Fighting for Another Country’s Democracy: An Analysis of Democratic Aid and Military Intervention Through the Vietnam and Iraq War


Tyler, Gerry [faculty advisor, Department of Political Science]




Iraq war; Vietnam war; democracy; military intervention; international relations


Whether or not a country can successfully help fight for another country’s democracy has been debated and questioned for many years. The United States’ belief in the Democratic Peace Theory has created a history of aiding other countries in their effort for political change. However, many contradictions arise from this effort of fighting for peace. Thomas Carothers and James Meernik propose theoretical structures as guides to successfully aid another country in leading them toward democracy. However when analyzing two case studies, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, problems with these theories become evident. Both of these wars present clear issues of dependency, cultural separation and conflicting goals between the United States and these countries. Combining Carothers’ economic development theory with Meernik’s suggestion of military intervention, and applying these theories to the case studies, important characteristics and qualities that are necessary for success in promoting democracy can be established. These qualities, or lessons learned from Vietnam and the current situation in Iraq, can be applied to modern attempts to implement democracy in other countries. This paper explores current and former attempts and strategies to implement democracy in another country, and uses the theories of Carothers and Meernik to analyze these attempts. Vietnam and Iraq shed light on the downfall of the typical approach of the United States to aid democratic development. As a result, this paper highlights why the United States has been unsuccessful in past attempts, and suggests some further circumstances that need to be met. Some important conditions that I found must be met include: United States must have a clear goal of democracy, the foreign population must support the United States’ aim, the governments must have a close relationship and finally the military operations used must be successful. Also, dependency can and must be avoided with actual political reform, efforts must be supported by all parties involved, and the use of economic aid must be minimal.

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