The Authoritarian Illusion

Authoritarian states are judged to be the breeding grounds of poverty, resentment and terrorism, but this is not always the case. What kind of despot fosters extremism?

Issue: Fall 2004

The belief that non-democratic regimes incubate anti-Western extremism, making their aggrieved populations vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups, is the principle assumption behind the democracy project, which argues that it is in America's compelling interest to promote democratic regimes wherever possible. Given its impact on policy, this assumption deserves scrutiny. While it is true that several authoritarian societies have bred anti-Western extremism, many others have not. Sympathy for democracy does not constitute sufficient grounds for a sweeping policy of worldwide democratization.

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