Wherever you go in the Arab world, you hear criticism of America and the West. I can assure you that over the last few years, I have not met an Arab who didn’t blame the West for its inability to not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries or regions in general. I cannot say that I’m surprised, but the lending of the West to criticism has shifted to hostility, and national independence movements that have grown since World War II and culminated in the independence of dozens of colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The essential difference today is reflected in the nature of the independence movement leaders. While the people and leaders led the first campaigns against Western occupation or hegemony, we see that the current campaigns are led by government officials supported by intellectuals and academics. This fundamental difference leads me to believe that rebellion and revolution do not describe the raging movement against the West in the Middle East and other regions.
I am not alone in thinking this way; this eruption against the United States and the West in general is not as popular as the angry and noisy demonstrations in Russia or China. This observation suggests that people or politically active forces are either generally satisfied with U.S. policies or that governments deliberately isolate dissatisfied people from the arena of battle against American influence.
One can also note that the protesters against America and the West practice policies that they both share. For example, most underestimate the fact that many are as committed to democracy and its institutions as their Western counterparts.
Look at the fierce movement that is currently and actively protesting Western hegemony. We have the current situation in Turkey. Turkey was once NATO’s treasured jewel and an American and German ally. But to the West, Turkey was their British India. The West built its democratic system with a parliament, political parties, a free press and quasi-religious institutions that do not interfere in politics. The West allowed some exceptions, such as the political role of the army inherited from the Ataturk movement—a role considered useful to the West as it insures the responsibility of maintaining a secular state. Now Erdogan has discovered that America no longer represents a fortified garrison to shield Turkey and that the demands of the West no longer fit the aspirations and policies of Turkey’s ruling regime. Turkey wants to impose the death penalty and amputation punishments to resolve the conflict with the remnants of the Ataturk military and religious powers. And the West, specifically the European Union, refuses to agree to Turkey’s crackdown and threatens sanctions. In this contained system, Turkey wants to respond with tougher sanctions on the EU and open the border so that hundreds of immigrants cross to Europe. Turkey has also become Russia’s overnight first line of defense against the West.
Turkey, however, is not a typical example. There are many models of insurgencies that have been developed against the West and America, in particular. Russia, with everything that President Vladimir Putin annexed and put in place, is a model for multi-front rebellion. Russia followed the road chosen by the United States and Europe in its post-communism days. They used the church to restore the spirit of nationalism and organized an anti-Western base.
In the Middle East, there are many examples outside Turkey. Arab revolutions did not break out because of revenge or anger toward the West, but they ended in rebellion because the West offered revolutionaries an unsuitable alternative and so they abandoned the West out of ethical considerations. In the final analysis with respect to all the factions of the Arab Spring, the West proved highly ineffective, and remained alienated from their policies and attitudes.
I imagine that a similar assessment can be made by a growing number of regimes in Asia, such as the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and others who once benefited from conflicts with the West and who have been affected by the West’s incompetence. The evaluation suggests that the West is deteriorating and passing into a phase of weakness.
The image of the West, its principles and its ethics are infirm for several reasons, not the least of which is the growing weakness and exposure to a deteriorating level of leadership. But this image is being exploited by some anti-Western countries in order to return their people to a time that existed before their revolutions and the Arab Spring.