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Promoting Democracy and National Security Go Together

The Bush Institute launched its new digital publication, The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. One of the featured essays, Promoting Democracy and National Security Go Together, was authored by Amanda Schnetzer, Director for Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute, and William Inboden, Director of the William P. Clements Jr. Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin.  


Below is a preview of the essay, which can be read in it’s entirety here.


Promoting Democracy and National Security Go Together


An Essay by Amanda Schnetzer and William Inboden

Seventy-five years ago this month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most consequential State of the Union addresses in American history. On a winter evening in Washington, D.C., he warned a joint session of Congress that “at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.”


The United States had not yet entered World War II, and Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor still loomed 11 months away.  Yet Roosevelt’s speech redefined the American role in the world by intertwining the national security of the United States with the fight against tyranny beyond our shores.


In the process Roosevelt began crafting what would become the American strategy in the war and its aftermath. The United States would seek not only to defeat its enemies but also to support the protection and expansion of human liberty in the postwar world.


This principle is as relevant today, as the United States once again faces a world in which freedom’s adversaries are gaining ground.


In what came to be known as the Four Freedoms Speech, Roosevelt envisioned a post-war world where all persons enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He explained to the Congress the threat that Nazi tyranny posed to this vision, not only in Europe but “in every part of the world,” including the United States. “The future and safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders,” he warned.

It was on this basis that Roosevelt made the case to end U.S. neutrality and increase American leadership in the war effort. In doing so, he tied the future of peace and prosperity at home with support for those fighting the enemies of freedom in Europe and elsewhere. The speech soon provided the foundation for the Atlantic Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other modern instruments of international law and agreement that recognize and protect fundamental human rights.


In many ways, Roosevelt’s vision of three quarters of a century ago has come to pass. The number of the world’s democracies, and the number of people living in freedom, is vastly expanded today from 1941.


The Perilous State of Freedom in the World

The late scholar Samuel Huntington numbered the world’s democracies at about 12 in 1942. As of 2015, the independent watchdog Freedom House put the number of electoral democracies — that is countries meeting “certain minimum standards for political rights”— at 125.

The percentage of the global population living under free or partly free conditions is now 64 percent.

But progress in history is neither linear nor inevitable, and the last decade has not been good for freedom. Although there have been bright spots like Tunisia, the only country of the Arab Spring to transition to democracy, Freedom House’s recent reports find more troubling setbacks than hopeful gains across the globe. The ideological competitors to freedom and democracy have staged a resurgence and are claiming new ground.

Read the rest of the essay here.