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All the new books you’ll want to read in October

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Halloween, yummy apple recipes and all things pumpkin spice are just a few of the things we’re looking forward to now that October is officially underway. We’re also extremely excited about all of the new book releases coming this month and can’t wait to dig our noses into some thrilling mystery novels, romantic comedies, fantasy series and more that are making their debuts.

To get you started, we picked out 20 of the most intriguing and exhilarating new book releases of October, all of which you can shop with the click of your mouse from Amazon. From the highly anticipated new fantasy trilogy “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse to the heartwarming 21st-century romance novel “Memorial” by Bryan Washington, this month’s new releases are gripping, haunting, inspiring and heartfelt — and they’ll have you laughing, crying, screaming and staying up late just to find out what happens next.

’Invisible Girl’ by Lisa Jewell (available October 13, starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘Invisible Girl’ by Lisa Jewell
PHOTO: Amazon

Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell is one of this month’s most anticipated new releases, thanks to its thrilling, twisted and haunted storyline. The tale follows a disgraced teacher named Owen Pick; the Fours family and its child psychologist father, Roan; and a young girl named Saffyre Maddox and how their lives intersect in the wake of her disappearance. This is one gripping thriller you won’t be able to put down.

’Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam (starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘Leave the World Behind’ by Rumaan Alam
PHOTO: Amazon

When Amanda and Clay rent a luxe home on Long Island with their teenage son and daughter for a weeklong vacation away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, they expect to relax and spend quality time together as a family. But when the house owners show up in a panic over a blackout that’s swept the city, the two families are tested in more ways than one. Should they trust one another to get through the crisis? You’ll have to read to find out.

’The Devil and the Dark Water’ by Stuart Turton (starting at $8.57; amazon.com)

‘The Devil and the Dark Water’ by Stuart Turton
PHOTO: Amazon

This supernatural thriller takes place in 1634 and follows the world’s greatest detective, Samuel Pipps, and his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, as he is shipped across seas to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may or may not have committed. Aboard the ship, mysterious devilry begins to take place and a demon is suspected to be behind it. But Arent is the only one who can solve the mystery before everyone is killed. Can he save them?

’Memorial’ by Bryan Washington (available October 27, starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘Memorial’ by Bryan Washington
PHOTO: Amazon

This 21st-century love story will have you laughing and crying at the same time. Mike, a Japanese American chef, and Benson, a Black daycare teacher, find themselves in a bit of a relationship rut. But when Mike’s estranged father falls ill, he abruptly leaves for Osaka to say his goodbyes — which just so happens to be the same time his mother, Mitsuko, arrives to visit. In Mike’s absence, Benson discovers exactly what he wants out of life. But can true love help the couple overcome their separate life changes together?

’The Cold Millions’ by Jess Walter (available October 27, starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘The Cold Millions’ by Jess Walter
PHOTO: Amazon

Set in early 20th-century America, “The Cold Millions” is a story of brotherhood, deceit, love and sacrifice that will have you holding your breath with every turn of the page. Rye and Gig are brothers who have differing life dreams, but when they meet a vaudeville singer named Ursula the Great, a young feminist named Elizabeth Gurley Finn and a mining magnate who’s determined to hold on to both Ursula and his wealth, the brothers will be forced to choose sides and survive.

’The Searcher’ by Tana French (starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘The Searcher’ by Tana French
PHOTO: Amazon

After 25 years in the Chicago police force and a heartbreaking divorce, Cal Hooper buys a fixer-upper in a small Irish village as a distraction, escape and new start. But when a young local boy twists him into investigating the disappearance of his brother, Cal uncovers a dark side to his charming new home and a town full of dangerous secrets. This suspenseful and chilling tale will have you staying up late at night to find out what happens next.

