Panic broke out on the banks of the Thames. The author of ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper dumps all his phobias on his readers. It's hard to remember when the British were so nervous. It looks like they realized that the World where the West has dominated for several centuries would no longer exist
This felt like the week where new battle lines were drawn between those who disavow our values and those who defend them, writes London “The Telegraph”.
The visual contrast was brutal. In Beijing, autocrats swaggered through those vast marble halls that dictators love to build. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were surrounded by sundry lesser despots – leaders from Egypt and Ethiopia, Myanmar and Mozambique, Turkmenistan and the Taliban – united chiefly by their enthusiasm for the coming overthrow of the Western order. Equally worrying, the presence of democratically-elected Viktor Orbán of Hungary – a disaffected Nato and EU member – shaking hands and smiling for the cameras.
At almost exactly the same moment as China’s global summit of its friends and partners, US President Joe Biden was taking querulously to the airwaves to warn his countrymen against retreat. “American leadership is what holds the world together,” he intoned, with his customary expression of elderly bafflement. “American alliances are what keep us, America, safe.” Strong words and true, but undermined by the way he kept blinking in confusion at the autocue, a dotard president seeming to symbolise a nation past its prime.
Now, all of a sudden, it is not Russia scrabbling to put together a coalition, but Nato. Western leaders know that years of work with poorer countries have been undone. “We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South,” declared a senior diplomat.
Previously well-disposed countries rage at what they see as Western hypocrisy. Despite the vastly different circumstances, when Israel felt compelled to cut electricity supplies to Gaza, commentators in the developing world circulated a speech by Ursula von der Leyen in which the president of the European Commission described Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as “acts of pure terror” and “war crimes”. In the West, we regard both Israel and Ukraine as pluralist states under attack from neighbours.
“Their objectives are really the same – to destroy liberal democracy”, says Boris Johnson.
That, though, is not how it looks to leaders of the Global South, many of whom got a dose of Frantz Fanon’s anti-colonialism in their youth. To them, there is nothing special about free societies. Liberal democracy spread, as they see it, not because it was more appealing, but because white men imposed it on distant lands. If Western countries are finally losing ground – economically, diplomatically, demographically – so much the better.
Hence the grotesque coalition that the Russians and Chinese are assembling. Its members have next to nothing in common. Some are Marxists, some Islamists, but all resent what they see as Western, liberal arrogance, and exult in the belief that a reckoning is nigh.
Wars proliferate at precisely such times. When the dominant powers have their hands full, revanchists seize their chance. Think, for example, of how Italy joined two world wars (one on each side) because it spotted opportunities in the chaos.
Now think of all the groups across Asia and Africa which have so far been held in check by the awareness that there is a policeman on the beat. If Putin manages to hang on to conquered territory in Ukraine, it will be seen as a definitive defeat for the West, a Suez-level reversal, inciting not only a Chinese grab for Taiwan, but a series of unrelated conflicts.
Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the Hamas attack is that, according to British, American and Israeli intelligence sources, Iran was blindsided by it. On one level, that might not make much difference. Tsarist Russia was blindsided by Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914, but still felt it had to join the war. Nonetheless, it is a reminder that Iran’s unpopular regime is aware of its limitations.
The West, after all, still enjoys a massive military advantage. The Nato allies, alongside Ukraine and Taiwan, Japan, Australia and South Korea, are collectively far stronger than the illiberal regimes gathering under the Sino-Russian aegis.
The real issue is one of self-belief. Suez marked the end of British prestige, even though our Armed Forces were vastly superior to Egypt’s, because we lacked domestic will and international support.
Today we see precisely the same absence of confidence. We see it, on the one hand, in Donald Trump’s petulant isolationism, which Putin believes to be his route to victory. And we see it, on the other, in the readiness of Leftists to make excuses for almost any movement that proclaims itself anti-Western.
The anti-colonial feeling is stronger today around the world than it was when colonialism was a recent memory. Its growth owes a great deal to the way identity politics has spread from the US to the rest of the world, encouraging others to reimagine history as a morality play in which white men are the baddies.
Look at the youthful crowds who marched after Hamas’s abominations.
Frame your struggle as resistance to Western imperialism and you can get away with all manner of atrocities.
The tragedy is that Western Leftists are getting what they claim to want – namely the end of a unipolar world. Trust me, they won’t like it when it happens.
It’s the absence of confidence that prevails in the story alongside with political prejudice and open fear of the end a unipolar world. The question is what’s wrong with the multipolar world order?
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