A posting I have been reading at New APPS has prompted me to address some of the implications for the understanding of the Wikileaks controversy for Kantian theory of international relations. The author of this posting has, unfortunately, engaged in a conflation though one for which he is not signally responsible since it is widely found.
The theory of republican peace that is found within the pages of Perpetual Peace is here conflated with the adaptation of it presented by Michael Doyle who coined the term "democratic peace" and based his view on an empirical study of relations between democracies, a theory that depends in part on certain contested views of what constitutes a "democracy". This conflation of Kant's theory with Doyle's leads the author to suggest that whilst the account of international relations presented by the latter is broadly accurate that the publication of the Wikileaks material presents a number of problems with the view that the conduct of foreign policy by democracies is fundamentally different to that of dictatorships.
So, putting the record straight, I'd like to present the following points:
1. The countries that we think of broadly as "democratic" are like Kantian republics in the sense that they allow for a separation of powers and have a general commitment to the rule of law. However, whilst this similarity is the basis of Doyle's theory there remain significant problems with the conduct of the "democracies" from a Kantian point of view and these are not newly revealed by the Wikileaks material.
2. The general conduct of "democracies" in Doyle's sense includes colonial empires (since he includes Britain and France from an early period in his criteria), the pursuit of mass aerial bombardment of civilian areas, the development and use of chemical warfare (e.g. in Vietnam) and decided use of concealment in violation of Kantian principles of publicity.
3. The lack of fit between the Kantian republic and the contemporary "democracy" is most graphically illustrated in the failure of the latter to commit to affirmative principles of publicity in their conduct towards each other, let alone towards non-democracies. Wikileaks material does illustrate this but doing so undermines Doyle, not Kant.
All the above suggest problems with viewing Doyle as having correctly distilled the Kantian view and also show that whilst there are indeed a number of interesting elements to the Wikileaks material one that should not be being pursued is the idea that they require amending the Kantian analysis of international relations. The author of the piece is, however, right that the criterion of publicity that Kant does up-hold is reinforced by this material as operating in ways that are at variance with it is sure to produce continuing problems. It would, though, be useful to add that we should distinguish as well between the two criteria of publicity used in Perpetual Peace and, whilst advocating the negative criteria as a minimum, should seek to advance the positive criteria as what is truly the desirable way to regulate international relations.