Centre lecturer Gorana Grgic co-authored (with Benjamin E. Goldsmith, Dimitri Semenovich and Arcot Sowmya) this article published in the journal, World Politics.


An old adage asks, if a tree falls in a forest but nobody is there to hear, does it make a sound? We can ask, if a leader makes a serious foreign policy mistake but there is no critical opposition to point it out, will any political consequences follow? It may be that no one will be the wiser, and that there will be no impact on the leader's hold on power. At least, confident in his or her dominance of the political agenda, ex ante the leader may not expect serious consequences. Conversely, if there is a viable opposition aware of the mistake (witnessing the tree's fall), the leader will expect the opposition to make a critical sound, and to use the mistake for political advantage. We argue that a fundamental factor explaining the connection between states’ internal political systems and their interstate conflict behavior is this strategic expectation of either dominance over the political agenda or vulnerability to opposition criticism. In particular, it provides a compelling explanation for the rarity of war between democratic states, the dyadic “democratic peace.” While others have focused on political competition, especially in the context of monadic foreign conflict behavior, we elaborate on the role of competition when specifically considering the regime type of the potential target state, and test a refined, dyadic theory. We present results for global data and extensive robustness tests considering recent challenges to the democratic-peace proposition.