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Can Liberalism Contribute To A More Peaceful World Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4478 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Liberalism has been widely criticized among students, academics and even governments from over time as to whether it can actually be adapted to the current global context. This concept has received increasingly more attention since the end of the Cold War. Most states would consider it as the best technique to prevent warfare, and maintain peace and security. Liberalism would therefore appear to suit their needs well. It promises to provide a more peaceful world in terms of politics and economics with broader prospects for international security. Its dominant concept has a strong preference for non-violent methods, and it can also be seen in the progress of international politics (Morgan, 2010: 35). The concept of Liberalism became a prominent principle in the age of Enlightenment, and was debated by influential philosophers, including John Locke and Immanuel Kant.

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The Liberal theoretical approach is composed of many different strands, including Liberal Institutionalism, Republican Liberalism, Sociological Liberalism, Pacifistic Liberalism, Imperialistic Liberalism and Structural Liberalism. One of the most influential liberalist strands, and the one most often promoted by western societies, is Liberal Internationalism, which has made a distinct and significant contribution to security studies. It emphasizes ‘recognizing and promoting human rights around the world, encouraging the spread of democracy, and using powerful multilateral institutions to generate public goods on a global scale’ (Bromell and Tirman, 2008).

This essay will examine the question of why Liberal Internationalism holds that it alone is capable of contributing to a more peaceful world, despite criticism, such as that from Carr, who described it as a ‘utopian edifice’ (Carr 1981: 26). The essay is organized as follows: the first section defines and presents the basic elements of Liberal Internationalism. The second section explains why the concept of Liberal Internationalism can contribute to peace in world of politics, by describing it in relation to the democratic peace theory, which is substantial. The third section clarifies the concept of Liberal Internationalism, with regard to the democratic peace theory, and whether or not it is practicable; a case study of follows East Timor (Timor-Leste). The fourth section will analyse some problems raised by both Liberal Internationalism, and the democratic peace theory, before concluding.

Liberal internationalism rose to prominence during the nineteenth century, notably with the support of Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, and was further developed in the early twentieth century by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who outlined the Fourteen Points (Gottfried, 2006: 42). Even though these Fourteen Points failed to prevent the Second World War, they have since inspired the concept of Internationalism. Since the end of the Cold War, however Liberal Internationalism has been rejuvenated as the crucial paradigm for Western scholars and the political elite. With it, they attempt to understand and manage international affairs in the era of globalization (McGrew, 2002: 267). The liberal internationalists argue that the doctrine of its foreign policy should be its intervention in the affairs of other sovereign states to promote liberal schemes. Those states pursuing this foreign policy may intervene via military force, or through humanitarian aid (Kupchan and Trubowitz, 2007: 10-20). This foreign policy can effectively cooperate with institutional mechanisms, including international, trans-national, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Doyle (1997: 32) proclaims Liberal Internationalism as lying ‘a special claim to what world politics is and can be: a state of peace.’ This section will examine the primary features behind Liberal Internationalism, and why it tends to promote peace for both the national and international arena.

Firstly, the foreign policy of liberal states is the major characteristic of Liberal Internationalism. It entails two critical factors. The internationalists note that a country engages with others in the international context because it is in opposed to being isolationist (Halliday, 1988: 192). The terms of non-isolationist nations include promoting greater interaction between societies, cooperation among individuals, groups and nations around the world towards a common purpose: economy, culture and politics (Sylvest, 2005: 266). With the influence of globalisation, it easily connects with others through the growth of satellite links, and the work of multinational corporations (Clark, 1999: 146). This primary issue can consequently induce peace and prosperity of both national and international levels. Liberal Internationalism also emphasises a foreign policy with shared norms, values and identities between liberal states. These states have conducted the norms of their foreign policy with a similar approach. These norms may consist of ‘open markets, international institutions, cooperative security, democratic community, progressive change, collective problem solving, shared sovereignty, and the rule of law’ (Ikenberry 2009: 71). In the same way, international cooperation can contribute to peace by creating international norms, motivations and new formats of multilateral politics (McGrew, A. 2002: 268). It can be clearly seen that the growth of international organizations has provided shared values, such as the economic movement. Each state links the prosperity of their economy with trade, investment and legal contracts. Globalisation is the crucial stimulant providing a better understanding between foreign states in a worldwide information community. Hence, scholars stress that if one state shares values, norms and identities with others which agree in a similar fashion, these cognitive factors will prevent, or manage, the use of force and warfare (Halliday, 1988: 189-90), and, finally enforce peace in global politics.

