Democratic Peace Theory
The Democratic Peace Theory is an international relations theory based on pro-democratic ideological pillars arguing that democratic states are less likely to engage in war due to the fact that executive leaders of democratic states are held accountable for declarations of, and failed involvement in, war by public state elections polls, and that the representative or parliamentary democracies, which are built on democratic bicameral chambers, are filled with similar elected legislative representatives that face the same scrutiny and public accountability at regional public election polls. The theory is greatly weighted on the assumption that enough democratically elected leaders within a representative or parliamentary democracy will attempt to avoid war for domestic political reasons, most importantly public reelection, and that the democratic state will seldom engage into conflict with other democratic states. The theory goes even further by stating that democratic states generally do not view foreign states with similar democratic political infrastructures as hostile entities as they would view a state with a different economic and political structure, such as communism or authoritarian leadership, and that democratic states usually possess greater wealth than non-democratic states, which in reality is a recent phenomenon created by the post-World War II Bretton Woods system, and are more conservative in policymaking with concern to large scale conflicts due to a fear of infrastructure destruction and massive accumulating state debt, which again will place the political leader at risk either at the national or regional election polls.
The Democratic Peace Theory has some legitimate points, which have more than likely been true on multiple occasions throughout the history of post-Bretton Woods democracy, but the theory itself remains another vague international relations theory which attempts to highlight trends favorable to the theory by picking and choosing historical compilations of numerical statistics, and does not take into consideration the predictable motives of the most economically powerful entities influencing domestic representative democracies, nor does it take into consideration that the statistical trends that support the Democratic Peace Theory may only be temporary characteristics actually associated with the modern capitalistic globalization era, which in no fashion should be considered a permanent international relations maxim.
The post-World War II Democratic Peace Theory is not only questionable on an international level, but completely invalid when applied to the Palestinian and state of Israel problem, along with the Democracy Deficit in the modern Middle East as it attributes to that highly propagated political land conflict. The theory itself is invalid for application to the Palestinian-Israel problem because, first and foremost, the United States of America, which is self-reputed as being one of the largest international proponents of democracy, is the largest exterior factor impacting the Palestinian-Israel problem and often engages American foreign polices based on their often-manipulated form of representative democracy under capital bipartisan lobbying influences. The United States has maintained a continuous political and economic bias towards the state of Israel since the Cold War, which Democratic Peace theorists would credit to the purported democratic similarities, but the United States has also continuously contributed to the democracy deficit in the Middle East by enabling authoritarian leaders to exist as political carrot-eaters and puppets-for-a-price. On the one hand, the United States claims to be the global leader of freedom and democracy while at the same time enabling authoritarian leaders in the Middle East to resist the spread of democracy.
In addition, the democratic process in the United States possesses hypocritically undemocratic characteristics as the United States has continuously circumvented the domestic democratic process by taking “military action abroad more than 200 times during its history, but only five of these actions were wars declared by Congress, and most were authorized unilaterally by the president” (Rosato, 2003, p. 597).
The plight of the Palestinian people, especially in the occupied territories, is greatly ignored by the international community based on several democratically-based institutionalized structures. The Palestinian political infrastructure, Palestinian territories and the Palestinian people are not recognized as a state by the United Nations and therefore do not receive the same international protections that recognized states on the international stage receive. In 2009, the Palestinian National Authority made a declaration stating that it accepted “the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the territory of Palestine” (Quigley, 2009, p.1) after accusations of Israeli atrocities during the 2008-2009 military aggression into the Palestinian territory of Gaza. The Palestine people were afforded no inquiry or protection against Israeli state military aggressions due to the legal loophole in the Rome Statute that “only states can give consent to ICC jurisdiction over acts committed in their territory” (Quigley, 2009, p. 10). Despite vast international support from a majority of recognized states within the United Nations General Assembly, which illustrates that Palestinian statehood is democratically favored in the international community, Palestinian statehood has been consistently blocked in the United Nations Security Council, specifically by United States veto. A prime example isolating the Palestinians from statehood, and the explicit failure of international democracy, can be seen in 1998 when the Palestine National Council declared statehood for Palestine and “one hundred and four states voted for this resolution, forty-four abstained; only the United States and Israel voted against” (Quigley, 2009, p.4). In utilizing its permanent member of the United Nations Security Council veto against a majority United Nations vote on the international stage, the United States was able to block Palestinian statehood on behalf of Israel and leave the occupied territories as a non-state entity without international recognition or international protection against Israeli aggression and occupation. At the same time, the United States clearly illustrated the hypocrisy and failures of domestic representative democracy and displayed how those hypocrisies, created through political and capital influences on publically elected leaders desirous of reelection and career longevity can taint the international democratic process.
