West’s angst-ridden decline
by Come Carpentier de Gourdon on 31 Jul 2008 0 Comment

A recent journey to Russia and various Western European countries yielded some revealing experiences of and insights into the Zeitgeist by providing many opportunities to witness the growing sense of uncertainty, fear and despondency gripping western societies, while uncovering the rising confidence and even hubris experienced, rightly or wrongly, by many in Russia, riding the wave of stratospheric energy prices, booming consumerism, and military rebirth into great power status.


There is a striking contrast between the centralized Russian Federation, ruled by an authoritarian, personalized, nationalistic and culturally conservative government, and the mosaic-like, putatively but reluctantly-federal EU nations, where nation-states often seem as weak and divided as the anonymous overarching bureaucracy that tries to run the continent’s affairs. Not by chance perhaps are most European nations wallowing in utopian political correctness, torn between their traditional strong social welfare systems and the temptation of market liberalization. The result of this confusion is that the hitherto prevailing feeling of freedom is giving way to the mounting worry caused by rapid loss of economic and physical security due to a number of factors, ranging from economic downturn and geopolitical tensions and crises, to the increasing repressiveness of governments and the severity of meteorological and climatic factors.


For more than sixty years, the western and now all-European cart, has been hitched to the US star; the precipitous fading away of the latter threatens to bring the former crashing down. There have been calls from high places lately to rebuild the trans-Atlantic alliance as a bulwark against rivals (read Russia, China, the Muslim World and even India) and as a guarantee for continued western supremacy. But such plans look fatally flawed when one looks at the ever longer list of divergences between the two sides of the pond and also at the alarming decadence of the United States, which is beginning to look like a Potemkin Village superpower or a Universal Studio Western movie set, whose towering facades and cavernous bank vaults increasingly seem devoid of depth and void of substance. Of course, USA can deploy an awe-inspiring arsenal, largely sufficient to wipe out most life on this planet, but the rulers of that mighty machine share some of the evanescent features of vampires who don’t reflect in the mirror and indeed, don’t reflect at all.


Faced with the meltdown of their economic ice-castles under the glare of global warming, for which they are largely responsible, the Euro-American powers-that-be are left with few options other than lecturing the rest of the world and issuing threats to those not sufficiently submissive. Russia, China and the energy-exporting countries are showing once more that although power may appear to flow from the barrel of a gun, it in fact belongs to whoever can pay the gunman. While the West is deeply dependent on Chinese inexpensive manufactured goods and on Russian gas and minerals, it also desperately needs these two countries, not to mention the oil-rich Arabs and the Indians, Brazilians, Japanese, Koreans et al…to buy the high-tech and luxury goods that finance a dwindling but still vital portion of the affluent nations’ lifestyle, and to bail out ailing or bankrupt corporations and financial houses by purchasing them.


This double dependency is making NATO members’ military superiority mostly irrelevant. The West takes some solace in the fact that China and Russia need buyers of their resources and goods too, but if it is all a zero-sum game, then the much-vaunted might of the superpower turns out to be mostly a bluff. The rising role and clout of Sovereign Wealth Funds from Asian states that are gradually taking over the strongholds of western economies is giving both Europeans and Americans real reasons to worry about their future place in the world as they are made to taste their own medicine.


This rapid change in the geopolitical reality still escapes a large number of people, such as the many in India who have been used for many years to sending their children to study in the USA and land good jobs or launch successful businesses there. The Roman Empire continued to shine in the minds of the masses for centuries after it decayed and collapsed. Conservative Hindus sometimes tend to think a bit like conservative Christian Americans or Europeans. So concerned are they about their traditional “betes noires”, such as leftist Godless revolutionaries, permissive anarchists or fundamentalist Muslim jihadis, that they are ready to forgive most of the US Government’s crimes and follies in the belief that President Bush and his henchmen act for the better. After all the “decider” claims to be acting in close consultation with God! Many Germans thought right until the end of the Second World War that the Nazi regime was protecting them from Bolshevik subversion. Similar situations produce similar reactions in the popular mind.


Europeans, with few exceptions, do not share the views of a large section of the American public which, even when disillusioned and angry with Mr. Bush’s policies, remains convinced that the US must lead the world as a more or less benevolent hegemon because such is its manifest destiny to promote and protect freedom everywhere. This popular myth has lost much of its shine even in America, but openly rejecting it is still seen as little short of treason or at least as a cowardly retreat from a cherished principle that underpinned the nation’s policies for more than a century.


What candidate to political office in America would dare reject the country’s claim to global supremacy? The “Neocons” are still ensconced in the corridors of power and continue to argue that the US has an obligation to defend its own interests and economic stakes by hook or by crook, ‘manu militari’, from Baghdad to Caracas. The widespread suspicion that Mr. Barack Obama may turn out to be a mole of the Muslim and Black Third World, or an unpatriotic wimp, explains why Mr. McCain appears a credible rival in the race to the White House. The Status Quo party is firmly embedded in the Democratic leadership as shown by the leader of the “Hillaraisers”, Lynn Forester, a long-time Neoconservative herself, married to Lord Rothschild, who very publicly demanded that Hillary Clinton be made Obama’s running mate as a condition to supporting him.


Ms. Forester accused the Afro-American Senator of being an “elitist,” which is surely ironic coming from a Rothschild. The main concern of that clan is that Obama does not seem as committed as he needs to be, in their view, to the traditional agenda of unquestioning support to Israel and systematic hostility to Iran. Kowtowing to the global Zionist agenda has become a theological principle of American policy, from which no deviation is tolerated by the guardians of geopolitical orthodoxy, and which Hillary Clinton is expected to maintain at all costs.