Secondly, liberal internationalism focuses on the links between inside and outside variations. Liberal political theory fundamentally holds that peace needs to emerge in the individual, then the society, state, and finally at the international level. E. H. Carr (see in Richardson 1997) suggests that a peace settlement should start with transforming the domestic structures of states, rather than with reforming the international society of states. Thus, the individual level is a key basis of Liberal Internationalism. It entails that individuals or citizens, albeit with different beliefs and cultures, should share an interest in peace. The possibility of a more peaceful world might arise when the citizens of a state bear the burdens of war. According to Doyle (1986: 1151), citizens recognise that their satisfaction can only be attained within the conditions of peace. Furthermore, citizens within the international political system can shape the global direction in which the international system should be progressing in the political, economic, and social environments (Morgan, P. 2010: 36). They might use public opinion as a useful instrument for promoting peace (Kupchan and Trubowitz 2010: 99). The process of Liberal Internationalism can be driven by domestic policies, before becoming visible foreign policies. These policies, particularly political policies, are preceded with the pressures, perceptions and preferences of the elites, interest groups, and others in the society, not just the combination of states (ibid.). For example, U.S. foreign policy has depended on the consensus of a bipartisan, and moderate centre in Congress. (Kupchan and Trubowitz, 2010: 98). For this reason, the inside-outside distinction is a vital guide in contributing to a more peaceful world, especially when considering perceptions at the individual level, which decide the character of international politics.

Thirdly, Liberal Internationalism can provide world peace by dint of universal human rights. Since the end of the Cold War, the provision of universal human rights has appeared prominently in the second wave of Liberal Internationalism (Michalak, 2003: 593). Not only should states be concern with national security, but also human rights, and freedom (Morgan, 2010: 38). The concept is a progressive one in world politics, through the reform of both domestic and international affairs which could improve human and global conditions (McGrew 2002: 268). With the promotion of this reform, the liberal states might commonly pressure other governments, and each other, to ‘become more supportive of and sensitive to human rights concerns including rights and opportunities for political prisoners and women, religious freedom, equally distributive justice, victims of famine, and so on’ (Morgan, 2010: 39). For the methods of contributing a more peaceful world, critics remark that liberal states may take the action of universal human rights through the delivery of humanitarian assistance; for instance, building infrastructure, promoting social well-being and restoring civil society in the short and long-term (Malone and Wermester, 206: 43)

Finally, some liberal scholars argue that a more peaceful world can be attained with a widening of the liberal zone of peace. The phrase “zone of peace” has been established among liberal societies by the influential thinking of Immanuel Kant. Kant defines a zone of peace in terms of “pacific federation” or “pacific union”. This concept has been interpreted and modified by many liberal internationalists. Russett and Oneal (2001) note that peaceful contributions can be made from the expansion of the liberal zone of peace through ‘the dynamics of transnational economic integration, the diffusion of liberal democracy and the growth of international governance’ If the states follow this condition, scholars believe that the occurrence of warfare becomes an irrational, or unthinkable, option (ibid.). The more foreign states are integrated, the more the liberal zone of peace will relatively expand as a result (McGrew, 2002: 270).

Having outlined Liberal Internationalism, including its origins, concept and potential for the aim of world peace and stability, discussion will now focus on the extended view of Liberal Internationalism as it applies to the democratic peace theory. This theory promises to bring greater peace to the world than any other model. Scholars determine that democratic peace theory, a recent and now dominant ideology, should be promoted globally by liberal states in the widening and deepening structure (Owen, 1994: 102). Clark (1999: 146) argues that ‘democratic are now set to be the global norm’. This overview highlights that democracy is an important cause of peace. Doyle (2004) notes that ‘peace and democracy are just two sides of the same coin’ Indeed, it therefore appears to be the crucial link between liberalism, democracy and peace. (Bellamy et al. 2010: 24).

