Summary of The Despot's Accomplice

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The Despot's Accomplice book summary


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Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics believes in the transformative power of democracy. In this comprehensive book, he offers prescriptions for Western powers seeking to spread political freedom and critiques many of the halfhearted pro-democracy efforts of recent decades. The United States’ recent misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan chastened many who once espoused nation-building. But Klaas argues ceasing to promote democracy is a mistake. In addition to offering insights and examples gleaned from his global travels to investigate pseudo-democracies, Klaas also explores America itself, taking the US tradition of gerrymandering to task. At times, Klaas’s crusade seems a bit too idealistic, but, ultimately, he makes a passionate and persuasive case for trying to expand democracy’s shrinking reach.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why democracy's spread stalled,
  • How the United States and other Western powers play a role in democracy’s decline and
  • How the West can promote democracy effectively.

About the Author

Brian Klaas is a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics. A native of Minnesota, he received his doctorate from the University of Oxford.



Democracy Retreats

Democracy gained momentum worldwide after the fall of the Soviet Union in December, 1991. But the spread of democracy ceased in 2006, and political freedom beat a slow but sure retreat as the United States and other Western democracies failed to promote global democracy effectively in the years that followed. The promise of the Arab Spring and Western interventions in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq disappointed. Violence and disorder, rather than burgeoning democracy, replaced former iron-fisted but stable regimes. Now the West finds itself afflicted with “democracy promotion fatigue.” Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump and British voters’ approval of Brexit have skeptics wondering whether democracy really yields the wisest decisions.

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