’The Silence’ by Don DeLillo (available October 20, starting at $10.99; amazon.com)

‘The Silence’ by Don DeLillo
PHOTO: Amazon

What happens when the digital connections that have shaped today’s world are unexpectedly erased? “The Silence” by Don DeLillo imagines the answer to this question while exploring exactly what it means to be human. Set in 2022, the story takes place on Super Bowl Sunday in a Manhattan apartment where five people are gathered for dinner when all digital connections are cut out. This masterfully written tale is compelling, timely and utterly eye-opening.

’Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic’ by Alice Hoffman (starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic’ by Alice Hoffman
PHOTO: Amazon

Fans of “Practical Magic” and “The Rules of Magic” will love Alice Hoffman’s “Magic Lessons.” A prequel to the iconic story of the Owens sisters, this story examines the start of the family’s bloodline, which begins with Maria Owen in the 1600s. Abandoned as a baby, Maria is taken in by Hannah Owens, who teaches her about the “Unnamed Arts.” Later, when Maria is abandoned by a man she loves, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts, where she invokes the curse that in turn haunts her family for centuries to come. This story of love, magic and revenge is a perfect read for the month.

’She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs’ by Sarah Smarsh (available October 13, starting at $10.99; amazon.com)

‘She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs’ by Sarah Smarsh
PHOTO: Amazon

Author Sarah Smarsh expertly explores the overlooked social contributions of women by using her own experience of growing up in the wheat fields of Kansas and listening to country music by female artists such as Parton. Depicting the singer’s career as an inspiring feminist, self-made businesswoman and philanthropist, Smarsh examines the intersections of class, society and gender norms in this inspiring tribute to Dolly Parton herself.

’In a Holidaze’ by Christina Lauren (starting at $9.99; amazon.com)

‘In a Holidaze’ by Christina Lauren
PHOTO: Amazon

This funny romantic comedy is one you won’t want to put down. Maelyn Jones lives with her parents, hates her job and is in a disaster of a relationship, but when she finds herself stuck in a time loop that takes place over Christmas at her family’s cabin in Utah, she’s determined to break free of the spell and right her wrongs. This hysterical story of love, family and magic is sure to warm your heart.

’Bright and Dangerous Objects’ by Anneliese Mackintosh (starting at $12.29; amazon.com)

‘Bright and Dangerous Objects’ by Anneliese Mackintosh
PHOTO: Amazon

Solvig is an ambitious commercial deep-sea diver who wants to be the one of the first human beings to colonize Mars. In order to do so, she must leave everything in her life behind her forever, including her partner, James, and the prospect of having kids. This captivating story explores the decisions that women have been faced to make for centuries while examining the future of humanity and all it could potentially offer.

’Black Sun’ by Rebecca Roanhorse (available October 13, starting at $13.99; amazon.com)

‘Black Sun’ by Rebecca Roanhorse
PHOTO: Amazon

The debut first novel in the highly anticipated “Between Earth and Sky” fantasy trilogy, “Black Sun” is a story that will have you hooked from the very beginning. Indigenous author Rebecca Roanhorse crafts an epic tale of prophecies, magic and power inspired by the pre-Columbian Americas and centered around the holy city of Tova, a young man named Serapio and Serapio’s special destiny.

’Three Little Truths’ by Eithne Shortall (available October 13, starting at $12.99; amazon.com)

‘Three Little Truths’ by Eithne Shortall
PHOTO: Amazon

Fans of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” will fall head over heels for Eithne Shortall’s “Three Little Truths.” This riveting and dramatic story takes place in an idyllic neighborhood on Pine Road and features three women — each looking for a fresh start — and the secrets, rivalries, affairs and scandals that bring them together as friends. What could go wrong?

’The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ by V.E. Schwab (starting at $13.99; amazon.com)

‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ by V.E. Schwab
PHOTO: Amazon

In 1714 France, Addie LaRue made a bargain to live forever. From there, her adventures play out over centuries, across continents, through history and art — all while trying to leave her mark on the world. But when you live forever as a young woman, no one remembers your name. That is, until hundreds of years later when she encounters a man in a hidden bookstore who does. This evocative and clever tale will leave you smiling, filled with love and longing for more magical moments in everyday life.