The democratic peace theory is rooted in the influential treaties of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who coined the phrase “perpetual peace”, and which has revived in the late twentieth century by the US political scientist, Michael Doyle. The democratic supporters claim two hypotheses: the dyadic and monadic perspectives.

This first perspective raises important issues about the democratic peace theory as a means to achieve international peace and security because Michael Doyle (1983) proclaims in the Journal Philosophy and Public Affairs that, until recently, democratic states almost seldom engage in wars against each other, and rarely consider the use of force in their mutual relations, if they believe that those states are also liberal (Lake, 1992: 27; Owen, 1994: 102). This hypothesis is the so-called the dyadic perspective. The statement has been thoroughly underpinned by President Clinton who declared his US foreign policy in 1994: ‘Democracies don’t attack each other…ultimately the best strategy to insure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere.’ (Clinton, 1994 cited in Bellamy et al. 2010: 24). This theory also explains the clear evidence of this view through the political history between liberal democratic states which seldom flight one other except, during the ‘German and Spanish regimes that fought in World War I, the Spanish-American War’ and Finland’s allegiance to the Axis powers in World War II (Chan, 1997: 61).

Foreign relations among liberal states share the collective perception of democratic norms, strategic values and institutional constraints. In such manner democracies share an understanding, and decry war with other liberal states (Russett, 1993: 30). These appropriate central norms are based on the cooperation with ‘favouring the peaceful resolution of disputes’ (Russett, 1993: 38), the desire of citizens in stabilising expectations of the future, and the rule of law (Lake, 1992: 28), and the protection of democratic government for the preservation and well-being of its citizens (Owen, 1994: 103). Specifically, Doyle (1983: 210) notes that these liberal democratic states are uniquely more tolerant and compromising in their international relations. They trust and respect other liberal states enough to avoid a war by discussion and negotiation (Morgan, 2010: 43); in doing so, probably of war between liberal states should be impossible. Chan’s critique (1997: 68) supports the view of Russett that democracies are less tending to, or willing to, either initiate violence, or enter into war. This is because correlations between the domestic and cultural structures restrict their action to do so (Chan, 1997: 61). It is claimed that democratic, but war-prone leaders must gain approval for war broadly from popular and legislative support from constitutions, public opinion, the opposition parties and ‘various institutions of government’ (Russett 1993: 38; Owen, 1994: 90). Given these obstacles, it is difficult for any democratic nations to wage war, and allows time for negotiations, or other approaches to proceed (Owen, 1994: 90; Morgan, 2010: 43). At the international level, such foreign policy depends mainly on the use of treaties, and other international agreements, which must be legislatively supported by majorities in democratic societies (Owen, 1994: 93). These agreements include ‘trade and investment, military alliances, overseas military bases, foreign aid, and economic sanctions’ (Chaudoin et al. 2010: 77). As a result, war and conflict might happen through the changes in both the domestic and international structures of governance (Russett, 2010: 105).

Another important aspect of democratic peace hypothesis is the monadic perspective. This perspective is problematic for the democratic peace theory which aims to promote a more peaceful world. Kant states that perpetual peace was a largely separate peace in that republican states remain ‘in a state of war with non-republics’ (Doyle, 1983a: 226). This concept directly inspired the democratic peace theory. Democratic ideologists identify that democracies’ interactions are much more complex with non-democracies (Lake, 1992: 27). These democratic states sometimes enter into war against non-democratic, or autocratic, states (Owen, 1994: 88, 93, 101). Critics cite the fact that democracies are sometimes much more aggressive than non-democracies. They simply lack of trust in non-liberal states (Morgan, 2010: 43). For this reason, they display expansionist behaviour (Mansfield and Snyder 1989; Snyder 1998), and they may also be even more powerful in the use of force because of greater resources (Williams, 2008: 37). According to maintaining the liberal zone of peace, democracies might choose to start war. War is requested only when it could provide liberal goals (Owen, 1994: 95). The statistics show that when ‘democracies fight dictatorships they usually fight well, winning nearly 80 per cent of all their wars, and more than 90 per cent of those they choose to start’ (Reiter and Stam 2002).

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Liberalist democratic theorists suggest that the spread of democracy can be sustained through international security – ‘if you want peace promote democracy’ (Chan, 1997: 64). Technically, the democracies constitute a more peaceful community between liberal states (Morgan, 2010: 42). Hence, a more peaceful world can be seen by extending the liberal democratic members. It seems that this doctrine has expanded in every part of the world. A prime example is visible in the number of democratic states around the world. In 1950, only twenty countries were democratic; in 2008 that number had increased to nearly one hundred (Polity IV Project, Centre for Systemic Peace).

According to Nye (1993: 40), democratic peace ‘need[s] exploration via detailed case studies to look at what actually happened in particular instances’. This section will critically consider this view in detail, through a case study of how Liberal Internationalism, as well as the democratic peace theory has influenced states, specifically newly independent nation-states such as Timor-Leste, and whether this concept really does contributes to a more peaceful world.

In contemporary politics, a combination of the democratic peace theory and the motivation to spread democratic value is now a major part of the foreign policies of liberal democratic states, in building a stable liberal zone of peace (Clark, 1999: 148). Scholars expect that, in the long run, peace and prosperity of the liberal internationalist approach can create a new government for the people of Timor-Leste (McGrew, 2002: 271). Liberal internationalists recommended ‘the need for strong international government’ to manage the international peace and the liberal world order of self-governing nations, by promoting universal human rights (Dunne 2001; Richardson 1997).

The independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (DRTL), emerged as Asia’s newest nation, after gaining independence from Indonesia in 1999, and being officially recognised as a new political establishment on May 20, 2002 (UNDP: 2006). Without doubt, liberal peace is the most influential theory among international institutions, and notably so in United Nations peace operations (Bellamy et al. 2010: 23). These operations have been largely supported by liberal democratic states. Similarly, Sen (1999) claims that the UN and other international actors are ‘actively promoting democracy as a necessary precondition for good governance, protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and creating the foundation for sustainable economic development.’

According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s video message on the tenth anniversary of the United Nations-Conducted Popular Consultation in Timor-Leste (2009), the UN will ‘continue to support the efforts to build a prosperous, inclusive society, based on democracy, rule of law, human dignity and respect for the human rights’ so that Timor-Leste has ‘the best path to sustainable peace and development.’ These efforts have been visible since the UN nation-building programme of the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) was carried out from February 2000 to May 2002 (Myrttinen, 2009: 219). Timor-Leste has been recommended to promote the democratic process by having all its major democratic institutions established in this manner (Cummins, 2010: 899).

In order to promote Liberal Internationalism in perpetuity, it should stem from the participation of citizens in the political process, in order for them to share in the creation of liberal norms and identities (Myrttinen, 2009: 233). This would mean an extension of inside-outside approach. Case (2002: 5) suggests that democracy can be operated by focusing on the participation of all citizens in the political process through the conduct of free and fair elections. The UN expected all East Timorese to participate in the process of democracy, by campaigning for a referendum on independence in 1999. This process indicated that East Timorese were willingly to vote on their own future. It can be seen that the high number of East Timorese voters, 98.6 percent, and the over eighty percent voting in the local elections, represented, by far, the majority of the population (Myrttinen, 2009: 222). Liberal democratic states view this is an important part of democratic success.

However, a decade after the independence referendum in 1999, Timor-Leste remains an ‘imperfect democracy and nation-state under construction’ and confronts socio-economic and political challenges (Myrttinen, 2009: 239). Though there has been a general consensus between external interveners and local elites on establishing a democratic nation-state, the process has been problematic (ibid). For example, there were tensions within East Timorese society which led to a major crisis in 2006 (UN secretary general report: 2009). Interestingly, the approach of Liberal Internationalism and democratic peace theory are, therefore, experience difficulty in contribution to a more peaceful world – specifically a new state. Roland Paris (2004) found that ‘some situation which is rapidly enforced democratised could have negative effects and undermine the chances of long-term stable peace’. Liberal democratic leaders must use their opportunities effectively in expanding the liberal zone of peace. In particular, ‘those states that just established the country with their own way, and they have less experience about democracy’ (ibid).

