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Defeating the Dictators

On sale

2nd February 2023

Price: £25

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399704434

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Charles Dunst’s deeply researched, timely and powerful book offers a blueprint for how democracies should fight back.’ – Sir Kim Darroch

‘Remarkable. A thoughtful and perceptive book.’ – Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt, MP

The world is currently experiencing the lowest levels of democracy we have seen in over thirty years. Autocracy is on the rise, and while the cost of autocracy seems evident, it nevertheless remains an attractive option to many.

While leaders like Viktor Orbán disrupt democratic foundations from within, autocrats like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin do so from abroad, eroding democratic institutions and values and imperilling democracies that appear increasingly fragile. There are even those who, disillusioned with the current institutions in place, increasingly think authoritarianism can deliver them a better life than democracy has or could.

They’re wrong. Autocracy is not the solution – better democracy is. But we have to make the case for it. We have to combat institutional rot by learning from one another, and, at times, from our rivals. And we have to get our own houses in order. Only then can we effectively stand up for democratic values around the world and defeat the dictators.


Yasmeen Serhan, Staff Writer at TIME
'A compelling and urgent case for why halting autocracy's spread first requires strengthening democracy where it already exists. A smart and timely read.'
Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, former US Deputy National Security Advisor and Alternate Representative to the United Nations
'A smart, sweeping, and well-written book that makes the case for rebuilding democracy at home and defeating authoritarianism abroad. It is an important contribution and an urgent call-to-action for democracies everywhere.'
Ambassador Kurt Tong, Managing Partner at The Asia Group
'In an era focused on the West's strategic competition with authoritarian states, much ink is spilled complaining about authoritarian misdeeds. But not enough attention is given to how to keep democracies vibrant, coherent and successful. Dunst leads us through some sharp and honest retrospection for today's democracies.'
Admiral James Stavridis (ret.), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and NYT bestselling author
'In Defeating the Dictators, Dunst convincingly shows that preserving and advancing liberalism abroad is possible only if democracies get their own houses in order. He marshals practical evidence from across the globe to offer a clear roadmap for fixing key challenges at home and abroad. In this turbulent era of rising strongmen, what could be more important?'
Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee)
'No one knows the world like Dunst. He's lived the good and bad in other nations, and knows how to get our democracies back on track. His how-to manual on fighting autocracy and strengthening democracy is indispensable reading.'
Lt General H R McMaster (ret.), NYT bestselling author and former US National Security Advisor
'America's Founders understood that our republic would require constant nurturing. Charles Dunst's excellent book tells us how we can defeat the dictators, strengthen democracies, and build a better future for generations to come. People everywhere who care about freedom should read this book and implement what the author recommends.'
Congressman Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Chairman of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee and former US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
'At a time in world history when too many countries veer towards autocracy, it is heartening to read that democracies still produce the happiest, most creative, and longest-living citizens. Not only must Americans and democrats everywhere make this case abroad, but we must be confident that our messy democracies will yield the best possible future for our own citizens. In Defeating the Dictators, Dunst gives us a clear and incisive roadmap for securing ever-expanding self-governance for humankind. It gave me hope for the future of democracy, and will do the same for you, too.'
Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), former US Senate Majority Leader and co-chair of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign
'Everybody knows that democracy is in trouble, both in the United States and in liberal societies abroad. With Defeating the Dictators, Dunst has provided a clear-eyed, deeply researched, and accessible roadmap for fixing what ails us. His book could not be more timely, or more important. A must-read.'
Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna
'A decade ago, democracies were confident that we could prevail against autocratic challengers simply by being democracies. But as Charles Dunst argues in his powerful new book, this confidence is a dangerous illusion. Democracies can stand up to autocracy only if we are ready to face our own vulnerabilities and the strength of our opponents. Defeating the Dictators is a great place to start - essential reading.'
Ambassador Ted Osius, former US Ambassador to Vietnam, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council
