THE END OF THE WEST
Dr. Farish A. Noor
The West is dead. Its death did not come in the form of a massive terrorist attack that wiped out its governments, economies or devastated its societies. It was not wiped out by an apocalypse of epic proportions. Nor was it overcome by hordes of barbarians from beyond the pale of civilisation. The West is dead, and it has died from within, devoured and undermined by its own internal contradictions.
The `West’ here refers to the great Western idea: the belief and understanding that the West represented something that was higher, nobler and more universal than itself. It is the West of the Enlightenment project, the West of Reason and Ethics, the West of International diplomacy and the rule of law. It is the West of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Leibniz, Spinoza and Emmanuel Kant. All of that is dead now, destroyed in a hail of bombs that have rained on the people of Iraq, a nation numbering no more than 18 million people and which, we are told by the resident of the White House, is a threat to humanity.
The War on Iraq is, without doubt, a colossal moral and political disaster for humanity as a whole. International diplomacy and the rule of law is all but gone, and we live in a Hobbesian state of nature where might is right and the natural condition of Man is reduced to the brute struggle of savages. The United States has broken every single norm and rule of international diplomacy as well as the laws of civilised combat by attacking this nation that can barely stand on its own two feet, much less pose a
threat to any other country in the world. The aims of the US political, military and business elite are clear, despite their protestations of goodwill and nobler intentions. America stands unmasked, and in the arena of global politics stands alone as the skin-headed bully with lead pipe and chain in hand.
But along with the destruction of Iraq has come the destruction of the very Western idea itself. All that the West has and could have stood for is now laid to ruin. Never again will the world believe that America stands for human rights and democracy, for how can one impose a democracy at gun point, and how can one serve the cause of human rights at the end of a bayonet? One cannot impose democratic change and social reform to a country with violence, any more than one can bring peace to the world through war. The
contradictions are so apparent they are almost laughable.
In the lead-up to this monumental catastrophe we watched the sordid drama of that infant nation the United States berate and ridicule the governments of Old Europe. America, the young straping nation of ever-hopefuls was scornful of the ways of the past and the traditions of its elders. But we should not forget that the older nations of Europe have come where they are today only through hardship and enormous suffering: millions of people had to die in order for old Europe to learn the important lesson that war is not the solution.
Yet America, unchained and let loose upon the world has seen fit to deride and deminish the lessons of history - and in the process forget its own recent past and its misadventures in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In a fit of collective amnesia and an orgy of self-pity (in the wake of 11 September) it has girded its loins and unsheathed the sword of vengeance which now falls heavily on the world as a whole. This is perhaps the first time that the
world is watching a nation shamelessly commit war purely for the sake of revenge and power.
At least in the past when the Western nations tried to colonise and dominate the world, they did so via recourse to a higher purpose, such as civilising the Other. Here we are witnessing raw power set free with no moral restraint or ethical justification whatsoever. No wonder the children are crying: such madness on a global scale is unprecedented.
And so the West has died. From today, none of us will live with the delusion that America is a force for good in the world. Nor will we ever be able to live in peace, security and comfort ever again, knowing that this maverick power is lurking out there somewhere, constantly in search for enemies - both real and imagined - that it has to eliminate and overcome.
But the worst thing of all is that with the death of the West has come the death of the Western idea and its civilisational project. The tradition of rationalist discourse and the appeal to universal reason has been shattered irreperably by the hawks of Washington. Fearful of the enemy without, they have proven themselves to be the true savages within. The West is dead, killed by its errant offsprings of war led by the one man who has done more damage to the image of the West than all the Osamas, Mullah Omars, Saddams put together: George W. Bush, murderer of Western civilisation and the
epitome of unreason.