In a first in our postwar history, the West this year found itself in the midst of a major crisis without a leader. Well, the helm was not exactly empty, but rather occupied by a leader who divided the West instead of bringing it together, while also unleashing the darkest of forces.
This has been a year that really exposed the decline of the West and tested its resilience. Donald Trump, the outgoing US president, sunk to an all-time low, but Joe Biden’s presidential victory showed that the antibodies still work. The institutions of American democracy came under tremendous strain, but ultimately withstood the pressure. The private sector showed that it has what it takes to lead in a crisis, even when the political leadership fails to live up to the challenge.
But the West is not out of the woods yet. Those who believe that the decline of the West is inevitable have good arguments to back up their teleological argument.
Meanwhile, we have seen the damage that an irresponsible leader can inflict on a historical country such as Great Britain. At the same time, we are waiting to see if French President Emmanuel Macron will win the extremely tough wager of reforming Europe’s most sclerotic democracy.
The new year will see German Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics. There is no convincing answer to who will take her place. The proponents of the European idea say that Macron, a man with a clear vision about the future of the continent, is the natural strong leader and Merkel successor. However, he has yet to convince his own people or the country’s establishment.
Most of the people in key European posts do not have what it takes to convince and inspire. In fact, hearing them talk about some foreign policy initiative tends to provoke alarm.
Europe is moving on, in its own particular way – but always on autopilot. The US is also about to switch back to the same mode as Biden represents the institutional continuity of the pre-Trump administrations.
However, the world around us is changing at great speed. The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses and the imbalances that were already already there. The West will have to address these issues if it wants to move forward in a decisive manner.
Having said that, I must add that it’s better and certainly safer to grumble while being inside the EU, than outside it. We, thankfully, conquered that privilege four decades ago.