'A big thinker, Charles Dunst takes his reader on a sweeping intellectual journey, drawing on vivid examples from around the world to explain the current crisis of faith in democracy - and offer an aspirational roadmap to fix it. Defeating the Dictators is a hopeful, story-filled book that will help democracies beat autocracies at their own game: not by becoming more authoritarian, but by improving our own governance.'
Ambassador Derek Mitchell, President of the National Democratic Institute and former US Ambassador to Myanmar
'Charles Dunst's Defeating the Dictators offers a brutally honest and incisive account of the contemporary challenge posed by autocracy to democracy today, the dangers of complacency, and how democracies can reverse the illiberal tide. The prescriptions in this book should serve as a wake-up call for all those who care about the shape of political affairs, individual rights, and global security in the 21st century.'
Ambassador Scot Marciel, Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at Stanford University's Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Resesarch Center, former US Ambassador to Indonesia, Myanmar, and ASEAN
'In Defeating the Dictators, Dunst makes a compelling case that the best way to push back against rising authoritarianism is to strengthen democracy at home. But more than that, Dunst examines some of the specific ills afflicting modern-day democratic governance and pulls ideas from around the world to offer practical recommendations on what democracies can do to once again serve as beacons for those across the globe. This eloquent book offers sound analysis and advice not for foreign policy experts, but also for those who care about preserving democracy at home.'
Bill Purcell, former Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee and Director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School
'Defeating the Dictators provides the framing and motivation to move democracies back to the high ground, starting now. Renewing the conversation we all need to be having with ourselves and each other, this book is a call to action for all generations. Dunst is clear and compelling - this cannot wait.'
Ambassador Edward Walker, former US Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, former US Assistant Secretary of State
'Charles Dunst has presented a timely warning for democracies everywhere. Drawing on examples in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, he has highlighted advanced autocracies' ability to achieve stability by satisfying the desires of their populations - and democracies' troubling inability to do the same. I was the US Ambassador in one of the countries he examines, the United Arab Emirates, whose ruling family has navigated the challenges of succession without elections by generously providing for its citizenry. Dunst piercingly points out that democracies, on the other hand, are not adequately offering their own citizens a path to the good life. Our continued failure poses a grave threat for democracy.'
Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Chair of the US Senate Ethics Committee and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
'Defeating the Dictators is a rare book: a deeply-researched and engaging work that both details the challenges democracies face, and offers us clear and persuasive solutions. Dunst's writing is as sharp as his argument is necessary. Anyone who believes in democracy - in the United States or anywhere else - should read his book.'
Dr Christopher Coker, Director of LSE IDEAS, author of WHY WAR?
'Doom has a certain aesthetic allure, claims the novelist Martin Amis. There is plenty to be pessimistic about if you are wedded to the democratic ideal. While not making light of the challenges to the democratic model, Dunst also offers reasons to be optimistic that the model will survive. He has written a book that makes clear how much is at stake for the world's leading democracies and the opportunities they still have to shape the future.'
Dr Ashley J Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Senior Advisor to the US Ambassador to India and Special Assistant to President George W Bush
'At a time when liberal politics is under threat from without and within, Charles Dunst's Defeating the Dictators is a refreshing antidote to despair. He not only tells us why defeating authoritarianism is so important but, more importantly, how to do it. Could not be more timely.'
Josh Glancy, Special Correspondent for The Sunday Times
'This lively and thoughtful book provides a welcome and much-needed shot in the arm for supporters of democracy everywhere. No matter how much some may envy the power wielded by authoritarians, no matter the results they appear to achieve, Dunst reminds us that humanity will always flourish most when granted its deepest desire: freedom.'
Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt
'Remarkable. A thoughtful and perceptive book.'
Peter Ricketts, Former UK National Security Advisor, Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and UK Ambassador to France
'This is an important and timely book which needs to be widely read. Charles Dunst makes a compelling case that democracy and individual freedom are no longer seen in many countries as the surest route to success. Crucially, he also gives us a plan of action to restore the tarnished reputation of the democratic model and to show that, when combined with effective governance, this still offers a far better future for humanity than any alternative.'
