The Incipient Decline of the West

The Munich Security Conference is addressing the West's incipient decline. The far right is also positioning itself against this decline

MUNICH (Own report) - The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, is focusing the debate of the coming weekend's conference on the incipient decline of the West. Whereas, in the post-Cold War era western powers enjoyed "almost uncontested freedom of military movement," this is no longer the case today, according to this year's "Munich Security Report," which Ischinger presented to the public yesterday. Even the "nearly unrivaled global superiority in military technology" NATO had enjoyed for decades, is now endangered. The report quotes French President Emmanuel Macron's comment: "We were used to an international order that had been based on Western hegemony since the 18th century. Things change." To prevent the West's further decline, Ischinger is calling for resolute offensives in global policy. Sectors of the elites in several western countries are now turning to an ultra-right policy. In Berlin, this debate had contributed to the demise of the CDU chairwoman yesterday.

"Dramatic Changes"

This year's "Munich Security Report," which was presented to the public Monday by Wolfgang Ischinger, illustrates the West's incipient decline with several examples. The authors point out that western powers were unable to prevail in the Syrian war, while Russia and Turkey were able to strengthen their influence and are now setting the tone in that country. Also in Libya,[1] the report notes, Moscow and Ankara act much "more decisively," while "Western actors seem to punch far below their weight today." It should be noted, in general, that in the post-Cold War era "western powers enjoyed almost uncontested freedom of military movement," but that "this has changed dramatically."[2] Even Western military superiority in military conflicts is no longer guaranteed. As NATO’s former Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller pointed out, "nearly unrivaled global superiority in military technology" that NATO enjoyed for decades "is endangered, with other countries making great strides to catch up." The Munich Security Report mentions among other things hypersonic missiles developed by Russia and China's capacity to ward off attacks from the sea with highly efficient anti-ship missiles.[3]

"Empty Phrase"

In presenting the Report yesterday, Ischinger not only sharply criticized the overall western policy, but particularly that of the EU and German government, calling on Brussels and Berlin to take a more aggressive approach in global policy. That western powers had not prevailed against Russia and Turkey in Syria is an "unforgivable failure," and must be seen as "first-class irresponsibility of the European Union and all its member states."[4] For years, the demand for Berlin to "take on more responsibility" has been raised in Germany - more often since the 2014 Munich Security Conference.[5] However, this demand threatens to become an "empty phrase." As a concrete step, Ischinger is demanding that "the principle of unanimity be abandoned" in EU foreign policy. In its foreign policy decisions, Brussels must become "faster, clearer and bolder" [6] - meaning an option of overruling individual member states on issues of foreign policy. Particularly a "European army" only makes sense "if we really speak with one voice," according to the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (MSC).

Legitimizing Western Global Policy

The Munich Security Report not only contains further indications on the West's incipient decline and appeals for a more resolute defense of its previous global dominance, but also contains narratives aimed at legitimizing the struggle for a leading position in global policy. During the years of western dominance, for example, "brutal ethnic conflicts and genocidal actions" triggered "growing civilian protection internationally." Today however, "actors" not mentioned by name - obviously referring to Russian operations in Syria - are proceeding "with no concern for legal or ethical considerations."[7] The report quotes David Miliband, Britain's former minister under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, today member of the Munich Security Conference's Advisory Council, “the number of civilians directly killed by the tactics of war is rising," and the report further contends that the dwindling western dominance has “a bloodier, more violent face." Miliband even claims to have identified what he calls "the age of impunity."

The Era of Transatlantic Dominance

The allegation that there is a threat of the world becoming subjugated to violent, lawless powers, if the West loses its global dominance, has begun to be taken up by the mass media as global policy PR, however, it's treatment of western crimes committed since 1990 contains an astonishingly generous dose of benevolence. In fact, over the past three decades, the three major wars of aggression - in blatant violation of international law - were all waged by western powers: The war on Yugoslavia (1999), primarily at Germany's urging; the war on Iraq (2003) mainly by the USA; the war on Libya (2011) particularly by Great Britain and France. The destruction of Iraq and Libya along with the wars in the Sahel is primarily the results of these western wars of aggression. The death toll is enormous. According to calculations by independent experts, the number of people, who, for example, were casualties either directly or indirectly of the 2003 Iraq War and its aftermath had already surpassed one million by 2007.[8] In spite of this horrendous number of victims, not a single western government has been held accountable for waging a war of aggression in violation of international law - not even the government, of which the MSC's Board of Advisors, member David Miliband, had been a minister in 2003. Nor has anyone been convicted of the crimes of torture and murder committed since declaring the "War on Terror" in 2001. On the contrary, some who had been involved are among the highest officials of western countries today. ( reported.[9]) They are profiting from the era of western impunity.

West's Defenders

This year's Munich Security Report also discusses the rise of ultra-right-wing forces, particularly in Europe and North America, within the context of the demise of the West. The authors note that the neoliberal globalization "disproportionally benefited elites" at a cost for "significant parts of the population in the West." Many in the "middle- and working-class" have come to believe that "the system" is "rigged;" The financial and economic crisis and its repercussions shook the "trust in the superiority of the liberal model."[10] This is benefiting right-wing forces, which have massively grown stronger and are even at the head of governments in several countries. The report explicitly names Hungary and the United States under the Trump administration. In addition, the report notes numerous representatives of the extreme right, who consider themselves to be the more resolute defenders of the West, in face of its enemies.

En Route to the Far Right

Two things, however, are not mentioned: The reinforcement of the extreme right in Germany and the role sectors of the elite have played. Since the AfD's electoral successes and the election of the first prime minister of a federal state with the help of the extreme right [11] - although he has stepped down in the meantime - German conservatives are discussing more openly whether cooperation with the AfD would not be expedient. Just yesterday, this dispute had contributed to the resignation of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Chair of the CDU. To have a strong national alterative at hand for global outreach, sectors of Germany's elite had helped create the AfD, in case inter-state rivalry and a weakening of the EU becomes more acute. ( reported.[12]) Within the CDU, the number of those calling for, at least, punctual cooperation with the AfD - also in the sense of an aggressive global policy - is growing.


[1] See also The German-Russian Treasure.

[2] Westlessness. Munich Security Report 2020.

[3] See also "Ein Alptraumszenario für China".

[4] Ischinger wirft Staatengemeinschaft "unverzeihliches Versagen" in Syrien vor. 10.02.2020.

[5] See also Deutschlands Befreiungsschlag and Der Weltordnungsrahmen.

[6] Georg Ismar, Christoph von Marschall: "Helmut Schmidt würde sich im Grabe umdrehen". 09.02.2020.

[7] Westlessness. Munich Security Report 2020.

[8] Joachim Guilliard: Irak. In: IPPNW/PSR/PGS (Hg.): Body Count. Opferzahlen nach 10 Jahren "Krieg gegen den Terror". Berlin, August 2014. S. 22-72.

[9] See also 17 Years "War on Terror".

[10] Westlessness. Munich Security Report 2020.

[11] See also Durchbruch nach rechtsaußen.

[12] See also Factional Struggle within the Establishment and Die Stützen der AfD.