Contributor Post Created with Sketch. How the West Ends?

 

Anne Applebaum writes,

Back in the 1950s, when the institutions were still new and shaky, I’m sure many people feared the Western alliance might never take off. Perhaps in the 1970s, the era of the Red Brigades and Vietnam, many more feared that the West would not survive. But in my adult life, I cannot remember a moment as dramatic as this: Right now, we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union, and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it.

I share that feeling. “Not only is Trump uninterested in America’s alliances,” she writes,

he would be incapable of sustaining them. In practice, both military and economic unions require not the skills of a shady property magnate who “makes deals” but boring negotiations, unsatisfying compromises, and, sometimes, the sacrifice of one’s own national preferences for the greater good. In an era when foreign policy debate has in most Western countries disappeared altogether, replaced by the reality TV of political entertainment, all of these things are much harder to explain and justify to a public that isn’t remotely interested.

To which the standard answer is blah, blah, blah, patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elite, what has the West done for us lately.

She tries:

Western unity, nuclear deterrence, and standing armies gave us more than half a century of political stability. Shared economic space helped bring prosperity and freedom to Europe and North America alike. But these are things that we all take for granted, until they are gone.

But none of these arguments work, do they. No matter what, all people hear is blah, blah, blah, patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites — what have the Romans ever given us in return? Yeah, yeah, yeah, besides half a century of political stability, prosperity and freedom …

Foreign Policy is beginning to reckon with this idea, too: Obama wasn’t an aberration; he was a faithful expression of the American desire to have nothing to do with the world:

President Barack Obama, who as a candidate spoke of the imperative to help shore up weak and failing states, has repeatedly had to promise an impatient American public that he will do his nation-building at home rather than abroad. If he drew down forces too deeply in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he did so in part because he knew the public wanted out. Drones, yes; soldiers, no. A President Hillary Clinton might face an even surlier mood than Obama has.

I don’t think foreign policy elites have fully absorbed this collective attitude.

I don’t either. But nor do I think the American electorate has fully absorbed what it’s risking.

It probably won’t happen. Trump won’t be elected. But the signal his campaign has given the world has been received already: Even Americans don’t believe in the liberal world order as we know it. I don’t think Hillary’s capable, intellectually or as a politician, of dealing with the fallout she’ll face after eight years of her own foreign policy incompetence. The American electorate has already told the world in no uncertain terms, “Go to hell.” She’ll be presiding over a near-ungovernable country.

Surely there’s got to be a way out of this?

There are 126 comments.

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  1. Josh F. Inactive

    The only way out of this is to insulate, as our founders’ wanted, the office of the presidency from popular elections. That premise in today’s world is not politically tenable. Thus, the impulse to cocoon ourselves behind the world’s two largest oceans, no matter how irrational and devestating to ourselves and the world, will only be overcome by immediate and dire crises that effect the U.S. domestically.

    • #1
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:25 AM PST
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  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Bucky Boz:The only way out of this is to insulate, as our founders’ wanted, the office of the presidency from popular elections. That premise in today’s world is not politically tenable. Thus, the impulse to cocoon ourselves behind the world’s two largest oceans, no matter how irrational and devestating to ourselves and the world, will only be overcome by immediate and dire crises that effect the U.S. domestically.

    Can you elaborate? Why now?

    • #2
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:30 AM PST
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  3. MarciN Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I don’t think Hillary’s capable, intellectually or as a politician, of dealing with the fallout she’ll face after eight years of her own foreign policy incompetence.

    This is so true.

    It’s all downhill now.

    And if Trump-the-savior is elected, he’ll be just the “strong leader” the world needs.

    I keep envisioning the old women praying with their rosaries on their knees on the cold stone floor every day in the last Catholic cathedral allowed to be open in Moscow in the 1970s.

    • #3
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:34 AM PST
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  4. Josh F. Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Bucky Boz:The only way out of this is to insulate, as our founders’ wanted, the office of the presidency from popular elections. That premise in today’s world is not politically tenable. Thus, the impulse to cocoon ourselves behind the world’s two largest oceans, no matter how irrational and devestating to ourselves and the world, will only be overcome by immediate and dire crises that effect the U.S. domestically.

