COMMENT

On the path of strategic decline

By Alexis Papachelas

It’s time to start worrying about the fate of the West. In the postwar era we grew accustomed to living in a world in which the United States took on the role of the decisive superpower and Europe was always at the center of the decision-making process. We were aware of the US’s strategic targets even if a large portion of European public opinion disagreed with it throwing its weight behind various dictatorships and Cold War hyperbole. The interests lying behind each intervention and decision were clearly visible.

Things have become a lot more complicated today. The US spent valuable political capital when George W. Bush made the mistake of invading Iraq. The superpower lost credibility from the CIA’s lies regarding weapons of mass destruction allegedly being used by Saddam Hussein and the country became entangled in a war without a clear exit strategy. The US gained absolutely nothing in Iraq.

When the so-called Arab Spring began, Washington was torn between conflicting calculations. While it was drawn to the idea of democracy making a spectacular comeback in the Muslim nations, it understood how perilous and destabilizing the liberation of large masses of hungry Muslims experiencing freedom of expression and information through social networking websites for the first time could be. Washington kept a keen and anxious eye on the situation, but nothing more. That was until former President Nicolas Sarkozy decided that France had to intervene as a means of satisfying the Napoleonic syndromes that drove his unstable behavior. There was no strategic target or plan for the day after when the attack on Libya was organized. So what if the operation led to the fall of the regime? Is the situation any better now, as far as the West is concerned, in a country where terrorist groups and fanatics roam the streets, out of control?  

What is worse is that the West is giving the impression of an impotent power. In world politics, much like in everyday arguments, it is preferable to keep silent and move on instead of using threats and pretending to be ready to strike out, while giving the impression that under no circumstances do you wish to get involved or put yourself on the line. And this is what the situation over Syria looks like right now, with a pseudo-attack that will make the US look like an armed Red Cross slapping the wrist of a disobedient player. The concept of ad hoc operations for “humanitarian” purposes which was born in Kosovo led America onto a dangerous path. Like Henry Kissinger used to say, a superpower must act based on its real interests and strategic targets, not just react to horrific images on the evening news.

Hesitation, going back and forth and half-hearted attacks project an image of the West in a state of strategic decline. And surely this is not a good omen when it comes to the stability of the global system.

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