PERPETUAL PEACE?

I see Cato is hosting (and streaming over the Web) an interesting looking event next week with Columbia’s Jack Snyder and U Penn’s Edward Mansfield about their new book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War. I spoke briefly to Snyder, after reading a chunk of his previous book on this topic, about a year back while working on a short squib on the rather more radical ideas of Princeton political scientist Joanne Gowa, a skeptic of the democratic peace hypothesis. Without going so far as to endorse Gowa’s critique in all its particulars, she and Snyder are a useful antidote to the assumption that, from the point of view of promoting stability and security, “spreading democracy” (in the formal sense of popular elections) is some kind of silver bullet. What would likely be effective to that end is the spread of liberal democracy—which entails cultivating a whole complex of mores and institutions. It is, of course, much easier to focus on flashier, more photogenic milestones like lines of purple-fingered voters outside polling stations. But as Snyder and Mansfield make clear, it may also be dangerous.

—posted by Julian

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