Debunking The Liberal Peace Essay

2160 words - 9 pages

Peace has been the goal of many political scientists since the very beginning of the science. Studying war and its causes is the very nature of international politics. Many have proposed world models that would create a everlasting peace. One of the most accepted and quoted is Immanuel Kant's essay Perpetual Peace. Kant proposed that liberal states are inherently peaceful, and do not become aggressors in war (790-792). While this has not proven true as an absolute, many political scientists have modified this theory to try and propose a method of ending war. One of the most accepted of these proposals was by Michael W. Doyle, a professor at Princeton University. In his essay Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs he proposes that the true liberal peace is a peace between liberal states. He proposes that liberal nations are peaceful one towards another and do not war with one another (99).

The first step in considering this theory is to define the terms. A state is any body defined by a sovereign government and specific boundaries (Cooper, 2003a). For the purposes of this discussion, war will be defined by armed conflict, and peace by the lack thereof. Doyle defines liberal regimes as having the following: a market economy with private ownership, a system where politics are sovereign, citizens with juridical rights, and a representative form of government (102). Sovereign is any body that does not answer to a higher body (Cooper, 2003a), thus including both sides during the time of a civil war.

Kant's and Doyle's Theories

Kant's argued that liberal governments will not be aggressors in war for two major reasons. First, that since the people play a role in the decision, they are less inclined to fight than in a state where the rulers alone make the decisions. The reasoning is simple: the people, and not the rulers, are the ones who actually fight, suffer, and die in times of war (790). Second, liberal nations believe in a dividing of cultures and respecting of others' rights. This means that a liberal nation will not desire to become controller of the world (792).

After examining recent wars, Doyle came to the conclusion that liberal nations can indeed be the aggressors (99). Since Doyle wrote in1983, three more wars have indicated that liberal nations can and are aggressive. The Persian Gulf War, the US-Afghan War, and the US-Iraq war all tell us that Kant was incorrect. Doyle instead argues the liberal nations do not war with one another (99). He notes as exceptions the Peru-Ecuador conflict, and the Israeli-Lebanon war. He excuses these as having happened too soon after the liberalization of a participating state, and thus the pacifying effect of liberalism had not yet worked it's way into society (108-109).

Doyle gives several reasons for the peace among liberal states. He quotes Kant's reasoning, that since the people are the ones who are hindered by war, the people will decide against it, as the...

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