’Spoiler Alert’ by Olivia Dade (starting at $10.99; amazon.com)

‘Spoiler Alert’ by Olivia Dade
PHOTO: Amazon

This romantic comedy is about love, secrets and stardom — and is sure to sweep you off your feet. When April Whittier finally exposes her secret fanfiction and cosplay hobbies to the internet, her plus-size take on television’s biggest show goes viral. Marcus, the main star of the show, has secrets of his own that he too divulges under an alias on the web. When he asks April out on a date as a publicity stunt, he soon finds that he wants more from her. Can Marcus and April find true love without ruining his career?

’Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life’ by Christie Tate (available October 27, starting at $13.99; amazon.com)

‘Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life’ by Christie Tate
PHOTO: Amazon

This debut memoir by Christie Tate is equally hilarious and eye-opening. When Tate finds herself fantasizing about her own death despite her academic and personal achievements, she skeptically enters into a psychotherapy group led by therapist Dr. Rosen. Through Dr. Rosen, Tate takes readers on a journey through her life-changing road to recovery and in turn finds hope, human connection and a new take on life.

’Kingdom of the Wicked’ by Kerri Maniscalco (available October 27, starting at $9.99; amazon.com)

‘Kingdom of the Wicked’ by Kerri Maniscalco
PHOTO: Amazon

Kingdom of the Wicked” is another exciting series making its debut this month. Emilia and twin sister Vittoria are witches secretly living among humans to avoid persecution. But when Vittoria is viciously murdered, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and seek vengeance no matter what it takes — even if she has to use forbidden dark magic. But when she meets one of the Wicked-princes of Hell who claims he’s also on a mission to solve her sister’s murder, Emilia learns who she can and cannot trust — and fall in love with.

’What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly’ by Arianna Davis (available October 20, starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly’ by Arianna Davis
PHOTO: Amazon

What Would Frida Do?” is a charming guide on how to live life to the fullest, inspired by none other than feminist icon and artist Frida Kahlo. Known for her passionate and creative paintings, Kahlo is a symbol of perseverance, ambition and feminism that has shaped the world and those in it for generations. Davis uses her life’s story to inspire readers — especially women — to seek their truth and to love and live fearlessly.

’Fortune Favors the Dead’ by Stephen Spotswood (available October 27, starting at $13.99; amazon.com)

‘Fortune Favors the Dead’ by Stephen Spotswood
PHOTO: Amazon

Get ready for a mystery thriller that will keep you on your toes. “Fortune Favors the Dead” is the story of two detectives, Willowjean “Will” Parker and Lillian Pentecost, and the murder case of Abigail Collins. After Collins is found bludgeoned to death by a crystal ball after a booze-fueled Halloween party, the detective duo is tasked with solving the case. But vengeful ghosts, seductive spiritualists and a surprising romance with the deceased’s daughter prove to make the case hauntingly harder than expected.

’I Marched With Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals’ by Frank Sisson and Robert L. Wise (available October 20, starting at $14.99; amazon.com)

‘I Marched With Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals’ by Frank Sisson and Robert L. Wise
PHOTO: Amazon

In this incredible account, 94-year-old Frank Sisson takes a look back on his life and service in the Third Army during World War II under legendary General George Patton. Detailing his life on the front lines during key movements like the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Rhine and liberating the notorious Dachau concentration camp, Sisson gives a gripping firsthand account of his survival, conflicts and experience fighting under one of the greatest warriors in American history.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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Classic toy tie-up: Etch A Sketch maker to acquire Rubik’s Cube

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Spin Master Corp., the company behind the Etch A Sketch and Paw Patrol brands, has agreed to acquire Rubik’s Brand Ltd. for about $50 million, tying together two of the world’s most iconic toy brands.

