Civil—Military Structure, Political Communication, and the Democratic Peace

AuthorPatrick James,Seung-Whan Choi
Date01 January 2008
Published date01 January 2008
Subject MatterArticles
Linkage politics attempts to make a causal
connection between domestic politics and
international conf lict. In this respect, the
democratic/Kantian peace studies highlight
the pacifying effect of regime type on conf lict.1
From the realm of comparative politics, most
notably civil–military structure, such as degree
of civilian versus military control and military
manpower system, the present study explores
additional, potentially important domestic
factors that may inf luence conflict. It also
looks into the effects of political communica-
tion in terms of diplomatic channels and open
media. In doing so, this study addresses the
question of what factors beyond regime type
within the democratic/Kantian peace impact
upon a state’s likelihood of resorting to force
and bridges across subfields of political science.
© 2008 Journal of Peace Research,
vol. 45, no. 1, 2008, pp. 37–53
Sage Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi
and Singapore)
DOI 10.1177/0022343307084922
Civil–Military Structure, Political
Communication, and the Democratic Peace*
Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago
School of International Relations, University of Southern California
Looking beyond the democratic/Kantian peace argument that highlights the pacifying effect of regime
type on international conflict, this study explores additional, potentially important domestic factors that
may influence conf lict – most notably, civil–military structure, such as degree of civil versus military
control and military manpower system. It also looks into the effects of political communication in terms
of diplomatic channels and open media. On the basis of logistic regression analysis for 120 countries
during the period from 1950 to 1992, the authors report that strong military influence is more likely
to lead to the onset of militarized interstate disputes, wars, and international crises while the presence
of conscripted soldiers, diplomatic activities, and open media makes that less likely. These results hold
up in the presence of the three Kantian peace variables (i.e. democracy, economic interdependence, and
joint membership in international organizations) and other control variables that are standards within
contemporary research designs. Thus, the authors conclude that the four factors are important com-
plements to understanding the impact of domestic traits on interstate conflict beyond the conventional
regime-type explanation of the democratic/Kantian peace.
* The authors wish to thank Charles R. Boehmer, Benjamin
Fordham, J. Joseph Hewitt, John R. Oneal, Kenneth Schultz,
Doug A. Van Belle, Michael Brzoska (Associate Editor), and
three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments at the
various stages of this article. Seung-Whan Choi may be
reached at and Patrick James may be
reached at The data used in this article are
available from http://www.
1Recently, democratic peace studies have extended to the
liberal and even Kantian or neo-Kantian peace, which
encompasses trade as well as international organizations.
For the purposes of this study, we use the term ‘democra-
tic/Kantian peace’. Examples from the recent wave of
democratic peace studies, which incorporate an increasing
range of political and economic variables, include Gartzke
(1998); Mousseau (2000); Russett & Oneal (2001); Prins
(2003); and Bueno de Mesquita et al. (2003).
84922_JPR_37-54.qxd 12/14/2007 2:45 PM Page 37
As will become apparent, the preceding
set of four regime-related (or structural) vari-
ables can help to further account for the path
from international conf lict to peace. Unfor-
tunately, these four aspects have not as yet
been represented in a systematic way within
the vast literature of linkage politics. When
ideas related to these four variables appeared
in our previous studies, the main focus was
on how leaders become involved in milita-
rized disputes during a relatively short time
period, not on how they initiate militarized
disputes, wars, and international crises (e.g.
Choi & James, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007). This
study attempts to refine the conceptual dis-
cussion revolving around these four aspects
and conduct more rigorous empirical analy-
sis of all the possible conflict-related alterna-
tives in the same model during the period
from 1950 to 1992, so that it can compare
the performance of the four variables with
that of the democratic/Kantian peace. We
believe that these additional factors provide
important complements to understanding
the impact of domestic traits on interstate
conf lict beyond the conventional democra-
tic/Kantian peace phenomenon.
Below, we identify causal mechanisms
between each of the four variables and con-
f lict, provide their proper measurement, and
conduct rigorous empirical testing at a dyadic
level for 120 countries during the period
from 1950 to 1992.
Civil–Military Structure and
Political Communication
Most of the democratic/Kantian peace
studies draw attention to the dampening
impact of regime type on conf lict by simply
differentiating democracies from non-
democracies. They have not yet paid atten-
tion to foreign policy decisionmaking on
conf lict. Since the leader of a state initiates
war, causes of war can be inferred directly
from how he or she acts in times of crisis,
rather than from what kind of political
regime he or she belongs to. It is likely that
to come up with a viable national security
decision, leaders need to go through certain
internal processes that include discussion with
key policymakers and the review of possible
military and diplomatic options. At the initial
stage, leaders’ war decisionmaking may be
inf luenced by civil–military structure, a rela-
tively neglected aspect of regime type. How
civilian and military leaders interact and
what kinds of military manpower systems are
feasible are two main issues with respect to
civil–military structure. However, it is also
plausible that leaders will attempt to resolve
a crisis through political communication in the
form of diplomacy or signaling via news
media. By tracing such internal decisionmak-
ing choices by leaders, this study focuses on
four factors: military inf luence, military man-
power, diplomacy, and media. A more detailed
discussion of each variable follows below.
It is essential, especially in times of crisis,
for national leaders to convene for policy
decisions that include both political and mil-
itary measures. Put differently, there arise
policy interactions between civilian and mil-
itary officials who provide their own exper-
tise in response to external threats. Some
students of civil–military relations argue that
civilian supremacy in civil–military interac-
tions is one of the most important attributes
of liberal democracy and contributes to
decreasing military adventurism (e.g. Janowitz,
1981; Perlmutter, 1986; Diamond, 1999: 11;
Feaver & Gelpi, 2004: 8). In their classic
works, Huntington (1957) and Betts (1977)
assert that, compared with their civilian
counterparts, the military are not likely to
advocate the use of force, since the lives of
their personnel are at stake. In the same vein,
Andreski (1992) contends that civilian offi cials
initiated the most aggressive and successfully
imperialist militarism in modern times, while
military dictators were pacific in response to
national security issues. Several studies of US
journal of PEACE RESEARCH volume 45 / number 1 / january 2008
84922_JPR_37-54.qxd 12/14/2007 2:45 PM Page 38

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