Domestic Representative Democracy
To truly understand the reality of the Palestinian-Israel situation, it is important to look at the biased enabler role that the United States plays on behalf of Israel and why, through domestic representative democracy, that these actions are even possible within a so-called democratic superpower state holding so much economic weight within the Bretton Woods international economic organizations, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations.
In the United Nations Security Council, the United States has utilized its veto power against UN resolutions condemning Israeli aggressions and human rights violations, to include illegal Israeli settlement building and territorial acquisitioning, over 42 times between the years of 1972 and 2011 (Jewish Virtual Library, 2014). Illustrating the broken international democratic process, these United States vetoes were issued to protect Israel regardless of the overwhelming international support for the resolutions condemning the alleged Israeli aggressions. In addition, the United States has provided Israeli with over 3 billion dollars in annual economic and military aid since the Cold War era despite the Arms Export Control Act that states that the “United States may stop aid to countries which use U.S. military assistance for purposes other than legitimate self-defense” (Sharp, 2014, p. 13). The trend of U.S. monetary and military support for the state of Israel does not seem to be declining as is evident by the year 2007 when “the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package for the 10-year period from FY2009 to FY2018.” (Sharp, 2014, p. 4), and more recently “during his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress” (Sharp, 2014, p. 5).
While the pro-Democratic Peace theorist will quickly point out the co-relation between the alleged democracy of the United States and the alleged democracy of the state of Israel, the issue of undemocratic practices to support a fellow so-called democratic state can be questioned along with the ethnic exclusivity and human rights record of Israel.
Representative Democracy Controlled by Capital
In support of pro-Democratic Peace theorists, representative democracies are easily manipulated by capital and political influence, regardless of human morality. It is quite easy to avoid war, finance a foreign state coup and state build, engage a rentier state, or provide qualitative military power to a foreign ally if a majority of elected government representatives can be persuaded, or purchased, to vote a certain way on specific bills or resolutions. This is the main reason that the U.S. government, despite the incredible growth of the current U.S. national debt and Department of Defense budget cuts, continue to financially and politically support an Israeli state that consistently violates international law and human rights on several levels. Zionist lobbyist organizations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee consistently utilize collective capital to sponsor and donate to congressional members, both democrat and republican alike, who can be relied upon to vote favorably on proposed bills that are beneficial to Israel, such as the United States–Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 which successfully secured heavy levels of U.S. economic assistance to Israel. Each year, regardless of how dire domestic American issues may be, leading congressional representatives run with ‘hat in hand’ to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference to make future political promises in exchange for economic support and political longevity, and during an executive presidential year those political stakes for any candidate that avoids an annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference are extremely costly on a political level.
AIPAC itself is a behind-the-Congress political power constantly scouring the major American college campuses for future congressional leaders, and the Zionist organization sponsors full-paid trips to the state of Israel led by senior Democrat and Republican leaders, in recent years led by the recently dethroned Eric Cantor and Steny Hoyer, for all freshman U.S. congressional representatives. As if U.S. representative democracy was not already vulnerable to manipulation by a powerful foreign lobby taking its instructions from a foreign government, and in all fairness we must also point out private sector influences, the major Jewish lobbyist organizations receive social, political and financial support from Christian Zionist lobbyist organizations, which possess larger numbers of adherents , who base their entire political ideology on the religious belief that God promised a plot of land to a specific ethnic group, and that Jesus will not rapturously return until that promise is fulfilled.
Middle East Democracy Deficit
In opposition to the democratic peace theory, but still in support of the theory that representative democracy is easily manipulated , the United States has passed resolutions to provide foreign aid funding, or political carrots, to many authoritarian leaders, and even leaders described as dictators, throughout the Middle East. For decades, stemming from the 1979 Camp David Accords, Egypt was the second highest recipient of annual U.S. military foreign aid at 2 billion dollars a year, and continues to be a recipient of U.S. foreign aid despite the Arab Spring and military coup that ousted Hosni Mubarak. In reality, just as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee pushed U.S. Congressional members for political and economic sanctions that led to military invasion against Iraq, and are currently pushing the same agenda against Iran, AIPAC lobbied the U.S. Congress heavily for foreign aid to authoritarian Egypt in order to ensure the state on Israel’s southern border, where precious pipelines exist in the Negev, not to mention the Israeli Dimona nuclear reactor, was bought and paid for by American tax dollars.
