No West
May 30, 2005 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Will the notion of the "West" soon be politically meaningless? A fascinating article by Brian Walden which raises questions about the direction Europe and the wider community is heading in C21. Some of the comments are particularly interesting.
posted by tommyc (17 comments total)
There are still powerful foes that unite us. A rising Asia will force Europe and the US to work together the rest of this century.
posted by UseyurBrain at 3:41 PM on May 30, 2005 kinda left out that we were using Europe tho, and they were using us too, during the Cold War, no? We weren't so much united as just cooperating against a greater threat.

I'm with UseyurBrain--a giant China-Western War will bring us right back together again, like before--if we survive.

I wish the EU thing would come together already and become a real force to be reckoned with. We can all see how unbalanced things are without a counterbalancing power (and it might help prevent China or slow them down maybe.)
posted by amberglow at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2005

Or perhaps the US and China will conquer Europe? I think the current US government has more in common with the Chinese then the Europeans.

The Chinese have never been expansionary in their 3k+ year history as solid political unit. Even when they were the preeminent power in the world (before Europe industrialized).

Doesn't mean they won't decide to start.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on May 30, 2005

The Chinese have never been expansionary

Most Tibetans would disagree.
posted by homunculus at 4:29 PM on May 30, 2005

So, what.. Preemptive strike, invasion, occupation,win-their-hearts, and steal their resources?

Or just nuke that problem in the bud?
posted by Balisong at 4:36 PM on May 30, 2005

Well, we're taking control of most of the oil--that's definitely gonna provoke someone (other than the people living there, as we can see daily).
posted by amberglow at 4:40 PM on May 30, 2005

This talk of conquest is ridiculous. The people making policy in America, Europe, and yes, China, are the people making money and lots of it.

The Chinese, American, and European markets are inextricably enmeshed at this point - there isn't going to be any war because nobody with any actual say in the matter stands to reap huge benefits from it. The world economy is a three legged table right now and pulling any one will cause the whole thing to fall over.

Try thinking of world events in terms of cost/benefits analyses. Example: the cost of invading Iraq was *projected* to be minimal in terms of overhead, next to nothing in terms of markets lost1, and years and years worth of petroleum would be gained - all of which would be funneled back into the greater American economy while those who did the invading charged admission at the pump.

That flawed analysis is, more than PNAC position papers, more than vague accusations of neocon 'zionism', and more than farcical nuclear weapons pretexts what actually led to the invasion. This is why there is little outrage over North Korea having developed nuclear weapons on Clinton and Bush's watches while at the same time the current administration has puppies over Iran developing them. It isn't just development of a pretext for the next resource acquisition - it's genuine concern Iran might develop said weapons and the window on another oil-hunt might be closed.

Or is there some other reason that it's 'okay' for a Muslim country like Pakistan to have nuclear weapons but not Iran?

Jumping back to the topic at hand: what's going to keep happening is that smaller markets with more resources - whether in terms of raw material (Iraq) or infrastructure (Taiwan) or skill (Taiwan) - will keep getting absorbed by those so large that to destroy one of them would destroy the economic ecosystem in which multi-national corporations now thrive. The reason why our current administration doesn't think much of 'old Europe' is that with their lack of significant armed forces, there's no reason to invite them to Cheney's next duck hunt.

1Actually, France and Russia lost out in terms of markets, but since they're our competitors as major global economies go . . .

posted by Ryvar at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2005

This may be unfair to the author, but I can't help but be struck by this statement, that "Many people on the political right have never forgiven America" for not supporting the UK and France in the Suez. I suppose it strikes me partly because the BBC seems to like slipping in snide little criticisms of America wherever possible. But this time, instead of the usual refrain about American "empire", they're giving their readers cause to be annoyed because America was too anti-imperial in their hour of need. It's just a little too rich: we'll condemn your quasi-empire at every turn, but still be annoyed for when you didn't help us out with our real empire.

