Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War

January 12, 2006

The promotion of democracy is a top foreign policy priority for both Republicans and Democrats. Many political scientists argue that promoting democracy is sound policy because democracies do not go to war with each other; thus, more democracies should equal less war. But what are the risks of democratization? In Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War, Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder argue that the process of democratization – when incomplete or undertaken prematurely – often leads to an increase in war and instability. Drawing on nearly 200 years of historical data, Mansfield and Snyder find that the transition to democracy is often characterized by a belligerent nationalism that substantially increases the risk of war. Their findings call into question the existing U.S. policy of pushing the democratic envelope in the Muslim world and China. Please join the authors and our distinguished commentators for a discussion of this timely and important book.

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