49 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2008
Date Written: February 2005
There is a gap between much of the theorizing about the democratic peace, with its focus on democracies' internalization of costs of war, and the empirical evidence, which finds that democracies are pacifistic only towards each other. Drawing on the insights of Machiavelli and the classical thinkers on whom he relied, we offer a theory of democratic deterrence that can explain this empirical pattern. Because democracies mobilize the resources of their populations more fully than do most nondemocracies, a democracy's net expected per capita gains from aggression may be sufficient to motivate warlike behavior even with public participation in decisions about whether or not to fight. By our account democracies are disinclined to fight other democracies at least in part because other well mobilized regimes make less attractive targets.
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By Robert Woods