Egypt Unshackled: Can Egypt and Israel Keep the Cold Peace?

The popular protests that deposed Hosni Mubarak left in its wake critical questions: will the newly-democratizing Egypt continue on the path of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, whereby Egyptian foreign policy was constrained by an alliance with Western powers? Or, will it assume a new course inspired by the populist sentiments of its citizens?

Democratization in the Arab World, particularly in Egypt, not only invites discussion on shifting political alignments, but also raises academic questions. Powerful democratic states have long operated under the framework of the influential Democratic Peace Theory – which, in its most elemental form, states that democracies do not fight wars against other democracies – a “law” of international relations that may now be called into question. Theorists have historically maintained that public opinion in democracies acts as a constraint mechanism on war, since citizenry are less willing than ambitious autocratic leaders to endure the costs of war. In the case of Egypt though, this assumption of democratic peace’s causal logic merits reconsideration: recent public opinion polls cite that a majority of Egyptians demand nullification of Mubarak’s Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Thus, the public constraint may not operate as supposed; several indicators suggest that Egyptian voters remain willing, if not eager, to bear the costs of military engagement with Israel. Moreover, the theory’s validity originates from the historical absence of war among democratic states on two continents (North America and Europe), rendering uncertain its applicability to democratic entities in a region of continual violent strife.

However, the democratic peace literature makes no guarantee of peace for countries in transition to democracy, as Egypt is today. We must turn instead to dominant democratic transition theory literature, which empirically demonstrates increased hawkishness and warmongering among infantile, transitioning states. The literature suggests the probability for military conflict involving immature democracies is high because of nationalist bidding wars that arise as byproducts of an ensuing power vacuum. The reality of aggressive transitions threatens the democratic proliferation doctrine, yielding policy implications for Western powers. We must therefore consider the short-term implications of a democratizing Egypt to hypothesize about the Egyptian-Israeli dyad’s prospects for war and peace. To this end, we qualitatively estimate the likelihood of dyadic conflict by analyzing recent Egyptian foreign policy choices and behavior in the context of Mansfield and Snyder’s democratic transition framework. We assess the validity of their theory and utility of their model based on the degree to which it can explain any observed variation in Egyptian foreign policy realignment.

The remainder of this essay is divided into four sections. First, we review the pertinent literature on democratic peace theory and democratic transition theory, outlining key terms which we employ in our analysis of the Egyptian transition; this leads to our hypothesis concerning the prospects for war and peace in near- and mid-term Egyptian-Israeli relations. Section II explores the realigning foreign policy of Egypt and assesses the degree to which that realignment may be attributed to the presence of nationalist bidding wars, as predicted by Mansfield and Snyder’s transition literature. Finally, Section III concludes with both policy and scholarly implications of our research and outlines a research agenda for future study as more empirical data becomes available.

Literature Review

Philosophical Origins of the Democratic Peace Theory. Many proponents of the theory trace its origins to the 18th century writings of liberal philosopher Immanuel Kant, author of Perpetual Peace (Kant 1795). Kant presents a formulaic path towards the foundation of world peace, specifying three “definitive articles”: “The civil constitution of every state should be republican,” “The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states,” and “The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.” Kant does not believe that republican governments alone are sufficient to guarantee peace among nations, and therefore proposes the latter two conditions, considered of equal necessity. Nevertheless, it is Kant’s first definitive article that inspired subsequent exploration into the link between representative government and peace, which led to the contemporary conceptualization of the “democratic peace.”

Though Kant draws a clear distinction between democracy and republicanism in his writing,[1] for better or worse, modern academia generally treats this distinction synonymously. In fact, most democratic peace theorists have substituted Kant’s “republic” in favor of the increasingly-specified classification “liberal democracy” (Abdolali and Maoz 1989; Doyle 1983a; Doyle 1983b; Maoz and Russettt 1993; Small and Singer 1976). Kant argues that with an institutional separation of powers (i.e. a distinction between legislative and executive bodies), as is the governing practice characteristic of republics, war is infrequent since those bearing the costs of war decide whether or not to fight.[2] This logic led to the formation of the “monadic” democratic peace thesis— the claim that democracy asserts a pacifying effect on a state’s foreign policy on the unitary level—maintained by few scholars today (for examples see Rousseau et. al 1996, Rummel 1983). Several studies have refuted the Kantian-inspired monadic thesis (Maoz and Abdolali 1989; Weede 1984); some have even statistically demonstrated that democracies monadically engage in more wars and military interstate disputes (MIDs) than other regime types, and that wars involving democratic states tend to be longer and more lethal (Forsber 1997; Small and Singer 1976).

