Issues Navigator

Global Challenges

Strategic Regions

Domestic Debates

Tag cloud

See All Tags

1 comment |  Print | E-Mail Best Of Think Tanks  

The Folly of Forgetting the West

Simon Serfaty, Hoover Institution | August 2012

In the 20th century, even in the face of wars and the collapse of the entire European state, the West dominated. Today, with over 200 countries in existence and each with a voice, usually in some sort of organization, it is easy to say the West's power is declining. For Serfaty, what we are seeing is more of an "intermission" than a "transition". The stale descriptions of America as ‘new' and Europe as ‘old' may no longer apply, but neither has lost their power nor their strength. Other states, such as Russia, China and India may be gaining in power, but at the end of the day each will still likely be more interested in the US and Europe than in each other. So, while the world is converging towards a multipolar power structure, it will continue to be skewed towards the West.

Serfaty suggests, "While awaiting the new multipolarity, it is time for the rest of the world to get serious about America and the West, just as it is equally time for the West to get serious about the rest of the world." Globalization may have originally been pushed by the West, but now the phenomenon supports many more. No country with 21st century economic and political goals can afford neo-isolation. On the other hand, the West can no longer claim its colonial rhetoric of "a right of birth to dominate and educate the rest - to lead a good and rewarding life while other states are left behind and in relative squalor until they learn how to elect good governments that respond to Western rules of political governance and economic fair play." Serfarty's vision calls for humility and understanding in international relations but not timidity nor underestimation.

The way he sees it, "if the baton of Western leadership has not been passed on yet, it is because no one is ready to take it." We shouldn't be too quick to rule the West out. With its ability to adapt, it will definitely continue as a major force in this century.

Read full paper here.

Simon Serfaty is a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The Zbigniew Brzezinski chair (emeritus) in Global Security and Geopolitics at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, he also serves as senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C.

 

 
Tags: | Europe | US | the West | multipolarity |
 
Comments
Unregistered User

Fri, Aug 17th 2012, 15:18

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
In response to the "Folly of Forgetting the West," I would like to make a few responses. As someone who constantly talks about the decline of the US and its influence, I think the Professor Serfaty made very good counterarguments to us naysayers.

I see the alignment of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) as a powerful allegiance in the years to come. The (ever-so) emerging economies of Brazil and India enjoy great economic success with a vibrant middle class. There insistence of excluding the US from key talks and their recent defiance on key United Nation votes cannot be overlooked. However, the authors point that "may be gaining in power, but at the end of the day each will still likely be more interested in the US and Europe than in each other" is a strong one.

The dollar has recently gone through some tough bouts, but it's persistence to remain the world's number currency keeps the US on everyone's mind. Countries, including China, have attempted to wean off the dollar yet ultimately find they are unable to shake its influence. As the global recession looms, the dollar's strength is pronounced by its strong 5- and 10-year bond yields. This shows worldwide investors believe in its ability to be the world's currency even as debt and other issues play out. Globalization has indeed benefited many, and will continue to do so, and the authors argument invalidates the naysayers like me.

Where Professor Serfaty and I see eye-to-eye is his point that "the West can no longer claim its colonial rhetoric of 'a right of birth to dominate and educate the rest - to lead a good and rewarding life while other states are left behind and in relative squalor until they learn how to elect good governments that respond to Western rules of political governance and economic fair play.'"

Civil society in parts of the developing world have and continue to get their own legs. I was recently in South Africa and developed a research question with this point in mind. Prior to departure, in much of my reading on democracy promotion I saw a heavy anti-western sentiment from post-Mandela leaders regarding the US's insistence to tie development aid to certain good governance benchmarks. And, what I found during my field research was an attitude of "let us go at our own pace." The US has been practicing democracy for over 200 years and we still have our imperfections. The newly developed democracies feel they should be allowed to go through growing pains with the US condemning them every step of the way.

This is where Russia, China, India, and Brazil have capitalized. Their partnerships have fostered on the "Western rules of political governance" and developing countries tiredness of US hypocrisy. I look forward to seeing how this all plays out as the EU struggles to find it's role for future politics.

 

Commenting has been deactivated in the archive. We appreciate your comments on our more recent articles at atlantic-community.org


Community

You are in the archive of all articles published on atlantic-community.org from 2007 to 2012. To read the latest articles from our open think tank and network with community members, please go to our new website