In This Review

Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy
Democracy and Coercive Diplomacy
By Kenneth A. Schultz
Cambridge University Press, 2001, 407 pp.

The journalist Walter Lippman famously held that democracies were "decidedly inferior" in conducting diplomacy. A growing body of scholarship is now finding just the opposite: democracies are unusually good at cooperating, making war, and pursuing successful diplomacy. Schultz has explored democracy's effect on the use of coercive diplomacy in international crises and finds more benefits than liabilities. The public nature of decision-making and competition in a democracy do occasionally undermine foreign policy, as realists warn. But when a strong domestic consensus backs a democratic government's threat to use force, threats become more credible than those issued by nondemocracies. Democracies may find it difficult to conceal domestic constraints on the use of force, but these restraints also make democracies more selective in issuing threats, which further enhances credibility and reduces the risk of empty bluffing. Finally, Schultz provides an interesting twist on the democratic peace. Democracies are not necessarily more peaceful, he writes, but they are more credible -- which ultimately makes the peaceful resolution of disputes more likely.