Rise of the Dyadic Thesis. Kant’s thesis has been appropriately amended since 1795, as little-to-no statistical evidence has been found to sustain the monadic argument; however, the linkage of democracy and peace on the dyadic level has proven to be “as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations” (Levy and Razin, 2004). Babst (1964) pioneered the quantitative investigation of Kant’s conjectures, finding through statistical analysis of all wars between 1789-1941, that dyadic democratic peace  is statistically significant on the 1 percent level.[3] Future studies, increasing the temporal domain and sample size, altering the operationalization of military conflict and democracy, and controlling for possible confounding variables have strengthened the reliability of the dyadic democratic peace thesis (Small and Singer 1976; Abdolali and Maoz 1989; Rummel 1983; Maoz and Russettt 1993). Thus, the leading consensus on the relationship between democracy and war is that democracy-on-democracy war does not occur, citing the historical absence of war between two authentic democracies (Abdolali and Maoz 1989; Babst 1964; Chan 1984; Domke 1988; Doyle 1983b; Forsber 2007; Small and Singer 1976; Weede 1984, 1992).[4] However, the invincibility of a dyadic democratic peace thesis has been challenged with evidence demonstrating that democracies have engaged in MIDs “that involve limited use of force and mild violence” (Abdolali and Maoz 1989).

Herein lies the major caveat; the causal logics underpinning the democratic peace thesis habitually fail to operate appropriately among young democracies, which typically lack matured institutional checks on the exertion of aggressive military force. Since the logics often fail, such regimes in transitional flux remain especially prone to military engagement with democracies and autocracies alike. Ray (1999) notes that democratizing countries share a disproportionate likelihood of war if surrounded by undemocratic states, as is the case with Egypt.

Aggressiveness of Incomplete Democratic Transitions. Democratic transition theory asserts that states undergoing transitions to a democratic, and thereby representative form of government, possess a gap between high levels of political participation and feeble political institutions (Huntington 1968), leading to increased likelihood of interstate war and MIDs (Mansfield and Snyder 2002a; Mansfield and Snyder 2004). According to Mansfield and Snyder (2002b), two lines of logic justify this theory. First, in the absence of political institutions characteristic of mature democracies, political leaders often exploit nationalism as a tool of mobilization against an “exaggerated foreign threat” in an effort to distract their constituents from the lack of internal political progress. Second, transitions to democracy promote aggressive foreign policy because the transition threatens status quo ante interest groups (e.g. military bureaucracies, business and political elites, and influential political parties) who, in an attempt to increase their relative influence, claim to act by popular mandate while remaining unbeholden to true democratic accountability. The former and/or the latter often lead to “nationalist bidding wars” which are exacerbated by logrolling coalitions comprised of status quo ante and emergent interest groups.

And the longer the incomplete democratization persists, the higher the risks. The temporal span of an incomplete democratization is strongly, positively correlated with the likelihood of interstate conflict due to increased dissatisfaction among the state’s citizenry, a product of the failure to meet oftentimes unrealistic public expectations of rapid democratization. Logically, the public’s frustration lends itself to the formation of more logrolling groups and increased dissemination of belligerent nationalist ideologies, as leaders attempt to distract the public from their domestic grievances in efforts to maintain power. The probability of war approaches 61 percent following a period of seven years of stalled democratization . Further findings indicate an 80 percent probability of complete democracies engaging in interstate warfare in the first year following transition. In short, transitional democracies are the most belligerent of all regimes.

