Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Death and taxes: Sources of democratic military aggression
by Caverley, Jonathan D., Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2008, 337; 3338330
Abstract (Summary)

When do democracies aggressively choose military coercion as their preferred tool in international politics? When do voters have a moderating influence on foreign policy, and when do they allow their leaders free rein, and when do they encourage entering conflicts, even at the risk of overstretch? When do democracies pursue a military doctrine ill-suited for the war at hand?

In answering these questions, this study challenges previous findings that democracies are risk-averse in the wars they fight, are less threatening to other states, and rarely engage in overexpansion. The major explanation for this exceptionalism is the cost internalization inherent in democracy—the people shouldering the burdens of war are also the holders of political power. Focusing on the distribution of costs within a democracy, this study argues that the average voter will often find the aggressive use of the military appealing because costs can be shifted to a wealthy minority by developing heavily capitalized armed forces.

Having derived testable hypotheses from two formal models, the dissertation uses newly-collected data on military capital expenditure and capital stock to assess statistically the role of economic inequality in the development of military doctrine. In so doing, it demonstrates that democracies can use the military as a tool for redistribution. Based on these findings, the dissertation proceeds to analyze the role redistribution can play in the initiation of militarized coercion, finding that democracies with higher economic inequality or more capital-intensive militaries pursue more instances of militarized compellence. These two factors also result in larger military efforts by democracies during wartime. I trace the causal mechanism and show the theory's explanatory power through studies of two important cases of puzzling democratic aggressiveness: the expansion of the British Empire after 1867 and the American war in Vietnam.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mearsheimer, John H.
School: The University of Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: International law, Military history
Keywords: British Empire, Causes of war, Democratic exceptionalism, Militarism, Security studies, Vietnam War
Publication Number: 3338330
ISBN: 978-0-549-92821-8
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