CIAO DATE: 11/03
Summer 2003 (Volume 28 Issue 1)
"Unipolarity and U.S. hegemony will be around for some time," declares Barry Posen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Exactly how long will likely depend on the grand strategy the United States adopts. Posen maintains that U.S. military command of the commons-- land, sea, air, and space --has enabled the Bush administration to pursue a strategy of "primacy." Posen argues, however, that despite its overwhelming military superiority, the United States will continue to encounter military resistance in so-called contested zones such as Somalia in 1993 and Kosovo in 1999. He contends that the inability of the United States to establish command in these areas suggests that, in the near to medium term, Washington may have greater success in meeting its foreign policy goals by adopting instead a strategy of selective engagement.
Daniel Byman of Georgetown University tackles the increasingly salient issue of establishing democracy in Iraq following the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein. Byman explores some of the daunting challenges ahead, among them: creating the conditions necessary for the transition from dictatorship to democracy, addressing the deep divisions among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities, and preventing countries such as Iran and Turkey from meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. Byman is hopeful about the prospects for introducing democracy to the Iraqi people, provided the United States and other occupying powers are able to stabilize the country and guarantee its security-tasks that will require the continued presence of approximately 100,000 high-quality U.S. and coalition troops in the country for years to come.
Can international humanitarian assistance organizations that provide refugee relief truly claim to be impartial? What happens when such agencies-knowingly or not- offer succor to militants dispersed among refugee populations receiving humanitarian aid, becoming in effect "tools of conflict"? Sarah Kenyon Lischer of Sweet Briar College argues that although humanitarian relief may be neutral in intent, "the effects of the humanitarian actions always have political, and sometimes even military, repercussions." Lischer discusses the political conditions that increase the likelihood that humanitarian aid will exacerbate conflict. She proposes ways in which relief organizations can leverage their resources to influence the actions of the various parties, cautioning, however, that in some cases "the least harmful outcome" might be the total withdrawal of humanitarian assistance.
Richard Eichenberg of Tufts University examines the role of gender in shaping attitudes toward the U.S. use of military force. Eichenberg suggests that two factors explain why men and women have different opinions about military action: the reasons given for the use of force and the likely consequences of such action. Eichenberg finds that although women are generally less likely to support overt military operations -and tend to be more sensitive to the prospect of civilian and military casualties -"[they] are not uniformly pacifist, nor are men uniformly bellicose." Eichenberg considers some of the implications of his research for two issues currently on the national political agenda: the war in Iraq and the war on terror.
The issue closes with an exchange between Michael Desch of the University of Kentucky and several critics of his article "Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters," published in the fall 2002 issue of IS. In the first of three responses, Ajin Choi of Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, presents evidence to counter Desch’s claim that democratic allies are no more likely than nondemocratic allies to be victorious in wartime. Choi attributes the greater effectiveness of alliances comprised of democracies to two factors: the role of veto players and the transparency of democracies’ political institutions. David Lake of the University of California, San Diego, contends that Desch’s research design does not provide a fair test of the relationship between democracy and success in war. Dan Reiter of Emory University and Allan Stam of Dartmouth College argue that Desch’s decision to slash the number of cases under examination skews his results. Desch replies to their critiques.
Command of the Commons: The Military Foundation of U.S. Hegemony by Barry R. Posen
Constructing a Democratic Iraq: Challenges and Opportunities by Daniel Byman
Collateral Damage: Humanitarian Assistance as a Cause of Conflict by Sarah Kenyon Lischer
During the 1994-96 refugee crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide established military training bases adjacent to the Rwandan Hutu refugee camps. The militants stockpiled weapons, recruited and trained refugee fighters, and launched cross-border attacks against the new Tutsi-led regime in Rwanda. The militant leaders gloated about their manipulation of the Hutu refugees and their plan to complete the genocide of the Tutsi. From the camps, the genocidal Hutu leader Jean Bosco Barayagwiza boasted that "even if [the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front] have won a military victory they will not have the power. We have the population." In late 1996, the growing strength of the militant groups provoked a Rwandan invasion of Zaire and attacks against the refugees. Until the invasion disrupted their operations, international humanitarian organizations regularly delivered food and supplies to the refugee camps and military bases. The chief executive of the American charity CARE, Charles Tapp, admitted at the time, "We are going to be feeding people who have been perpetrating genocide."
Since the refugee crisis, eastern Congo has become the epicenter of a regional war in which more than a dozen states and rebel groups have fought each other and plundered the region’s resources. An estimated 3.3 million people have died as a result of the war, mostly from preventable diseases and malnutrition.
Gender Differences in Public Attitudes toward the Use of Force by the United States, 1990-2003 by Richard C. Eichenberg
In their study of gender differences in public reactions to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf crisis and war, Virginia Sapiro and Pamela Conover analyzed a number of American survey items dealing with hypothetical security policies as well as concrete questions involving the use of military force and its consequences. The results were clear: Although a gender difference on the more abstract, hypothetical questions was weak or nonexistent, when the analysis turned to the specific questions of using force against Iraq and the civilian and military casualties that could result, the differences became large indeed. Sapiro and Conover concluded that "when we moved from the abstract to the concrete-from hypothetical wars to the Gulf War-the distance separating women and men grew, and on every measure, women reacted more negatively. These gender differences are some of the largest and most consistent in the study of political psychology and are clearly of a magnitude that can have real political significance under the right circumstances."
