This is the way the West ends – Asia Times

This is the way the West ends - Asia Times

Professor Michael Brenner’s insights and opinions on the state of the US-led liberal order are probably as fast and significant as ever with the United States at odds with conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza and the risk of a war with China looming big.

Brenner, a respected luminary on transatlantic relations and international security, is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies ( SAIS ).

He has also worked for Westinghouse, the US Department of Defense, and the Foreign Service Institute. In a comprehensive and no holds barred meeting with Adriel Kasonta, a contribution to the Asia Times, Brenner exposes how the West and the United States have lost their spiritual authority and way.

Adriel Kasonta: &nbsp, Despite what we hear from the Western political class and the compliant stenographers from the mainstream media, the world does n’t seem to look as they want us to believe. Anyone who lives anywhere else in the world or in the US knows that the social West is experiencing a sharp decline in both political and economic domains, with considerable moral implications. Please explain to our readers the causes of this current state of affairs and how to keep this collective death at bay.

Michael Brenner: I suggest that we develop the problem by asking what is the direct path between the spiritual collapse and the social West’s political and economic decline? The sarcastic sacrifice of half a million Russians used as cannon feed and physical damage of the nation in order to weaken and marginalize Russia has been a basic geostrategic error that has had adverse social consequences.

The evil state elites, or the nearly entire political class, are eager to express their tacit approval of the atrocities and war crimes committed by Israel over the past five months, which is having a significant impact on the West’s position and impact worldwide.

At one moment, they speak proudly about the superiority of Western values while condemning the practices of other countries, at another, they lean over backwards to justify far greater humanitarian abuses, to provide the perpetrator with the arms to destroy to kill and to maim innocent civilians, and in the case of the United States, to extend diplomatic cover in the United Nations Security Council.

They are thereby dissipating their standing in the eyes of the rest of the world, which accounts for two-thirds of humanity. The latter left a trail of doubt about American-led claims to be the world’s ethical standard setters due to their historical dealings with the nations of the West, including the relatively recent past. That sentiment has given way to outright disgust in the face of this blatant display of hypocrisy. Additionally, it makes the brutal truth that racist attitudes never fully vanished; instead, they relapse after a period of dormancy.

The reference points for this judgment are not, in the case of the United States, the mythic image of” the city on the Hill,” the last, best hope of mankind, the unquestionable nation for achieving world peace and stability: the Providential people born in a state of Original Virtue destined to lead the world on the path of Enlightenment. None of those idealistic standards. No, when measured against the prosaic standards of human decency, responsible statecraft, and decent respect for humankind, it has debased itself.

Additionally, the West and the rest are at a turning point in international power relations. &nbsp, It is a time when the tectonic plates of the political world are shifting, when the old constellations of power and of influence are being successfully challenged, when America has responded to feelings of self- doubt as the ordained global guide and overseer by compulsive, futile displays of muscle flexing.

The common traits of America’s political elites are anxiety and self-doub disguised by false bravado. That is a poor place to begin a conversation with reality. Americans are too attached to their exalted self- image, too narcissistic – collectively and individually, too lacking in self- awareness, too leaderless to make that wrenching adaptation. These evaluations also apply to the United States as well as Western Europe. leaving a diminished, irritated, but unrepentant transatlantic community.

AK: &nbsp, In your recent essay” The West’s Reckoning”?, you mentioned that the situation in Ukraine humiliates the West and the tragedy in Gaza shames it. Could you give more information on this?

Photo courtesy of Michale Brenner

MB: Defeat in Ukraine entails much more than the military collapse of the Ukrainian forces that is in the cards. For example, the United States has led its allies to engage in what amounts to a campaign to permanently denigrate Russia, neutralize it as a political or economic presence in Europe, and put an end to a significant barrier to the consolidation of global hegemony. &nbsp,

The West has thrown everything they have into that campaign: their stock of modern weapons, a corps of advisers, tens of billions of dollars, a draconian set of economic sanctions designed to bring the Russian economy to its knees and a relentless project aimed at isolating Russia and undermining Putin’s position.

It has failed ignominously in every way. Russia is significantly stronger than it was before the war in nearly every way. Its economy is stronger than any Western economy, it has shown to be militarily superior, and it has won the simpatia of almost everyone in the West.

The assumption that the West remains custodial of global affairs has proven a fantasy. A result of such a comprehensive failure has been a decline in the United States ‘ ability to influence international affairs in terms of security and economic matters. In every way, the Sino-Russian partnership is now seen as a rival to the West.

That outcome derives from hubris, dogmatism and a flight from reality. The West’s reputation and self-esteem are now tarnished by its involvement in the catastrophe in Palestine. So it now faces the double challenge of restoring its sense of prowess while also recovering its moral sanity.

AK: &nbsp, Is it accurate to say that Ukraine and Gaza are connected in the sense that both indicate a failing liberal international order that is attempting to prevent itself from collapsing and causing turmoil as it descends into oblivion? What are some possible future outcomes, if any?

MB: Let’s remember that the liberal international order is more important than anything else. Its workings were biased in our favor. That’s one. For decades, it would go unchallenged because of the regularity and stability it produced, for which the IMF, World Bank, etc. were the institutional cynosure. That is two.

