An Extended Debate on the Utility of the Democratic Peace Thesis

The Democratic Peace thesis (DPT) has for a while now been considered the closest thing the field of International Relations has to an empirically tested truth. And yet, such a claim leaves many questions unanswered, many nuances unnoticed, and many small wars unaccounted for. Two upcoming ISQ articles (and now Early Views) grapple with these questions and continue the discussion here at ISQ Online. 

The debate starts with Michael Poznansky's article, "Stasis or Decay? Reconciling Covert War and the Democratic Peace," in which he asserts that democracies assess their policies towards other democracies based on projections of that country's future likelihood to remain democratic.  Using empirical evidence from the Cold War, he argues that when that likelihood seems low, covert interventions become more acceptable. Tarak Barkawi responds to Poznansky, in "Scientific Decay," that such an argument reflects the overall poverty of DPT as an analytic device and the dangers of American Exceptionalism. 

Extending that original conversation, both scholars have furthered their arguments here by responding to specific claims made by the other. Poznansky begins by pointing out that Barkawi's critique either misreads large portions of his argument or highlights concerns that may be important but are ultimately unsubstantiated. Drawing on the examples of both the Cold War and the War on Terror, Barkawi once again responds that DPT is not an objective frame through which to view foreign policy and suggests that we'd be better served focusing our attentions on more substantive issues instead of continually trying to prove or disprove the thesis.

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