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Is the decline of the west inevitable?

There always has been those predicting Western demise, decline, or irrelevance. It still has not come. But today West is in deep trouble. Right now, important questions are facing to the Western liberal-democratic countries, challenging them to choose whether they want to rule the roost or let others to rule them. But who will supplant the United States “the locomotive at the head of the mankind”[1] if it retreats from its hegemonic role? Not Russia, not China, not the Muslim world-and certainly not the United Nations. Unfortunately, a multilateral utopia which is alternative of a single superpower will bring us in a new Dark Age[2]

Let’s start from the very beginning and define what gave the rise to the west. The first rise of the Western world started in the 15th century when it offered to the rest of the world:  science and technology, commerce and capitalism, the industrial and agricultural revolutions. This made a basis of the political dominance of the nations of the Western world. Another important period was the 19th century. Because of industrialization, it soon became the most powerful nation in the world, stronger than any likely combination of other nations.

Competition (both political and economical); Scientific Revolution; Democracy (but more it was the idea of citizenship based on property ownership, representations and the rule of law); Medicine (progress in medicine made possible increasing human life expectancy), consumer society (industrial revolution) and protestant ethic that generated the spirit of capitalism. All these factors gave West predominance over the rest over about 500 years, but now they are no longer monopolized by the west. The rest have adopted them all with pretty high degree of success.[3]

Today, Western role declines but it’s not an inevitable decline. Early declinists like Paul Kennedy (Yale historian) focused in the 1980s on the allegedly weakening effects of America’s “imperial overstretch.” Then historian Niall Ferguson focused on the deteriorating of the economy. Among authorities, Paul Krugman and Michael Kinsley on the left and Mark Helprin on the right sound the alarm. Here we also must mention Fareed Zakaria, but his thesis is not “the decline of America but rather the rise of everyone else”.[4]

The declinists mostly outline three issues: Economics, Military power and demographical picture.[5] Let’s take a glance on each.

While post-industrial economies stumble out of recession; some unlikely developing nations are poised for a period of ‘catch-up’ reminiscent of China’s rapid industrialization. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently made a bold forecast that China will beat the United States and become the world’s largest economy as early as 2016 in terms of purchasing power parity. Economists say that, China’s economic size will reach 19 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016 in terms of purchasing power parity while the U.S. economic size will reach 18.8 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. [6] Therefore, China will exceed the United States and become the world’s largest economy.[7] as Robert Kagan said once : Forget the Islamic threat, the coming battle will be between autocratic nations like Russia and China and the rest. China is only the largest part of a bigger story about the rise of new economic and political players. America’s traditional allies in Europe – Britain, France, Italy, even Germany – are slipping down the economic ranks. New powers are on the rise: India, Brazil, Turkey.[8]

Second important issue is military power – Nowadays U.S. and most western countries don’t take defense seriously. №1 duty of the government must be to provide defense for citizens and guarantee of the security.[9] The defense budget figures of the USA and Europe are not what they must be[10]

and third issue is demographical.[11] The populations of European countries are in great decline. The same is true of white middle-class folks in America. At the same time, the numbers of Latin Americans, Africans, the Islamic world and Asians rapidly are increasing. These growing populations will migrate to more attractive parts of the globe. “In the 19th century, Europe invaded and colonized Africa. In the 21st century, Africa invades and colonizes Europe,”[12]

These are old, “classic” issues about western decline, but of course there are some other reasons too. Patrick Buchanan and Theodore Dalrymple blame the educated elite for championing a political and spiritual transformation that is ripping Western societies apart.[13] The West and the prospering nations of the world have entered a period of rapid decline from which they can be rescued only by strenuous effort and a profound change of heart. social, political and spiritual transformation so wrenching that it ripped these societies apart, destroying traditional values and replacing them with a whole new set of notions about what’s good and bad.

