Gaza, Ukraine and the Fall of the Liberal International Order, or: How Western Politics Got So Crazy and Why They Seem Poised Only to Get Worse
Every day, I am more convinced that a great part of what is happening today reflects the fading “unipolar moment” of unchallenged liberal American hegemony and the concomitant “fall of the liberal international order.” This order established itself at the end of the Cold War in 1990, and met its demise – without anybody quite noticing – sometime after 2015. Trump’s election and Brexit were the first serious signs of popular opposition to major tenets of international liberalism, while the rapid economic development of China brought the People’s Republic to rough parity with the United States after 2010 and opposed the order for the first time from the outside. In consequence, we now live in a multipolar world, but with a political ethos still premised on American international ascendancy. I fear that this is a very big problem, and that it will only get worse.
The unipolar moment changed Western politics fundamentally. Because we had no serious global or ideological competitors after 1990, our leaders felt free to propagate a bizarre and unbounded species of turbo liberalism. Third-wave feminism, the esoteric doctrines of the rainbow LGBTQIA+ brigade, open-borders immigration and race politics, the ever-escalating climate agenda and similar strangeness all have their separate aetiologies, but what opened the door to them in the first place was the absence of any clear external threat. These are above all ideological luxuries which the elites of wealthy nations feel they are in a position to afford, but they are all facing increasingly stiff headwinds today. To take the measure of how much things have changed, consider German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s sudden demand for migrant “deportations on a grand scale” – political rhetoric that would have qualified him as a right-wing extremist just a few years ago. The politics of unbounded, unchallenged liberalism simply aren’t working like they used to, and now Scholz finds himself in an unexpected fight for political survival.
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