I was just reading A.fm.'s comment on this question.

[...] and history shows democratic states don't fight one another.

At first I thought this statement was wrong, but thinking further I couldn't find any example of two unquestionably democratic states engagint a war with eachother. I can only find examples of democracy declaring war to a dictatorship (USA invading Irak in 2003) or a dictatorship invading a democracy (for example Germany invading Czechoslovakia in 1938). Cases of two dictatorship attacking eachother are unfortunately too common so that no example is needed...

The best counter-example to A.fm.'s claim I can find is Austria-Hungary declaring war to Serbia in 1914... but both of those countries were more hybrid regimes than full democraties it seems.

France declaring war to Prussia in 1870 is also borderline making it, but both countries were kind of hybrid/half-democraties at this point of time.

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    The problem I think you are going to have here is that any conflict not entirely involving modern Western European or North American countries is liable to devolve into a No True Scottsman argument. For example, I could say "War of 1812", but someone could say, "Doesn't count, most of the USA didn't have the vote, and a large portion of it was enslaved."
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 17, 2017 at 18:43
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    Wikipedia has a list for this because Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_between_democracies . Of course, how "democratic" some of these countries were is up for debate.
    – DPenner1
    Aug 17, 2017 at 18:50
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    You are looking at Democratic Peace Theory. I would not consider this history, but political theory and international relations. It has been around for a while ... in that sense it is history? And this
    – J Asia
    Aug 17, 2017 at 19:23
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    "The best counter-example to A.fm.'s claim I can find is Austria-Hungary declaring war to Serbia in 1914" Err... Austria-Hungary was one of the most reactionary regimes at the time. It was only a few notches below Russia in how reactionary it was. If anything the surprise of WW1 was how Russia, the mother of all reactionary nations then if anything, ended up allied with two of the most progressive. Aug 17, 2017 at 22:04
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    There are no unquestioned democracies, so there can't be any war between them :-)
    – Bergi
    Aug 17, 2017 at 22:37

3 Answers 3


The Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 was fought between Pakistan and India. Both were run by democratic governments at the time. Obviously there was also the matter of the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) so it was at least half a civil war, but still two democratic powers fought.

Another conflict, on a smaller scale, between India and Pakistan (the Kargil War) occurred in 1999. Again both sides had democratic governments. Here you could argue that Nawaz Sharif did not know about the military action - i.e. it was a military adventure - at least that is what he says about it. But I think that must count.

Although Pakistan has had periods of military rule, I don't think anyone could seriously question Pakistan's democratic nature in 1999.

  • Given that the war's ultimate cause was the refusal of those in West Pakistan to allow a government democratically elected by a majority of people - because that majority was in East Pakistan, I don't see how Pakistan can be described as a democracy at that time. Aug 18, 2017 at 18:50
  • I agree that the first of the wars was a marginal case. I was assuming that since East Pakistan had declared independence before the war began with India (a short time, but it was a short war) then we could discount the fact that East Pakistanis weren't properly represented - they were now in a different country. Aug 19, 2017 at 9:00

Does the War of 1812 count as two democracies? Enfranchisement was incomplete for both countries, and one even had slavery, but they were still democratic states. Or do those two qualities make them questionable?

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    Jinx! Owe me a soda.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 17, 2017 at 18:46
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    Which war of 1812 ?
    – Bregalad
    Aug 17, 2017 at 19:07
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    @Bregalad - Probably a reasonable presumption that the one you get by that name from the English version of Wikipedia was the one intended.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 17, 2017 at 19:18
  • But this was only part of the greater narrative of Napoleonic wars. Aug 17, 2017 at 22:07
  • Britain is officially a monarchy, even now. And it certainly was not "unquestionably democratic" in 1812. Neither was US "unquestionably democratic". Women and slaves did not vote.
    – Alex
    Aug 17, 2017 at 23:04

What about World War I, and specifically Britain versus Germany? Both were parliamentary democracies with robust opposition parties, a relatively free press, rule of law, independent judiciaries, but in both cases with a superimposed hereditary monarchy.

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    I have a feeling that democracy in Germany (and Austria-Hungary) was limited. Opposition parties were allowed, but they were not much listened to. The military had overwhelming powers that were almost a 2nd government parallel to the civil government. This clearly played a role in the outbreak of WW1 where the monarchy wanted to solve the problem with diplomacy but the generals wanted a war.
    – Bregalad
    Aug 18, 2017 at 6:38
  • @KorvinStarmast. There is no reason to leave France out, except that France was a republic, while Britain and Germany were (constitutional) monarchies. They are thus a closer parallel.
    – fdb
    Aug 18, 2017 at 8:07
  • @fdb OK, I see the comparison Aug 18, 2017 at 14:28
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    Imperial Germany was certainly not a democracy in that foreign and defence policy were not in the remit of the elected parliament. The parliament controlled the budget but not much else. Aug 18, 2017 at 18:52
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    The President of the Republic in France is elected by the people. It's an inherently democratic decision. The Kaiser was not elected. There was nothing democratic about his appointment of a government. That's a pretty obvious difference and it strikes me that you are being deliberately obtuse in not recognising it. Aug 19, 2017 at 18:24

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