Disputes, democracies, and dependencies: A reexamination of the Kantian peace

Michael D. Ward, Randolph M. Siverson, Xun Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Militarized interstate disputes are widely thought to be less likely among democratic countries that have high levels of trade and extensive participation in international organizations. We reexamine this broad finding of the Kantian peace literature in the context of a model that incorporates the high degree of dependency among countries. Based on in-sample statistical tests, as well as out-of-sample, predictive cross-validation, we find that results frequently cited in the literature are plagued by overfitting and cannot be characterized as identifying the underlying structure through which international conflict is influenced by democracy, trade, and international governmental organizations. We conclude that much of the statistical association typically reported in this literature apparently stems from three components: (1) geographical proximity, (2) dependence among militarized interstate disputes with the same initiator or target, and (3) the higher-order dependencies in these dyadic data. Once these are incorporated, covariates associated with the Kantian peace tripod lose most of their statistical power. We do find that higher levels of joint democracy are associated with lower probabilities of militarized interstate dispute involvement. We find that despite high statistical significance and putative substantive importance, none of the variables representing the Kantian tripod is associated with any substantial degree of predictive power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-601
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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