Sustained economic and political rents from the so-called democratic states of the capitalistic west to authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, such as the U.S. assistance to bolster Egypt’s military during Mubarak’s regime, has been, and continues to be, an enabler for authoritarian leaders in the oil-rich Middle East which basically stonewalls the spread of democracy in the region and restricts the successful advance of democracy. Therefore, the Democratic Peace Theory will never be tested in the Middle East because natural resource-hungry capitalist Democracies in the west promote authoritarian leaders that cooperate in the Middle East and secretly fund coups to overthrow those that do not cooperate.
Another way that the democratic-capitalist west enables authoritarian leaders, and therefore promotes the democracy deficit in the Middle East, is through the rentier state process. Rentier states “derive most or a substantial part of their revenues from the outside world and the functioning of their political system depend to a large degree on accruing external revenues that can be classified as rents” (Swarz, 2008, p. 604), and therefore are states that are not economically at the mercy of western democratic-capitalist exploitation and natural resource extraction. Economically troubled states without abundant natural resources, such as are found in parts of South America, are often forced to accept IMF loans containing SAP conditions that require the infiltration of foreign investment, better known as natural resource extraction and capital flight, and lured into exploitative regional trade blocs such as Mexico’s involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement. This economic assimilation and exploitation is not always the case for rentier states because most rentier states, especially in the Middle East, enjoy vast natural resources and are not completely dependent on international capital from foreign sources. The process of rentierism comes in multiple forms such as “bilateral or multilateral foreign-aid payments, such as foreign development assistance or military assistance, which are termed ‘strategic rents’” (Swarz, p. 14) and are not strictly limited to states that are heavily laden with oil.
The Democratic Peace Theory is a faulty theory at best because “the democratic peace is essentially a post-World War I phenomenon restricted to the Americas and Western Europe. Second, the United States has been the dominant power in both these regions since World War I” (Rosato, 2003, p. 599). As we have illustrated in this paper, the United States, as well as any representative democracy under a capitalist system, is extremely vulnerable to domestic political manipulation through capital lobbying which often creates state foreign policy that is quite undemocratic on the international stage. At the same time, the United State boasts democratic principles throughout the halls of globalization while openly supporting authoritarian regimes abroad, and utilizing presidential executive orders to circumvent domestic democratic procedures. In closing, the Democratic Peace Theory is invalid for application to the Middle East, especially between Palestinians and the state of Israel, simply because of the undemocratic involvement of the United States.
Jewish Virtual Library. 2014. U.N. Security Council: U.S. Vetoes of Resolutions Critical to Israeli. Accessed June 14, 2014. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html
Quigley, John. 2009. “The Palestinian Declaration to the International Criminal Court: The Statehood Issue.” The Internet Journal of Rutgers School of Law 25, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 1-10. Accessed June 14, 2014. http://lawrecord.com/files/35_Rutgers_L_Rec_1.pdf
Rosato, Sebastian. 2003. The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, No. 4. (Nov., 2003), pp. 585-602. Accessed on June 14, 2014. http://rrii.150m.com/t08/Sebastian%20Rosato%20-%20The%20Flawed%20Logic%20of%20Democratic%20Peace%20Theory.pdf
Sharp, Jeremy M. 2014. U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel. Congressional Research Center, April 11, 2014. Accessed June 14, 2014. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf
Swarz, Rolf. 2008. The Political Economy of State-Formation in the Arab Middle East: Rentier States, Economic Reform, and Democratization. Review of International Political Economy 15:4 October 2008: 599–621. Accessed June 15, 2014. http://www.relooney.info/SI_Governance/Governance-Economy_2.pdf
Schwarz, Rolf. 2004. "State Formation Processes in Rentier States: The Middle Eastern Case." Pan-European Conference on International Relations, ECPR Standing Group on International Relations, 2004. Accessed June 15, 2014. http://columbiauniversity.org/itc/journalism/stille/Politics%20Fall%202007/Readings%20--%20Weeks%201-5/The%20Rentier%20State%20in%20the%20Middle%20East.pdf