Sunday, November 14, 2004

The nice thing about Arafat's death and the upcoming Palestinian elections is that they should provide us with an interesting test of the democratic peace theory.

Of course, if it doesn't work out the proponents will argue that the conflict does not meet the definition of war.

4 Comments:

At 6:16 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Yes and no. I didn't read the Wikipedia article you linked to, but in case it doesn't make it clear, most proponents of variants on the "Democratic Peace" theory actually expect new democracies to be the most warlike of all (although they're expected to pick fights with neighboring autocracies, so maybe it's not relevant to this case.)

You're right that the definition of "war" is itself the source of a lot of fights, but so is "democracy." Depending on which dataset one uses, democracy may require a peaceful transfer of power between ruling coalitions, which an Arafat-Abbas transfer wouldn't actually accomplish. Similarly, war is usually thought of as existing when there are a certain baseline number of deaths per year (IIRC 1000 for the most-used dataset), which generally rules out most if not all of the past twenty years of the I/P conflict.

I'd be happy to send you some good citations if you're interested.

 
At 7:09 AM, Blogger alex said...

Right - I was alluding to the 1,000 deaths requirement when I said this arguably does not pass as a war.

[Though the figure commonly tossed for the second intifada is 3,500 deaths from 2000 to 2003 - since there was a sharp dropoff in casualties, I think 2000,2001, and 2002 would most likely meet the cutoff - though I don't have access to the data to say this for certain.]

But why wouldn't Palestinian elections qualify the PA as a democracy? Arafat was elected in '96 after all. Do you mean because Arafat died, rather than peacefully transferred power on his own?

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger angela said...

am i the person responsible for introducing you to dpt, the singer & small data set, doyle, spiro, and the whole bloody cottage industry in american ir?

yeah. the definition of war is restrictive, and they tend to let new democracies off the hook because of the pseudo-kantian side of the theory which maintains that like a good bottle of barolo, liberal values need time to ferment.

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

It depends on whose definition of democracy you're using, but I think the one used in most big cross-national democratic peace studies codes democracy as requiring at least one peaceful transfer of power between ruling coalitions. From what I read about PA plans for holding an election in January, this condition may in fact be met. On the other hand, if Fatah's candidate ends up winning a basically-uncontested election, there might be some controversy over coding post-Arafat Palestine a democracy. Mexico, during the era of PRI dominance, for example, didn't usually make the cut as a democracy despite regular elections and other trappings of a democratic polity.

 

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