chapter  9
34 Pages

Engaging liberal critiques

Realists and liberals have long debated questions that lie at the heart of international relations. As noted in Chapter 2, at least since the publication of E.H. Carr’s seminal The Twenty Years’ Crisis in 1939, adherents of the two traditions have squared off over questions about human nature and the causes of war, collective security arrangements and the maintenance of peace, and economic interdependence and its effect on international stability. Although recent disagreements have focused more narrowly on issues of preference formation and the relationship between democracy and peace, the realism-liberalism debate remains critical for understanding how international politics works, and it continues to have a tremendous impact on the foreign policy decisions that states make. For example, a central feature of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has been the belief that democratic regime type plays a role in fostering international peace. Several U.S. presidents have cited the liberal argument that democracies do not go to war with each other to justify American promotion of democracy around the world. Realists usually doubt that regime type has the pacifying effects attributed to it by liberals, and hence they typically question whether democracy promotion should continue to be a part of U.S. policy.