Hypothesis, Discussion & Analysis

A State in Democratic Transition. In order to confirm our classification of Egypt as a transitional democracy we consult the latest Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Indexes, published in 2011 and 2012.[5] At the time of the 2011 publication, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) served as the caretaker government following Mubarak’s relinquishment of power. Lacking elected leadership, Egypt was rated the least authoritarian “authoritarian regime,” a remarkable improvement from its rankings in the Mubarak days. After hosting a series of local and national elections, several of which remain clouded by accusations of fraud and corruption, the country finally escaped classification as an “authoritarian regime” in the 2012 report, earning the   “hybrid regime” designation.[6] Though some caution may be warranted, it seems that, for the time being, Egypt is a regime in transition to democracy, as indicated by its favorable movement up the EIU’s constructed ranks. For the purpose of this study, we argue that EIU’s operationalization of hybrid regime is consistent with Mansfield and Snyder’s conceptualization of a regime in incomplete democratic transition. Certainly, Egypt’s democratic progress was evident in the first free elections Cairo has seen in fifty years, and is demonstrated daily by a civil society unafraid to take its grievances to the street. Still, concerns persist. Egypt falls short of full democratization, owed to its questionable civilian supremacy of the military, court-ordered restoration of emergency law detention procedures, disdained judiciary, dissolved lower house of parliament, and an executive that reverts increasingly to dictatorial tendencies, apparently in the name of advancing democratization.

Under the established assumption that Egypt is undergoing a transition to democracy, we now turn to testing the applicability, and thereby validity, of democratic transition theory, examining recent episodes of Egyptian domestic politics and foreign policy, thereby identifying any trends. Surely, there exists evidence of foreign policy realignment under the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom & Justice Party (FJP); after all, nearly all regime changes result in global strategic recalculation and realignment. But how much of the observed variation in foreign policy can be explained, or was predicted, by transition theory? That is, how much of the shift can be attributed to the emergence of logrolling coalitions and new political parties who engage in nationalist bidding wars that increase the probability of conflict?

Hypothesis: Because Egypt is in its early phase of transition, we expect to find limited evidence of nationalist bidding wars. As such, there will only be superficial foreign policy realignments. That is, Egyptian foreign policy, in large part, will follow the same path as Mubarak-era Egyptian policy despite bellicose rhetoric espoused by the Freedom and Justice Party.

Indicators of realignment. Following a cross-border incident with Israel at the Sinai border in August 2011—which resulted in the unintentional death of several Egyptian border policemen—the military sat idle as protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and tore away at concrete barriers securing the Israeli embassy in Cairo.[7] Under Mubarak’s regime, similar cross-border incidents had little impact on bilateral relations and protests were deterred by Egypt’s internal security apparatus. Eight months later, the transfer of natural gas to Israel was cancelled, much to the praise of all presidential hopefuls and their party affiliates.[8]

In July, as one of President Morsi’s first foreign policy moves in office, the Egyptian government opened its border with the Gaza Strip, a crossing which had been only intermittingly open previously, and officially closed since 2007. In August 2012, armored forces were deployed to reinforce beleaguered Egyptian border police, attempting to combat non-state actors in the Sinai who were targeting Israeli and Egyptian security forces.[9] Days later, reports surfaced claiming that Egyptian anti-aircraft weapon systems were being deployed along with additional mechanized forces, raising concerns of militarized build-up in the Peninsula. Due to this adjusted force structure, Egyptian troop levels are at their highest since the 1973 Yom Kippur War and constitute a clear breach of the Camp David Accords. In perhaps the new government’s greatest divergence from the former regime’s policy, President Morsi recognized and embraced Hamas leadership during Israel’s November air campaign against the Strip. In a show of solidarity unknown under Mubarak, who considered Hamas a terrorist organization, Morsi denounced Israel’s military air operations, withdrew its newly-appointed ambassador from Tel-Aviv and dispatched Egypt’s prime minister to Gaza.

