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.