The year 2022 ends with the West isolated to a surprising extent. No, this doesn’t mean we are witnessing its “decline,” as predicted, much too prematurely, by Oswald Spengler.
The West is isolated nowadays because it hasn’t managed to impose its political and cultural hegemony on a planet both turbulent and contradictory, but also dynamic and full of expectations.
This was clearly visible when Russia, a former power in decline for decades, decided to invade Ukraine. It was reasonable to expect that everyone across all continents would rise up in protest, because it was in the interest of every nation to reaffirm the principle of sovereignty. However, countries not involved in the conflict and without specific interests either involving Russia or Ukraine decided to watch impassively from the sidelines. When the UN General Assembly was called to vote on the March 2 and October 12 resolutions, the NATO bloc managed to rally 140 countries behind it, but there was a consistent front of 35 countries that abstained, including China, India, Pakistan and South Africa. And even among the 140 who voted in favor, there were a number of skeptical voices which grumbled that a more prudent approach by all sides would have avoided a conflict that pointlessly tanked the global economy.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, put the importance of opposing the Kremlin’s invasion in the strongest possible terms: “Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is about much more than standing up for one nation’s right to choose its own path, fundamental as that right is. It’s also about protecting an international order where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force.”
However, those who listened to his speech couldn’t help but recall the invasions led by the U.S. itself in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first was accomplished with the near-unanimous support of the West, while the second divided the West and the EU 20 years ago. Putin invading Ukraine was substantially no different from what the U.S., together with NATO, did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. We are reminded of this by the recent voluminous work by the Swiss historian Daniele Ganser, The Illegal Wars of NATO – from one of the few still-neutral countries, which perhaps allowed him the luxury of seeing global geopolitical affairs from a more detached perspective.
We have mentioned the West’s inability to exert political and cultural hegemony, but this also extends to military hegemony: after 20 years of wars, Western troops have ingloriously retreated from Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving those two countries in a situation quite similar to the one they were in before. This demonstrates that military power, without political hegemony, is no longer able to reach its own objectives.
We are seeing these days what great need there is to stand for the values of freedom in countries where these are lacking. In Iran, women are trying to free themselves of the obligation to wear the veil, and in Afghanistan they are unwilling to give up their right to an education. In the West, these are rights that managed to prevail after decades of conflicts and struggles. The protesters in Tehran and Kabul need our support now, but they are well aware that what the West has been doing so far has run the gamut from useless to downright harmful at times. The U.S. has been sanctioning Iran since 1980, without this achieving anything internally; not to mention the total failure of the attempt to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan.
If the Atlantic axis wants to truly affirm its hegemony today, it must first of all seek to do this in the cultural, political and economic field, much more than the military one. And I will allow myself the liberty to give it some advice on how to do this in 2023.
All the NATO countries should make the commitment to allocate 0.7 percent of their GDP for development aid, as requested by the UN General Assembly, preferentially allocating these funds to countries that have peaceful development programs and respect human rights.
The European Parliament should award the next Sacharov Prize to Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. It’s very easy to give prizes to dissidents from adversary countries, as has been done in the past decade; but it has a far greater effect to give it to our own dissidents at home.
The United States should finally join the International Criminal Court, agreeing that those representing it can be put on trial just like those from any other nation.
The United States should end the blockade of sanctions on Cuba, and instead begin a reconciliation process between the community on the island and that of exiles in Florida.
The European Union should activate a program for the reception of the refugees in the Mediterranean, according to the Lampedusa Charter.
And who knows, after some decades of such policies, the emerging countries might no longer see the West as an adversary that wants to block their own development, and decide to unconditionally embrace its values of liberty and democracy.
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