A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Democratic Leaders and War: Simultaneously Managing External Conflicts and Domestic Politics


Despite strong empirical evidence for democratic peace theory, the historical record indicates that democracies have been involved in many wars. This article conducts a critical examination of how democratic polities become entangled in international conflict. The examination focuses on how democratic leaders manage domestic politics and public opinion at each stage of the conflict (i.e. disputes, crises, wars and settlement). The study explores how democracies are drawn into conflict; when democracies provoke conflict; what claims democratic leaders make to justify conflict; when domestic audiences support or oppose conflict; and the implications for democratic leaders after conflicts. It argues that democratic leaders pursue various strategies that are shaped by the stage of the conflict, the domestic institutional structure and the level of mobilised domestic opposition.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Rousseau, David L., A. Trevor Thrall, Marcus Schulzke, and Steve Sin. “Democratic Leaders and War: Simultaneously Managing External Conflicts and Domestic Politics.” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 66-3 (2012): 349-364.

START Author(s):