Is the West Best?
We live in a heavily Westernised world, one that is so awkwardly positioned, you start to question the true purpose of intergovernmental activities. Westernisation has always been ingrained as part of our political history (besides the Far East which had been relatively free from Western influence up until modern history/the Meiji Era). No one knows why we saw the West in that light, but it remains a fact that those from the continent of Europe have always been active or complicit in colonialism, and even in the context of the 21st century, we still see it with the main superpower, the United States. As articulated by Noam Chomsky, the United States has been engaging in their own version of imperialism only in the form of military bases. This would effectively mean a trade deal of sorts: give me your support and I’ll protect you. Besides the US, European colonialist pride has been starkly observable, as seen through both the British and the French with regards to any reparations or apologies paid to their former colonies. We have come a long way in abolishing colonialism and have, in place of it, we have taken even greater strides in promoting equality amongst countries. Except, did we? I would like to cast 3 points for deliberation when considering the nature of the West.
If the West thought that they can still grip their hegemony, they are thoroughly wrong. When we breach the topic of the United States, it naturally comes to mind that they’re the most powerful country in the world. Governments look up to the United States as the top brass of the global economy and military. The UN continues to buckle under pressure from the United States. Seoul and Tokyo are just two of the few non-Western entities who’d have no qualms in ceding power over to the US should the time comes because the US will protect them. However, a perception that the United States would stay at the top remains an obsolete philosophy. The US has fallen out of the top in the world in many aspects such as healthcare and education, two of the most important governmental sector that will ensure internal safeguarding of the nation’s human resources. Each Western country has its own fair share of problems, but if these problems arise from their inertial attitudes towards change, it would be fundamentally challenging to deal with them. That said, the only way to solve such problems would be to eliminate that inertia.
Let’s talk about the state of healthcare in the US. Sure, it has one of the most technologically advanced healthcare in the world, putting it together with another like-minded country, Israel. Yet again when we consider the internal climate of US healthcare, the contradiction becomes massively clear. The US spends about 17% of its GDP on healthcare, almost twice the amount the average OECD country would. This serves two major points of contradiction. One, how then did 20 million people suddenly get covered under Obamacare? Two, why are there so many Americans at risk of losing their healthcare? The answer is comprehensible: bureaucracy. Under the image of a government that promotes freedom is one that promotes the serving of the political party itself. Ryancare, an alternative to the Obamacare, was a healthcare plan that showed the regrettable incompetence and the reprehensible inertia the Republican party face when dealing with their self-created dilemma. The support and the resultant ascension of Trump was one that the Republicans could not handle. On one hand, they had to maintain Republican hegemony that Trump provided, but they also had to control the threats that came with the package: The Trump Administration. With the Trump Administration seemingly uninvolved in the crafting of Ryancare, the Republicans could not have been able to think of a better alternative. What resulted was a copy-and-paste version of the Obamacare, with little tweaks that go a long way into creating a loopholed healthcare plan. Simply put, the Ryancare was only a mere mirage the Republican party could erect in place of anything more substantial. The temporary diversion of focus from Ryancare holds hope for Americans since Obamacare remains “the rule of the land”, as enunciated by Paul Ryan, but it must be equally stressed that this by no means signal the survival of Obamacare. If the West prioritises the survival of the party, it is doomed to let the nation fall with it.
Deviating from the US, we focus on the European Union and the Greek crisis. The Greek Crisis arose from Greek policies which vowed promises such as an over-abundance of pension and overspending on notably the Olympics facilities. That resulted in Greece borrowing more money from the European Central Bank and the IMF to cover up its debts, creating a cycle of debts and loans. Alexis Tsipras had no choice but to accept austerity measures. This was an expensive lesson learnt by Greece that populistic measures had never been an option for a country which decided to save its face as it denies the presence of an initial deficit. The incompetence of the initial Greek Government in 2001 and the subsequent cabinets led to unemployment rates skyrocketing, especially amongst the youths. From the fastest growing European country, Greece had been set on a nosedive since then. That itself was the suicidal pride that Greece had; to both create a façade of prosperity and to blind their European counterparts from the economic troubles they faced.
