ERIK GARTZKE: CAUSES OF PEACE

By Shweta Mukesh

In a talk entitled “The Causes of Peace,” Erik Gartzke, Associate Professor of Political Science at UCSD, questioned the motivations behind a democratic peace while giving insight about war and new foreign policy strategies. Gartzke argues that there are two worlds that dominate the political arena: economically advanced countries and mixed countries, each of which vary in political systems and economic strength.  Between these two worlds, clashes in ideology and needs are common.The wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq support this. Gartzke claims that both wars were initiated not due to mineral wealth or oil, but out of a desire to implement a government structure abroad which is supportive of United States policies. The result of this desire was war – a term that, Gartzke says, is synonymous with the history of mankind. The causes of war can be broken into three components: capability, willingness, and bargaining power. By limiting any one of these components peace becomes feasible.

The twenty-first century has seen several dramatic shifts towards overall stability. Political scientists attribute this transition to the spread of nuclear weapons, less significant causes of disagreements, and the spread of democratic peace. However, Gartzke argues differently explaining that there is capitalist peace as well. He believes the notion of democracy bringing peace – a theory often promulgated by political scientists – is flawed. He states that the converse is true: peace stirs democracy, while capitalism and economic prosperity trigger stability. With the spread of capitalism, money becomes mobile; increased wealth and mobility cause people to focus more of their attention on domestic issues, such as the economy, rather than on international disputes which trigger political upheavals.

Gartzke applies the theory of capitalist peace to the future, and draws upon India and China as examples. He believes that the United States must convince China and India to cooperate with international institutions, build multilateral treaties, and utilize international organizations to pursue diplomacy. This, he argues, would create a situation less prone to the outbreak of significant conflict, which characterized much of the 20th century. Furthermore, Gartzke suggests breaking large issues of contention into smaller pieces. This would result in leaders disagreeing on issues of lesser significance, thus avoiding larger issues that might seem overwhelming as a whole and further exacerbate or lead to international conflict. Gartzke feels optimistic that countries who use the above as a blueprint for the future will face a road headed towards peace and stability.

After his talk Professor Erik Gartzke spoke to Prospect.

PROSPECT: If there are profound ideological differences between two nations, such as those that exist between the US and Iran, is it feasible to assume that the points of difference would be accepted by both countries?

EG: Compromise should occur on all circumstances. Diplomats should break up differences into more discrete parts so that countries can negotiate and compromise on smaller issues. Otherwise, one should stress issues which both countries agree upon.

PROSPECT: There is the notion that democracy brings about peace, what you refer to as democratic peace. You mentioned that you would argue the converse. Peace brings democracy. Can you please elaborate on that?

EG: Democracy is peace. It is a system of government that requires any political transaction to occur through peace. If you don’t have peace it’s useless to be a democracy.

PROSPECT: You once stated that nations with higher levels of economic freedom are less likely to go to war. How does this relate to America’s current foreign policy?

EG: Once a country develops economically, there is less of an incentive to fight. To give an example, China has fought with almost all its neighbors except Hong Kong. Defeating Hong Kong would be easy, but China would attack a cosmopolitan city in the night and have a fishing village in the morning. Likewise, the US attacked Iraq but would never fight Europe. The US uses force to get nations to comply with their preferred policy.

PROSPECT: Towards the end of your talk you stressed the importance of getting China and India on board to implement American foreign policy ideals. What role does Europe play in the global political arena?

EG: I think Europe is already on board in the existing system of international institutions. What is needed is to maintain these relations and ensure that that Europe addresses their ideological differences through diplomatic means by using international institutions.

PROSPECT: What would be the role of the UN and other international institutions in the upcoming years?

EG: Any institution can serve one of two main functions: it can provide public goods and govern regional commons or it can extract common resources. As the United States declines in relative terms, I am afraid that it will use these international institutions, which it has helped sponsor and create, as a tool to slow their rate of relative decline. This will be good for the US but it will have damaging effects on these institutions and alienate rising powers.

PROSPECT: You kept mentioning breaking up large issues of disagreements into smaller parts. How would you go about breaking up issues and deciding which part to disagree upon?

EG: That’s one of the fortes of international institutions and global politics.

PROSPECT: Is it likely that countries will look at the War on Iraq as a fiasco and use it as a point of reference to move towards a more diplomatic strategy and implement the ideas you brought up tonight?

EG: Most definitely. Although, some might use it as a pretext and believe that they can be egregious and get away with it. Others may say that, while we may try more diplomatic solutions.

Photos courtesy of Prospect.

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