The Corner


Democracy Won’t Defend Itself; We Have To

Radek Sikorski

I have done a Q&A podcast with Radek Sikorski, who has been foreign minister and defense minister of Poland, but the pinnacle of whose career, surely, was his time at National Review. There is a lot to talk about with Radek, as always.

Poland has passed a law making it a crime to say certain things about Poland, World War II, and the Holocaust. Even setting this aside: Is Poland going autocratic? Yes, says Sikorski, and he then gives chapter and verse. He also speaks about his onetime friend Viktor Orbán — the Hungarian chief — and about other developments in Europe.

There is a powerful mix, he says: the exploitation of class divisions and the exploitation of tribal feelings. A left-wing economic approach and a right-wing cultural approach make a killer combo, politically.

About Vladimir Putin, Sikorski says this, among other things: “You have to admire the man on a certain level because, on the economy of Italy, he is playing a global game, and he is playing his weak hand rather well.” Yes, indeed.

I think of what Garry Kasparov often says: Putin has a weak hand and he’s bluffing, successfully; the West has a strong hand and has no idea what to do with it.

At the end of our podcast, Sikorski says approximately this: Unless our politicians are reckless enough to drag us into a war, I think we’ll overcome this crisis (of liberal democracy). Today’s crisis is a reaction to globalization and to the financial crisis. The crisis in the 1930s was much deeper, much worse. And already, we have leaders who are able to turn public emotions into a positive agenda. But we need to have more courage and more energy in defending the old-fashioned ideas of democracy: the rule of law, checks and balances, freedom of the press. These still provide the best kinds of society. But the lesson from recent times is that these ideas won’t defend themselves. The case has to be made for them, again and again.

Endorsed, as they say on Twitter. Once more, this podcast with Radek Sikorski is here.

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