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Power and Military Effectiveness

, 248 pages

3 line drawings, 7 maps

March 2008
List price:$48.00
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Power and Military Effectiveness

The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism

Since 1815 democratic states have emerged victorious from most wars, leading many scholars to conclude that democracies are better equipped to triumph in armed conflict with autocratic and other non-representative governments.

Political scientist Michael C. Desch argues that the evidence and logic of that supposition, which he terms "democratic triumphalism," are as flawed as the arguments for the long-held and opposite belief that democracies are inherently disadvantaged in international relations. Through comprehensive statistical analysis, a thorough review of two millennia of international relations thought, and in-depth case studies of modern-era military conflicts, Desch finds that the problems that persist in prosecuting wars—from building up and maintaining public support to holding the military and foreign policy elites in check—remain constant regardless of any given state’s form of government. In assessing the record, he finds that military effectiveness is almost wholly reliant on the material assets that a state possesses and is able to mobilize.

Power and Military Effectiveness is an instructive reassessment of the increasingly popular belief that military success is one of democracy’s many virtues. International relations scholars, policy makers, and military minds will be well served by its lessons.

Michael C. Desch is a professor and the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-making at the George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is the editor-in-chief of Security Studies and the author of Civilian Control of the Military, also published by Johns Hopkins.

" Power and Military Effectiveness is a provocative and intriguing contribution to the debate about the relative advantages of democratic versus autocratic forms of governance. It carries vital policy implications for how we think about the origins and limits of U.S. power and strength and the virtues of fellow democracies across the globe."

"The novel contribution of the book lies in its qualitative critique of democratic triumphalism."

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