, but primarily for balance-of-power reasons. This book will spark valuable discussion as the post-Cold War world tests both the democratic-peace argument and Gowa's alternative.