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War and Democratic Constraint:
How the Public Influences Foreign Policy
Matthew A. Baum & Philip B. K. Potter

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015

Paperback | 2015 | $30.95 | £25.95 | ISBN: 9780691165233
Hardcover | 2015 | $99.95 | £83.95 | ISBN: 9780691164984
280 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 37 line illus. 29 tables.
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Why do some democracies reflect their citizens' foreign policy preferences better than others? What roles do the media, political parties, and the electoral system play in a democracy's decision to join or avoid a war? War and Democratic Constraint shows that the key to how a government determines foreign policy rests on the transmission and availability of information. Citizens successfully hold their democratic governments accountable and a distinctive foreign policy emerges when two vital institutions—a diverse and independent political opposition and a robust media—are present to make timely information accessible.

Matthew Baum and Philip Potter demonstrate that there must first be a politically potent opposition that can blow the whistle when a leader missteps. This counteracts leaders' incentives to obscure and misrepresent. Second, healthy media institutions must be in place and widely accessible in order to relay information from whistle-blowers to the public. Baum and Potter explore this communication mechanism during three different phases of international conflicts: when states initiate wars, when they respond to challenges from other states, or when they join preexisting groups of actors engaged in conflicts.

Examining recent wars, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq, War and Democratic Constraint links domestic politics and mass media to international relations in a brand-new way.

Matthew A. Baum is the Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications and professor of public policy at Harvard University. He is the author of Soft News Goes to War and the coauthor of War Stories (both Princeton). Philip B. K. Potter is assistant professor of politics at the University of Virginia.


"[A] groundbreaking study."--Foreign Affairs

"This scholarly book is an important contribution to the role of political communication in foreign policy making. It is strongly recommended for foreign policy and political communication scholars and democratic peace theorists."--Choice

"A very thoughtful study about war initiation which can be the start for a true sociology of democratic institutions and their impact on war and peace."--Thomas Lindemann, European Review of International Studies

"Why are some democracies more sensitive than others to the foreign policy preferences of citizens? The answer that the book presents to this research question is innovative, thoroughly argued and consistently backed up by solid empirical research. . . . A seminal reading recommended for all scholars interested in the way domestic factors influence foreign policy."--Cristian Nitoiu, Political Studies Review

"Baum and Potter have provided us with a sweeping, insightful, and exciting new perspective on the role of democracy in foreign policy. Their work is certain to become the new standard for judging and evaluating future research in this area."--Christopher Gelpi, H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable

"Those of us who study public opinion on matters of international relations and who have not given much thought to institutions now have to take even more seriously these questions because of this outstanding book."--Thomas J. Scotto, H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable

"The book is a model not only in the huge substantive contribution but also in that it displays great rigor across multiple methods. It reveals just how far one can go when bringing substantive fields and varying methods together. War and Democratic Constraint is a book that everyone in political science should read, and I congratulate the authors for a crowning achievement."--James N. Druckman, Journal of Politics


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