By James Ritchie
Interstate - Journal of International Affairs
1997, Vol. 1996/1997 No. 2 | pg. 1/1

War has been an ever present phenomenon in the international system. A solution to this problem has eluded policy-makers and international relations theorists, until now. Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, has come up with a new prescription for interstate peace: McDonald’s. No two countries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other.

The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention has been confirmed by the “McDonald’s University” at Illinois. The Middle East stands as a shining testament to the ability of McDonald’s to bring peace. Israel’s first restaurant opened in 1993, Egypt has 18 and Saudi Arabia will soon be joined by Jordan, in having regular access to Happy Meals. Historical enemies like China and Japan, Germany and France, Turkey and Greece all enjoy peaceful relations and Big Macs. Argentina did not get a McDonald’s until 1986; a second Falklands War looks unlikely.

Does a regular diet of McRib sandwiches, cokes and fries destroy the war-making capacity of man? Should the United Nations include Big Macs with the blankets it sends to Bosnia, Rwanda and other war-torn states? Thomas Friedman accepts there are limits to the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention. Civil wars cannot be prevented by McDonald’s: the 1993 attempted coup against Boris Yeltsin witnessed combatants from both sides taking time out for trips to the Moscow McDonald’s. McStates are not inherently peaceful and frequently wage war against states which have not yet welcomed Ronald McDonald. America’s first McDonald’s opened in 1955: Vietnam and Iraq are still waiting for the security from the United States, that their own Golden Arches will bring.

It is at this point that students of Democratic Peace Theory will recognise that the origins of Friedman’s theory can be found 160 years before the invention of the Big Mac, in the writings of Immanuel Kant. As Kant predicted, democratic states do not fight each other, but regularly wage war against non-democratic states. McDonald’s is a symptom of the peace between liberal democracies; it is not the cause. It is only once a state has developed sufficiently that it can afford a McDonald’s; McDonald’s regularly turns down requests for restaurants from hopeful ambassadors of underdeveloped states.

With McDonald’s welcoming Belarus as the hundredth McState in December 1996 there are warnings that Friedman’s theory may not stand the test of time. In its push to expand, McDonald’s is lowering the standards of development that states must meet. Francis Fukuyama “would not be surprised if, in the next 10 years, several of these McDonald’s nations go to war with each other.” Golden Arches over Tripoli, Baghdad and Pyongyang are unlikely to create detente between these states and America. No doubt journalists are already looking at other multinational franchises to replace McDonald’s as guarantor of peace. Any takers for the Kentucky Fried Chicken Theory of Conflict Prevention?


Thomas Friedman, “Turning swords into beef-burgers“. The Guardian (19 December 1996)

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

A companion article (Has New Zealand Identified the Causes of Crime?) explored the development of five factors described as "the underlying causes of offending and victimisation" in the context of meeting crime... MORE»
"The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world, everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no value does exist-and if it did exist it would have no value. If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all... MORE»
Although peace and pacifism are familiar ideas to most students today, for much of human history these concepts have been relegated to the religious domain and excluded from the study and practice of politics.[1] At the same time, war--organized violent conflict between different groups of people--has traditionally been considered... MORE»
This paper identifies and provides an initial analysis of the problem of mismatched theories in peacebuilding programs. This problem occurs when a project is developed by a group that subscribes to one theory of peacebuilding, but is then executed by a group that subscribes to a different theory. A single case study is chosen in... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in International Affairs

2022, Vol. 14 No. 04
With over 10 million stateless people globally, statelessness has increasingly become a pressing issue in international law. The production of statelessness occurs across multiple lines including technical loopholes, state succession, and discriminatory... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 09
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated current global challenges. However, this article argues that this time of crisis can also be a unique opportunity for the existing global economic institutions - G20, WTO, IMF, and World Bank (WB) - to make the... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 02
On January 1st, 1959, a small band of Cuban rebels shocked the world, overthrowing the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. These rebels were especially known for their guerrilla tactics and their leaders, such as Fidel Castro and Ernesto... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 01
Israel has increased the nation’s security presence around the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Here, the research project analyzes how transaction costs resulting from Israeli security policy impact the output of manufacturing activities... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 09
The necessity of international relief is unending as new crises continue to emerge across the world. International aid plays a crucial role in shaping how affected communities rebuild after a crisis. However, humanitarian aid often results in a... Read Article »
2019, Vol. 11 No. 10
This article aims to present the biopiracy of traditional knowledge from India by the United States, which has occurred directly through the use of patent law and indirectly through economic power and cultural imperialism. Throughout this essay,... Read Article »
2018, Vol. 10 No. 10
After joining the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, Estonians felt secure and in charge of their future. However, following the 2007 Bronze Horseman incident in the Estonian capital of Tallinn which included... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


How to Read for Grad School
Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement