Democracy in a post-Western order: decline or renaissance?


The U.S.-led liberal order, built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his successors, is being  dismantled, according to a leading strategist. The U.S. emerged from the horror of the 1940s as “the world’s indispensable nation,” but this position now appears to be collapsing, said Steve Schmidt, who worked for the campaigns of President George W. Bush, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Arizona Senator John McCain.

“We see from this the strengthening of the Iranian regime, the strengthening of Vladimir Putin and Russia,” Schmidt explained to MSNBC on Monday. “We are clearly deeply in an hour of retreat on that front,” he warned. “And we don’t know what the consequences of that are five years from now, ten years from now, fifteen years from now. But we will be feeling it for a long time.”

Autocratic powers like China and Russia are rushing to fill the vacuum left in the wake of US retreat, reports suggest.


“The reality is… that the liberal world order never existed,” said Alexander Lukin, head of the Center for East Asian and Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “It is a utopia that the West wanted to realize after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In reality, the order which was dominated by the US and its allies only existed in a part of the world, even when there was a bipolar structure,” he told China’s state-run Global Times on the sidelines of the 9th Beijing Xiangshan Forum. 

But it is important to recognize more fully how democracy dynamics are shifting, argues a prominent observer.

“When analysts plot the future international system, most of their concern gravitates toward the ascendant power of nondemocratic regimes. But just as significant are the ways that domestic backsliding in many democracies may negate Western and non-Western efforts to maintain the political norms of the liberal order,” according to Carnegie’s Richard Youngs.

“This serious predicament calls for a narrative that differs from the standard assumption that Western states are pushing for a democratic order while other powers merely seek to undermine them,” he argued in Upholding Democracy in a Post-Western Order, a recent report for the Rising Democracies Network.

The relationship between the crisis of liberal democracy and world order is the focus of a forthcoming SAIS forum featuring Eliot A. Cohen, Jeffrey Goldberg, journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic, and Anne Applebaum, senior fellow of International Affairs, Agora Fellow-in-Residence and National Endowment for Democracy board member. The conversation, moderated by Professor Narges Bajoghi, will take place on Friday, October 25th, 2019. 3:00-4:30 pm at the Kenney Herter Auditorium, Nitze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036. RSVP

How can the United States and Taiwan best cooperate to counter threats emanating from China’s “sharp power”? Puma Shen from National Taipei University in Taiwan, Gary Schmitt from the American Enterprise Institute and Christopher Walker from the National Endowment for Democracy will join GTI Research Fellow I-wei Jennifer Chang on October 23 for a discussion on U.S.-Taiwan cooperation against China’s sharp power. This public seminar is part of the Civil Society and Democracy Series, partially funded by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. The event will take place at the Global Taiwan Institute, located at 1836 Jefferson Place Northwest, Washington DC 20036. RSVP

The old historical rhythm that laid the foundations of the Western liberal order has come to an end, observers suggest.

For the past seventy years, the United States and its allies laid the foundations of a rules-based international system. But, with American leadership uncertain and autocratic great powers pushing back, the post-World War II order is increasingly under siege, the Atlantic Council notes. As emerging global risks and enduring challenges pull at the world’s threads, can the rules-based international system be re-created? What are the implications for global security? What strategy should the US and its allies and partners pursue to address these challenges? Will public support continue for American global engagement?

Join the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., as the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security provides an overarching answer for addressing long-term global risks and revitalizing, adapting, and defending the rules-based international system. The event (above) will launch two major strategy papers: Global Risks 2035: Decline or New Renaissance? by Dr. Mathew Burrows, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative; and Present at the Re-Creation: A Global Strategy for Revitalizing, Adapting, and Defending a Rules-Based International System, by Dr. Matthew Kroenig, Deputy Director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and Mr. Ash Jain, Senior Fellow. An opening panel with:


Secretary Madeleine Albright (right), Former Secretary of State, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group, Member, International Advisory Board, Atlantic Council, Chair of National Democratic Institute.

Mr. Stephen Hadley, Former National Security Advisor, Founding Principal, RiceHadleyGates LLC, Executive Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Atlantic Council.

DATE: Wednesday, October 30, 2019. TIME: 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM. LOCATION: Atlantic Council Headquarters, 1030 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005. RSVP

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