Prospects for Political Stability in a Democratic Iraq: A Study of the Clusters of Conflict

Author: Saunders, Stephen R. and Karen K. Petersen
Clusters composed of a democratic state surrounded by autocratic states may be particularly conflict prone. If so, were Iraq to become an established democracy in the midst of mostly nondemocratic contiguous neighbors, we may expect increased conflict within the cluster. The current study, using COW and Polity data, analyzes 142 clusters over an extended period and finds support for the proposition that heterogeneous clusters with autocracies surrounding a democracy tend to be conflictual.


“The evidence supports only probabilistic conclusions regarding the possible impact of a transition to democracy in Iraq so Petersen and Saunders are appropriately cautious about the policy implications of their research. But their work is an example of research on the relationship between regime type and interstate conflict that is sensitive to and in fact focused on the policy implications of systematic empirical research in a manner that has up to this point been unfortunately scarce in the recent torrent of research on the democratic peace proposition.” – Prof. James Lee Ray, Vanderbilt University

“Alongside this mostly academic audience, defense analysts and policy makers will also be drawn to the study, since it upends the common belief that the pursuit of democratization throughout the world serves U.S. foreign and security policy interests, a belief widely held in U.S. policy making communities." – Prof. Mary N. Hampton, Air Command and Staff College

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Calamitous Clusters
2. Three Streams of Literature
The Democratic Peace
Middle East Studies
3. Cluster Propositions
Constructing Clusters
The Dependent Variable: MIDs and Wars
The Independent Variable: POLITY
Control Variables: Leave the Kitchen Sink at Home
Descriptive Statistics
4. Testing Cluster Propositions
Who Initiates the Conflicts?
Will a Democratic Iraq Increase Conflict?
5. Pausing for Provisos
Probabilistic Theory
MID Data
Alternative Explanations
6. Do We Want Democracy in Iraq?
Appendix A - Entry Year of Clusters