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Democracies do make war on each other

Reader comment on item: [The Hamas Electoral Victory:] Democracy's Bitter Fruit
in response to reader comment: Democracies do make war on each other

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jan 29, 2006 at 16:42

Dear Walter, thank you very much for your kind comment.

I admit I did not express my point clearly enough but I think I understood what the dispute was all about. If I am wrong I'll welcome any correction from you.

Prof. Hinich said that contary to what Dr Pipes suggests in his otherwise praiseworthy article democracies make wars on each other. I tried to support his thesis. You seem to have some doubts about its validity as you find Prof. Hinich's examples
not convincing enough.

Prof. Hinich's point was the following [Jan 27, 2006, 10:48]

" Democracies do and can make war on one another.We attacked and won an important war with Mexico. These wars had political support although the Mexican War has serious political opposition.
If a major political faction in a democracy believes 1) the country can win a war with gain or 2) the country must prempt another democracy or non democratic country from waging a successful war in a few years later."

You, dear Walter, answered [Jan 27, 2006, 15:35] :

"Prof. Hinich asserts that democracies sometimes war against one another, citing two wars with Canada and another with Mexico as examples. It is praiseworthy to back assertions with evidence - so long as the evidence cited is pertinent. The United States conducted military operations in Canada during the War of 1812. At that time it was a British colony. What he had in mind as the second war eludes me, unless it was the French and Indian War. Then France ruled Canada and what is now the United States was a British colony. Mexico was not an independent nation, much less a democracy, in the 1840s."

My reply to that was [Jan 27, 2006, 16:28]:

" Not willing to go into details of Prof. Hinich's statement which seems to me quite accurate(democracies can be as aggressive and warlike as non democracies) let me draw your attention to Eastern and South Estearn Europe. After 1918 almost all of those countries were democracies ... with a bloody record of wars between each other (Poland spent c. 1/3 (!!!)of its budget for the military and waged war or had armed conflicts with almost all its 6 neighbours states including Czechoslovakia and Lithuania), anitsemitism and intolerance."

To which you answered : [Jan 29, 2006, 08:38]

"Ianus read Hinich too hastily. He did not say that democracies never make war. What he said is that they never make war on one another."

I admit I was not clear enough writing that. I should have said : (democracies can be as aggressive and warlike as non democracies and wage wars on each other). But still what I tried to say seems to be pertinent to the statement.
Democracies do make wars on each other as the causes for war don't depend on the regime involved but have different origins (power and territorial struggles, ethic and religious and economic antagonism, powerful internal vested interests that hope to profit from war etc. ) from just who was voted for by how many voters to rule this or that country.

My additional point was that democracies can be very aggressive and in some cases more aggressive (due to expectations of a share in a won war for many more than under a different form of governance) than non-democratic regimes. I took one example from antiquity.

I did not say anything about the examples from American history given by Prof. Hinich to support his thesis as I don't feel competent. My examples pertained to Eastern Europe.

Poland - a democracy after 1918 - was engaged in bloody conflict with another young democracy - Lithuania. Poland robbed a large part of that country and between 1918 and 1938 there were no diplomatic relations between the two countries and a state of undeclared war on the frontier. Poland had a armed conflict with Czekoslovakia and lost some territories around the Olza river. In 1938 Poland used the Munich treaty and willingness of Hitler to take back that territory. (A fact hardly known to a larger public where Poland is represented just as the first victim of Hitler's aggression) . Germany became a democracy after 1918. It was involved at once in a bloody conflict with Poland over her former territories.

And how about post-Soviet democracies, especially in the Causasus region?
Democracies do wage wars on each other. Democracy in one country is no guarantee of peace for its democratic neighbours if other unfavourable circumstances responsible for war are at work and gain the critical mass.

> My quarrel with Hinich has to do with his mischaracterization of the War of 1812 and, presumably, the French and Indian War a half-century earlier

I am not competent to decide who is right in this particular case but still its outcome does not affect the right contention - as far as I can judge- made by Prof. Hinich that democracies can and do make wars on each other.

With best wishes ,

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