Forging Democracy at Gunpoint


  • Authors' note: Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the annual meetings of the International Studies Association, in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2002 and Portland, Oregon in 2003 and at colloquia at Arizona State University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and the University of North Texas. We thank the participants in those colloquia and Martin Cook, Robin Dorff, Miriam Elman, Page Fortna, Nils Petter Gleditsch, Birger Heldt, Emizet Kisangani, Matthew Krain, Kimberly Marten, James Meernik, Frederic Pearson, Patrick Regan, Ken Roberts, Bruce Russett, Nicholas Sambanis, William Stanley, Christopher Way, and the editors and anonymous reviewers for International Studies Quarterly for comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The data used in this article are available on the ISQ website.


Can liberal interventionism build liberal democracy? This manuscript examines the military interventions undertaken by the U.S., U.K., France, and the UN in the post-World War II era to see if they had a positive impact on democracy in target countries. Empirical analysis centers on multivariate time series, cross section PCSE and relogit regressions of political liberalization and democratization from 1946 to 1996. The former is operationalized with annual difference data drawn from the Polity IV data collection, whereas the latter is a binary variable denoting countries that cross a threshold commonly used to indicate the establishment of democratic institutions. An updated version of the International Military Intervention data set enumerates foreign military interventions. We find little evidence that military intervention by liberal states helps to foster democracy in target countries. Although a few states have democratized in the wake of hostile U.S. military interventions, the small number of cases involved makes it difficult to draw generalizable conclusions from the U.S. record. We find stronger evidence, however, that supportive interventions by the UN's “Blue Helmets” can help to democratize target states.