Document Type


Publication Title

Democracy: A Journal of ideas

Publication Date



authoritarianism, democracy, foreign policy, government, nationalism, oligarchy


Human Rights Law | International Humanitarian Law | Law


The challenge we face today is not one of authoritarianism, as so many seem inclined to believe, but of nationalist oligarchy. This form of government feeds populism to the people, delivers special privileges to the rich and well-connected, and rigs politics to sustain its regime.

Nationalist oligarchy is an existential threat to American democracy. The countries already under its thrall steal technology and use economic power as political leverage. Some of them are actively trying to undermine democracy, through cyber attacks, hacking, and social media disinformation. And they spread bribery and corruption around the world—deepening inequality and threatening to turn our democracy into an oligarchy. American foreign policy needs to reorient itself to focus on this threat. In this new era, the central organizing principle for foreign policy should be to defend democracy by rebuilding political and economic democracy domestically, selectively disengaging from nationalist oligarchies in critical sectors, and deepening security and economic cooperation with other democracies.



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