Democracy, Foreign Forces, and War: The United States and the Cold War in the Third World

During the Cold War, the United States carried out a number of covert actions against elected governments in the Third World. Critics of the "democratic peace" suggest these covert operations are potential invalidations of, or at least exceptions to, the proposition that liberal democracies rarely or never wage war on one another. Democratic peace theorists, however, argue that the targets of these covert actions were not long-term, stable democracies, that covert action falls short of interstate war by Correlates of War (CoW) criteria, and that the covert nature of these operations meant that liberal norms and institutions in the United States did not have an opportunity to function. Even so, by forcing the executive to use covert means, democratic institutions may have prevented the higher level of international violence known as war, although they were not robust enough to prevent covert action. Liberal interventionist and anti-communist ideology provided policymakers with a justificatory frame for intervention which, however, did not amount to war between democracies.