Thursday, March 14, 2019

End of the West?

Andrew J. Bacevich

In Commonweal recently (March 5, 2019), Andrew J. Bacevich asks if we now live in "A World without the West," beginning as follows:
Does the West still exist? Most American politicians, journalists, and policy intellectuals seem to think so, or at least they pretend to . . . . In its heyday, the West -- used more or less interchangeably with the phrase "free world" -- was much more than a conglomeration of countries. The term itself conjured up a multiplicity of images: peoples sharing a devotion to freedom and democracy; nations mustering the political and cultural cohesion to stand firm in a common cause; sacrifice and steadfastness in the face of evil . . . . For several decades after 1945, the West imparted legitimacy to U.S. claims of global leadership. Nations said to make up the West endorsed, or played along with, the notion that the United States was exceptional and indispensable. Endlessly reiterated in stump speeches and newspaper editorials, this proposition came to seem self-evidently true -- or at least expedient. Today, it is neither. Seven decades after World War II and three decades after the end of the Cold War, to pretend that something called the West, taking its cues from Washington, continues to play an organizing role in international politics is to indulge in a vast self-deception. It's time to see the world as it is, not as we might wish to remember it. The collapse of the Soviet Empire at the end of the 1980s robbed the West of its principal geopolitical rationale. Nominally, Western unity derived from common values; in reality, it derived from a common threat. Once the threat vanished, centrifugal forces were certain to make their appearance.
These "centrifugal forces" are probably of no surprise to readers of this blog, so I'll stop here. You can read more at the link, though you might have to pay for a subscription.

Much is said these days by many people of a new civil war in the US. I'm skeptical of that. More likely, to my mind, is a civil war in Europe. When the Islamists in Europe reach a tipping point in the spread of Islamism -- namely, radicalization at the root of Islam (not extremism at the margins) -- open killing will begin. One might think it already has.

Baby, you ain't seen nuthin' yet!



At 3:58 AM, Blogger N.E. Brigand said...

I know this was not your intention, but it seems that someone in Christchurch took the implications of words like yours here very seriously and decided it was time to act on them.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't know if ethno-nationalism is behind this Christchurch attack, but my predictions - few though they be - are usually that European ethno-nationalists will attack Muslims first, then turn on each other as the contradictions among the various ethno-nationalists come to light and these nationalists start talking about restoring ancient borders.

I don't advocate what I predict, of course.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:42 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Bacevich neatly sets the "delimitations" for the concept (and the word) we call "the West," but more essential to the issue he is talking about is the "Middle Class" as a cultural phenomenon in world history--the broad movement to democratization, rule-of-law, and utilitarian distribution of goods and services that "flourished" in the Renaissance, moved through perhaps five centuries of evolutions and re-formulations, and which won a precarious "victory" in 1945. That is to say, "the West" he speaks of is a post-WWII geopolitical designation, and it's substance has been the protections that political group (the West) extended toward the Middle Classes in Western Europe, South Korea and Japan after WWII.

So while we should be concerned about "the West" and speak of it, we should also do well to talk about the Middle Class as a global movement (and a grouping) that is participating in, regulating, protecting, and benefiting from equitable trade, democracy, rule of law, and cultural, religious and ethnic pluralism, etc.

It is these things--equitable trade, democracy, rule of law, and cultural, religious and ethnic pluralism--that are under threat.

(And of course I am aware "the West" was used prior to WWII, Spengler, for instance. When, by the way, did the phrase emerge?)

At 1:57 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Thanks for this, by the way. In all sorts of ways, very interesting material.

At this point, here is my thinking:

Please click here.


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