In War's Wake: International Conflict and the Fate of Liberal Democracy

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In War's Wake: International Conflict and the Fate of Liberal Democracy
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Cambridge University Press, 2010
326 pp. $29.99
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The most profound effects of war are often felt far from the battlefield. In the mobilization for war and in its aftermath, states have expanded government powers, extended voting rights, reorganized political coalitions, and in many other ways transformed the very character of the state. This groundbreaking book brings together distinguished academics who explore the ways that the wars of the last two centuries have affected democracy. Scholars have long noted that major wars tend to cause states to expand political participation -- that the demands of raising mass armies during World War I and World War II, for example, resulted in new voting rights and social welfare provisions. Some authors here confirm this view, but the book as a whole tends to find more complex and uncertain linkages between war and democracy. One author shows that the conscription of mass citizen armies leads to more political participation within warring societies, whereas voluntary professional armies tend to have the opposite effect. Another finds that the growth of intrusive policing authority and government secrecy is tied more to domestic threats to political order than to international conflict. Several chapters focus on the bigger picture -- whether war has an impact on the very emergence of democracy. Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder find no direct causal connection, but others see instances in which defeat bolstered democratic forces. Miguel Centeno raises perhaps the most ominous point: that the new type of war -- the "war on terror" -- has none of the democracy-enhancing effects of the mass-army sort. Instead, it reinforces the segregation of the military from the rest of society and undermines civil liberties.