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 arguing that democracy is intrinsically good but by pointing to a wide range of research concluding that democracies rarely, if ever, go to war with one another. To promote democracy, the United States has provided economic assistance, political support, and technical advice to emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe, and it has attempted to remove undemocratic regimes through political pressure, economic sanctions, and military force. In Electing to Fight, Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder challenge the widely accepted basis of these policies by arguing that states in the early phases of transitions to democracy are more likely than other states to become involved in war.
Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative analysis, Mansfield and Snyder show that emerging democracies with weak political institutions are especially likely to go to war. Leaders of these countries 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 revolutionary France to contemporary Russia. Because the risk of a state's being involved in violent conflict is high until democracy is fully consolidated, Mansfield and Snyder argue, the best way to promote democracy is to begin by building the institutions that democracy requires—such as the rule of law—and only then encouraging mass political participation and elections. Readers will find this argument 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 the Islamic world and in China.
About the Authors
Edward D. Mansfield is Hum Rosen Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Power, Trade, and War and International Conflict and the Global Economy.
Jack Snyder is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Columbia University. He is the author of From Voting to Violence: Democratization and Nationalist Conflict; Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition; and The Ideology of the Offensive: Military Decision Making and the Disasters of 1914.
"American foreign policy has been based on the premise that democracy promotes peace. Electing to Fight conclusively shows, however, that democratization, when mishandled, leads to war. Its challenge to the conventional beliefs of scholars and politicians makes it one of the most important books on international affairs in recent decades."
—Samuel P. Huntington, Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor, Harvard University
"Everyone agrees that democracies make peace not war. But is that true? Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield have posed the question and answered it with great rigor and sophistication. The result is an important book that describes a far more complicated relationship between democratization and peace than simple-minded rhetoric would suggest."
—Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International
"With notable analytic agility and rigorous empiricism Mansfield and Snyder dissect the popular policy nostrum that promoting democracy abroad promotes peace in the world. Their incisive work will help policymakers steer clear of misleading, facile assumptions and impel scholars to dig deeper and think harder on a subject of critical contemporary importance."
—Thomas Carothers, Director, Democracy and Rule of Law Project, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"Electing to Fight is an important book. With analytical power and historical depth, Mansfield and Snyder argue for a simple conclusion: democratization can be dangerous, even if democracy, once achieved, is a good thing. Scholars, journalists, politicians, and citizens all need to hear this message, and to heed it. If Mansfield and Snyder are right, then policies that rely on war to promote elections are bound to produce disaster."
—Joshua Cohen, Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of the Humanities and Head of the Department of Political Science, MIT
"While the connections between democracy and peace are increasingly well understood, the process of transforming authoritarian regimes into liberal ones is inherently risky-both for the citizens of the states in question and for their neighbors. Mansfield and Snyder tackle one of the most profound foreign policy puzzles of our age: how to manage the process of political liberalization without creating unnecessary or unacceptable risks for the international community. This work will be of interest to scholars, students, and policymakers alike."
—Allan C. Stam, Professor of Government, Dartmouth College
"When, and how, does democratization increase the chances of war? No question is more important for domestic politics and international affairs in the twenty-first century. Mansfield and Snyder offer specific answers, combining statistical analyses with case studies to demonstrate the critical role played by domestic political institutions. The book provides the most comprehensive evidence on the topic to date. It is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in the theory and practice of democracy."
—Cindy Skach, Assistant Professor of Government, Harvard University
Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2006