Nationalist Bidding Wars and Logrolling: Catalysts for Realignment? Early evidence of a nationalist bidding war surfaced following the August 2011 Sinai cross-border incident. The event triggered a public response not tolerated in the days of Mubarak’s regime; protesters threatened to storm the Israeli Embassy and chanted at nearby soldiers to “go to the Sinai.”  Political parties, vying for success in Egypt’s first democratic presidential election, used the public mandate as a vehicle to compete in a nationalist rhetoric battle of intensifying proportions, in which the foreign policy threats and stakes rose sharply. In the ensuing bidding war, presidential candidates demanded the immediate termination of Egyptian gas supply to Israel and warned that Israel must “realize that Egyptian blood now has a price.”[10] The interim government finally recalled its ambassador in an attempt to appease the political parties and public, marking a strong about-face in Egyptian-Israeli relations. Then Prime Minister Issam Sharif summed the realigning mood, stating, “Our glorious revolution took place so that Egyptians could regain their dignity at home and abroad. What was tolerated in pre-revolution Egypt will not be in post-revolution Egypt.”[11]

Seven months later, evidence of logrolling is found in the context of a parliamentary session in which the lower house voted to cut all diplomatic ties and halt gas exports to the “Zionist entity . . . the first enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation.”[12] While the vote lacked authority due to the SCAF’s domination of Egyptian foreign policy, it appears that the various interest groups were able to negotiate with military leadership on the issue. In a calculated political maneuver, just two months before a predicted win by Morsi’s FJP in the presidential elections, all natural gas transfers to Israel were terminated, much to the praise of all presidential hopefuls, their parties, and members of parliament.[13] Many groups calling for a hard line foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel were mollified by the SCAF’s move, and thus remained indebted to military leadership.

The termination of gas transfers had a negligible effect on the Israeli economy; to the common Egyptian, however, it was a welcomed assertion of the state’s newfound sovereignty. Likewise, the decision provided the sought credibility to competing political factions engaged in nationalist outbidding strategies in parliament, who gladly accepted the public’s accreditation. In essence, the SCAF implemented an “all bark, no bite” approach to appease the wishes of emerging political forces and the larger public, who would have a significant impact on the military’s future role following the  elections. It is likely that this logrolling coalition, formed between elements of the lower house and the SCAF, resulted in reciprocal promises to the military. Later that year, the FJP made good on that promise.

In August 2012, armed forces reinforced Egypt’s beleaguered border police in their fight against non-state actors using Sinai to stage attacks against Israeli and Egyptian security forces.[14] Days later, reports surfaced claiming that anti-aircraft weapon systems were being deployed along with additional mechanized forces. The deployment’s significance lies in its overarching goal: giving the SCAF a military mission, whose objective is channeled externally, not internally. That is, the FJP’s decision to deploy Egyptian armed forces signaled to the public that the military can perform a vital defense function east of the Suez, instead of playing the internal security role to which it had been relegated since Mubarak’s ousting.

Following Israeli air strikes on Hamas leadership in Gaza, in a statement posted on November 11, 2011, a secular opposition party coalition criticized the Morsi government for its “bad management” of the Sinai insurgency and its supposed cooperation with Israel, inferring that Morsi’s government signaled Egypt’s quiet compliance with future Israeli aggression.[15] The secular bloc organized a demonstration the following day to show solidarity with Gaza, several days before the FJP even issued a condemnation of the Israeli “assassination operation.”[16] Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s delayed response received criticism from the right, as the Salafi Nour (Light) Party issued statements claiming that a Salafi-controlled government would have committed full financial and manpower resources to combat Israeli “aggression” and aid the Palestinian cause. This time delay suggests that Morsi’s subsequent decisions (i.e., recalling the Egyptian ambassador and dispatching its prime minister to Gaza on November 15 and 16, respectively) were inspired by their need to participate in the nationalist bidding war waged by the opposition blocs. It seems at least plausible that, had opposition parties not mobilized popular support around the issue, the FJP may have never diverged from the Mubarak-era indifference expressed towards Israeli operations in Gaza. While some actors, such as former prime minister and head of the Arab League Amar Moussa, communicated support with the FJP’s eventual initiatives, leftist parties claimed the party was only leveraging the situation for their own political gain.  This condemnation demonstrates the perpetual nature of the nationalist bidding war evident in the transitional phase.

