Liberal democracy not yet dead but crisis likely to persist


In his insightful and harrowing new book, Edward Luce, a columnist for The Financial Times, issues a chilling warning, Michiko Kakutani writes for The New York Times:

“Western liberal democracy is not yet dead,” he writes, “but it is far closer to collapse than we may wish to believe. It is facing its gravest challenge since the Second World War. This time, however, we have conjured up the enemy from within. At home and abroad, America’s best liberal traditions are under assault from its own president. We have put arsonists in charge of the fire brigade.”

“The West’s crisis is real, structural and likely to persist,” Luce writes. “Nothing is inevitable. Some of what ails the West is within our power to fix.” Doing so means rejecting complacency about democracy and our system’s resilience, and “understanding exactly how we got here.”

The challenges facing domestic institutions prompted Dana Shell Smith, then the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, to tweet on May 10 that it was “increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions.”

It remains unclear how the goals of protecting human rights and promoting democracy will fit into the administration’s foreign policy, evidenced by “a deep aversion to telling friendly authoritarians how to run their countries,” notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Elliott Abrams.

But it’s worth remembering that other presidents have taken a similar stance early in their administrations, only to shift gears later on, he writes for Foreign Affairs:

When the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos made a state visit to Washington in 1982, the words “human rights” were never uttered in his presence. Yet four years later, President Ronald Reagan was demanding and arranging for Marcos’ resignation. Reagan and George W. Bush both came to office having criticized the foreign policies of their Democratic predecessors as naively moralistic and lacking in realism. But both later concluded that holding high the banner of human rights enhanced the United States’ prestige and influence in the world. And both came to see nation building as a way to avoid or shorten U.S. military interventions.

“No one should be surprised if the Trump administration evolves in the same direction,” adds Abrams, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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