Tumbling factoids?

by Chris Bertram on August 12, 2008

bq. “The absence of war between major established democracies is as close to anything we know to a simple empirical regularity in relations between peoples.”

John Rawls, _The Law of Peoples_, pp. 52–3.

Well, obviously it depends on how much you pack into “major” and “established”, but, since both Russia and Georgia rate as 7, “fully democratic” on the “Polity index”:http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm, there’s at least some case for saying that there’s just been an exception to that lawlike generalization.[fn1]

Also under pressure in the past few days has been the claim that, since the United Nations was established, no member state has invaded another state, taken over the entireity of its territory and annexed it (successfully). The one unsuccessful attempt was Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Happily, it looks as if the Russians aren’t going to take over Georgia, but I guess they now have to be the favourites to be the first power to do this somewhere.[fn2]

1. I seem to remember reading, maybe in something by Michael Mann, that various native American peoples had democratic constitutions, and that wars waged on them by the United States were also counterexamples.

2. Hat-tip to Leif Wenar, who has a paper co-written with Branko Milanovic on the Rawls-Doyle generalization forthcoming in _The Journal of Political Philosopy_ .