Moisés Naím, Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of The Revenge of Power
'At a time when democracy is under attack, Charles Dunst helps us understand the nature, scale and scope of the power grabs that are changing the world. Dunst also offers an insightful review of the options we have to restore, protect and strengthen democracy at home and abroad. A must read.'
Arthur Snell, author of How Britain Broke the World and presenter of the Doomsday Watch podcast, former UK High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago
'The central question of our global political age is the increasingly poor health of democracy worldwide. This is no less urgent than the struggle for freedom during the Cold War or the fight against fascism in the mid-twentieth century. Charles Dunst addresses this challenge head-on with lively on-the-ground reportage and an inspiring call to action. This is an essential book for our times.'
Frida Ghitis, contributing columnist to the Washington Post and former CNN correspondent
'A timely and important book.'
Ambassador John Emerson, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Chairman of the American Council on Germany
'Defeating the Dictators is an extraordinary, compelling, and pragmatic analysis of the authoritarianism versus democracy debate that builds its case by drawing on a wide range of illustrations from around the globe and throughout history. In this well-written, swiftly-moving book, Charles Dunst clearly lays out the dangers of rising authoritarianism, and the steps that must be taken by democracies to rebuild trust, restore accountability, and deliver on their fundamental promise - all necessary if we are to prevail against the creation of a world-order based on brute power, one that would supplant the rule of law, values-based order built in the wake of the Second World War. A necessary and thought-provoking read for policymakers, journalists, and civil society leaders alike.'
Gerald Butts, former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vice Chairman at Eurasia Group
'Charles Dunst has written a timely handbook for people who believe in the ideals of democracy. Not a moment too soon.'
Ana Palacio, former Foreign Minister of Spain and member of the European Parliament
'In a moment when authoritarianism, led by the Chinese model, is gaining appeal, this carefully-written book provides valuable perspective on a worrisome global trend. Dunst offers a much-needed survey on what ails democracies today and solutions on how to regain our place as the world's model. His sharp and engaging analysis is essential to understanding our crisis-riven age and how to navigate it.'
Péter Ákos Bod, former Governor of the Hungarian National Bank and Hungarian Minister of Industry and Trade
'Charles Dunst invites the reader for a long journey in space and in time: the book takes you to new places but also to cities and countries you think you know rather well - and it is fascinating to read the observations and comments of a younger traveler. A good read but the book makes you think hard about institutions, old and new, familiar and exotic, efficient and rigid, as well as about merits and meritocracy, democrats and democracy, about leaders in high jobs who may or may not be up to the standards of their office. There is no happy ending here, the journey never ends - but co-travelers may accept Charles's guarded optimism.'
Barbara McQuade, Professor from Practice at the University of Michigan Law School and former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan
'In Defeating the Dictators, Charles Dunst explains the threat posed by the rising popularity of authoritarians around the world. He makes the compelling case that our own national security - and the very concept of democracy - are at risk as they wield their successes at home to shape the international order in their favor.'
Azar Nafisi, New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
'Timely, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, Defeating the Dictators reminds us that freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted - they need to be nurtured and nourished every day of our lives.'
Asha Rangappa, Senior Lecturer at the Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and former FBI Special Agent
'Like Benjamin Franklin's cultivation of thirteen virtues in his quest for moral perfection, Charles Dunst breaks down political perfection into eight key democratic virtues, with best practices drawn from around the world for each. Dunst's analysis functions as a much-needed self-help guide for democracy in an age of rising authoritarianism. We would be wise to put his prescriptions into practice.'
Sir Kim Darroch, UK National Security Adviser (2012-2015) and UK Ambassador to the US (2016-2019)
'6 January 2021 was an alarm bell for democracies everywhere. In this age of disorder, no value is beyond challenge, no rule is unbreakable, and no system is indestructible, no matter how rich and powerful the country concerned. Charles Dunst's deeply researched, timely and powerful book offers a blueprint for how democracies should fight back.'
'A thoughtful intervention in an era the U.S. president has described as one of democracy vs. autocracy.'
'Bursting with statistics and lots of common sense.'
Tyler Cowen
'Full of true claims, common sense, and a needed dose of optimism.'