Strengthening Democracy Is a Better Counterterrorism Strategy

By Jason S. Calder, Lauren Van Metre
24 January 2022

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the virtual Summit for Democracy, convening more than 100 countries to draw attention to rising authoritarianism and the erosion of democratic norms. The summit addressed many threats to democracy posed by autocratic regimes and illiberal political systems. One of the things the summit did not adequately explore was the continuing impact the United States’ two-decade fixation on countering terrorism and violent extremist groups had on fragile democracies during the global war on terror. If the administration maintains this blind spot, Biden’s democracy agenda will ultimately fail where it’s most needed. If, on the other hand, the administration encourages countries to fulfill their summit commitments on anti-corruption, human rights, and opening civic spaces, it could have a positive and lasting impact on both democracy and counterterrorism.