    Can you elaborate? Why now?

    I just mean that choosing the president was not intended to reflect a national popular vote, and it still does not, because of the electoral college. Regarding a tendency to retrench militarily and diplomatically abroad, I am thinking of the fact that it took Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to create the domestic political climate sufficient to do anything about threats to freedom overseas, and applying that lesson to future events. I may be wrong about that, but there is a strong strain of public opinion in the U.S. that opposes military and diplomatic involvement abroad becasue people are convinced that, but for the involvement, the U.S. would never have to be enagaged in military action except in defense of our borders.

    • #4
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:37 AM PST
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  5. Josh F. Inactive

    MarciN:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I don’t think Hillary’s capable, intellectually or as a politician, of dealing with the fallout she’ll face after eight years of her own foreign policy incompetence.

    This is so true.

    It’s all downhill now.

    And if Trump-the-savior is elected, he’ll be just the “strong leader” the world needs.

    I keep envisioning the old women praying with their rosaries on their knees on the cold stone floor every day in the last Catholic cathedral allowed to be open in Moscow in the 1970s.

    As long as Trump doesn’t become the “dear leader” the US will make it through Trump Presidency alright.

    • #5
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:38 AM PST
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  6. Profile Photo Member

    Bucky Boz: Regarding a tendency to retrench militarily and diplomatically abroad, I am thinking of the fact that it took Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to create the domestic political climate sufficient to do anything about threats to freedom overseas, and applying that lesson to future events. I may be wrong about that, but there is a strong strain of public opinion in the U.S. that opposes military and diplomatic involvement abroad becasue people are convinced that, but for the involvement, the U.S. would never have to be enagaged in military action except in defense of our borders.

    Some lessons have to be learned the hard way, sadly. And even then they don’t stick for long.

    • #6
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:43 AM PST
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  7. MarciN Member

    Bucky Boz: As long as Trump doesn’t become the “dear leader” the US will make it through Trump Presidency alright.

    I hope you are right.

    • #7
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:56 AM PST
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  8. Josh F. Inactive

    MarciN:

    Bucky Boz: As long as Trump doesn’t become the “dear leader” the US will make it through Trump Presidency alright.

    I hope you are right.

    And I am glad you got my reference. Hopefully none of his children will be appointed to any government agencies. I would love it if he was asked about that.

    • #8
    • March 5, 2016, at 9:59 AM PST
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  9. Aaron Miller Member

    Did you watch John Bolton’s CPAC speech, Claire? It’s along these lines.

    There are two ways to approach the “world order” concept. The Left’s version imagines a world government by which cooperative leaders force international laws on their peoples, and tyrants are softened by the UN’s shining example. The Right’s version assumes the need of international police forces, and tyrants are subdued by fear.

    Political correctness, multiculturalism, and secularism have destroyed the ethos which justifies the condemnation and threatening of tyrants until after atrocities have already been committed. Deterance has given way to reaction. Judge not, lest Gaia punish us with sunshine.

    • #9
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:00 AM PST
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  10. Profile Photo Member

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: No matter what, all people hear is blah, blah, blah, patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites

    I’m sorry: did you say something? I can’t hear over the deafening” blah, blah, blah, patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites”.

    I wonder if there was this much hand-wringing in 1946-48? I guess ‘miracles’ only happen once every century or so. Hillary will be more Obama but in a pantsuit. I’ll risk the uncertainty of President Trump over the certainty of Hillary. If hitting bottom is inevitable, how much difference does it now make if we hit bottom with Clinton or with Trump? Well–I guess it does make a difference to the patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites. I mean how many illegals are driving down salaries and grants at Brookings or Center for American Progress? And I’ll bet none are hired as interns at NR either.

