A neatly structured survey examines the prospects for universal democracy.
Hoover Institution fellow Diamond (Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq, 2005, etc.) has been passionately engaged in the global quest for freedom since his student days in the mid-1970s, when he traveled through despotic hotspots like Portugal, Thailand and Nigeria. He begins by establishing the “universal value” of democracy—not just as a Western concept (though Asians and Muslims do have a stronger adherence to authority) or a luxury for a wealthy nation, but a state to which all aspire. Access to an electoral process, checks on authority, civil liberties and an independent judiciary are rights that everyone desires, Diamond avers. He tracks the “democratic boom” since the mid-’70s from Portugal, Spain and the Philippines to East Asia, South Africa and the Soviet Union. He also follows the recent “democratic recession” in Pakistan and under Vladimir Putin in the Soviet Union. He examines the internal and external factors that drive and sustain a democracy, among them legitimacy, economic development, regional influence (e.g., the desire to join the European Union) and outside sanctions. The author isolates each problem area of the world and considers its uneasy progress toward democracy. Latin America, he says, is vexed by poverty, unemployment, inequality and the weakness and corruption of state social services and criminal-justice systems. Africa is struggling to overcome the “dictators for life” syndrome. The Middle East is unlikely to truly democratize “until there is a transformation in the regional security context.” Finally, Diamond sets out his checklist for making democracy work, by establishing integrity and transparency in government. He doesn’t flinch from criticizing the U.S. government’s role in world affairs, and his view from a think-tank perch is wide-ranging and carefully considered, making this an especially effective work.
A refreshingly evenhanded overview of democracy’s global prospects.