Decline of The West
by George Szamuely

January 4, 2000

If Things Are Good,
Why Are They So Bad?

Millennial reflections have ended. But the orgy of self-congratulation will go on. American global supremacy is here to stay, our pundits and editorial writers cry as they hi-five one another, because it is so clearly in the interests of mankind that it should do so. According to the New York Times, "The idealistic desire to make the world over is the deepest mystery of the American character and our signature national trait." "The desire to make the world over" is neither mysterious nor "the signature national trait" of anybody. The world has never been short of zealots who want "to make it over." "It was the American economy," the Times continues, "and the worldwide influence of the popular culture made possible by that economy" that led to the "triumph of a century of expanding freedom." Wisely, the Times chose not to explain how exactly trash movies, inane soap operas, and wall-to-wall obscenities led to the "triumph of a century of expanding freedom." It did not matter. What matters is the predictable conclusion: "We have the humane vision and technological means to lift the world family to new levels of liberty, affluence, health and happiness." What the "world family" might think about this is neither here nor there.

As usual, Francis Fukuyama offered the most interesting defense of American global supremacy. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he wondered what would have happened had Germany won World War I. He accepts that there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution, no Hitler, no World War II, no Holocaust, no collapse of European empires, and, of course, no American global supremacy. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? No, Fukuyama rushes to tell us, for in such a world there would have been no democracy, no equality, no national self-determination, no welfare state, no "technological innovations, from aircraft and radar to computers, integrated circuits and the Internet." True to Hegelian obsessions, he argues that it was the bad things of the last century that made possible all the good things. "The Holocaust put paid to concepts like social Darwinism and eugenics…in the US the service of African-Americans and the entry of women into the industrial work force in World War II laid the groundwork for advances by both groups in later decades." Fukuyama's claims are extremely implausible. The Germans invented the welfare state. German scientists have always been among the best in the world. Germany in 1914 was at least as democratic as its World War I rivals. Most important, Stalin, Hitler and Mao seem an awfully high price to pay to have Gloria Steinem among us.

As the saying has it, if things are so good why are they so bad? Why does the rest of the world fail to grasp that the United States is motivated by altruism? That it only has the interests of the "world family" at heart? Last year just as he was crowing over his destruction of Belgrade, Bill Clinton promulgated something that has now come to be known as the Clinton Doctrine. This pledges: "Whether you live in Africa, Central Europe or any other place, if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, their ethnic background or their religion – and it is within our power to stop it – we will stop it." The rest of the world understood only too well what Clinton was saying. Any minority can now make trouble and try to provoke government repression. While the authorities do what they are entitled to do, namely, maintain civil peace and the integrity of the state, the recalcitrant minority can cry: "Human rights violations!" And the United States will be on hand with its cruise missiles and B-2 bombers.

As everyone knows even though they may pretend not to, powers do not meddle in the internal affairs of other powers out of altruism. When the United States supports the irredentist or independence aspirations of a minority it does so for a reason. It wants to weaken the state from which the minority wishes to secede and to strengthen its neighbors. The Clinton Doctrine – or the doctrine of humanitarian intervention – is a piece of legerdemain. For the United States picks and chooses very carefully which minorities it supports and which it does not. The Kosovo Albanians, the Bosnian Moslems, the Chechens – yes. The Kurds, the Basques, the Corsicans, the Krajina Serbs – no.

Just about every state in the world, including the United States, possesses minorities that wish to secede or, at least, owe their allegiance elsewhere. National disintegration is every state's nightmare. The doctrine of humanitarian intervention is merely today's form of imperialism. The United States champions "human rights" in order to weaken and destroy states that it fears as potential rivals. The new entities that emerge serve American interests very nicely. An independent Chechnya will accept US investment and financial control through American creatures like the IMF far more readily than a powerful Russia. As will East Timor, Aceh, and every other piece of Indonesia as one by one they all break away. As will Tibet, Xinjiang, and every other "independent" province of China as they break away. A Moslem Bosnia that acts as a center of Islamic terror in Europe serves to weaken Europe and increase its dependency on the United States. Greater Albania will take care of NATO's Eastern Mediterranean flank with fewer complaints than Greece.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the world has not been prepared to sit idly by and allow the United States to take over the store. The Russians well understand that the United States is in the Caucasus because it wants to rob them of the oil wealth of the Caspian Sea. They understand that the purpose of the new, expanded NATO is to push the Russians out of Ukraine and eventually out of the Black Sea. Earlier this year NATO bombed the Russians' allies, the Serbs, and there was nothing they could do about it. They helped to broker a peace agreement. Yet NATO broke all its pledges and again there was nothing the Russians could do about it. They had become so weak. Today as the Russians pulverize Grozny they are taking the first tentative steps towards trying to reemerge as a major power.

The Chinese are also extremely concerned about US machinations. They see Americans offering Taiwan theater missile defense systems. They see Americans drooling over the Dalai Lama. They see the leader of the Falun Gong movement living in the United States. They see their Belgrade Embassy smashed to pieces. They understand that if they do not act now they will become satellites of the United States. The Russians and the Chinese – protagonists during the Cold War – are today the closest of friends, united in hostility towards the United States. At a recent Sino-Russian summit, President Jiang Zemin warned that "hegemony and the politics of force are on the rise, with new forms of so-called neo-interventionism being revived." The communiqué announced that both Russia and China are "opposed to jeopardizing the sovereignty of independent nations" on the pretext of human rights. Russia is selling 60 advanced SU-30 MKK fighter jets to China. In addition, Russia, China and three Central Asian States – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have pledged to fight security threats to the region – chiefly ethnic and religious separatism. China is also strengthening its ties with India – another protagonist of long standing.

In 1998, Yevgeny Primakov suggested the creation of a strategic triangle comprising Russia, China and India. Whatever hesitations India may have had, have been dispelled by the recent hijacking. While the United States plays its sinister little game of supporting Islamic fundamentalists in one country while urging their execution in another country, for India Islamic-sponsored separatism is a matter of life and death. Russia, China and India have already agreed to combat cross-border terrorism in Central Asia. Russia has also agreed to upgrade India's air force with enhanced MiG-21 and SU-30 fighter planes. Just before his election as President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid said he looked forward to a possible new alliance between India, China and Indonesia. Wahid said such an alliance would help rectify the "lopsided" power of the West. Malaysia's leader Mohammad Mahathir talks in this vein almost every day.

Even the Europeans – our partners in crime over Yugoslavia – are drawing away from the United States. At the Cologne summit last June, the European Union resolved to develop an "autonomous" defense capability. This was enough to provoke hysteria in Washington. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was beside himself in rage. The last thing Washington wanted to see, he blustered, was a European defense identity "which begins within NATO but grows out of NATO and then away from NATO." The risk, he explained, was that a European Union defense structure "first duplicates the alliance and then competes with the alliance." Well no, the risk is that the Europeans will finally get tired of being pushed around and bullied into undertaking idiotic military capers so as to extend America's imperial reach.

The Untied States won the Cold War and almost immediately blew it by trying to subordinate the rest of the world. It now finds itself surrounded by adversarial states and hostile military alliances. "Neo-conservatives" rejoice. The more countries that hate you the more right you must be. A few more years like the last one and we could have a really nasty war on our hands. That will be a nice way to start the new millennium!

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