This may be unfair because the author may simply be stating the truth (though, really, how many Tories over there still hold that grudge?), but it seems a little like just offering another reason to dislike America for the hell of it. Just a thought.
posted by Dasein at 4:53 PM on May 30, 2005

Dasein - I think he was just pointing out that while leftist British dislike the American quasi-empire, there are some rightists annoyed about Suez. It isn't hypocritical because they aren't the same people.
posted by jb at 5:27 PM on May 30, 2005

No. The West is politically meaningful. Thousands of years of shared cultural history between Russia, Europe and the US won't be swept away.

But 'the West' has never been one union of agreement. It is not China. Most of Western history involves wars between different parts of the West, but even during fights like the Investiture fight the West still meant something.

There are always disagreements. Currently the biggest one is over the Middle East and Israel. Europe doesn't care about Israel, but wouldn't be too bothered if it ended, wheras the US does and will defend Israel to almost any extent. And Europe may dislike radical Islam and thought that 9/11 was horrible, but it doesn't like Neo-Con/Republican/Likudnik adventures against Arab countries.

If resources really run out it will take about 5 minutes for the US and Europe to gang up together and 'bring freedom' or whatever we call it to where ever has what we want.
posted by sien at 5:50 PM on May 30, 2005

"Nobody should want possessions," he said. "Whatever their faults, Lenin and Stalin never had any money. The Socialist dream was to produce a new man who loved society and was loved by society.

Hilarious, utterly hilariously.
posted by ori at 6:24 PM on May 30, 2005

Thousands of years of shared cultural history between Russia, Europe and the US won't be swept away.

For the most part I agree with your perceptive comments but here I dispute you. I don't agree that Western Europe and Russia share much. Ethnically, religiously and culturually Russia is divergent.

This was a real issue in building a consensus over intervention in the Balkans - Russia was implacably opposed to the attack of fellow Slavs. Moreover, the difference between the Christianity of Western Europe and its Orthodox variants shouldn't be underestimated.

For Europe at least the interesting questions arise at the faultlines, is Ukraine for instance really a European country? Personally I think yes but you can agrue contrarily.

America, in my view is however currently being convulsed with change. I think that whatever the cultural similarities between Western Europe and the US have historically existed I think that they're rapidly eroding as the US culturally re-defines itself.
posted by dmt at 7:34 PM on May 30, 2005

Thousands of years of shared cultural history between Russia, Europe and the US won't be swept away

Are you chronologically impaired? Two thousand years ago the Europeans had not discovered Europe, Russia was not a cohesive state, and the US was not a glimmer in anyone's eyes.

The US is distancing itself from Europe. Like it or not, we're severing our ties. I think it's a bad idea, but how many Europeans view us as allies?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:40 PM on May 30, 2005

gesamtkunstwerk: I'm not chronologically impaired. The Greeks might disagree that they had not been discovered in 1000BC, they might have been unlike what we think of ancient Greece, but Europe can trace its cultural roots back to that. Look around Moscow and DC and you can, if you look carefully, see things that go all the way back to Greece.

Politically things are diverging - but they often have in the West. But if push comes to shove do you think the US would gang up with China or Europe in order to secure, let us say, oil supplies?

dmt: Russia is the most divergent part of Europe and indeed there is a strong argument for it not being part of the West. However, there are still pretty strong ties. Communism wasn't a Russian idea.
posted by sien at 8:54 PM on May 30, 2005

2000 years ago Europe was pretty well known, if not an Alaskan-like empty backwater with the ghosts of gods rustling in the trees. The tribal confederacies (Angles, Saxons, Franks, etc..) had not yet coagulated, but they would soon under the unintended tutelage of the late Roman Empire, and lead to about 2000 years of nation building the legacy of which we live with today.
posted by stbalbach at 9:44 PM on May 30, 2005

The Chinese have never been expansionary

Most Tibetans would disagree.

And didn't they invade Vietnam in 1980?
posted by the cuban at 7:35 AM on May 31, 2005

2000 years ago Europe was pretty well known, if not an Alaskan-like empty backwater with the ghosts of gods rustling in the trees.

Ooh. Pretty.
posted by ori at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2005

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