‘World Order in Crisis’: Democracy is not a default condition


Many traditional American allies welcome the new U.S. activism and share White House hopes that a revived alliance of democracies can calm the troubled geopolitical waters, notes Walter Russell Mead, Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship at Hudson and Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College in New York.

President Biden and many of his advisers appear to believe that the strength of the American world system depends on the global appeal of American values, and that the best way to protect the American order is to double down on democracy promotion, the strengthening of international institutions and the defense of human rights. Foreigners, for the most part, are more pragmatic and often judge the American system based on its ability to deliver economic gains, he writes for The Wall Street Journal:

Wilsonians like to say that such values as democracy and freedom are universal, and foreign admiration for the principles of American foreign policy is the key to U.S. international popularity and success. The sad truth is that money often matters more. The opportunities that easy access to American markets offered people all over the world did more to legitimize the American international system in many eyes than global admiration for our high moral character and noble ideals.

Many of us succumbed to the temptation to assume that democracy is the default condition of modern states, said Yale historian Timothy Snyder. “That was always just silliness,” so we have to acknowledge how much we’ve taken democracy for granted over the years, he told the World Economic Forum (above). 



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