The United States and its European ally have two options: the rise of new power centers, China, and, most importantly, the wider centripetal forces generally redistributing assets. A) resetting the rules of the game in a way that acknowledges the end of Western dominance; c ) adapting the structures and procedures of international institutions in a way that accommodates them; and d ) rediscovering genuine diplomacy.

Nowhere in the West has that option been seriously considered. All signed onto an American project to stop the emergence of rivals, to undermine them, and to redouble on assertive policies to yield nothing, to compromise nothing after a period of ambivalence and muddling. Despite repeated failures, humiliations, and the BRICS project’s impetus, we are still committed to that course.

AK: &nbsp, According to some Western politicians and policymakers, other global powers are often treated as passive actors without agency or power to shape the world according to their national interests. A distinction between “international law” and “democracy vs. authoritarianism” distinguishes this Manichean worldview. What are the chances of change occurring before it’s too late and is there an alternative to this thinking?

MB: See above response. There are no indications that Western leaders are capable of making the necessary adjustments in terms of intellectual, emotional, or political preparation. Not necessity is always the mother of invention. Instead, we see stubborn dogmatism, avoidance behavior and a deeper plunge into a world of fantasies. &nbsp,

The American response to apparent declines in prowess is denial combined with compulsion to reassure itself that it still has the “right stuff” through increasingly audacious deeds. &nbsp, We are seeing where that has led in Ukraine. The careless deployment of troops to Taiwan is even more dangerous.

In terms of Europe, it is obvious that its political elites have been denatured by nearly all of their reliance on America over the past 75 years. A complete absence of independent thinking and willpower is the outcome. Europe’s vassalage to the United States, in more specific terms, forces it to follow Washington wherever the seigneur chooses, despite its reckless, dangerous, unethical, and counterproductive actions.

They have followed their own suicidal impulses in a predictable manner, walking ( or running ) like lemmings over whatever cliff the United States chooses to climb next. So it’s been in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan, in regard to Iran, in Ukraine, on Taiwan and on all matters involving Israel. No change in loyalty or mindset is brought on by the string of painful failures and high costs.

On May 19, 2021, a printed image of a US Army soldier sitting in a chair among the trailer trucks and electronics were sold for the price of iron at a bazaar outside an airfield in the Bagram district north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Asia Times Files / AFP via Anadolu Agency / Haroon Sabawoon

For  It cannot be said that the Europeans have completely absorbed the American worldview, their skewed interpretation of outcomes, and their shamefully fictitious narratives. The Europeans are no longer able to break up this addiction like a life-long alcoholic can. &nbsp, &nbsp,

AK:  There has been a lot of discussion about how neoconservatism has a negative effect on world affairs and US foreign policy. Neoconservatism, in essence, aims to dominate the entire world in accordance with the Wolfowitz Doctrine and not just the Western Hemisphere ( as per the Monroe Doctrine ).

Although some US think tanks are now advocating for an end to the “never- ending wars” in the Middle East and for Europe to continue the US- provoked proxy war with Russia, it seems that the neoconservative ideology has taken on a new guise of “progressivism” and “realism”, and now aims to focus solely on China, even to the point of replicating the Ukraine scenario in Taiwan. How reliable is this evaluation?

MB: The entire foreign policy community in the United States now shares the basic tenets of neoconservatives. The text is Paul Wolfowitz ‘ infamous memorandum from March 1991, which outline a detailed, thorough plan for systematizing American global dominance. Washington is currently doing and thinking in ways that are a result of that plan.

Its core principles: the United States should use all the means at its disposal to establish American global dominance, to that end, it must be ready to act preventively to stymie the emergence of any power that could challenge our hegemony, and to maintain full spectrum dominance in every region of the globe. Ideals and values are given a second life as a veneer on the use of power and as a tool to use to defeat others. In this context, classic diplomacy is criticized as inappropriate.

For Biden himself, a confident, assertive, hard- edged approach to dealing with others derives naturally from belief in Americanism as a Unified Field Theory that explains, interprets and justifies whatever the US thinks and does. This outlook would remain unchanged if Biden were to win re-election. In addition, in the event Kamala Harris is elected to fill his position in the middle of the term, which is likely, inertia will keep everything on the same course.

AK: &nbsp, Do you think the United States is destined to remain a global empire, constantly in conflict with anyone it perceives as a potential threat to its world dominance? Or could the nation turn into a republic that works closely with other international players to improve the lives of its citizens and the world as a whole? The proverb goes,” Those who live by the sword, die by the sword,” is true, right?

MB: I’m a pessimist. No evidence that our leaders, elites, or the general public are capable of accepting the circumstances described above. The open question is whether this pretense will simply continue as a gradual decline in global influence and domestic well-being occurs, or whether it will ultimately lead to disaster.

Europeans and allies elsewhere should not accept to be sideline observers nor, even worse, become co- inhabitants of this world of fantasy as they have in Ukraine, on Palestine and in demonizing China.

Michael Brenner is the author of numerous books as well as more than 80 articles and papers that have been published. His most recent publications include:” Democracy Promotion and Islam,”” Fear and Dread in the Middle East,”” Toward a More Independent Europe,” and” Narcissistic Public Personalities &, Our Times.”

His writings include books with Cambridge University Press (” Nuclear Power and Non Proliferation” ), the Center For International Affairs at Harvard University (” The Politics of International Monetary Reform” ), and the Brookings Institution (” Reconcilable Differences, US- French Relations In The New Era” ). He can be reached at mbren@pitt .edu.