The merger comes at a boom time for classic toymakers, as parents turn to familiar products to entertain kids stuck in lockdown. Like sales of Uno, Monopoly and Barbie dolls, Rubik’s Cube purchases have spiked during the pandemic, according to the puzzle maker’s chief executive officer, Christoph Bettin. He expects sales to jump 15% to 20% in 2020, compared with a normal year, when people purchase between 5 million and 10 million cubes.

By acquiring Rubik’s, Toronto-based Spin Master can better compete with its larger rivals, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. All three companies have pivoted to become less reliant on actual product sales, diversifying into television shows, films and broader entertainment properties based on their toys. Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie said he wouldn’t rule out films or TV shows based on Rubik’s Cubes, but he was focused for now on creating more cube-solving competitions and crossmarketing it with the company’s other products, like the Perplexus.

“Whoever you are, it really has a broad appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Rabie said in an interview. “It’s actually going to become the crown jewel; it will be the most important part of our portfolio worldwide.”

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube in 1974, a solid block featuring squares with colored stickers that users could twist and turn without it falling apart. It gained popularity in the 1980s and has remained one of the best-selling toys of all time, spawning spinoff versions, international competitions of puzzle solvers, books and documentaries.

The toy has been particularly well-suited to pandemic conditions. During lockdowns, parents have sought to give kids puzzles that boost problem-solving skills useful in math and science careers. Normally, toys tied to major film franchises are among the most popular products headed into the holidays, but studios have delayed the release of major new movies because of coronavirus. So classic products are experiencing a mini-renaissance.

“The whole pandemic has really increased games and puzzles,” Rabie said. “But whether the pandemic existed or didn’t exist, we’d still buy Rubik’s. It’s had such steady sales for decades.”

Rubik’s CEO Bettin said it was the right time to sell the company, with the founding families behind it ready to move on. London-based Rubik’s Brand was formed out of a partnership between Erno Rubik and the late entrepreneur Tom Kremer, while private equity firm Bancroft Investment holds a minority stake in the company.

Early on, Bettin felt Spin Master was the right home for the puzzle toy, he said. Spin Master, which was started by a group of three friends in 1994, has expanded through the purchase of well-known brands, including Erector sets and Etch A Sketch. Rabie says he works to honor the “legacy” of those products, which Bettin cited as a key reason to sell the brand to Spin Master over larger companies that were interested.

“It was important for us to not be lost in the crowd, and to be sufficiently important and cared for,” Bettin said. “And there’s a balance between being with someone large enough to invest, and agile enough to ensure you are key part of their plans.”

Spin Master won’t own Rubik’s Cubes in time for the holiday season – the transaction is expected to close on Jan. 4. At that time, the company will move Rubik’s operations from a small office in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood to Spin Master’s new games operations center in Long Island.

Some of Rubik’s Brand’s 10 employees will be part of the transition, but they won’t stay permanently, Bettin said.

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To compete with China and Russia, America needs a new era of multilateralism

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With Election Day looming, American progressives yearn for an about-face from President Trump’s foreign policy — perhaps nowhere more so than when it comes to US multilateralism.

Multilateralism — working with other countries both through large international institutions and looser coalitions toward common goals — has been a pillar of American foreign policy since World War II.

From the creation of the United Nations and NATO to President George W. Bush’s Iraq War “coalition of the willing” and President Barack Obama’s negotiations alongside Russia and China on the Iran nuclear deal, America has rarely operated alone.

But Donald Trump changed all that.

The Trump administration’s approach truly has been America First equals America Alone. Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He’s in the process of exiting the World Health Organization (WHO). He’s repeatedly questioned the value of NATO and mused about withdrawing from it.

Yet, amid calls to reprioritize “international cooperation, not competition,” progressive aspirations cannot paper over the real geopolitical frictions that will persist post-Trump. Just as conservative efforts to desert multilateral institutions are self-defeating, so too is the belief that international cooperation will blossom after November 3.

