Democracy: Hold the line or defence in Depth?

by Elias Blum

How does the concept of ‘defence in depth’ apply to the preservation of liberal-democracy in these perilous times?

Does one fight on the front line and give no quarter, at the risk of being overrun by a sudden assault? Or should we retreat into strongholds which may be more resilient and provide the springboard for a strategic counter-offensive?

The former would mean concentrating efforts and resources on defending liberal-democracy in those countries where it is now under direct, imminent attack.

The latter would mean concentrating instead on deepening, strengthening and consolidating liberal-democracy in those places where it is not currently under heavy attack. The aim would be to ensure that ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’, although overshadowed in some countries for some time, does not perish from the earth; then, it is hoped, when the moment is opportune, we may advance and reconquer the lands which were lost.

To put it in more concrete, historical terms: do we oppose Hitler in, say, 1933 and Mussolini in 1924, and stake all on putting foul tyrannical demagogues out of power as soon as possible? Or do we put our energies into something like Roosevelt’s New Deal, revitalising and reinvigorating democracy in places where it is strained but alive, so that it can ultimately come to the aid of others in restoring the ‘free world’?