That, in itself, was a lesson to be learnt by many European countries, but the hubris stayed. David Cameron’s referendum was yet another hubristic act that lead to his political suicide. The irony was that his referendum was the only way he could show the people that he was giving them a voice. In a way, his populism would have worked if he did not propose his “yes-or-no” referendum. Populist leaders from the UKIP and Boris Johnson himself were the few ringleaders of Brexit populism soon after, which meant that trade policies involving the EU would not include the UK once it was passed. Though the UK remains in the EU, the Brexit decision has resulted in the distancing of the UK from Brussels. Sure, this must be nuanced since many UK citizens did not know the purpose of the EU in the first place, but the presence of the single market had undoubtedly been the spawn of Eurosceptic sentiments, with their derivatives being xenophobia and the repellence against the migrant crisis that ensued down south. The crossing of migrants from Calais in France to the UK further accentuated the migrant crisis right in the eyes of the British citizenry, setting in stone any sentiments to “regain our independence”. This is yet again another irony since many countries had to take their independence from the British Empire. If the British still think that their Empire stands high and mighty, a simple look at the UK’s position in the EU holds testament to their failures.
Even the development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the result of European hubris, in particular, the British Empire, when the Balfour Declaration was created to send the European Jews into Palestine as a new Zionistic homeland. This was set in a conflict with an earlier promise the British made to the Palestinians: a secured homeland in return for revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Having two directly conflicting plans that covered the coterminous Israel and Palestine was a huge mistake the British Empire made as it could not handle the Palestinian revolt (the Intifadas). The US was another participant, though it was decades later that support poured in directly into Israel that indirectly encouraged illegal Israeli settlements into Palestinian regions. Other conflicts that arose from the British Empire were concentrated in South Asia. That holds the nature of the Western Hemisphere towards their own pride and how these has led to conflicts within their own countries and the outside world. Simply put, pride has killed motivations to improve.
Intergovernmental organisations have always been westernised through their system of democracy and freedom of expression. Yet this is often not practised by the Western powers who preach it. The fact remains that giving control of a political organisation, international bank or international force to another country other than a Western power spells the possibility of a loss of influence to another country not seen as an ally. The US, UK and France are well aware of this problem that plagues intergovernmental organisations.
The question to be asked, however, is what is the purpose of western powers as they preach systems such as democracy, which have been ingrained in Western philosophy and society? One possibility, as I would prove later, is to bring their philosophy and rationales to a wide enough audience so as to propagate them. This allows for their systems and political modus operandi to be accepted and practised by a wider audience. Yet when all 193 countries get together into an intergovernmental organisation, the West has yet another excuse to gain more influence, marginalising the influence of the other countries. Under the pretext of democracy, the West would’ve already gained enough trust and political influence to operate a purportedly intergovernmental organisation to work according to its benefits, concentrating votes amongst themselves. This is already flagrantly executed in the United Nations Security Council, where the US and her 2 other allies already own 60% of the veto rights. Russia and China only own the other 40%. Putting this into perspective, if we were to consider populations, only 23% of the population in the P5 countries hold 60% of veto rights. If anything, this is already a clear indication of the reluctance set forth by the West to do anything about the equality they voice. It’s a shame the word “equality” is even in the French motto.
In his book, “The Great Convergence”, Dr. Kishore Mahbubani elucidated the nature of this hypocrisy by reflecting upon trends within both the World Bank and the IMF by describing how the West has collectively expressed reluctance to cede power over to a non-Western official. As stressed by Dr. Mahbubani himself, “Instead, with astonishing hubris, they (France and the wider Europe) sought to retain control of the IMF.” Despite the clear fault of Strauss-Kahn and his falling into disgrace while in power in the IMF, the European powers “argued that since the main crisis that the IMF was then engaged in was the European financial crisis, the leader of the IMF should remain European.” He further criticised this decision as an “insult to injury”. Sure, it may be taken as an Asian’s unwillingness to recognise any purported superiority of an European, but it remains true that the World Bank has stayed American and the IMF has stayed European for a ludicrous length of time. This defies two common logics that no democratic politician should ever breach. One, in a democracy, all votes from all parties should remain equal, just as the Europeans decided on the theory of democracy itself. Second, a leader should wield credibility and the ability to perform his/her job, not by the nationality, for it only narrows the field of potential leaders, putting a less competent or morally questionable European over a more competent and respectable non-European. That said, it is only questionable for such intergovernmental organisations to exist because it claims to give more power and say in an international stage, but it so far expands only the voice of the average European and American politician while hugely supressing that of a non-European/American. If there was to be a movement which targets this inequality, reasons for this movement would parallel that of feminism movements. Simply put, Europe and the US are pushing their luck way too far.