Less than ten years later, as NATO warplanes continued their attacks against Serbia, the Christian Science Monitor reported that the gender difference in public opinion concerning the war over Kosovo was far smaller than it had been in previous wars: "As debate persists in America over how much to use force..."
The Power of Democratic Cooperation by Ajin Choi
The influence of democracy on foreign policy and world politics is one of the most hotly debated issues in the field of international relations. The proposition that democracies are better equipped to win in war is no different in this respect: It is a provocative thesis that contrasts sharply with some well-received theories of international politics. In his article "Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters," Michael Desch raises several challenges to this proposition. He critiques the empirical methodologies, theoretical explanations, and historical evidence that some scholars say explain democratic victory in war and concludes that, in the end, democracy has "no particular advantages or disadvantages"
In examining five causal mechanisms offered by "democratic triumphalists" to support the military effectiveness of democracy, Desch argues that "none of them is logically compelling or has much empirical support" (p. 25). In this article I do not attempt to respond to all the points Desch raises. Instead I focus on one of his critiques–namely, whether democratic allies can be more effective than nondemocratic allies in wartime and whether they are more likely to achieve victory. My goal is twofold: first, to offer an alternative theoretical explanation for the relationship between alliance behavior, the role of domestic political institutions, and their effect on war performance to explanations that Desch attributes to democratic triumphalists; and second, to provide...
Fair Fights? Evaluating Theories of Democracy and Victory by David A. Lake
In "Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters," Michael Desch criticizes the methods and results of several studies, mine included, that find that democracies tend to win the wars they fight. After raising a number of empirical and research design issues, Desch concludes that "on balance, democracies share no particular advantages or disadvantages in selecting and waging wars. In other words, regime type hardly matters for explaining who wins and loses wars" (p. 8).
Desch does the discipline a service by challenging extant findings– skepticism is, after all, the most important trait of a social scientist. A careful review of theory and method, however, confirms the finding that democracies tend to be victorious in war. In his article, Desch separates research design from theory and thus does not provide the fair test that he claims. Scholars cannot evaluate empirical relationships outside of their theoretical context. Similarly, the concept of causality cannot be understood apart from a prior theory. Correlation may or may not exist, but causation can only be inferred. Even as the historical record highlights the distinctive nature of democracies, researchers conclude that democracy causes (at least in part) victory in war only because theory implies that it should.
The literature on the democratic peace in general, and the theory and findings on democracy and victory in particular, have contributed to a new generation of research on war as a process. With fresh attention to how war outcomes affect strategic bargaining before and during crises, scholars are moving in the direction of more synthetic and productive theories of conflict that show how attributes of states, such as democracy, interact with their choices to explain war and peace. This is one of the most promising avenues of research in contemporary security studies–and one that reinforces the need to bind empirical...
Understanding Victory: Why Political Institutions Matter by Dan Reiter and Allan C. Stam
In our book, Democracies at War, we asked the question: Why do democracies tend to win the wars they fight? We confirmed this pattern, first noted by David Lake in his "Powerful Pacifists" article, using statistical tests and numerous historical cases. Notably, this phenomenon confounds the traditional realpolitik fear that democratic liberalism is a luxury that states may be unable to afford. Our basic answer to the question is that democracies tend to win because they put themselves in a position to do so. The constraints that flow from democratic political structures lead the executives of liberal democracies to hesitate before starting wars, particularly wars where victory on the battlefield appears to be less than clear-cut.
Democracies’ willingness to start wars only against relatively weaker states says nothing about the actual military efficiency or capacity of democratic states. Rather, it says that when they do start a fight, they are more likely to pick on relatively weaker target states. We also find, however, that in addition to this "selection effects" explanation of democratic success, democratic armies enjoy a small advantage on the battlefield.
Michael Desch, a prominent realist scholar, reviews these claims in his article "Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters." His assertion that regime type is irrelevant to the probability of military victory is consistent with the broader realist agenda, which argues that domestic politics matters little in the formation of foreign policy or the interactions between states. Desch makes a valuable contribution in advancing the debate over this question. There are many points about which Desch and we agree. Democracies do...
Democracy and Victory: Fair Fights or Food Fights? by Michael C. Desch
Ajin Choi, David Lake, and Dan Reiter and Allan Stam have each provided useful rejoinders to the critique of democratic triumphalism in my recent article "Democracy and Victory: Why Regime Type Hardly Matters." In response, I begin by summarizing our arguments and pointing out several issues where we have little or no disagreement. I then examine our two major areas of contention: how best to test whether democracy matters much in explaining military outcomes, and whether the democratic triumphalists’ proposed mechanisms convincingly explain why democracies frequently appear to win their wars.
Democratic triumphalists argue that democracies are more likely to achieve victory in warfare because of the nature of their domestic regimes. According to the triumphalists, democracies (1) start only wars they can win easily, and (2) enjoy important wartime advantages such as greater wealth, stronger alliances, better strategic thinking, higher public support, and more effective soldiers.
After examining the data and methods that underpin these findings, I concluded that "whether a state is democratic is not the most important factor to consider" in determining a state’s likelihood of victory in war–hence the subtitle of my article "Why Regime Type Hardly Matters" (p. 42, emphasis added). I do not argue that regime type plays no role–only that it appears to be modest compared with other factors.