    • #10
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:00 AM PST
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  11. dbeck Inactive

    If the path becomes steep and is rutted and hard to travel a sizable segment of our society wants to quit and turn back. A free people who have a choice about things are difficult to lead based on what is right even if it’s for the good of all. Too many quitters and grumblers. People have to feel a personal threat to act. Gun control talk by Obama following mass shooting always spurs long lines at the gun store. The destruction of Europe not so much a threat to the average American. Far away and what’s it to me, they say. If you confront them and say we’re next you get a blank look or a brush off. Can’t happen here.

    • #11
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:04 AM PST
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  12. HVTs Inactive

    What I don’t hear in Applebaum’s critique or this commentary is why America’s young adults should continue to pay in blood—and America’s taxpayers should continue to pay in treasure—for what it is she and the others demand we preserve. Why is the 20-something U.S. Staff Sergeant’s fate in life to enable Europeans to shirk their share of the cost of freedom and the enlightened Western liberalism Anne Applebaum enjoys?

    Should those costs continue to be borne by America’s youth and taxpayers so that Europeans never have to restrict their social-peace buying welfare states? Those alliance members Applebaum wants us to continue coddling just imported hundreds of thousands of military-age Syrian men with no consideration at all for what it means to the European Union, the NATO alliance or the Western civilization that she and others now excoriate American voters for not defending.

    The roots of Applebaumism are, indeed, that “patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites” have a globe-trotting lifestyle that neither they nor their progeny ever pay the blood-tab to enjoy.

    • #12
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:06 AM PST
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  13. Josh F. Inactive

    HVTs:What I don’t hear in Applebaum’s critique or this commentary is why America’s young adults should continue to pay in blood—and America’s taxpayers should continue to pay in treasure—for what it is she and the others demand we preserve. Why is the 20-something U.S. Staff Sergeant’s fate in life to enable Europeans to shirk their share of the cost of freedom and the enlightened Western liberalism Anne Applebaum enjoys?

    Should those costs continue to be borne by America’s youth and taxpayers so that Europeans never have to restrict their social-peace buying welfare states? Those alliance members Applebaum wants us to continue coddling just imported hundreds of thousands of military-age Syrian men with no consideration at all for what it means to the European Union, the NATO alliance or the Western civilization that she and others now excoriate American voters for not defending.

    The roots of Applebaumism are, indeed, that “patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites” have a globe-trotting lifestyle that neither they nor their progeny ever pay the blood-tab to enjoy.

    Because we will pay in more blood if we pre-emptively give up.

    • #13
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:07 AM PST
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  14. Bill Walsh Member

    People take the Pax Americana for granted. You’re 70 years old if you were born in 1946 along with it. You’d have to be 80 to have much of a living memory of WWII. So the assumption is that peace and prosperity are the default setting of history, based on empirical observation. Commonsensical it may be, but a more grievously mistaken and dangerous assumption you’d be hard pressed to find.

    • #14
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:08 AM PST
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  15. Josh F. Inactive

    HVTs:What I don’t hear in Applebaum’s critique or this commentary is why America’s young adults should continue to pay in blood—and America’s taxpayers should continue to pay in treasure—for what it is she and the others demand we preserve. Why is the 20-something U.S. Staff Sergeant’s fate in life to enable Europeans to shirk their share of the cost of freedom and the enlightened Western liberalism Anne Applebaum enjoys?

    Should those costs continue to be borne by America’s youth and taxpayers so that Europeans never have to restrict their social-peace buying welfare states? Those alliance members Applebaum wants us to continue coddling just imported hundreds of thousands of military-age Syrian men with no consideration at all for what it means to the European Union, the NATO alliance or the Western civilization that she and others now excoriate American voters for not defending.

    The roots of Applebaumism are, indeed, that “patronizing coastal Ivy-educated elites” have a globe-trotting lifestyle that neither they nor their progeny ever pay the blood-tab to enjoy.

    This is the concept of “peace through strength” Someone should ask all of the candidates, for example, why the W Bush missile defense in Poland was ended in 2009 under Obama. I have yet to understand the defense policy rationale for that one.

    • #15
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:08 AM PST
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    Bill Walsh: a more grievously mistaken and dangerous assumption you’d be hard pressed to find.

