15 March 2010

Book: Why Democracy Won in the 20th Century and How it is Still Imperiled

Azar Gat, "Victorious and Vulnerable: Why Democracy Won in the 20th Century and How it is Still Imperiled", published by Rowman & Littlefield in cooperation with the Hoover Institution (December 2009):


Publisher's description: "In the blink of an eye, liberal democracy's moment of triumph was darkened by new threats, challenges, and doubts. Rejecting the view that liberal democracy's twentieth-century victory was inevitable, distinguished student of war Azar Gat argues that it largely rested on contingent factors and was more doubtful than has been assumed. The world's liberal democracies, with the United States at the forefront, face new and baffling security threats, with the return of capitalist nondemocratic great powers – China and Russia – and the continued threat of unconventional terror. The democratic peace, or near absence of war among themselves, is a unique feature of liberal democracies' foreign policy behavior. Arguing that this is merely one manifestation of much more sweeping and less recognized pacifist tendencies typical of liberal democracies, Gat offers a panoramic view of their distinctive way in conflict and war. His book provides a politically and strategically vital understanding of the peculiar strengths and vulnerabilities that liberal democracy brings to the formidable challenges ahead."

Reviews: "[Gat] suggests that general moral and legal parameters can be refined, through policy and strategy, using 'a better awareness of the underlying patterns of the democracies' behavior in conflict.' In particular, he finds fault with 'normative-legal aspects' of liberal national defense that favor pacifism and appeasement: such tendencies render them vulnerable to a determined enemy without such scruples. Opposition to detention without trial, torture, and wiretapping, Gat says, has 'a bitterly ideological and righteous character,' rigid where it should be adaptable to changing realities and enemy tactics; on the battlefield, 'self-imposed restrictions on violence against civilian population' can 'render often-successful military operations futile.'" ("Publishers Weekly")

"In this brilliant and highly original work, Gat shows not only why democracies triumphed over their authoritarian, fascist, and communist adversaries in the past century, but simultaneously calls attention to the democracies' unique vulnerabilities." (Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University)

Azar Gat is Ezer Weizman Professor of National Security at Tel Aviv University.

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