---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: S G Naravane
From: S G Naravane
2 AUGUST 2016 • 7:55AM
In recent centuries, the greatest crises in British history have been accompanied by deep divisions among our allies, and sometimes within our own country, in the face of the sudden emergence of new dangers.
The French Revolution sparked intense debate within Britain, and required a quarter of century of rallying reluctant allies before the final victory at Waterloo. The rise of the Nazis initially produced apathy and admiration as well as hostility, and only after two years of their violent conquests did the democratic world unite to defeat them.
In our own lifetimes, by contrast, we have become used to the idea that our western values are successful and that we are as one in making sure of that success.
Since 1945, US presidents have never given up their global leadership, morally or militarily, even though they have varied in effectiveness. Nato triumphed in the Cold War and grew alongside the European Union. The West has retained the greatest centres of innovation, finance, education and culture. Our languages and computer codes have dominated the discourse of the world.
The idea of freedom, we assume, will repel and ultimately overcome any alternative. The information revolution we have spawned will corrode dictatorships and undermine rigid ideologies. Our prosperity will always allow us the technological edge to defend ourselves.
Yet look more closely, as the smoke clears after each fresh bout of disorder in our present century, and you will find the values and security of the West are in steady retreat. Russia has turned emphatically against liberal democracy, and reinvented brute power in the settling of European borders. Turkey first drifted, and now marches, towards authoritarian rule and the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of western Europe.
In the Middle East, hopes of freedom have been crushed between arbitrary government and fundamentalist revolt, each feeding off each other in an accelerating cycle that leaves no space for tolerance or debate. And the demographic bulge of that region is about to push new millions of disaffected young men into the arms of religious fanaticism.
In China, the creation of the world's biggest middle class and rival biggest economy is not bringing anything that looks like western values. On the contrary, a necessary anti-corruption drive is being accompanied by tight political centralisation, an intensified crackdown on dissent and a much-strengthened emphasis on Marxist ideology.
If these trends continue, future historians will identify the start of this new millennium as the period when free and open societies faltered and fell back, weakened further by internal divisions and the turning of our own inventions against us.
In 2016, Donald Trump is within striking distance of the White House and speaks openly of America's allies having to look after themselves. He and others question the free trade on which so much western prosperity has been based. Central banks feed an addiction to easy money, exacerbating inequality and discouraging saving.
Social media, while permitting a greater flow of information and argument, has begun to polarise politics, and elevate the quick and uninformed opinion to the same level as the considered and balanced one.
Whether through opportunism or strategy, rival forces take advantage of these and other weaknesses. Russia uses energy supplies to divide Europe, recruits western journalists to broadcast the propaganda of its TV station, Russia Today, and seems to have had a hand in hacking Hillary Clinton's emails to sway the US election.
In Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will demand a steadily higher price for holding back immigrants from Europe, while playing off his western allies against a new closeness to Moscow.
Islamic State in Iraq and Levant uses social media to spread hate across the globe, advertise its crimes, and inspire supporters in democratic countries to carry out terrorism. Western communication firms' determination to give their customers unbreakable encryption could provide such people new chances to make their plans undetected.
China, meanwhile, is now widely acknowledged to have engaged in the massive theft of intellectual property from western technology firms and defence manufacturers, through hacking on a grand scale. And it will be looking to the British exit from the EU to open the way to ending the long-standing European embargo on arms exports to Beijing, particularly those involving high technology.
In whichever direction you look, the autocrats, the dictators, the terrorists and the corrupt and cynical opportunists are fighting back. They are demonstrating daily that the lazy assumption of western triumph may be mistaken. Accordingly, it is time to relearn the lessons of history: that free societies do generally triumph in the end, but they need constant vigilance to protect them, and they often need a mixture of strong leadership, determined unity and a good measure of low cunning to help them along.
The time is coming for leaders and opinion-formers to promote the need for a more unified strategy of the West, before it is too late.
sent from samsung galaxy note3 neo, so please excuse brevity