Liberal Peace, Liberal War: American Politics and International Security

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Cornell University Press, 2000 - Political Science - 246 pages

Liberal democracies very rarely fight wars against each other, even though they go to war just as often as other types of states do. John M. Owen IV attributes this peculiar restraint to a synergy between liberal ideology and the institutions that exist within these states. Liberal elites identify their interests with those of their counterparts in foreign states, Owen contends. Free discussion and regular competitive elections allow the agitations of the elites in liberal democracies to shape foreign policy, especially during crises, by influencing governmental decision makers.

Several previous analysts have offered theories to explain liberal peace, but they have not examined the state. This book explores the chain of events linking peace with democracies. Owen emphasizes that peace is constructed by democratic ideas, and should be understood as a strong tendency built upon historically contingent perceptions and institutions. He tests his theory against ten cases drawn from over a century of U.S. diplomatic history, beginning with the Jay Treaty in 1794 and ending with the Spanish-American War in 1898. A world full of liberal democracies would not necessarily be peaceful. Were illiberal states to disappear, Owen asserts, liberal states would have difficulty identifying one another, and would have less reason to remain at peace.

--Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Harvard University. American Political Science Review, Vol. 94, No. 4. December 2000 "Foreign Affairs"

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The Puzzle of Liberal Peace
Identity Ideology and Institutions
From the Jay Treaty to the War of 1812
From the Oregon Crisis to the Civil War
From the Virginius Affair to the SpanishAmerican War
Liberalism at Work
Implications and Conclusions

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About the author (2000)

JOHN M. OWEN IV is Assistant Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.

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