International Relations: Democracy and Liberalism

Bruce Russett, the author of “Grasping the Democratic Peace,” presents numerous points that are to be discussed throughout the work. Firstly, there is a complex idea that within the modern international system democracies rarely fight each other, as they believe that this should not happen, and they have other ways of resolving conflicts. The author presented the English-American conflict of the 1890s as an example of the situation when two democracies with “special relationships” decided to find a compromise instead of going to war, despite being rivals.

This example is compared to the German-English relationships that ended in war, as Germany was an authoritarian state at that moment. Another prominent example is the crisis of Fashoda, where the situation was tense, but the war between England and France never started partially due to shared liberal and democratic values. Going further into history, the author points out that there were no wars between democracies before the Second World War, and most conflicts were stirred up by authoritarian states. The trend continued into the period after the Second World War, when the number of democracies globally grew, and the trend became widely recognized.

I tend to agree with the author’s points, examples, and the general argument as well – democracies almost never go to war with each other. The author’s historical examples are relevant, and they demonstrate the cases when democracies were able to find common grounds and avoid conflict while authoritarian governments could not. However, it could be essential to go deeper into the nature of mechanisms that create such a situation. I agree with the author that the shared values of citizens of different countries can contribute a lot to the unwillingness to fight a war. Yet, in my opinion, one of the main arguments for people not to start a war is its horrors, such as casualties, destruction, and other socio-economic problems caused by military conflict.

The critical difference here between democracies and authoritarian states is that in the former, people have the ability to influence the course their country takes by choosing its government. Therefore, any decision made in the democratic regimes is a collective decision, which is a safer one, as it takes into account the interests of multiple parties from different parts of the society. At the same time, people living within authoritarian regimes have to rely on their leader’s rationality; yet any leader in most cases suffers from wars less than their population. Thus, the cost of the decision to start a war is much less for an authoritarian leader, which is confirmed and leads to the empirical fact that they unleash wars more often.

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