There is a profound global game underway for the very soul of humanity and how we choose to organize ourselves, relate to one another, govern ourselves, and select our leaders. The interesting and complex meta-conflict between democracy and autocracy has frontlines on every continent being dramatically fought over in various ways both violent and peaceful each and every day. This great, long game between the two opposite poles is multi-century in nature, and regardless of whether you believe that democracy or autocracy is the superior form of governance, the overall winner is still a long way from being decided objectively. It is unclear which of the two systems will finally claim overarching victory over the 21st century world in the history books to be read by our progeny in future centuries, assuming mankind even survives the larger and more important great war against climate change past this century. This is by no means a given.
While the political game plays out in real time, I thought it would be entertaining to define some of the current battle lines where the two ways of life have to varying degrees locked horns in direct conflict, and analyze our way into determining who is winning in each case as of May 2023, in order to fashion a rudimentary scorecard. As the days move forward over the river time, this would give us the opportunity to update the scorecard periodically after assessing the new progress and stumbles of each team as they play along around the world to advance their chosen political philosophy.
Russia vs Ukraine. The most active war between democracy and autocracy is tragically unfolding each day in the bloody fields and demolished city blocks of Ukraine, with numerous other nations besides Russia and Ukraine heavily involved by proxy in a globalized world. The United States and other democratic allies have chosen Ukraine as their horse to back in the race, while nations like China, Iran, and India have given Russia economic or military assistance to keep the war machine going. At ultimate stake is whether a large dictatorial oligarchy shall be able to overrun its tiny democratic neighbor, through brute, indiscriminate military force. As the Ukraine War approaches a year and a half of dogged, continuous fighting at high cost in blood and treasure to both countries, we arrived at a stalemate since winter with no clear end in sight. This war of attrition will continue until one side or the other finally loses the will to fight and caves in to the other side’s demands unhappily. Considering the surprising failure of the vastly larger and more powerful Russia in letting the war drag on into prolonged quagmire rather than achieving complete recolonization of all of Ukraine outright as planned, the status quo must be viewed as a provisional defeat for the Russians in itself. Regardless of outcome, Russia is quite likely to eventually emerge from this war severely degraded diplomatically, militarily and economically, while giving serious pause to other autocracies with their own ambitions of colonial invasion. The people of Ukraine are suffering horrendously in the meanwhile, as every gain has come at great cost. While one could argue both sides have already lost, at this stage we give a slight edge to Ukraine and its form of government that still courageously holds, against formidable odds. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: DEMOCRACY
Washington, D.C. The United States of America is supposed to be the leading general for democracy in the multigenerational world war against autocracy. The seat of power for the nation where modern democracy was founded is the capital, Washington, D.C. Both at home and also abroad, Washington has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years in its grave responsibility to uphold the democratic way of life. A disturbing number of leaders have emerged in Washington who are classically authoritarian to the core. Examples include Donald Trump, Clarence Thomas, and Kevin McCarthy. Meanwhile domestic US politics and policy have regrettably devolved into a cesspool of gross financial mismanagement, domestic terrorism, corruption, and downright stupidity. Neither Democrats or Republicans are entirely above the fray. However, the great majority of modern American authoritarian behavior such as undermining free and fair elections, promoting white male supremacy, and fomenting the January 6 terrorist attack on the US Capitol is to be found on the Republican side of Washington. Meanwhile, Washington’s ineffective leadership on the global stage and incompetence in the conduct of foreign policy and war have allowed autocracy to advance and even flourish in other parts of the world. In contrast, these overseas failures are thoroughly bipartisan in nature.
The United States has unquestionably fallen backwards when it comes to democratic principles. However, despite all of this stark news, and the perils that lie ahead, American democracy still endures through the grave challenges. Washington does still remain at the helm of a still-functioning democracy. Washington still wields immense, if waning power. And American democracy, however unhinged, still works by and large. On the other hand if democracy is to stand a chance in the future on the global level, Washington is simply going to have to be much better at it. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: DEMOCRACY
China. On the other side of the coin is the leader of the autocratic world, the rising superpower China. This giant nation has emerged from an impoverished backwater 40 years ago into the foremost credible rival to the United States and its global influence, wielding a suite of instruments specifically designed to blunt American power. Over that time period China has become even more autocratic than before, concentrating vast state power in just the hands of a few using ruthless policy changes including gross human rights violations. In fact the future prospects for the battle between autocracy and democracy are likely to hinge more on China’s fortunes than any other arena on the planet. If China continues to gain prosperity in the coming years, the world around it will follow the CCP down the ugly path toward greater authoritarianism. But if China instead flounders in the coming years, this will provide huge scoring opportunities for the democratic forces of society to advance in many countries. At this stage, the China story could go either way. History has proven that large autocratic nations are subject to precipitous downfalls. Dire structural economic and demographic challenges face the Chinese in their announced bid to become the world’s leading power. The CCP is in danger of starting a violent conflict of choice over Taiwan or elsewhere that could backfire against China’s quest for greatness rather than augment it. The country has become so integrated into the global supply chain, that China’s ultimate fate in the matters of war and peace will affect every part of the world simultaneously. We should all hope that China’s rise will be peaceful, but this does not seem likely. Whatever the prospects, we can assume that China will stay solidly in the autocracy column for the foreseeable future. Whether or not that works will increasingly determine the state of autocracy worldwide. ADVANTAGE: AUTOCRACY
India. India is the greatest enigma on the front lines of democracy vs autocracy. While India is by far the world’s largest democracy, and probably the largest country by population overall, it runs a messy version of democracy defined by a people who have been too comfortable with being ruled from above throughout its long recorded history, and inordinate amounts of grift by the government. Indians tend to support strongmen, including the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi who displays autocratic tendencies based on majority religious rule sitting atop a vast Hindu nationalist apparatus, at the expense of religious minority freedoms. On the other hand, the Indian economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the Modi era by harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of a burgeoning, youthful population and fostering champions on the multinational business stage. India too is an optimistic power on the rise like China, facing perilous headwinds in some sectors paired with booming progress in others. The nation’s demographics seem much more favorable than China’s for the long term. Success and growth seem inevitable in the near future if India can maintain peace at home and in foreign relations. India’s geography is ideal for further integration into world trade. The unique and imperfect brand of Indian democracy presents a credible alternative to the Chinese model of highly concentrated state control. Theirs will be a hopefully friendly race worth watching over time. We view India overall as a success story for democracy, but in years to come this will depend on better results when it comes to lifting people out of poverty, addressing rampant corruption in public life, and more harmony between the highly diverse walks of life that make up the population. Assuming India keeps plodding forward, its best days lie ahead. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: DEMOCRACY
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
photo credit dreamstime.com
Great coverage on the state of democracy worldwide.
Worth sending to democracy watchers in the US.
Democracy is thriving in the UK. or EU and Japan., advantage democracy.
Keep on writing !