Of course, there is a cost for the young-but-ensuing nationalist bidding war and logrolling occurring, and payday may arrive sooner than some anticipated. The SCAF’s logrolling with Morsi’s government, in which the SCAF allows Morsi to play hard with Israel on the diplomatic front while Morsi grants the military missions that maintain its relevancy, has thus far averted crossing the retaliation threshold drawn by the American-Israeli alliance. The SCAF’s current priority seems to be the careful and strategic fulfillment of their dual mission. First, as a remnant of former regimes constituting a current veto group, they seek to preserve their ingrained position of relevancy, honor, and prestige in Egyptian society. Second, they desire to maintain the $1.3 billion of annual military aid from the United States. These two mandates are now in ubiquitous tension. Fulfilling the first mandate is predicated on the military’s ability to competently respond to the demands of its citizens, both fueling and becoming further inflamed by nationalist bidding wars. Satisfying the second mandate, however, is contingent upon peaceful relations with Israel. The tension between the mandates shows no signs of tempering; in just a year since Mubarak’s fall, Egyptians have increasingly favored abolishing the peace treaty with Israel (Pew Research Center 2012). The strategy adopted to reconcile the conflicting mandates works for the time being, but the balancing act may prove unsustainable.

More concerning though, is that the military’s trouble with walking the thin line is microcosmic of the regime’s position. Like the SCAF, Morsi’s government has its own intrinsically conflicting mandates. As Gamal Abdel Gawad, director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, stated in an Al-Jazeera interview:

‘The new regime is torn between two types of commitments . . . . One commitment is towards Israel and the United States regarding the peace treaty with Israel, even though this could be downgraded to the minimum only. . . . [The second] commitment, is [one to] a broad audience in Egypt and region-wide, where the Muslim Brothers have been preaching a kind of hard line policy vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians, rejecting all kinds of peace negotiations, not recognizing the state of Israel, etc., which would create in the current situation [i.e. crisis in Gaza] a kind of credibility problem.’[17]

Escaping this trap in a future escalation of tensions necessitates compromise on one of the Brotherhood’s aforementioned mandates. On the one hand, Morsi can choose to maintain his country’s ties with the United States and Israel, which remain vital to the state’s struggling economy and a cornerstone of its national security, thus ensuring the FJP’s fall from public favor in losing the nationalist bidding war. On the other hand, cashing in on campaign promises, maintaining the party’s ideological integrity, and responding to the rising public sentiment for a hard line Israel policy will likely result in a shooting war. Gawad warns, in this future “moment of truth . . . with tremendous pressure coming from the people [at] the street level . . . leaders could slip into situations that they didn’t really choose. Many conflicts develop this way.”

Figure 1 suggests a relationship between this pressure and the intensification of a hardline policy vis-à-vis Israel that characterizes the Egyptian nationalist bidding war.  The figure also denotes that the battle for political legitimacy could force the administration into a decision that places them above what we call the Israeli “threshold of retaliation.” Initially, the FJP will respond to competing political factions’ criticism by intensifying their hardline policy with respect to Israel; however, a calculated effort to avoid a foreign policy move exceeding the threshold of retaliation is to be expected. Unfortunately for the FJP, the nature of the bidding war is linear, in that each party continues upping the ante as they jockey for position in Egypt’s unstable political space (i.e. the ruling party must respond adequately to increased criticism by the opposition in order to maintain power). Given the consequences of crossing this threshold, the FJP will respond to increasing criticism with a proportional intensification of its “hardline” policy until, upon approaching the threshold, marginal criticism of current foreign policy behavior induces diminishing returns on the intensification of hard-line policy.

Following this power-curve behavioral scheme allows the FJP to avert the costly crossing of the threshold. However, as the stakes of the bidding war amplify, “as pressure coming from the people [at] the street level” strengthens, the FJP may be forced to respond more linearly to criticism in efforts to maintain political legitimacy and power. Under such circumstances, there is high probability that the FJP, in crossing the threshold, falls into the “trap” of the nationalist bidding war, resulting in a kinetic Israeli response.