This seems too much of a contradiction to consider since we’ve been witnesses to the state of Western intervention in many cases of conflicts both nationally and internationally. It might hence seem illogical to conclude that Western apathy exists. However, the conclusion that the West actually cares is but an illogical one itself. The first reason asserts that the intentions of individual politicians do not make up the intention of the nation as a whole. In fact, if anything, most nations, non-Western included, work mostly for what benefits them, not what benefits others. The second reason asserts a proclivity of the West to reason that the “end justifies the means”, just as they would in any circumstance. The Iraq War in 2003 and the fight against ISIS points towards how the eradication of non-governmental, terrorist forces justifies the collateral damage suffered by many countries. Even Ukraine was treated as collateral damage of sorts when preventing the rise of Russia in Europe.
The West is heavily driven in fulfilling cursory motives, yet they are fully aware of the ramifications of their intervention. This ties with the notion of self-preservation and profit as the West engage in to secure their positions of leadership and hegemony. This consequentially fulfils the creation of collateral damage such as the possible death of citizens and poverty. When NATO intervened in the Libyan Civil War in 2011, they promised the liberation of Libya from the Gaddafi Regime and sought to help the people of Libya-which they eventually did, except this brought more problems to the region. The United States has been accused of imperialism due to their disregard of Resolution 1973 and the US Law which forbids a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” Did this disembowel any political dissent and conflict within Libya? Instead, Libya had been drowned in a chaotic sea of gunfire as two opposing political factions in Libya alone played a violent tug-of-war over political clout. By this time, not only did the national interest of the United States (of wanting to assert her dominance as a world superpower) come into play, this involved two other parties which clashed in the name of politics. As of today, even though Libya is a country abundant in her resources, her people do not gain anything, as 40% of Libyans currently live under the poverty line, and some extreme cases of poverty goes up to starvation. With the dwindling prices of oil worldwide, many Libyans today have been plunged further into poverty.
The West has had a habit for slamming Putin and his Russia when talking about the UNSC intervention in Syria. Matthew Rycroft, a well known British critic of Russia and a UN diplomat, casted a scathing remark at Russia, saying “Instead of investing energy in peace and diplomacy, you have instead supported, facilitated and cooperated with the Syrian regime to retake and destroy any areas standing against Assad, killing off, literally, those who want a moderate, peaceful and pluralistic future,” in a Security Council conference. Stephen O’Brien, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, further slammed Russia and the UNSC’s collective inability to stop the Aleppo conflict “our generation’s shame”. In a speech against Iran, the Assad regime and in particular, Russia, Samantha Power, the US diplomat to the UNSC, reprimanded “Three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin?” Yet the recent alleged killing of 200 Iraqi civilians in Mosul showed otherwise, with the US being at the frontline. If anything, it has been seen in the media that details have not been released so far about this airstrike, revealing a deep-rooted apathy towards an explanation of sorts for an accident so unforgivable. This airstrike should have given an impression that both the West and Russia or ISIS are no different from one another, with the ruthless treatment of civilians ensuing. In this case, we have to flatly lay the blame on the US and their allies for possibly failing to coordinate, and if they did indeed coordinate this airstrike, they must too be faulted for their reprehensible withholding of details.
It remains bleak that the world still sees the West as the leader of the free world. It remains even bleaker that there cannot seem to be a difference between the West and the rest of the world. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” may be a symbolism of the fugly Soviet Union and Stalinism, but the last sentences of the book uncannily depict the real world today, regardless of context. “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Yes, it is impossible to differentiate the West, because they’ve turned out just as ugly as anything they’ve ever criticised. Kanye West makes better logic than Western politics after all.