- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest, for supporting democratic nations like Israel and Taiwan against their enemies is not merely because they are democracies but, equally important, that history shows that democracies do not fight each other regardless of cultural, political and economic differences between them. In other words, the more democracies in the world, the greater assurance of world peace. Modern wars have either been between dictatorships, theocratic or secular, or between a democracy and a non-democracy.

Recent wars in the Middle East have been between Iraq and Kuwait and between Iran and Iraq, none of which are democracies, and there have been seven wars between Israel and Arab states in the last half-century. Yet Turkey, a functioning democracy whose people also practice Islam, is a friend and ally of Israel. In all seven wars against Israel, Turkey has stood aloof.

More than two centuries have passed since the first modern democracy was established in Philadelphia. In that time there have been countless wars, but none between any two democracies, and in modern times none between Western, liberal, democratic capitalist countries. In fact, Immanuel Kant, the great German philosopher, predicted in 1795 that a world of democracies would create what he called "perpetual peace."

In other words, America's crusade for democracy is no search for moonbeams. It is a policy of hard-headed realism. President Bush is aware of this "perpetual peace" phenomenon. In his June 1 West Point graduation speech, he said, "Competition between great nations is inevitable, but armed conflict in our world is not. More and more, civilized nations find ourselves on the same side united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos."

Europe, a continent of democracies, is today nearer to a durable continental peace than at any time since the 19th century and the 100 year Pax Brittanica. Who can envision war among any of the democracies in the European Union? Germany versus France? Or even among non-EU members democratic Russia versus the Baltic democratic states?

But there were wars in the last century, the century of totalitarianism, in which governments like the Soviet Union, Communist China, Nazi Germany and others became enemies of their own people. Professor Rudolph J. Rummel, a University of Hawaii political scientist, has been compiling statistics of mass murder and genocide in modern times by governments against their own peoples. His research has led him to the fearsome conclusion that 20th-century dictatorial governments killed more of their own people three times as many as have been killed in all civil and international wars put together. As of 1985, governments had killed 119,394,000 of their own citizens. The overwhelming majority of the victims (115,423,000) were killed by nonfree governments more "in cold blood than in the heat of battle."

Two definitions. Democracy is a system with four prerequisites: It exists, first, when a nation holds periodic elections; second, when the adult population has the right to vote regardless of race, religion, color or economic circumstance; third, when the media and political parties are free to oppose an incumbent government and, last, when there is an undisputed rule of law. Where governments are accountable to voters, war against another democracy becomes impossible, because such an adventure would lack an essential legitimacy. War is a military conflict between two independent states that leads to more than 1,000 casualties, according to Mr. Rummel.

The University of Hawaii political scientist studied 353 pairs of nations who engaged in wars between 1816 and 1991. He found that democracies fought non-democracies in 155 cases; dictatorships fought each other in 198 cases. There isn't a single instance of a democracy fighting another democracy to this very day.

In his study of the two world wars, Dean Babst, another scholar, found that 33 independent countries were involved in World War I, of whom ten were democracies who never fought each other. Fifty-two independent countries took part in World War II. Fourteen of the 15 democracies were on the same side. The exception was Finland, which, having been attacked by Stalin in 1940, then sided with Nazi Germany when it invaded Russia in June 1941. Britain and a few Commonwealth countries formally declared war against Finland. But no actual fighting took place between Finland and any other democracy.

What explains this "democracy peace" phenomenon? Mr. Rummel offers four reasons: Democratic peoples resist bearing the costs and deaths of war; diversity of institutions and relations within and between democracies inhibit belligerence among them; thanks to a civic culture of negotiation and conciliation, democratic leaders are basically dovish in their interaction with other democracies; democracies see each other of the same kind, sharing the same values, and thus are more willing to negotiate than fight.

Or as Edmund Burke in his "Letters on a Regicide Peace" put it perhaps more lyrically, "Nothing is so strong a tie of amity between nation and nation as correspondence in law, customs, manners and habits of life. They have more than the force of treaties in themselves. They are obligations written in the heart."

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