American progressives should seek to reengage in multilateral institutions, from the WHO to the UN. But they cannot forget that those institutions remain competitive zones where democracies must defend their values against authoritarian rivals.

Multilateral cooperation has never seemed more urgent — or more lacking

Covid-19 is only the latest instance in which the Trump administration is truculently set against the world, not just withdrawing from the WHO but also refusing to join the Covax initiative, a historic, global multilateral effort to ensure that all countries, rich and poor, will have access to a novel coronavirus vaccine if and when one or more become available.

Amid the pandemic-induced economic crisis, congressional Republicans seek to dismantle the World Trade Organization (WTO), all while a trade war batters American consumers and farmers. The last of the major US-Russia nuclear arms control agreements teeters on the verge of collapse, and both North Korea and Iran continue to improve and expand their nuclear and missile programs.

Given this bevy of undoubtedly self-injurious policies, it is understandable that some progressives are calling on a potential Biden administration to undertake a “fundamental re-envisioning of the United States’ role in the world,” emphasizing international cooperation.

But a desire for the United States to rejoin international institutions and agreements should not be synonymous with a belief that global cooperation will define a post-Trump world.

That belief naively and recklessly ignores a stark reality that has become all too apparent in recent years: Multilateral institutions have become one of the primary battlegrounds where the unfolding international clash of systems between democratic and authoritarian regimes is being waged.

Authoritarian countries like China and Russia know this fact well and are skilled at manipulating and exploiting international institutions to serve their own ends. The United States used to understand this fact, too, once upon a time, but it seems to have forgotten it lately.

It’s time for America to remember. It’s time for America to start using these institutions to punch back.

Hope that shared threats will outweigh geopolitical divides is not new

An American belief that international organizations could “help depoliticize controversial issues by treating these as neutral, technical challenges” underlaid the building of global institutions following World War II.

More recently, the early Obama administration viewed the “challenges of a new century” — countering violent extremism, nuclear nonproliferation, climate change, economic growth, and pandemic disease — as common ground around which international stakeholders would rally.

In both instances, however, cooperative visions foundered on the shoals of geopolitical differences.

Neither in 1949 nor in 2009 could shared “problems without passports” outweigh the equally immediate threat posed by liberal, democratic norms to authoritarian regimes. As the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Wright has written, a resurgence in geopolitical rivalry was “rooted in a clash of social models — a free world and a neo-authoritarian world — that directly affects how people live.”

That clash stemmed not only from traditional military frictions, but even more basically from the threat that open, democratic societies pose to the stability of authoritarian regimes.

Increasingly, those authoritarian regimes are striking back. Senator Elizabeth Warren has described a “belligerent and resurgent” Russia and a China that has now “weaponized its economy,” both of which seek to undermine open, democratic societies. Similarly, Sen. Bernie Sanders has outlined a future contested between “a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy” and “a movement toward strengthening democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.”

Consequently, while dangers like Covid-19 threaten everyone, differences between democratic and authoritarian regimes can yield contrasting responses. Take, for instance, something as basic as using technology like smartphones and apps to aid in contact tracing in the fight against Covid-19. As Vox’s Dylan Scott explains:

In the United States and across the world, smartphone applications are seen as a promising option to automate some of the work that health workers have traditionally been asked to do. Namely, they could silently track which people we’ve been in contact with, and if one of those people tests positive for Covid-19, our phone would send us a notification letting us know about our potential exposure.

But the data collection needed to do this quickly becomes entangled in concerns surrounding “digital authoritarianism,” where illiberal regimes employ such tools to “surveil, repress, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations” alike. The Chinese Communist Party’s use of this public health crisis to expand the scope of its surveillance and control shows that even when the world can agree on a common challenge, solutions may diverge based on a regime’s values.

Thus, even amid areas of international cooperation, a degree of vigilance is required to defend democratic interests. By no means is cooperation entirely foreclosed — which is why the Trump administration’s rejection of the Covax initiative is misguided. Nonetheless, democracies should not mistakenly believe that unalloyed cooperation in the face of every shared challenge advances their interests.

