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Democracy and Deterrence: Foundations for an Enduring World Peace

Democracy and Deterrence: Foundations for an Enduring World Peace by Dr. Walter Gary Sharp Sr. Air University Press, 2008, 290 pp.

Democracy and Deterrence is an edited version of Dr. Sharp’s dissertation in juridical science at the University of Virginia School of Law. Though organized in the style of a dissertation, the book is quite readable, even for a newcomer to the subject. In the initial chapters, the author reviews various theories on “democratic peace,” notably those of Rudy Rummel, emeritus professor at the University of Hawaii and one of the earliest and most prolific authors on the subject, and of Sharp’s own academic adviser, Prof. John Norton Moore, who developed the incentive theory of war avoidance, which underpins Sharp’s own inquiry into “war avoidance through incentives and deterrence” (p. 83).

Democratic peace is usually formulated in terms of a “monadic” version and the more well-known and well-accepted “dyadic” version, the latter arguing that “democracies do not make war on each another” (p. 77; emphasis in original). The monadic version of democratic peace extends this argument to the notion that the more democratic a country, the less likely it is to be violent. Both of these versions of the theory have amassed substantial supporting evidence.

Sharp argues that one can trace the idea of democratic peace back to America’s foundational documents, pointing to examples from Locke, Montesquieu, and the Federalist Papers. Additionally, many scholars associate democratic peace with Immanuel Kant’s essay Perpetual Peace, also cited by the author, which identifies Kant’s first principle for the establishment of a perpetual peace: “The civil constitution of every state should be republican” (p. 48).

The reader will find Sharp’s own contribution to the field in chapters 4 and 5, “War Avoidance through Incentives and Deterrence” and “A Validation of the Incentive Theory of War Avoidance,” respectively. Here, the author further develops Moore’s incentive theory of war avoidance by developing a predictive equation for the probability of peace or war, which he then validates with an example from Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Kuwait in August 1990.

Sharp envisions that “the international community and nation-states could use the formula to calculate the probability of war or peace and identify weaknesses of deterrence incentives specific to that war setting” (p. 119). Whether or not this vision is ever realized will depend on further academic work in this area, along with additional examples illustrating the model’s reliability and applicability to different situations. Nevertheless, Sharp makes a noteworthy contribution to the discussion of democratic peace and deterrence that should become part of the academic curricula of studies of conflict resolution and deterrence.

For policy makers, perhaps the book’s most important idea comes from the final chapter, in which the author concludes that

wars and their attendant human misery begin in the minds of national leaders whose power is unchecked by incentives and deterrence mechanisms. Because such restraints are inherent in democratic forms of government, war is comparatively rare where human freedom, economic freedom, and the rule of law thrive. The spread of democracy in the twenty-first century is therefore of utmost importance in advancing human welfare. Actively encouraging the expansion of freedom is the responsibility of democratic nations (p. 162).

Dr. Clark Capshaw

Stuttgart, Germany

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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