An interesting observation about modern democracies is that to date, only rarely have any declared war on any of the others. For this reason, some world leaders have embraced the idea of democracy as a panacea that will solve the problem of armed conflicts.
Historically, wars have been an overwhelmingly male phenomenon.1,2 With the exception of a few Queens,2 it has been male chiefs, war-lords, kings, emperors, dictators, and tyrants who have sought conquest and mobilized warriors. In his book, The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama calls men driven by a strong desire to dominate or conquer megalothymic males. The names of the most famous megalothymic males are well-known: for example Alexander, Caesar, Attila, Saladin, Napoleon, Hitler. A simpler term preferred here is hyper-alpha male. And to date, democracy5 has proved to be our most effective cultural mechanism for putting brakes on any one individual's ability to use a position of power to initiate conquests whenever he, or she, might please.
Democracy diffuses power and thereby puts restraints on the urge to war. Heads of democratic states cannot launch a war without the permission of others. It is for that reason that spreading democracy throughout the world is one cornerstone of a future without war. Other theorists and politicians often emphasize the freedom democracy provides when they argue for the spread of democracy. Freedom, after all, is a highly attractive state—we all long to be free. But it is the potential ability of democracy to constrain hyper-alpha males who are the generators of wars that makes it a cornerstone here.
But a warning is in order. A democratic/republican form of government cannot eliminate the innate male inclination to seek dominance using aggression and the manipulation of that tendency by some to initiate war.3,4 This is especially true for those democracies that are not fully mature4,5: for example, democracies in which the percentage of women in power is too small to be of consequence (see The Secret Ingredient).
Furthermore, if the powerbrokers in such immature democracies are able to manipulate the information on which decisions will be based, either through controlling the sources of information or the media that broadcasts it, those at the top can still persuade a sufficient number of decision-makers to accept the "need" to invade.
When serious conflicts erupt over the distribution of essential resources—as they have always done and will continue to do as world population continues to grow—even democracies can turn on each other. The world holds its breath whenever immature democracies like India and Pakistan lock horns. "Democratic" Russia and the "democratic" United States of America, given their current governments, could very well take up arms in the future over oil, water, or some other essential need.
The world needs not just more democracies. It needs fully matured, liberal democracies.6,8 If we settle for less, history will surely record that we failed—as Athens and Rome failed before us—to achieve long-term stability without war. As extraordinarily powerful and innovative as Athens and Rome were, it may be no coincidence that neither gave women or women's priorities meaningful effect in political life. This may well have contributed significantly to the Athenian and Roman failure to achieve lasting, war-free social stability2 (see The Secret Ingredient, and Empower Women). The absence of women's input is also a likely contributing factor to explain why modern attempts to bring an end to war, such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, have failed to achieve their most fundamental goal.
As part of our strategy, spreading democracy and nurturing existing democracies to full maturity is one of nine critical cornerstones in the overall goal: zero tolerance for war as the solution to conflict.
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