All the hubris and imperial chanting about the “white man’s burden” and the Biblical predestination of the Chosen People, however, cannot hide the bitter fact that the national economy has become a disaster area and is dragging the rest of the world down. A flood of books, TV and radio shows, articles, Op-Ed editorials and interviews by leading economists and policy-makers, reinforces the increasingly obvious perception that the Reagonomics model implemented from Washington since 1980 has led the country into fraudulent bankruptcy and ruin by fostering greed and irresponsible corporate “voodoo economics” (as George HW Bush famously called it when running as Presidential candidate in the 1979 elections).


Those who still want to see the current US administration as a group of misguided but sincere patriots fighting to protect their country from terrorist subversion are missing the point. The American Government, like many others in the world, has long been overrun by a mafia-like network of oilmen, weapons manufacturers, financial embezzlers, drug-money recycling bankers and their shady lawyers – all looking to make ever bigger gains for themselves, even if it implies running their country to the ground and thrashing the planetary eco-system.


The primacy of sectoral vested interests over the general good has turned the democratic game into a toxic mockery of its own principles, since it relies on buying or hiring legislators and political officials to implement the agenda of the major capital holders and speculators. Terrorism and war are choice threats and weapons in the hands of that oligarchy of merchants of death, who are not always averse to unleashing it on domestic soil in the pursuit of their “higher goals.”


Impeachment of President Bush


The 35 articles of the Impeachment Resolution moved against President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the US Congress by Rep. Denis Kucinich this past June make a rather transparent allusion to the widely accepted fact that the New York and Washington attacks on 11September 2001 were staged and orchestrated by certain privatized executive networks operating within the US national security organizations.


There is understandable reluctance in the country’s elite to take up those charges, which can only cause fatal damage to the national fabric as they expose the depth of corruption and complicity which made this act of treason possible at the highest reaches of State. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far opposed the impeachment process, alleging it would not be good for the country (even less for the career of many if not most of her legislative colleagues)…


Cynicism about the Government is widespread in America. Europeans as a whole are even more dismissive of US institutions and policies, though they don’t trust theirs much either, and are particularly wary of the European Union’s opaque and labyrinthine bureaucracy. This massive crisis of trust and faith is an inevitable corollary of the current crisis of values, but it can spell a death warrant for western civilization in its present avatar. The much-touted vision of an “ownership society,” promoted by Von Hayek’s school of neo-liberal economists is beginning to look like a pipe dream, as Mike Malloy points out, blown away by the harsh winds of the financial storm.


In an article entitled “Born in the USA, sold to Foreign Buyers,” Brent Budovsky notes: “America is being sold at a discount to foreign buyers” (OpEd News.Com). Mike Folkert writes in the same webzine: “Who will take over the remaining failing banks, GM, Ford and the Airlines? Where will the money come from? Our Federal Government is more than 63 trillion Dollars in debt!”


E.J. Dionne in Truthdig.com reports on the “collapse of assumptions that have dominated our economy for three decades.” He takes stock of the fact that “even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing,” and adds: “…The panic of 2008 will mean an end to the latest Capital Rules Era.” Dionne quotes US Representative Barney Frank who recently concluded that “capitalism is a contributor to the degradation of wages and it has produced large pools of highly mobile capital”. Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is beginning to sound like “a born again New Dealer” in the words used by Dionne.


Ex-CNN Producer and award-winning radio news host Malloy writes (OpEd News): “The Bush crime family rapacious efficiency in devouring everything it touches has been truly amazing… The examples of theft, fraud, lies and deceit are endless.” He asks “how much more of this will we continue to absorb? How long before we finally resist? When does the revolution begin? And where?” For those who thought, while they laughed all the way to the bank, they had forever buried the ghosts of populist anti-plutocratic revolt, there may be a rude awakening.


In the face of this new decline of the West, giving contemporary meaning to Oswald Spengler’s prediction, Russia looks, at least in the eyes of its leaders and many observers, as a beacon of optimism and renewal, endowed with vital and abundant natural and human resources, a strategically located territory that spans the Eurasian heartland and constitutes a natural bridge between Europe, the Far and Middle East, in the geographic, human and cultural sense. Some Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Putin, saw the opportunity of reclaiming their country’s global position at the very dawn of the new century, when America embarked on a catastrophic crusade against Terror which was bound to mire it deeper and deeper in the West and Central Asian quicksands, leaving potential rivals free to build themselves up. China and Russia, along with smaller countries like Iran and Venezuela, have been major beneficiaries of the relative US paralysis resulting from Neo-con fantasies about “rebuilding America’s defences” and occupying the greater Middle East.


Russian vision


The Russian vision for the future outlines a national form of capitalism, mitigated by a social welfare system and controlled by a strong state resting on the traditional pillars of the Church and the armed forces. Though much of the success recently achieved by the Putin Government is obviously due to the natural assets of the country and the high prices commanded by energy and minerals in recent years, there is little doubt that those advantages have been competently harnessed in the service of top priorities: building a wealthy, confident nation with a rapidly growing middle class, dealing from a position of strength with other actors on the world scene to help bring about a new multi-polar world based on dialogue between diverse civilizations, as opposed to the US’s ruthless drive to enforce its neo-liberal Judeo-Christian, Anglo-Saxon model on all countries.


President Medvedev recently reasserted the almost Messianic ambition traditional to Russian civilization by claiming that his nation would strive to protect the world from the irresponsible and selfish pretensions of America’s rulers which have brought the world to disaster.


Can a new Russia, acting in coordination with China, India, the Arab World, Latin America and Europe, help bring humanity back from the brink of collapse?  She would thereby fulfill prophecies articulated in the last two centuries by Slav mystics and reformers on both sides of the ideological spectrum.


The author is Convener, Editorial Board, WORLD AFFAIRS JOURNAL

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