Re: WAR: appropriate first use (was: If we do get Afghanistan...)

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sat Nov 24 2001 - 22:12:53 MST

On Saturday, November 24, 2001 10:33 PM Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
>> So far, democratic nations have never declared war on each other (of
>> course, plenty of nations *call* themselves democratic, but we are here
>> talking about real democracies).
> What about the Weimar Republic? Although it is not exactly true to say
> that Hitler was elected (the Nazi Party did not achieve a majority in the
> last free election held in Germany), Hitler's dictatorial powers were
> granted him by parliamentary vote of elected parties.
> "Thus was parliamentary democracy finally interred in Germany. Except for
> the arrests of the Communists and some of the Social Democratic deputies,
> it was all done quite legally, although accompanied by terror. Parliament
> had turned over its constitutional authority to Hitler and thereby
> committed suicide."
> -- "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", William L. Shirer
> One also recalls our media's eternal use of the term "strongman" to
> describe Slobodan Milosevic in order to quietly skip over the fact that
> Milosevic was elected.

Since WW1, the definition of democracy has shifted so as to exclude enemy
states. Thus, a nation like Yugoslavia was not a democracy for the Clinton

Here's a short bibliography of the debate on this issue in _International
Security_ from the 1990s:

    issue 19(2) [Fall 1994]:
"Kant or Cant: The Myth of Democratic Peace" by Christopher Layne
"The Insignificance of the Liberal Peace" by David E. Spiro

    issue 19(4) [Spring 1995]:
"Correspondence: 'And Yet It Moves'" by Bruce M. Russett
"Correspondence: The Democratic Peace: The Author Replies" by Christopher
"Correspondence: The Liberal Peace 'And Yet It Squirms', The Author Replies"
by David E. Spiro
"Correspondence: The Democratic Peace" by Michael Doyle

    issue 20(1) [Summer 1995]:
"Democratization and the Danger of War" by Edward D. Mansfield and Jack

    issue 20(2) [Fall 1995]:
"Polities and Peace" by Henry S. Farber and Joanna Gowa
"The Subjectivity of the 'Democratic' Peace: Changing U.S. Perceptions of
Imperial Germany" by Ido Oren

    issue 20(4) [Spring 1996]:
"Correspondence: Democratization and the Dangers of War" by Reinhard Wolf
"Correspondence: Democratization and the Danger of War" by Erich Weede
"Correspondence: Democratization and the Danger of War, The Authors Reply"
by Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder

My point in dragging this out is to show that there's been a lot of debate
on the issue by the experts in the field of international relations. I tend
to think that democracy guarantees nothing in respect to war -- except that
wars will more likely be total and less farsighted. This claim seems backed
by historical evidence. The 20th century, e.g., in terms of warfare, saw
total war become nearly perfected. Also, wars from previous centuries --
the American War between the States, for example -- that are total tend to
have a democratic state involved. In the example just used, the Union did
presage 20th century war in mobilizing the whole of society for war. (I do
not believe the Confedrates were considered a _nondemocracy_ at the time.
If they were and anyone maintains the Union was a democracy at the same
time, then the Union must have only become a democracy during the war, since
the Confederacy was part of it prior to 1861...)

As for the lack of foresight, I mean the trend to look not toward a lasting
peace after the war, but merely to fighting ferociously during the war,
often obliterating the other society to the point that it creates a power
vacuum. This did happen in both World Wars. (For the record, I don't think
that foresight involves creating an international welfare state for after
the war. Wars, instead, could be fought in a limited fashion with the
limited aims, the goal being to make the peace after a war better than that
before. Destroying Germany in WW2 did not do this. It lead to 40 years of
costly and nearly fatal conflict with the USSR. BUT I've been over this
before on this list!:)


Daniel Ust

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