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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Speaker: Democracies breed increased peace

"Since the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945, at least 89 percent of wars have been initiated by non-democracies," said John Norton Moore, who stated that modern democracies do not wage war on each other, due to a phenomenon he called the Democratic Peace.

Moore, who is a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and an expert on national security law, spoke yesterday on achieving peace in the modern world through democratization and the use of deterrence.

By working toward establishing democratic cultures, Moore said, we will likely see a decrease in the number of major wars fought in the 21st century.

He defined a major war as one in which there were more than 1,000 casualties. Between 1816 and 1991 there have been no major wars between two democracies, whereas there have been 155 between democracies and non-democracies and 198 among non-democracies.

Moore suspected that countries under totalitarian regimes were more prone to acts of aggression than democracies because the leaders can easily blame failures on subordinates.

"The absence of deterrence is critical in historical case studies of wars," he said, citing conflicts from the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C.E. to World War I to the War on Terrorism. In all cases, he claimed, there was a lack of deterrence that urged the aggressor to push ahead with war.

In dealing with terrorists before Sept. 11, 2001, the United States provided very little deterrence, Moore said.

Our "quarter century of weak response to terrorism and attacks against U.S. interests," he noted, did not intimidate Osama bin Laden enough to prevent such events as the bombing of the World Trade Center, his 1996 "declaration of war" on the U.S. and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.

His deterrence theory also applies to situations in which war is likely but did not occur. During the Cold War, for instance, no formal battles between the United States and the Soviet Union occurred because of the deterrence provided by NATO, the Warsaw Pact and the balance of power provided by the nuclear capabilities of both countries.

Trade, Moore said, also is a major factor in preventing wars. High levels of trade between two nations correlates with low rates of war. Nations that are economically interdependent upon one another will hesitate to fight.