Despite Liberal Internationalism’s support of many western nations, many of whom have possessed influential roles in contemporary politics; it has been proven to have a limited capability. This section will examine some of the specific problems of Liberal Internationalism and the democratic peace theory. In the monadic perspective, democracies will still eagerly go to war with non-democracies, so it is difficult for any guaranteed assurance of a more peaceful world. Liberal thinkers call this circumstance the international imprudence (Doyle 2004). The current of world politics contain many autocracies or non-liberal and non-Western states such as China, Cuba, North Korea, and so on (Russett, B. 106).These nations embody all the reasons why a democratic state would wage war, notably among which are the radically divergent political regimes. Doyle (1986: 1156) criticises the notion that liberal states have been attacked, or threatened, by non-liberal states. The recent situation in South Korea (a democratic state) having been continually attacked by North Korea (an autocratic state), demonstrate this (Reuters, 2010). Hence, the democratic states perceive themselves as having been attacked, or threatened, by different political systems for a long period.

Critics also note that a more peaceful world rests on the liberal governments which dictate whether those states are liberal or not. Risse-Kappen (1995: 492) notes that ‘democracies to a large degree create their enemies and their friends’, he maintains, ‘by inferring either aggressive or defensive motives from the domestic structures of their counterparts’. Consequently ‘Joseph Stalin became “Uncle Joe” when Americans needed to justify fighting alongside the Soviet Union against Germany in World War II’ (Owen, 1994: 97). Furthermore, Small and Singer (1976: 58) highlighted that it is scarcely possible to realise ‘the causal mechanism behind the democratic peace means’; in consequence, it cannot guarantee genuine peace. Some exponents believe that among the international community, there is hardly a genuine democracy in any part of the world (Malone and Wermester, 2006: 41). Exemplifying this is the presence, even now, of US troops in Afghanistan. To a great extent, therefore, democracies still quarrel with non-democracies on a regular basis.

Liberal democratic peace theorists have proclaimed that if states had followed its doctrine, a peaceful world would have resulted. They pointed out that there has seldom been war between democratic states. The lack of wars among democracies; however, even if true, is not surprising. After the end of the Cold War, interstate wars become infrequent, and so the statistics may not accurately account for the lack of hostility between democratic states (Spiro, 1994: 74). Liberal international theorists believe that the extension of the liberal zone of peace, the shared democratic values and identities, and the spread of democratic states, can contribute to a more peaceful world; nevertheless, some scholars assume this as Western imperialism, or Liberal Interventionism. The Western approach has possibly intruded on other sovereign states in the programme of peace building, such as Timor-Leste. Hence, the latent purpose of Western nations ensures that their area will be peaceful.

In conclusion, the proposition of Liberal Internationalism encourages the hope for a new age of international peace (Chan, 1997: 59). The achievement of Liberal Internationalism is illustrated by the deepening links from inside (individual and state level) to outside (international level) in sharing liberal democratic norms, values and identities, promoting universal human rights, and enhancing liberal zones of peace via the democratic peace theory to most of the world. Although Liberal Internationalism is one of the dominant theories of liberalism that underpins contemporary peace settlements, its application remains controversial as the situation in Timor-Leste affects. The democratic process is, perhaps, not suitable in different regions or cultures. Furthermore, the idea that liberal democratic states do not wage war against each other does not allow for unforeseen circumstances of the future. Liberal democratic states may yet come to reject those cherished ideological values and engage in combat with now allied states one day. As a result, this concept requires further modification. The possibility of world peace can; in fact, be that moral citizens and statesmen assume the duty of striving for peace (Doyle, 1997: 278). They should not intervene in the sovereign interests of other states, even if those states happen to be autocratic.


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