    AMEN. And I do remember Burbank under camouflage and P-38’s figuratively “flying” off the Lockheed assembly line and literally filling the sky overhead with distinctive silhouettes and sound. Oh the sound.

    • #16
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:16 AM PST
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  17. HVTs Inactive

    Bucky Boz: Because we will pay in more blood if we pre-emptively give up.

    But if you are European then this logic doesn’t apply? Help me understand why Europe is willing to defend itself down to the last American. And then help me understand why Americans—especially military-age Americans—should accept that proposition.

    • #17
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:16 AM PST
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  18. Richard Fulmer Member

    Claire,
    I’m not sure that I accept your assumptions. Is the European Union truly a reflection of western liberalism (“liberalism” in the classic sense of individual freedom and limited government)? It seems quite the opposite to me.

    Also, it seems to me that NATO has enabled Western Europe to ignore its own self-defense and expend its resources on infantilizing its population via the welfare state.

    Given that the EU and NATO have been in place for a long time, pulling the plug on them in an instant is probably not a viable option. Too many institutions have been built around them. So I disagree with Obama’s quick and unannounced military withdrawal from the world. But I’m not convinced that, directionally, he’s not right (as much as that pains me to say).

    Could a gradual withdrawal – in coordination with our allies – result in a stronger, freer Europe? Japan and South Korea, at least, seem to have stepped up their defense spending.

    • #18
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:24 AM PST
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  19. Josh F. Inactive

    HVTs:

    Bucky Boz: Because we will pay in more blood if we pre-emptively give up.

    But if you are European then this logic doesn’t apply? Help me understand why Europe is willing to defend itself down to the last American. And then help me understand why Americans—especially military-age Americans—should accept that proposition.

    Because America, especially during the Cold War, committed to defending Europe from tyranny. We, through NATO, should continue this policy. Europeans do defend themselves, see the French raids on ISIS after the Paris attacks. We, for our own national security reasons, like to provide the protection so we can control and prevent an arms race in the future should existing alliances become strained or break down.

    America has been, and should continue to be, willing to defend free countreis allied with our national security interests. I see no problem with this policy, and I think members of our military understand and accept this as the goal of the military – fighting for freedom worldwide because it saves us treasure and blood in the long run.

    • #19
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:25 AM PST
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  20. HVTs Inactive

    Bucky Boz: I may be wrong about that, but there is a strong strain of public opinion in the U.S. that opposes military and diplomatic involvement abroad becasue people are convinced that, but for the involvement, the U.S. would never have to be enagaged in military action except in defense of our borders.

    Name three things our 2003 invasion of Iraq has achieved—three things that have enhanced our security. The “strong strain” you identify is about pointless, life-robbing, money-sucking ‘involvements aboard.’

    And, OBTW, we DON’T defend our borders even as we are pointlessly throwing away lives in Iraq!

    • #20
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:28 AM PST
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  21. OkieSailor Member

    Bucky Boz: This is the concept of “peace through strength” Someone should ask all of the candidates, for example, why the W Bush missile defense in Poland was ended in 2009 under Obama. I have yet to understand the defense policy rationale for that one.

    Appeasement, Putin was upset about those missiles.

    • #21
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:37 AM PST
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  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    HVTs: Those alliance members Applebaum wants us to continue coddling just imported hundreds of thousands of military-age Syrian men with no consideration at all for

    If you hate being patronized, why say things like this? You’re demanding respect for a point of view that makes no sense and is, what’s more, transparent Putinist propaganda.

    • #22
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:40 AM PST
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  23. Josh F. Inactive

    HVTs:

    Bucky Boz: I may be wrong about that, but there is a strong strain of public opinion in the U.S. that opposes military and diplomatic involvement abroad becasue people are convinced that, but for the involvement, the U.S. would never have to be enagaged in military action except in defense of our borders.

    Name three things our 2003 invasion of Iraq has achieved—three things that have enhanced our security. The “strong strain” you identify is about pointless, life-robbing, money-sucking ‘involvements aboard.’

    And, OBTW, we DON’T defend our borders even as we are pointlessly throwing away lives in Iraq!

