Layne, C., 2007. Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace.
Layne begins, as many do, by highlighting how deeply embedded the concept of the democratic peace has become in international politics and foreign policy. For example, he highlights Russett’s statement that it may actually be possible to overcome the traditional realist constraints of anarchy and a self-help international society through the democratic peace.
Layne explores whether or not realist theory or democratic peace theory is actually more able to describe and explain behavior. The author presents democratic peace as being either structural or normative. The structural account deals with, “…the restraining effects of public opinion, or of the checks and balances embedded in the democratic state’s domestic politics structure” (6). The account of the normative driver of democratic peace is also explored. This driver posits that, “…democratic norms and culture—a shared commitment to the peaceful adjudication of political disputes—that accounts for the absence of war between democratic states” (6). Layne argues that the structural account is weak, and that this puts the onus of explanation on the normative account.
“This article’s centerpiece is a test of the competing explanations of international outcomes offered by democratic peace theory and by realism. This test is based on case studies of four ‘near misses’—crises where two democratic states almost went to war with each other” (7).
“I conclude that realism is superior to democratic peace theory as a predictor of international outcomes. Indeed, democratic peace theory appears to have extremely little explanatory power in the cases studied…I conclude by discussing democratic peace theory’s troublesome implications for post-Cold War American foreign policy” (8).
The four case studies explored are those of near-misses among democratic great powers.