Figure 1: Nationalist bidding war

The FJP has demonstrated great caution,  preventing disproportionate escalation, in an effort to increase the amount of time before the threshold is reached. The transition’s unstable nature will ensure the linearity of the bidding war; thus, as long as the transition to democracy remains incomplete, pressure from opposition parties and “the people [at] the street level” will ultimately push the FJP’s foreign policy to a point just below the threshold for retaliation (i.e. the inflection point of the bidding war), where it must choose political favorability, legitimacy, and power or international credibility, trust, and peace.

And if political science offers anything approaching a governing principle, it is that realpolitik considerations dictate the FJP’s survivalist instinct. This means, in effect, that we should not expect Morsi to silence the public demand for a hard line policy, but instead anticipate what Mansfield and Snyder predict in their theory: the waging of a diversionary war with an exaggerated enemy. Yet, even under this theoretical assumption, hostility with Israel is not entirely inevitable. It is conceivable that Morsi strategically diverts his country’s attention away from domestic hardships and political failings and towards more manageable foreign threats to the south, namely the Sudan and Ethiopia, located at the headwaters of the White and Blue Niles, respectively. Nearly half of the political parties contending for the Egyptian presidency in 2011 cited continued access to the waters of the Nile Basin as a strategic issue; in perspective, an equal number of parties made mention to Israel in their electoral platforms.[18] The nations’ significance lies in their geostrategic control of the headwaters of the Nile River, which are symbiotic with Egypt’s agricultural industry, employing 32 percent of its population.[19] Recent Egyptian military threats directed against the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam support this narrative, given that Egypt’s water security is a greater long-term strategic threat than the country’s Jewish neighbor.[20]

Implications for scholarship and policymakers

Egypt’s early transitional phase has yielded substantially more evidence of a nationalist bidding war and policy realignment than originally hypothesized. While Mansfield and Snyder found war’s probability was highest seven years into transition, the unique circumstances of the Egyptian-Israeli dyad heighten the probability of conflict occurring even prior to that point. The Egyptian peoples’ historic animosity vis-à-vis Israel, a result of decades of seemingly perpetual war and the still unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is  increasingly exploited by political groups who may later find themselves trapped in their own nationalist rhetoric. Additionally, Israel’s hyper-sensitivity to regional threats and willingness to launch preemptive and preventive military operations indicate that the nation may maintain a relatively low threshold of retaliation. A low threshold increases the risk that a miscalculation on either side could draw the dyad into another war well before Mansfield and Snyder’s seven year milestone. Based on the evidence marshaled above, it seems that the trap predicted by democratic transition theory has been set. Now the FJP must rank its priorities; it can die a political death by standing down, or prompt Israeli retaliation by rising up.

In a speech delivered at the 20th anniversary celebration of the National Endowment for Democracy in 2003, George W. Bush fittingly stated, “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe – because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.  As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.”[21] A democratic transition leading to increased Egyptian-Israeli conflict would rebuke this claim, challenging policymakers and scholars to rethink the democratic peace theory’s age-old assumptions concerning the dyadic thesis. The “Eurocentric” theory would, in effect, loose its applicability outside of Western Europe and the Americas, and by extension, generalizability in academia and relevancy among the policymaking community. Western elites must adapt to a new reality that challenges the comforting conventional wisdom that the spread of democracy is followed by lasting peace; they must recognize that “liberty” has been promoted at the expense of long-term security.

