We’ve all heard it said by our teachers when we were in school, we’ve all heard it said by politicians, including presidents: “Democracies don’t start wars.”
And yet we have had the decades-long American war on Vietnam, the Reagan invasion of Grenada, the LBJ invasion of the Dominican Republic, the George H.W. Bush invasion of Panama, the G.W. Bush back-to-back invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and now we have President Obama talking about launching an unprovoked war on Iran.
Is the much touted axiom wrong?
I don’t think so. I believe that in a democracy, where the will of the people is paramount, it would be very unlikely to have a country start a war. People generally don’t like war. They need to feel truly threatened or even under attack before they will accept the idea of their or anyone’s fathers, husbands, brothers and sons (and now mothers, wives, daughters and sisters) being marched off to face the horrors of war.
Clearly the reason we have seen the US starting so many wars is that the US is and has not for a very long time been anything approaching a democracy.
Democracy in the US is a purely formalistic thing. People get to vote once every two and four years to chose from a narrow list of pre-selected candidates approved by the real rulers of the country, who are the wealthy owners of the large business interests, many of which prosper when there’s a war on, and many more of which are happy to have periodic wars, or the threat of wars, to keep people in line and willing to tolerate the kind of abuse that is typically heaped on the average working person: financially starved school districts, starvation-level welfare grants, no public health system, rusting bridges, pot-holed roads, almost no public transit, and falling real wages, etc.
I think it’s largely true that real democracies do not ...