Should we really "Force Them to be Free?" An empirical examination of Peceny's liberalizing intervention thesis

Scott Walker, Frederic S. Pearson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In his article, entitled "Forcing Them to be Free," Peceny (1999) presents and empirically tests an argument that while most U.S. military interventions are not successful in bringing about democracy, those cases of intervention in which the U.S. also pushes for "free and fair elections" are likely to produce long-term democratic outcomes in target countries. Our research challenges Peceny's work in two ways. First, we replicate his analysis, finding that military interventions with democratizing intent are not necessarily as successful as his work suggests. Second, we investigate whether these interventions are likely to lead to a broader concept of democracy and good governance using a series of alternative measures of democratic performance and alternate statistical analyses. Again, we generally find that interventions that attempt to "force" free and fair elections do not have a particularly beneficial effect on long-term democratic outcomes. Our results suggest that more work needs to be done before a "forcing them to be free" hypothesis can be considered to be an advancement in the literature on democratization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-53
Number of pages17
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Democratization
  • Elections
  • Human rights
  • Military intervention
  • U.S. foreign policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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