Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Deluded internationalists

Pankaj MishraThis quote from Pankaj Mishra's review of Erez Manela's The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anti-Colonial Nationalism strikes me with all the force of a sudden spotlight. I have long bemoaned the profound ignorance of global realities among people who should know better (the people who actually hold some geopolitical power), most especially the incredibly naive idea that most of the world wants to become a clone of America. The debacle in Iraq, which is only now beginning to be turned around, is largely attributable to this cultural arrogance. But Mishra says it better:
The victories of the Cold War – and the giddy speculation that history had reached the ideological terminus of liberal democracy – revived illusions of omnipotence among an Anglo-American political and media elite that has always known very little about the modern world it claims to have made. Consequently, almost every event since the end of the Cold War – the rise of radical Islam, of India and China, the assertiveness of oil-rich Russia, Iran and Venezuela – has come as a shock, a rude reminder that the natives of Delhi, Cairo and Beijing have geopolitical ambitions of their own, not to mention a sense of history marked by resentment and suspicion of the metropolitan West. The liberal internationalists persist, trying to revive the Wilsonian moment in places where Anglo-American liberalism has been seen as an especially aggressive form of hypocrisy. Increasingly, however, they expose themselves as the new provincials, dangerously blundering about in a volatile world.

Hat tip to David Akin's On the Hill.

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