• The Demise of the West

    Students of the global economy have foreseen for a couple of decades that the centre of economic gravity was about to move from what we used to call “the West” – a shorthand term for the USA and Europe and their respective spheres of influence – to Asia, (now not just Japan, but China, South Korea, Singapore, India and others as well).  Few would have expected, though, that one of the principal drivers of this development would turn out to be the American President himself.

    But Donald Trump has committed himself to a series of policy initiatives which seem destined, if not designed, not “to make America great again” but to “make China great again”.  The most obvious manifestation of this supposed “strategy” is the launching of trade wars against America’s traditional trading partners in Canada, and Europe, as well as against China.

    Trade wars, according to Trump, are “good and easy to win”; but he is about to find out that they are dangerous, messy and destructive.  They are destructive not just in economic terms but in geo-political terms as well.  For the West’s leaders, they signal the end of the close alliance that has exerted great influence in world affairs – and that significant turning point has been given added impetus by Trump’s decisions to abandon his traditional friends by withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal and from the Paris climate change agreement.

    The demise of “the West” was emphasised by the recent G7 summit, when Trump refused to sign the closing communique and found himself in disagreement with virtually all of his allies when he urged the re-admission of Russia.  His attack on the Canadian Prime Minister was simply further evidence of his lack of concern for the damage he had caused.

    The irony of all this is that the vacuum that has been created by America’s withdrawal will be quickly filled by the other potential global superpower, China.  The increase in China’s influence – welcome or otherwise – is already clearly apparent, not least in the Asia-Pacific region.  The recent Australian legislation, beefing up security against foreign influence was clearly directed at Chinese interference in Australian domestic affairs.

    But it is not just in the international sphere that America has abandoned its long-held leadership role.  An important element in the Western hegemony that has dominated the world scene for so long has been the sense that the West represents the best way of doing things – that factors such as democracy, the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties, a free press, are all essential aspects of a successful society.

    Yet it is precisely these aspects of American society on which Trump has launched his most bitter assaults, with the result that the US is no longer seen or held up as an exemplar of all that is best in Western values – quite the reverse.  Trump has succeeded in demonstrating that America democracy is deeply flawed, and can no longer be seen as shining a beacon light for the rest of the world.

    Trump’s surrender of any claim to American moral leadership is of course entirely consistent with his personal moral stance – his lies, his racism and his attitudes to women are as unacceptable to most people as his policy of separating children from their parents and holding them in cages.

    It is hard to believe that the American people can stand idly by and allow such damage to be done to their history and values.  If American democracy is to mean anything, it must rapidly re-discover itself.

    Bryan Gould

    2 July 2018

2 Comments

  1. Tom Hunsdale says: July 2, 2018 at 4:52 amReply

    Interesting thoughts Bryan. I agree with most of it. A trade war might have made sense if the US was still a manufacturing powerhouse but it isn’t. They shipped too much of that offshore, ironically to China, to generate more profits by using cheaper labour.
    The one part I completely disagree with is your statement talking of a “free press” in the West. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our media is pretty much pure propaganda, mainly derived from the US. The total lack of coverage of the real events in Yemen and Syria are complete proof of that. As was the ridiculous reporting of the Skripal “nerve agent” attack. That not a single journalist in NZ asked any searching questions about this, or about the nonsensical claim that Syrian troops carried out a chemical attack on their own people when they were days away from routing the islamic terrorists (trained and funded by the UK and US) is damning evidence of complicity in propaganda. Either that or complete stupidity and ignorance. The fact that nobody points out that US and UK troops are illegally in Syria and nobody mentioned that the F/UK/USA missile attacks on Syria were illegal acts of war speaks volumes.
    We may have once had ideals to aspire to, that was many years ago and can probably be linked to the introduction of neo liberalism and specifically Rogernomics in NZ. That was the time we lost our moral compass completely. A tragedy.

  2. Dennis Horne says: July 2, 2018 at 9:18 pmReply

    The press in the West has been free; “good” is another matter. Nobody ever expected an American president to be chanting the press is the enemy of the people, preparing his base to believe his outright lies and view all criticism as fake news.

    New York Times and the Washington Post are free. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is free, but the word “fox” gives it away…

    I depend on the Guardian and Al Jazeera, both free.

    TV1 and Seven Sharp reflect the mentality of the majority – quite freely…