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What would Machiavelli do?

Has the West Lost It? A Provocation
Forfatter: Kishore Mahbubani
Forlag: Penguin Books (Storbritannia)
China and India are emerging as the new superpowers, and the West must find a new foothold in a moving world


The West should act purposefully, multilaterally and Machiavellian vis-à-vis the rest of the world, says Kishore Mahbubani, a professor of practical politics at the National University of Singapore and former UN ambassador with 33 years of Singapore diplomacy. More than trying to recapture the lost takeover (Machiavelli notwithstanding), Western leaders should wonder if there could be a link between their bombings of Muslim communities and the rise of terrorist attacks in Western countries.

The US created IS

Mahbubani's own answer is that although not all terrorist attacks are rooted in a single, clear and clear cause, there is no doubt that the above connection is there. Al Qaeda serves as an example. The CIA created the organization during the Cold War to fight the Soviet Afghanistan occupation. A few years after, the terrorist group that knew the hand that had fed it, including the attack on the US 11. September 2001.

Unfortunately, the author claims, the United States continued to make new, similar mistakes, and Syria is the most obvious case. With the goal of removing Assad, President Obama moved IS fighters from Afghanistan to Syria and failed to bomb oil transports in IS-controlled areas. At the same time, the United States declared itself IS's bitterest enemy. The fact is, according to the author, that US agents supported IS both directly and indirectly.

The West, and especially the United States, was the reason for the rise of al Qaeda, which in turn used IS to remove Assad. (That IS is also a consequence of Iraq's sectarian policy, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, the author fails to mention.)

Machiavelli fan

Has the West Lost It? Provocation most surprised by the constant references to Machiavelli. The author is obviously not a defender of war, nor a champion of Western world domination; on the contrary, he is a supporter of caution and diplomacy. So how did he manage to bake so much Machiavellian philosophy into his not-too-long book? “Machiavelli is both one of the most well-known and one of the least understood philosophical personalities in the world. In popular understanding, he is the very incarnation of evil. Despite this, serious philosophers see Machiavelli as one of the wisest thinkers of all time, ”states Mahbubani's book.

European intellectuals are far too preoccupied with their own colonial history to see the future through clear lenses.

I Prince Machiavelli writes that leaders must not leave so much of the world's government to God or fate, but rather take power in their own hands. The exercise of power here was mostly about building physical barriers, dikes and dams to prevent the dangerous new political currents in the Italian city-states from spreading. Prince is not a defense of evil, but a defense of virtue.

Mahbubani writes: "Neither altruism nor total war against the East is proper medicine, but to listen to global consensus, not least to the advice of the UN and other world organizations, instead of ignoring their messages and advice."

Forget about the Muslims

The West must also learn to think strategically, especially towards China and India, the author believes. He recommends to tone down the concerns of the Islamic world, where one only manages to stir up the anger of the Muslims, which in turn will create the basis for terrorist situations both in Europe and the United States.

There is no doubt that the US response after September 11 was not very rational. Beyond this pull Has the West Lost It? several interesting and surprising lines of development, including by claiming that the Soviet Union's cardinal failure during the Cold War was to look upon the United States as a military opponent and not as an economic partner. It was the Soviet economic collapse that led the United States to become the number one world power, not military strategic choices. Moreover, the transparency policy created great room for criticism of the regime.

US coming collapse

Is China then an economic competitor to the United States, or primarily a military one? Mahbubani prefers to the former. If the United States now starts to look at China as a military competitor and opponent and not primarily as an economic partner with common interests, the United States is committing the same mistake as the old Soviet – and will, like its former enemy, collapse.

The cardinal error of the Soviet Union was to view the United States as a military adversary and not as an economic partner.

The West has made a number of strategic mistakes and failed to keep its head cold in threatening situations, the author believes. In this way, the West has lost ground in favor of India and China, which is now taking over as the world's economic superpowers. Without strategic planning and greater understanding of the world's economic development, the United States will treat both of these countries as military enemies. Trump's constant statement that war is more important than trade shows that he has not understood the latter's significance for the world situation. Likely, Trump is too dominant and aggressive in his way of thinking, with a more dangerous world as a result.

Hammock of guilt

In conclusion, the author writes that as long as liberal Americans believe they are the most freedom-loving in the world, they will never realize what a bubble they have created around themselves. Liberalism has led to a sense of superiority also intellectually in Western societies, says Mahbubani. And not only that: European intellectuals are far too preoccupied with their own colonial history to see the future through clear lenses. Although they do not share Americans' messianic impulses, it is time for European social analysts to begin to change their thinking as well.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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