University of Missouri - Columbia.
Back to Story Archive
Posted 03.14.06

Democracies Seldom Sanction One Another, MU Study Confirms

U.S. Only Country Likely to Sanction Allies

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The notion of a democratic peace, the idea that democratic states do not go to war with one another, is one that has been debated, tested and investigated by countless scholars. Now, a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has found that though democratic states use sanctions as a way to influence other nations, and democracies are less likely to sanction one another, the United States is the only country that is more likely to sanction its own allies.

A. Cooper Drury."Considering the great frequency that economic sanctions have been deployed in the past two decades and that democracies have been at the forefront of using economic coercion, sanctions have become a common method for coercing other nations," said A. Cooper Drury, MU assistant professor of political science in the College of Arts and Science. "Our analysis confirms previous findings that show democracies are hesitant to sanction each other, although they frequently use economic coercion against non-democracies."

Related Links

Drury, along with Daniel Cox, assistant professor of political science at Missouri Western State University, studied 115 instances between 1978 and 2000 when a "distinct sender sanctioned a distinct target." Drury said democratic governments generally share values, have similar structural constraints placed on political institutions and political leaders, and engage in high levels of trade with one another, which all contribute to a disincentive to go to war. In addition, democratic governments often settle conflicts peacefully because the cost of military conflict is higher than it would be with other non-democratic states.

Drury found that though democracies are very unlikely to sanction one another, they are 24 times more likely to use sanctions compared to non-democratic governments. This is due, in large part, to concerns about human rights and democratization. Drury's data showed that in 49 percent of the cases where democratic governments have used sanctions, they have cited democratization or human rights as the goal or partial goal of the sanctions.

Interestingly, however, Drury found that the United States is the only country more likely to use sanctions on its allies than on other states. He said that because the United States is the world's sole superpower, it has increased incentives to sanction, which other nations do not have.

"The U.S. is significantly more likely to sanction its allies either to keep them from straying from the alliance or to send a signal to others within the bloc that anti-alliance behavior will be punished," Drury said.

Drury's study will be published in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Peace Research.



MU News Bureau: