The Risks of Decadence
< img src= "https://cdn-live.foreignaffairs.com/sites/default/files/styles/x_large_1x/public/public-assets/taxonomy-images/region-asia.jpg?itok=G2pSiEGk" class=" ff-og-image-inserted" > In key Western capitals there is a deep sense of unease about the future. The confidence that the West would remain a dominant force in the 21st century, as it has for the past 4 or five centuries, is providing way to a sense of foreboding that requires like the introduction of fundamentalist Islam, the increase of East Asia and the collapse of Russia and Eastern Europe might pose genuine hazards to the West. A siege mentality is developing. Within these troubled walls, Samuel P. Huntington’s essay “The Clash of Civilizations?” is bound to resonate. It will therefore come as a great surprise to lots of Westerners to learn that the remainder of the world fears the West much more than the West fears it, especially the hazard positioned by an injured West.Huntington is right: power is shifting among civilizations. But when the tectonic plates of world history move in a remarkable fashion, as they do now, understandings of these changes depend on where one stands. The key function of this essay is to sensitize Western audiences to the perceptions of the rest of the world.
The retreat of the West is not generally invited. There is still no replacement for Western leadership, especially American management. Unexpected withdrawals of American support from Middle Eastern or Pacific allies, albeit unlikely, could set off huge changes that nobody would delight in. Western retreat might be as destructive as Western supremacy.
By any historical standard, the recent epoch of Western dominance, specifically under American leadership, has been extremely benign. One dreads to think what the world would have looked like if either Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia had actually triumphed in what have been called the “Western civil wars” of the twentieth century. Paradoxically, the benign nature of Western domination might be the source of many issues. Today most Western policymakers, who are kids of this age, can not envisage the possibility that their own words and deeds might cause wicked, not good. The Western media aggravate this authentic blindness. The majority of Western reporters travel overseas with Western presumptions. They can not understand how the West could be viewed as anything however good-hearted. CNN is not the option. The same visual images sent at the same time into living rooms throughout the globe can trigger opposing perceptions. Western living-room praise when cruise rockets strike Baghdad. Many living outside see that the West will deliver quick retribution to nonwhite Iraqis or Somalis but not to white Serbians, a dangerous signal by any standard.
THE ASIAN HORDES
Huntington talks about the difficulty positioned by Islamic and Confucian civilizations. Given that the bombing of the World Trade Center, Americans have actually begun to soak up European fear about Islam, viewed as a force of darkness hovering over a virtuous Christian civilization. It is ironic that the West must increasingly fear Islam when daily the Muslims are advised of their own weakness. “Islam has bloody borders,” Huntington states. However in all conflicts between Muslims and pro-Western forces, the Muslims are losing, and losing severely, whether they be Azeris, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians or Bosnian Muslims. With a lot disunity, the Islamic world is not about to coalesce into a single force.
Oddly, for all this paranoia, the West seems to be practically intentionally pursuing a course created to aggravate the Islamic world. The West objects the turnaround of democracy in Myanmar, Peru or Nigeria, but not in Algeria. These double requirements hurt. Bosnia has actually wreaked incalculable damage. The remarkable passivity of effective European nations as genocide is dedicated on their doorstep has actually torn away the thin veil of moral authority that the West had spun around itself as a legacy of its recent benign age. Few can think that the West would have remained equally passive if Muslim weapons shells had actually been raining down on Christian populations in Sarajevo or Srebrenica.
Western habits toward China has been similarly puzzling. In the 1970s, the West established a love affair with a China ruled by a routine that had dedicated gross atrocities throughout the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. But when Mao Zedong’s disastrous guideline was followed by an even more benign Deng Xiaoping age, the West punished China for what by its historical requirements was a minor crackdown: the Tiananmen incident.
Unfortunately, Tiananmen has become a contemporary Western legend, produced by live telecasts of the crackdown. Beijing erred badly in its excessive use of guns but it did not err in its choice to break down. Failure to quash the trainee disobedience might have caused political disintegration and mayhem, a seasonal Chinese nightmare. Western policymakers yield this in personal. They are also familiar with the dishonesty of some Western journalists: dining with trainee dissidents and even egging them on before reporting on their purported “cravings strike.” No significant Western journal has exposed such dishonesty or established the political courage to say that China had essentially no choice in Tiananmen. Instead sanctions were imposed, threatening China’s modernization. Asians see that Western public opinion-deified in Western democracy-can fruit and vegetables illogical consequences. They view with uneasiness as Western policies on China lurch to and fro, threatening the otherwise smooth development of East Asia.
Few in the West know that the West is accountable for worsening turbulence among the more than two billion individuals living in Islamic and Chinese civilizations. Rather, conjuring up images of the 2 Asian hordes that Western minds fear most-two forces that attacked Europe, the Muslims and the Mongols-Huntington posits a Confucian- Islamic connection against the West. American arms sales to Saudi Arabia do not suggest a natural Christian-Islamic connection. Neither must Chinese arms sales to Iran. Both are opportunistic moves, based not on natural empathy or civilizational alliances. The real disaster of recommending a Confucian-Islamic connection is that it obscures the essentially different nature of the obstacle postured by these forces. The Islamic world will have fantastic trouble updating. Until then its turbulence will overflow into the West. East Asia, consisting of China, is poised to achieve parity with the West. The easy reality is that East and Southeast Asia feel more comfortable with the West.
This failure to develop a viable method to deal with Islam or China exposes a fatal defect in the West: an inability to come to terms with the shifts in the relative weights of civilizations that Huntington well documents. Two key sentences in Huntington’s essay, when put side by side, illustrate the nature of the issue: initially, “In the politics of civilizations, individuals and federal governments of non-Western civilization no longer stay the things of history as targets of Western colonization however sign up with the West as movers and shapers of history,” and 2nd, “The West in result is utilizing international institutions, military power and economic resources to run the world in ways that will maintain Western predominance, safeguard Western interests and promote Western political and financial values.” This mix is a prescription for disaster.
Basic arithmetic demonstrates Western recklessness. The West has 800 million people; the rest comprise nearly 4.7 billion. In the nationwide arena, no Western society would accept a circumstance where 15 percent of its population legislated for the remaining 85 percent. But this is what the West is trying to do internationally.
Unfortunately, the West is turning its back on the Third World just when it can lastly assist the West out of its financial doldrums. The establishing world’s dollar output increased in 1992 more than that of North America, the European Neighborhood and Japan put together. Two-thirds of the increase in U.S. exports has actually gone to the developing world. Rather of motivating this global momentum by completing the Uruguay Round, the West is doing the reverse. It is attempting to produce barriers, not eliminate them. French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur tried to validate this move by stating bluntly in Washington that the “question now is how to organize to safeguard ourselves from nations whose different values allow them to undercut us.”
THE WEST’S OWN UNDOING
Huntington stops working to ask one apparent question: If other civilizations have been around for centuries, why are they posing a difficulty only now? A genuine attempt to answer this concern reveals a fatal defect that has just recently established in the Western mind: a failure to conceive that the West may have established structural weaknesses in its core value systems and organizations. This flaw describes, in part, the recent rush to welcome the presumption that history has ended with the accomplishment of the Western suitable: specific flexibility and democracy would always ensure that Western civilization would stay ahead of the pack.
Just hubris can discuss why numerous Western societies are attempting to defy the economic laws of gravity. Budgetary discipline is vanishing. Expensive social programs and pork-barrel tasks increase with little heed to expenses. The West’s low cost savings and investment rates lead to decreasing competitiveness vis-à-vis East Asia. The work ethic is wearing down, while politicians misguide employees into thinking that they can retain high incomes despite becoming internationally uncompetitive. Leadership is doing not have. Any politician who mentions hard truths is right away voted out. Americans freely confess that much of their economic problems arise from the fundamental gridlock of American democracy. While the rest of the world is puzzled by these financial recklessness, American political leaders and journalists take a trip around the world preaching the virtues of democracy. It produces a curious sight.
The exact same hero-worship is offered to the idea of specific freedom. Much good has originated from this concept. Slavery ended. Universal franchise followed. But liberty does not only fix problems; it can also cause them. The United States has undertaken a huge social experiment, taking down social institution after social institution that limited the individual. The outcomes have been devastating. Because 1960 the U.S. population has actually increased 41 percent while violent criminal activity has increased by 560 percent, single-mother births by 419 percent, divorce rates by 300 percent and the portion of kids living in single-parent houses by 300 percent. This is enormous social decay. Many a society shudders at the prospects of this happening on its coasts. But instead of taking a trip overseas with humbleness, Americans with confidence preach the virtues of unconfined private flexibility, blithely overlooking the noticeable social effects.
The West is still the repository of the biggest possessions and accomplishments of human civilization. Many Western values describe the incredible advance of mankind: the belief in clinical inquiry, the search for rational solutions and the desire to challenge presumptions. But a belief that a society is practicing these values can result in a special blindness: the failure to understand that a few of the values that include this bundle might be hazardous. Western worths do not form a smooth web. Some are excellent. Some are bad. But one needs to stand outside the West to see this plainly, and to see how the West is causing its relative decline by its own hand. Huntington, too, is blind to this.Loading … Please