How to stand and compete from within …

While the United States cannot be starry-eyed about multilateral engagement, it also can’t afford to be cavalier as to its value — as Republican leaders increasingly are.

Not only does the United States confront a true peer competitor in China, making allies more necessary than ever, but the key domains of that competition — from trade and investment flows to advanced technologies and communications infrastructure — are already deeply enmeshed in multilateral institutions.

Authoritarian leaders understand this emerging dynamic.

Russia, long skilled in multilateral diplomacy, has amplified its efforts to shape international institutions, as President Vladimir Putin declares “the liberal idea” has “outlived its purpose.” Likewise, China, in seeking “reform of the global governance system,” looks to realign the world to better support the CCP’s illiberal rule at home — including its persistent surveillance of its citizens and the internment and forced “reeducation” of Uighur minorities.

Thus, rather than use cooperative mechanisms like Interpol for the intended purpose of catching criminals, Russia and China have focused on abusing the system to pursue political dissidents. Authoritarian leaders do not hesitate to twist international institutions to defend illiberal behavior beyond their own borders, such as the Russian head of the UN Counterterrorism Office striving to legitimate Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

As Beijing and Moscow lead the charge to redefine global norms, democracies must meet that challenge. From privacy rules for artificial intelligence to norms for combating transnational corruption, international standards set abroad will not remain overseas.

As the 2020 Hong Kong National Security law demonstrates, if authoritarian actions at the national level can reach into democracies around the world, so will global rules set by illiberal states. Consequently, the United States and like-minded partners must compete in international institutions to defend the values that underpin open societies.

That competitive posture does not necessitate withdrawal from international organizations, as some conservatives have preached. As Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute recently argued, “it is a ridiculous solipsism…to believe that if we stop participating in international cooperation and institutions that that cooperation stops happening.”

Instead of shifting the locus of competition to more advantageous ground, by withdrawing from these institutions, the United States merely cedes influence in the very arenas where the essential debates are occurring. Rather than isolating authoritarians to increase democratic states’ leverage, the United States is cutting itself off from the partners it needs.

So long as more universal forums, such as the UN International Telecommunications Agency, are where relevant standards are set, then active participation is called for. Abandonment only opens space for authoritarian powers to press their agendas.

This is perhaps nowhere clearer than the juxtaposition of the sidelining of Taiwan in the WHO against the March 2020 election for head of the obscure, but important, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Despite Taiwan’s robust performance in managing Covid-19 — with only seven deaths thus far — Beijing has continued to block Taipei’s participation in WHO meetings, hampering sharing from that success. The Trump administration’s response? Only to throw up its hands and complain about China’s influence as it heads for the WHO’s door.

Conversely, in the March election to lead WIPO, the UN organization charged with protecting intellectual property, the United States chose to show up and take a stand. Recognizing the impact of Chinese-based intellectual property theft and cyberespionage, the Trump administration, in a rare moment of diplomatic engagement, rallied a near 2-1 vote in favor of the US-supported candidate against the Chinese alternative.

The message is clear: The United States leaning into a coordinated diplomatic push can make all the difference.

… and from without

Simultaneously, continuing to participate in universal institutions like the UN or WTO does not preclude pursuing new multilateral innovations to better defend democratic societies.

A decade ago, proposals for a “concert of democracies” or a “global NATO” stalled. Mistrust in the wake of George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” in Iraq coupled with a fear that being seen to push the expansion of Western-style democracy would alienate rising powers from India to Brazil, scuttling such efforts. Why needlessly stir the pot in a world where cooperation on shared transnational threats seemed critical and the march of liberal democracy appeared inevitable?

However, the current international landscape differs vastly from then. New institutions to enhance democratic societies’ defensive coordination may have seemed unnecessary a decade ago but should be seen in a different light today, when authoritarian regimes pose a real challenge to the liberal model.

