Middle Israel: 20 years after the Wall, why aren't we happy?

Middle Israel On the de

By
November 12, 2009 15:00

Berlin, once a monument to oppression's defiance, is now a celebration of evil's defeat. Between Brandenburg Gate, where no-man's land has given way to bustling traffic, and the Reichstag, where a free parliament has emerged from despotism's debris; and from Aleksanderplatz, where shoppers now abound under new skyscrapers, to Unter-den-Linden, which once again is crowded with commuters, tourists and footloose wanderers - Berlin itself is probably the happiest aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And yet a deep sense of unease was palpable this week as the world recalled nostalgically the euphoria that accompanied the tumbling of the Wall. Yes, the Warsaw Pact is no longer, and many of its key members are now in NATO, and the Comecon has become a trivia question, as many of its former members ended up in the EU. Moreover, with the exception of Pyongyang and Havana, all former communist countries now sport vibrant market economies replete with stock markets, floating currencies, business schools, shopping malls, golf courses and car dealerships, besides a great deal more freedom of speech, association and ownership than any communist regime ever allowed. In all, post-communist Europe's first 20 years have delivered much of what the West hoped they would the night the Wall fell, including the emigration of the Jews and the end of free arms shipments to assorted bad guys the world over. And yet the jubilation of '89 is almost as distant a memory as the Wall itself, for the prosaic reason that as it turned out, the revolution was soon followed by a counterrevolution, and the counterrevolution's gains are growing by the day. THE ORIGINAL impression that everything was proceeding in one direction - Westward - quickly proved unfounded. Yes, Berlin is blossoming, but Russia remains a black hole where brave journalists vanish, businessmen are mowed down in busy markets and politicians are bought in broad daylight. Meanwhile, Ukraine is anarchic, the Caucasus is an ethnic powder keg and Central Asia is largely dictatorial. Russia has become a cleptocracy rather than a mature market economy, while previously promising economies, from Hungary to the Baltics, have quickly overheated. While these setbacks are disappointing enough, they at least do not challenge the West. Elsewhere, however, the ideas that ostensibly won in '89 are indeed being challenged, and most potently in China. According to the original script, the Tiananmen Massacre - which actually preceded the fall of the Wall by several months - was supposed to eventually be overcome by the predestined tides of freedom. That never happened. Instead, China produced an alternative model of authoritarian capitalism, and it did so with astonishing success. We are now moments away from China's consolidation as the world's second largest economy, despite - if not because of - its rejection of the Western ideal of freedom. China's prosperity is as perplexing to Westerners as Soviet poverty was for Marxists. The Chinese model is already being emulated by Vietnam and various signs indicate that Syria wants to follow suit. North Korea is also likely to seek this model as is Cuba. Singapore's idea of political discipline and economic momentum is also a variation on the Chinese theme. In short, while the West slept following the 1989 hangover, an alternative economic model emerged. The good news has been that the Chinese never purported to export their model or to actively challenge the Western way of life. On the contrary, theirs has consistently been a quest to harmonize with the outer world, provided it did not interfere with the way China managed its own affairs. Yet this already formidable economic challenge came coupled with Islamism's deliberate assault on Western civilization and interests, from Nigeria and Algeria to Pakistan and the Philippines. Added up, these constituted the counterrevolution that back in fall '89 no one saw coming. And now, what began outside the West has emerged deep in its heartland, where the '08 meltdown has given rise to a new anti-capitalist bravado of the sort articulated already well before then by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein. This, in sum, from Russia and China through Teheran to Wall Street, is the face of the counterrevolution. Without feeling its emergence, our Western sense of victory has given way to a strategic, ideological and mental defensiveness, all of which are now personified in the thought of Barack Obama. THE FIRST thing to concede in the face of all this is that change is by definition a protracted and painful process. The thought, harbored by so many 20 years ago, that the world had effectively accepted the West's ideals and will henceforth be immersed in an effort to implement them - has proven unfounded. Most of the world's regimes remained largely authoritarian, while prosperity frequently proved elusive for the free, and achievable for the un-free. Second, the West must understand that with all due respect to the end of the Cold War, it was but a prelude to another war. There is a counterrevolution afoot, and it has given rise to so many different enemies that a new Western doctrine begs to be formulated, one that will indicate which of the West's enemies must be fought more urgently and what compromises it must make so as to concentrate its war effort. The key enemy should be defined as Islamism, which challenges the West actively and on all fronts - ideologically, politically, economically, strategically and violently - and the key compromise in fighting it will have to be made with China, whose challenge is partial and passive. Harry Truman's doctrine of containing communism meant for instance clutching Turkey to America's bosom even when it was effectively ruled by its military and despite America's by-then stated ambition to lead the free world. Faced with a junta here and a communist scourge there, it was better from an American viewpoint to turn a blind eye to assorted dictatorships, from Greece to Chile, because they were not ideological exporters. Now a similar deal must be quietly offered to China: "We will ignore the way you run your own country, though it is very disagreeable to us, provided you join us in fighting Islamism. Conversely, if you prefer to delude yourselves that you can first ride an anti-Western counterrevolution and then emerge as a New World Order's hegemon, we will see in that a license to encourage, incite, finance and guide a war for freedom in your own country. It will of course make our struggle even more daunting, but it doesn't mean we won't win; just look at Berlin." www.MiddleIsrael.com


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