The West’s Declining Influence

In his Newsweek column, Dan Drezner notes that while improved trans-Atlantic relations have allowed Europe and America to agree on common external threats, they have not yet found adequate responses to them. The result is a decline in the West’s overall influence, something that Drezner considers inevitable in the long run, even if it is sometimes prematurely announced.

In many ways this is obvious, and something that we should be approaching not as some terrible threat but as a necessary evolution in geopolitics. In his book, Continuing History, former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine discussed the need for the West to accept that it no longer had a “monopoly on history.” But unlike Drezner, who suggests that the era of Western leadership on the great common challenges facing the planet is drawing to a close, Védrine emphasized that among the West’s great advantages is its ability to think strategically.

That’s something we haven’t done very well over the past seven years, and by way of explaining his pessimism, Drezner mentions a number of ways in which we’ve yet to correct things. But the broader question is whether we’ll manage to articulate a strategic approach to bring the era of Western domination in for a soft landing, or whether we’re sailing towards a Huntingtonian “threat horizon” of civilizations in conflict.

Increasingly it seems like the nature of representative democracies has converged with societal trends to make tactics, with their short-term pay-offs, more attractive than strategy, which often involve delayed gratification. What the West really needs is a leader or group of leaders wise enough to know the difference, and courageous enough to explain it to voters.

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