Western leaders are betraying principles on which the west is based. If we defeat western values, we will save western world. Europe is lacks strong leadership. Angela Merkel is seen as weak. She is locked in her grand coalition. Many Americans and Italians like Silvio Berlusconi, but most Europeans outside of Italy do not. As for France, In Britain and Germany, Sarkozy is viewed as all flash and in it for France, not for Europe. Self-interest is seen everywhere to be trumping the common interest.[14]

Unfortunately this political turbulence dreadfully affects on small countries.

I’m Georgian student; I live in the country which has two ethnic conflicts in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, I believe that the only way to solve it – is dialogue, international mediation and proper help from the west. and while west has too many question marks in head, innocent people die and 10% of the Georgian territory remains occupied. Where were European leaders (and where are they now?), when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia? It ought to have been their moment. But instead of them here was Vladimir Putin. In response to the war, Russia only faced strong criticism from the US, the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the Baltic states. [15]Europe watched, waited and did nothing.

The war between Russia and Georgia was a predictable reaction to NATO’s interruption into Russia’s sphere of influence. It could have been avoided if NATO had agreed to include Georgia, as the Bush administration desired. But nowadays NATO isn’t NATO, but a weak coalition of countries poorly united under NATO’s flag. NATO became more political, whether its military capacity goes down.

The purpose of NATO in upcoming decades must be defined. Rebuilding capacity of NATO and this coalition must protect its members and non-member states as well

Oil and gas wealth has allowed Moscow to increase defense spending by more than 20 percent annually over the past years. Europe now depends more on Russia for its supply of energy than on the Middle East. 18 European governments fear that Moscow can manipulate the flow of energy supplies, and Russian leaders know this gives them the means to compel European acquiescence to Russian behavior that Europeans would not have tolerated in the past, when Russia was weak.

Before getting on the dark side of the moon, lets take a glance on recent good news. The world’s response to Libya has made clear those currently fashionable arguments about the ‘rise of the Rest’ and the world’s new ‘nonpolarity’ is simply untrue because the “rest”- China and India – are unable and unwilling to lead.  The raw numbers are impressive. But power is about much more than raw numbers. President Obama understood two things: the world order Washington needs demands that Qaddafi be stopped, and only America could stop him. But, how we can deal with other problems?

If west will do the things that need to be done-improving education, reforming taxes, reducing government deficits, stabilizing the government debt, and eliminating damaging regulations – this will unleash the rising incomes that American creativity and a free enterprise system can produce.  It’s necessary to devote much more income to education, to cultural activities, to the environment, to maintaining America’s security, and to virtually eliminating poverty. But before that, we should identify crisis, we should answer on the question: Who we are? What we want? [16]Think about problems around us. Threads must be discussed. Our history, Galileo, Magellan, Columbus, There is something worth fight for. That is West’s challenge. [17] Time won’t wait! We should act now! Without delay! Because according to Newton’s law, if one started to fall, because of gravitation falling process will become fast.


[1]Dean Acheson, present at the creation of a U.S.-dominated world order, would describe the United States as “the locomotive at the head of mankind” and the rest of the world as “the caboose.”

[2] Foreign Policy, No. 143 (Jul. – Aug., 2004), Niall Ferguson, A World without Power, pp. 32-39

[3] http://www.stanford.edu/group/wais/USA/us_endofwesterncivilization.htm

[4] http://www.fareedzakaria.com/home/Author.html

[5] http://www.hoover.org/news/daily-report/75156

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_future_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita_estimates

[7] http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-05/03/content_12436718.htm

[8] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/02/think_again_american_decline

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States

[10] http://www.aei.org/article/100169

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

[12] http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his312/lectures/19thcent.htm

[13] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_8_18/ai_83699608/pg_2/

[14] In Europe, a Slide Toward Irrelevance; By Robert Kagan; June 15, 2008; B07

[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_South_Ossetia_war

[16] Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996William Kristol and Robert Kagan

[17] http://www.aei.org/speech/100222.

 



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