Electing to Fight
Why Emerging Democracies Go to WarBook - 2005
Does the spread of democracy really contribute to international peace? Successive U.S. administrations have justified various policies intended to promote democracy not only by arguingthat democracy is intrinsically good but by pointing to a wide range of research concluding thatdemocracies rarely, if ever, go to war with one another. To promote democracy, the United States hasprovided economic assistance, political support, and technical advice to emerging democracies inEastern and Central Europe, and it has attempted to remove undemocratic regimes through politicalpressure, economic sanctions, and military force. In Electing to Fight, Edward Mansfield and JackSnyder challenge the widely accepted basis of these policies by arguing that states in the earlyphases of transitions to democracy are more likely than other states to become involved inwar.Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative analysis, Mansfield and Snyder show that emergingdemocracies with weak political institutions are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of thesecountries attempt to rally support by invoking external threats and resorting to belligerent,nationalist rhetoric. Mansfield and Snyder point to this pattern in cases ranging from revolutionaryFrance to contemporary Russia. Because the risk of a state's being involved in violent conflict ishigh until democracy is fully consolidated, Mansfield and Snyder argue, the best way to promotedemocracy is to begin by building the institutions that democracy requires -- such as the rule oflaw -- and only then encouraging mass political participation and elections. Readers will find thisargument particularly relevant to prevailing concerns about the transitional government in Iraq.Electing to Fight also calls into question the wisdom of urging early elections elsewhere in theIslamic world and in China.