Saving Asia’s Democracies: Diplomat

Worries run deep about democracy, which has been in decline around the world since the 1990s by some reports. The regression is challenging to reverse, and the global approaches employed during the Cold War would likely have little effect, writes Joshua Kurlantzick. Such broad approaches could even backfire during a period of political gridlock and low interest in foreign policy as autocrats relish “an enemy to rail against,” he explains. Instead, a targeted and microscopic approach based on evidence may be more effective, yet only in democracies where norms are crumbling, such as Philippines or Bangladesh, or autocratic regimes with some level of openness, such as Thailand or Cambodia. The essay recommends strategies for opponents of autocrats: focus on bread-and-butter issues like health care and jobs; address general corruption rather than personal scandals and rule of law issues; participate in elections and build broad coalitions; and demonstrate a track record in keeping promises. External powers like the United States or Europe should not lead these efforts but can provide support with foreign aid, trade, security cooperation and tools to battle corruption. Kurlantzick concludes that promoters of democracy must be vigilant against populism, ready to repair damage with structural reforms. The never-ending fight is worthwhile as democracy is linked to better societies. – YaleGlobal

Saving Asia’s Democracies: Diplomat

Targeting specific economic issues is more likely to halt democracy’s global regression than a Cold War–style ideological campaign against authoritarianism
Joshua Kurlantzick
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Read the article from the Diplomat offering strategies for resisting the global decline in democracy.

Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author, most recently, of A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA.

A check of global democracy: Freedom House assessed 209 nations and of the world’s 7.6 billion people, 39 percent live in free nations, 24 percent in partially free nations and 37 percent in nations that are not free (Source: Freedom in the World Report 2019, Freedom House)


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