The Democratic Peace Theory: Is War a Means to Peace?

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
25(2) 167 –186, 2021
© 2021 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984211042095
The Democratic
Peace Theory: Is
War a Means to
Sadaf Nausheen1, Varya Srivastava2 and
Shubhra Seth3
In the twenty first century, the idea of democracy has transcended
its original conception of domestic governance to actively influence
international relations. The nature of state—democratic or
nondemocratic—has come to determine hierarchy, alliances, and status
in international relations. It tends to bestow a degree of moral superiority
to democratic states in dealings of international relations. This moral
superiority in its most aggressive form, in the past two decades, has led
to wars in the name of democracy. It has been used to justify military
intervention in nondemocratic states by democratic nations. The use
of force to bring about desired consequences has become the norm in
inter-state relations. The focus is not on the action, but on its intent.
This article studies the use of force and war by Western democratic
countries to establish democracies through military intervention in
other parts of the world. The article analyzes the widespread impact of
3 Department of Political Science, Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi,
New Delhi, Delhi, India.
2 Department of Political Science, Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi,
New Delhi, Delhi, India (2016–2019).
1 Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, Telangana,
Corresponding author:
Sadaf Nausheen, Department of Liberal Arts, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad,
IIT H Main Road, Near NH-65, Sangareddy, Kandi, Telangana 502285, India.
168 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations
foreign policies of the stronger nation-states and seeks to understand if
the desired results are achieved or not. Beginning with the democratic
peace theory that is held in high opinion by democracies of today, the
article moves toward Immanuel Kant and his idea of perpetual peace.
The democratic peace theory finds its base in Kant’s perpetual peace
and finds an echo in Western democracies’ foreign policies. The article
then sees how this theory is used to justify war, through the case study
of Afghanistan, and what is the intention behind the wars. The article
concludes that the desired aim of “positive peace” cannot be achieved
via violent means. In the process of establishing peaceful and healthy
democracy, Kant’s categorical imperatives are crucial.
Immanuel Kant, democratic peace theory, USA, Afghanistan, war
The past three decades have been marred by military interventions in
international politics. From missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo,
the international arena has thereafter become a moral grandstanding
premised on ideals of democracy. Recent international developments
have pivoted the focus of global security discourse with the goal of
promoting the establishment of an international democratic order. In this
context, examining the process of establishing democracy in
nondemocratic nations and the processes adopted to bring about this
change becomes critical. It also becomes crucial to question the
underlying morality of building an international community of
democratic countries.
The liberal democratic world order based on ideas of individualism
and liberty has gained legitimacy to the extent of becoming the norm.
This normalization of a particular form of organizing principle is largely
to do with the rise of unipolarity post the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991. There certainly exist narratives of the world order not just
experiencing change but also a large-scale transformation in its ideals
and principles; these views have been categorized as transitory templates
which are missing a deeper reality (Ikenberry 2011). The liberal
international order is alive and has endured its own crises, while

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