The Illusion of Democratic Credibility

  title={The Illusion of Democratic Credibility},
  author={Alexander B. Downes and Todd S. Sechser},
  journal={International Organization},
  pages={457 - 489}
Abstract Do democracies make more effective coercive threats? An influential literature in international relations argues that democratic institutions allow leaders to credibly signal their resolve in crises, thereby making their threats more likely to work than threats by nondemocracies. This article revisits the quantitative evidence for this proposition, which we call the “democratic credibility hypothesis,” and finds that it is surprisingly weak. Close examination of the data sets most… 
Information, Popular Constraint, and the Democratic Peace
Politicians and scholars have long argued that democracies are less prone to international conflict, at least with other democracies. However, while there is widespread acceptance of this "law" in
Ballots and Blackmail: Coercive Diplomacy and the Democratic Peace
Does the restraint that prevents pairs of democracies from fighting large-scale wars also prevent them from coercing one another? While scholars have long drawn a bright line between using force and
The Cost of Empty Threats: A Penny, Not a Pound
A large literature in political science takes for granted that democratic leaders would pay substantial domestic political costs for failing to carry out the public threats they make in international
Coercion and the Credibility of Assurances
What makes coercion succeed? For most international relations scholars, the answer is credible threats. Yet scholars have neglected a second key component of successful coercion: credible assurances.
Territorial Issues, Audience Costs, and the Democratic Peace: The Importance of Issue Salience
Democratic leaders are more prone to domestic sanction following defeats, and these audience costs allow democracies to signal their intentions during public disputes. Empirical tests strongly
How Do Observers Assess Resolve?
ABSTRACT Despite a plethora of theoretical frameworks, IR scholars have struggled with the question of how observers assess resolve. We make two important contributions in this direction.
Debating the Democratic Peace in the International System
In recent publications, we inquire whether the pacifying effects that are often attributed to democracy are likely to continue to hold as the world democratizes. Critics raise questions about the
When States Resist: Regime Type, Relative Power, and Militarized Compellent Threats
What explains state responses to militarized compellent threats? We propose it is not only the power distribution between target and challenger but the interaction between power distribution and
Coercive Threats and Reputation-Building in International Crises
When do states defend their reputations? States sometimes pay heavy costs to protect their reputations, but other times willingly take actions that could tarnish them. What accounts for the
Civil Society and the Democratic Peace
We theorize that three distinct structures of democratic constraint explain why more democratic dyads do not engage in military conflict with each other. We build on earlier theories that focused on


The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory
Democratic peace theory is probably the most powerful liberal contribution to the debate on the causes of war and peace. In this paper I examine the causal logics that underpin the theory to
How Smart and Tough are Democracies Reassessing Theories of Democratic Victory in War
Proponents of the selection effects argument claim that because democratic leaders run a higher risk of losing office than autocratic leaders if they fail to win wars, they are more careful than
A Crisis-Based Evaluation of the Democratic Peace Proposition
Abstract It has often been said that the closest thing we have to an empirical law in international relations is that democracies do not fight against each other. This study adds to the literature on
Reliable Partners: How Democracies Have Made a Separate Peace
Democracies often go to war but almost never against each other. Indeed, "the democratic peace" has become a catchphrase among scholars and even U.S. Presidents. But why do democracies avoid fighting
An Empirical Test of The Audience Cost Proposition
Fearon (1994a) concludes that democracies should be less likely to back down in crises and thus be able signal resolve more effectively than autocratic states. The authors evaluate this argument
The Cost of Empty Threats: A Penny, Not a Pound
A large literature in political science takes for granted that democratic leaders would pay substantial domestic political costs for failing to carry out the public threats they make in international
Do Democracies Make Inferior Counterinsurgents? Reassessing Democracy's Impact on War Outcomes and Duration
  • J. Lyall
  • Political Science
    International Organization
  • 2010
Abstract A core proposition from decades of research on internal wars asserts that democracies, with their casualty-averse publics, accountable leaders, and free media, are uniquely prone to losing
Goliath's Curse: Coercive Threats and Asymmetric Power
Abstract States typically issue compellent threats against considerably weaker adversaries, yet their threats often fail. Why? Expanding on a standard model of international crisis bargaining, I
Domestic Audiences and Strategic Interests
  • Joe Clare
  • Political Science
    The Journal of Politics
  • 2007
A number of recent studies assumes that international threats issued by democratic states are more credible because their leaders face domestic punishment for failing to carry them out. Yet this
Who Are These Belligerent Democratizers? Reassessing the Impact of Democratization on War
Abstract In a key finding in the democratic peace literature, Mansfield and Snyder argue that states with weak institutions undergoing incomplete transitions to democracy are more likely to initiate