Democracy is a situation whereby the majority of population determines the governance of a country. The rulers of the country are held accountable for their actions. Modern democracy involves selecting the people to hold power through a fair and honest process, which includes periodic elections where candidates freely compete for votes (Lakshmi 2005). Democracy also involves enabling the adult population to elect people to power. Most countries are either pure democracies or pure autocracies. Electing a government democratically does not assure that the country will uphold democratic rights of the electorate. There is evidence that democracy takes four stages. Decay of the authoritarian rule is the beginning of democratization; this usually happens when the government is unable to function properly and there is the rise of the opposition. Secondly, there is the transition period, which includes many reforms in the governance of the country.
Thirdly, there is consolidation stage, which involves the development of accountability mechanisms and the expansion of the constitution. Consolidation stage ensures that the democratic culture develops around the rule of law. Finally, the deepening and expansion of the norms, laws and codes are tested, evaluated and improved. However, it can be noted from the stages of democratization that the order in government does not necessitate democracy. The health of democracy in different countries can be evaluated through political rights, which involve a fair electoral process. Political rights can also be evaluated through public participation. The health of the democracy can be assessed through civil liberties, which are the freedom of expression, organizational rights, individual rights, and the rule of law. This paper evaluates the claims that the spread of democracy will promote peace (Lakshmi 2005).
Democracy Leads to Liberty and Liberty Influences Peace
Peace and democracy are said to go hand in hand. In the recent times, it has been found that governments based on individual liberty restrain from wars and are more likely to promote peaceful relations in their region. Some researchers argue that liberal states founded on people’s rights and freedoms are often against wars. Citizens, especially those who witness the challenges of war, elect governments which they believe will not entangle them into wars. In addition, citizens appreciate tranquillity as the only way to achieve economic growth and the benefits of international trade (Mandelbaum 2002). According to Kant’s liberal internationalism, democratic countries are more likely to achieve peace among themselves due to the caution they exercise towards international and human rights.
Democracy promotes individual liberty, which includes freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and freedom to own property. Politics in democratic countries promote individual liberty. There is peace in liberal democracies; this is because citizens are less likely to suffer from violence as a result of civil unrest caused by the violations of the people’s rights. Another reason for peace in liberal democracies is the reduced powers of the government, so it can inflict minimum harm on the population. (Zajda 2009). In addition, in democratic countries, the opposition has been given freedom of expression and, as a result, critics to the operations of the government do not stage violent revolutions. In democratic countries, the government uses dialogue to solve issues instead of violence to repress the opposition. Consequently, there is peaceful handling over of power from one government to another. As such, the promotion of liberty ensures peace in democratic countries.
There are few situations in history when a war between liberal countries emerged. These countries are able to work together for the common good of their citizens. Many of the wars fought by liberal countries have been defensive. Liberal states have been attacked on many occasions by non-liberal countries. This has forced them to fight back in an effort to protect what is rightfully theirs. Some of these wars have been triggered by scarce resources, authoritarian rulers, misunderstandings, and miscalculations of interest. In a country where democracy prevails, few incidences of ethnical conflict are reported (Du Toit 2011). The public ensures that leaders chosen act according to the rule of law and are held accountable for their actions. A government that exercises democracy provides room for free speech, human rights lobby groups, and promotes unity among the citizens.
The promotion of democracy in different economies will ensure there is reduced likelihood of war between countries. As the democracies grow, the chances of war reduces. However, war would continue among non-democracies and democracies. Having more democracies will ensure the spread of peace and, as a result, we will have a more peaceful world.
Conflict Resolution among Democracies
Democratic countries have conflict resolution procedures which ensure that they can solve internal governance conflicts without the need of violence. In addition, the democracies solve conflicts with other democracies on a peaceful platform.
Institutions and Structures in Democracies
Democratic countries have leaders who are closely monitored by other institutions such as the legislature and the judiciary. As such, the democratic countries are generally slow in making decisions of going to war because of the checks by other institutions. As a result, the leaders of these countries have time to solve disputes in a peaceful way.
Long-Run Economic Performance Which Promotes Peace
Democracy enables the country’s citizens to enjoy long periods of economic prosperity. As such, individuals in democratic countries prefer the stability of the economy because of the value of their investments. For this reason, it is hard for a stable democratic country going into war knowing well enough the cost to its economy (Mandelbaum 2002).
Many political scientists have supported the idea that democracies rarely fight. Hence, for international peace to become a reality, democracy must prevail in all regions. However, several critics think this is not the case. They argue that there is no convincing explanation of the absence of wars between democracies. Several mechanisms try to explain the absence of wars between liberal countries. In some situations, democracies avoid war because of the pressure from international community not to participate in war.
The attainment of world peace will favour mostly the industrialized countries, as new democracies will make better trading partners. Globalization of the market will enhance relations between countries and past rivals. This will facilitate lasting peace. It is the desire of most citizens that their governments remain neutral to world politics but, in order for a country to feel safe, it needs to be associated with certain international bodies. The United States has been criticized for trying to spread democracy in order to create friendly countries which it can benefit from. What most critics do forget is that for equal opportunities to exist the spread of democracy is essential. New democracies are at liberty to enter into treaties.
East Asia has been adamant to the idea of democracy. The region feels that Western democracy allows too much freedom, which in turn causes social collapse. Instead of promoting peace, it increases the levels of crime. In addition, Asia feels that democracy cannot be in line with its cultural values primarily based on communalism (Bhutto 2008). In recent times, we have seen an uprising in several Arab countries, which have heavily criticized their governments as being undemocratic. Thousands of people have died so far and the fight continues. Although some of their leaders are gone, internal wrangles have continued to exist. However, there is hope that once they democratically elect their leaders, a lasting peace may be achieved.
Democracy in various countries may promote peace among them. However, this democracy is also a genesis of war, often because these countries will usually have a common enemy. These alliances of democratic countries cause even more prolonged wars in the world. In addition, the democratization process in itself is a genesis of war. There are many conflicts in the process of democratization, which result into unrest and many people lose their lives as a consequence. The old guard in the government usually resists change and the reformers have to force their way in government (Zajda 2009).
The idea about spreading democracy should be taken positively. Democratic countries respect international rights, which are founded on the principles of respect for humankind, the right of free speech and equal opportunities for all. There are many benefits that result from international democracy, such as improved relations, technological advancement, efficient market system, etc. There is little evidence to suggest that the spread of democracy increases the risk of war. Elected leaders of choice may do a lot of good for the country. However, electoral democracy alone is not enough, and countries such as U.S. ought to persuade other countries to be more liberal and adopt values that are essential for a lasting peace. Countries that have the potential to develop democracy from within should be supported in doing so (Bhutto 2008). While attempting to spread democracy, the United States should take caution not to ruin the ties that exist with these countries. Its approach should be persuasive rather than forceful. After all, lasting democracy and peace can only be facilitated by the coming together of all ethnic groups living in such countries.