The current contest between democracies and autocracies is not primarily a military one. Rather, it takes place in the political, economic, technological, and information spaces, where authoritarian challengers—especially China and Russia—have seized the initiative. These states have strengthened their hands at home while undermining democratic institutions and alliances abroad. Around the world, democratic leadership and values appear to be in retreat.
Fortunately, well-functioning democracies have essential advantages in each domain of competition. They are more politically responsive than autocracies, both because they adhere to the rule of law and because civil societies help governments maintain the consent of their people. Economically, democratic governments with properly governed markets tend to promote healthy competition and to direct resources efficiently and equitably. That economic dynamism, coupled with personal freedoms, attracts global talent, which spurs innovation in the field of technology; and the competition of ideas fosters creative and productive public debates in the domain of information. Democracies that are properly governed and thoughtful about how to leverage these assets will find them to be of lasting strategic value.