Examination of this dyadic case simply adds to the dilemma facing Western states. The reality of aggressive transitions threatens the democratic proliferation doctrine; Western powers invest faith in the pacifying effect of democracy, but must reconcile this desire with their fear of the war-torn journey associated with democratization. If the nationalist bidding war continues, along with the FJP pushing anti-Israeli rhetoric, conflict may be inescapable. In such a scenario, Egypt becomes another failure in the West’s push for democratic proliferation in the greater Middle East, similar to Iraq and Afghanistan, albeit without direct military intervention. This realization, in conjunction with the aftermath of the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, may explain the Obama administration’s prudence in backing the Syrian opposition, despite liberal interventionist and neoconservative calls to increase America’s military commitment in the ongoing civil war.  If, as we predict with the Egyptian case study, instability follows transition, a new government in Syria may deep-freeze the already frozen peace process. Considering the radical elements permeating the Syrian opposition, there are reasonable fears that they may erase the steps Assad’s autocratic government has made toward reconciliation with Israel.[22] Do Western governments truly believe it is in their interests to remove a regime which has been a pillar of stability in the Levant, replacing it with a heterogeneous group of unknown actors in the hopes that they are Jeffersonian-like rebels fighting for liberal freedom? Current American policy toward Syria indicates that they do not.

Egypt as a case study informs our understanding of the Arab Spring revolutions and their short-term implications. Egypt, like Tunisia and Algeria, served as a host state of sporadic, spontaneous regime change. However, its regional neighbors Iraq and Libya, which are likewise in democratization phases, are undergoing coerced transition to democracy. That is, their regime change follows overt Western military intervention. An interesting avenue for future research may be assessing the effect of coerced democratization on the transitioning state’s prospects for war and peace. Does the effect differ significantly from those states experiencing sporadic democratization? Is Iraq perhaps less enslaved to the trap of a nationalist bidding war or somehow more prone to violence during its transition than the spontaneously-transitioning Egypt? A solid theoretical foundation, based on rigorous study, could provide answers before realities become problematic for policymakers. 


Abdolali, Nasrin, and Zeev Maoz. “Regime Types and International Conflict , 1816-1976.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 33, no. 1 (1989): 3–35.

Al-Jazeera English. “A Sign of Shifting Egypt-Israel Relations?” Al-Jazeera, 2012.

Doyle, Michael W. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 12, no. 3 (1983): 205–235.

———. “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2.” Philosphy & Public Affairs 12, no. 4 (1983): 323–353.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Democracy Index 2011: Democracy Under Stress, 2011.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Democracy Index 2012: Democracy is at a Standstill, 2012.

Forsber, Ole J. “Another Shot at the Democratic Peace: Are Democracies More Aggressive Than Non-Democracies in Militarized Interstate Disputes?” Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences 1, no. 2 (2007): 1–18.

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1795.

Mansfield, Edward D., and Jack Snyder. “Democratic Transitions, Institutional Strength, and War.” International Organization 56, no. 2 (2002): 297–337.

———. Electing To Fight Why Emerging Democracies Go To War. Vol. 70. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.

———. “Incomplete Democratization and the Outbreak of Military Disputes.” International Studies Quarterly2 46, no. 4 (2002): 529–549.

Maoz, Zeev, and Bruce Russett. “Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946-1986.” The American Political Science Review 87, no. 3 (1993): 624–638.

Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen M. Walt. “Taking Aim at Syria.” In The Israel Lobby, 263–279. 1st ed. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Rummel, R. J. “Libertarianism and International Violence.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 27, no. 1 (1983): 27–71.

Small, Melvin, and David J. Singer. “The War-Proness of Democratic Regimes, 1816-1965.” Jerusalem Journal of International Relations 1, no. 4 (1976): 50–69.

[1]In fact, in Perpetual Peace, while advocating democracy as a form of sovereignty (forma imperii), Kant equates democracy as a form of government (forma regiminis) to despotism, writing: “Republicanism is the political principle of the separation of the executive power (the administration) from the legislative; despotism is that of the autonomous execution by the state of laws which it has itself decreed. Thus in a despotism the public will is administered by the ruler as his own will. Of the three forms of the state, that of democracy is, properly speaking, necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power in which ‘all’ decide for or even against one who does not agree; that is, ‘all,’ who are not quite all, decide, and this is a contradiction of the general will with itself and with freedom” (Kant 1795).

[2] Kant, outlining his causal logic, explains, “if the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of war. Among the latter would be: having to fight, having to pay the costs of war from their own resources, having painfully to repair the devastation war leaves behind, and, to fill up the measure of evils, load themselves with a heavy national debt that would embitter peace itself and that can never be liquidated on account of constant wars in the future” (Kant 1795).