    Let’s go on Iraq. I’d love to

    1. Iraq was stabilized with a liberal democracy in 2011 that president Obama abandoned to uncertainty. We had achieved a potential, and we still have, a new potential ally in the region. Before we had Hussein, who we bombed nearly every other year for attacking our allies or threatening them.
    2. Kuwait no longer has to worry about Sadaam Hussein invading their country on a whim
    3. Iraq no longer poses a threat, like Iran, of possessing and using weapons of mass destruction

    I can go on, but why? You will clearly oppose military intervention overseas as a matter of course, you do not see the utility of the intervention.

    • #23
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:40 AM PST
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  24. nyconservative Member

    The fallback position of the world is chaos,disorder and worse.The only thing that has kept the relative peace for the past 50 years is unquestioned American strength and resolve.That is gone now and the results which have been a horror for the past 7 years will become an absolute disaster going forward!

    • #24
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:41 AM PST
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  25. Josh F. Inactive

    HVTs – what, in the wake of 9/11, would you have done in response to dictators we had bombed and invaded repeatedly over the course of 12 years? Left them alone? Let them continue to coddle other terrorists throughout the world and threaten our allies? Let them violate UN Security Council resolution and deny access of weapons inspectors into the country? I think you would have.

    • #25
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:43 AM PST
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  26. Josh F. Inactive

    HTVs – how many of our civillians domestically have to die before we commit militarily abroad to stopping terrorists and opposing regimes that are sympathetic to our enemies? Or does that not matter at all, and every foriegn military action is really just proof that America is an evil country hell-bent on causing problems throughtout the world. I think that is what your position is, or what you will ultimately get to if pressed.

    • #26
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:44 AM PST
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  27. SkipSul Moderator

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Even Americans don’t believe in the liberal world order as we know it.

    Nor do Europeans. We provide their defense, they kvetch at us right up until they need us. Meanwhile the EU has utterly subverted the intentions of the 1950s by seeking to subsume all members into a very undemocratic cronyist technocracy, while we are expected to hold their borders.

    • #27
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:46 AM PST
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  28. HVTs Inactive

    Bucky Boz: I see no problem with this policy, and I think members of our military understand and accept this as the goal of the military – fighting for freedom worldwide because it saves us treasure and blood in the long run.

    So, we made a commitment to NATO in 1949 and it’s still a good deal, huh? And you’re signing-up for this good deal then? Or maybe you already did? That 20-something Staff Sergeant should just understand that it’s a good deal even if he or she has to get a limb or two blown off? That’s your argument? Europeans get to stay home but not us ‘cuz it’s a good deal for us? Why? How?

    France—can’t believe you used France as an example—let in Syrian “refugees” who then mowed down its citizens with AK47s and hand grenades while they peaceably enjoyed Parisian nightlife—and you are citing their response to that as evidence of sound security policies? More than that, you are saying Americans should accept having their heads blown off in defense of France and its evident commitment to wise security policies? I’ve got an idea…you go first on that good deal and I’ll catch up to you later. Promise.

    • #28
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:47 AM PST
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  29. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    skipsul:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Even Americans don’t believe in the liberal world order as we know it.

    Nor do Europeans. We provide their defense, they kvetch at us right up until they need us. Meanwhile the EU has utterly subverted the intentions of the 1950s by seeking to subsume all members into a very undemocratic cronyist technocracy, while we are expected to hold their borders.

    But none of this is true.

    • #29
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:47 AM PST
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  30. Josh F. Inactive

    skipsul:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Even Americans don’t believe in the liberal world order as we know it.

    Nor do Europeans. We provide their defense, they kvetch at us right up until they need us. Meanwhile the EU has utterly subverted the intentions of the 1950s by seeking to subsume all members into a very undemocratic cronyist technocracy, while we are expected to hold their borders.

    European countries participate in their own defense. How much should their participatoin increase? Are we concerned that, by incrasing their participation, we may create a multipolar system similar to what prevailed before WWI and create another arms race? Or our alliances solid enough to allow for more military buildup among Western European countries?

    • #30
    • March 5, 2016, at 10:49 AM PST
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