Thus, today’s version — what Edward Fishman of the Atlantic Council and Siddharth Mohandas of the Center for a New American Security have called “councils of democracies” — would aim to protect democracy at home, rather than justify its forcible expansion abroad. In doing so, the United States and its democratic partners should neither pull up the drawbridge from universal bodies that include authoritarian actors nor remain beholden to those institutions, as they constrain democracies’ ability to better cooperate in their own defense.

Fortunately, US Cold War strategy offers lessons on managing that balance. Importing a Cold War strategy lock, stock, and barrel for current challenges would undoubtedly be mistaken. Nevertheless, that history reveals democracies are not forced to choose between more universal organizations like the UN and more values-based ones like NATO. Rather, working at times through narrower groups grounded in a shared belief in liberalism and democracy can enhance the position of open societies in those larger bodies.

For instance, instead of being caught between abandoning the WTO — a folly few other states would join in — and continuing to struggle along with the system’s real limitations and abuses, the United States could work outside the system to build leverage within it.

Here, as Jake Sullivan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Kurt Campbell of the Asia Group have outlined, a forum convening democratic states to build shared norms and standards on 21st-century economic issues — digital tax, data privacy rules, etc. — could be “layered over the WTO system.”

Such a combination would not only create a space to build the norms that democratic societies need for managing 21st-century governance challenges, but also maximize their leverage within the WTO to raise standards across a global economy.

At the same time, democracies should work in values-based coalitions to promote democratic security in increasingly strategic areas of international finance, advanced technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence, and battling transnational corruption. To protect democratic ideals, there will be times when it is necessary to exclude those who would seek to undermine them.

Today’s threats and circumstances may not require a global expansion of a formal alliance like NATO. Nonetheless, deepening ties between democratic societies will be essential on issues from sharing best practices on countering disinformation to maintaining information systems that appreciate values of transparency, accountability, and respect for individual privacy.

Here, the United Kingdom is an example of an early mover on what’s possible. Against rising concerns over cybersecurity and espionage from Chinese 5G leader Huawei, London has begun exploring a potential democracies-only grouping to better secure 5G communications technology, alongside other national security supply chains.

5G is only one illustration of a range of issues at the intersection of advanced technologies and the evolving digital economy where democracies must set the international rules if they are to maintain values such as privacy and free speech for their own citizens.

Thus, steps such as closer transatlantic coordination on investment security — reviewing foreign purchasers and investors in US or European companies — and export controls for new technologies emerge as essential in maintaining a lead in tomorrow’s technologies, in order to shape their use around liberal principles.

Fundamentally, as democracies increasingly compete with an economically powerful China and revanchist Russia, their best defense rests in recognizing that not only are democracies more competitive together, but that a gap in the armor in one is likely a gap for all.

A contest that cannot be wished away

In only four years, President Trump has left the United States embattled on nearly every front. An urge to trumpet international cooperation as a departure from his administration’s ceaseless antagonism is understandable.

However, in considering a world post-Trump, progressives must separate his disastrous policies from the structural reality of a growing clash between open and authoritarian societies — a contest that cannot be wished away.

Democracies must reengage multilaterally, but without losing sight that shared challenges do not necessarily beget shared solutions. Good-faith efforts at cooperation must be tempered by vigilance against authoritarian leaders who will not hesitate to use multilateral institutions to roll back and undermine liberal values in order to “make the world safe” for authoritarianism.

Given that reality, assertive measures are necessary to close ranks with other like-minded partners to defend democratic values in a more interconnected, but more contested, world. A post-Trump foreign policy may open the door for the pursuit of progressive goals; but they will have to be fought for abroad as much as at home.

Will Moreland is a foreign policy analyst focusing on US alliances and multilateralism. Previously, he served as an associate fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Project on International Order and Strategy. Find him on Twitter at @MorelandBW.


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