[3] The dyadic (lit pertaining to two different elements; in this case, nation-states) peace thesis remains dominant in the democratic peace theory literature. This hypothesis maintains that democracies do not fight one another. Some researchers, albeit nowadays few, have supported the more ambitious monadic peace thesis Rummel, “Libertarianism and International Violence”. This position, in line with the Kantian tradition, claims that democracies are unitarily more peaceful, in general. On the contrary, more scholarship has been produced demonstrating the opposite trend, i.e. that democracies have initiated more military interstate disputes (MIDs) than any other regime type in the post-Cold War era. For an example, see Ole J. Forsber, “Another Shot at the Democratic Peace: Are Democracies More Aggressive Than Non-Democracies in Militarized Interstate Disputes?,” Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences 1, no. 2 (2007): 1–18.

[4] Nonetheless, a few studies have cited rare occurrences of democracy-on-democracy, direct warfare (Rosato 2003), leading staunch supports of the reliability of democratic peace theory to cite what they perceive as a deliberate manipulation of the definition and/or criteria of the independent variable (democracy) and the dependent variable (the dichotomous variable: war or peace) substantiating democratic peace theory refutation. Predictably, modern realists also accuse liberal, democratic peace subscribers of careful variable manipulation, leading to the sustainment of the theory.

[5] Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2011: Democracy Under Stress, 2011.; Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2012: Democracy is at a Standstill, 2012.

[6] Based on the four principle indicators in EIU’s Democracy Index ((1) whether national elections are free and fair, (2) the security of voters, (3) the influence of foreign powers on government, (4) the capability of civil service to implement policies), the early Egyptian experiment with democracy has clearly warranted the increased ranking on the Democracy Index. With respect to the first three indicators, Egypt has improved in these areas since 2011 with the hosting of the first democratic elections in this half of the century. We state this not to discount the allegations of electoral fraud apparent in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, but only to indicate that at the time of the EIU’s 2011 index reporting, contemporary Egypt had not known any remnant of democratic elections. Nonetheless, the real test of democratic authenticity is the regime’s ability to replicate free-and-fair elections even when the results require a peaceful transfer of power.

[7] “Egypt withdraws ambassador from Israel.” Al Jazeera. 2011.

[8] “Egypt’s cancellation of gas sales to Israel was inevitable.” Cristian Science Moniter. 2012.

[9] Ari Issacharoff. “Egypt deployed troops in Sinai without Israel’s prior approval.” Haaretz. 2012. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty bans Egyptian armored vehicles (e.g. main battle tanks (MBT) and large numbers of Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV)) from being garrisoned in Sinai.

[10] “Egypt withdraws ambassador from Israel.” Al Jazeera. 2011.

[11] “Egypt recalls ambassador to Israel in protest over border police deaths.” Global Post. 2011.

[12] “Egypt house votes to expel Israeli envoy.” Al Jazeera. 2012.

[13] “Egypt’s cancellation of gas sales to Israel was inevitable.” Cristian Science Moniter. 2012.

[14] “Egypt deployed troops in Sinai without Israel’s prior approval” Haaretz. 2012.

[15] “Egyptian activists protest Israel attacks on Gaza Monday” Ahram Online. 2012.

[16] “Brotherhood’s party condemns Israeli attack on Gaza, demands world react” Ahram Online. 2012.

[17] Al-Jazeera English, “A Sign of Shifting Egypt-Israel Relations?”,


[18] In a minor discourse analysis, each use of the word “Israel” and “Nile” in a party’s platform were counted in order to estimate the value of the two contentious issues in the post-Mubarak political landscape. See “Guide to Egypt’s Transition.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

[19] “Egypt.” CIA WorldFactBook.

[20] “Egypt’s Limited Military Options to Stop an Ethiopian Dam Project.” Stratfor. June 10, 2013.

[21] Elliot Abrams. “Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world.” 2011.

[22] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “Taking Aim at Syria,” in The Israel Lobby, 1st ed. (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), 263–279.

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