Ross Douthat’s Cognitive Dissonance regarding the Cracks in the Liberal Order

December 27, 2015
In “Cracks In the Liberal Order“, Ross Douthat writes about how the “liberal order” that was consolidated across the United States and Europe is under threat with the rise of various parties and movements opposing this “order”. He writes:

 This paragraph alone holds clues as to what’s happening that Douthat watching from the center of an Empire under threat cannot fully comprehend.

The Myth Versus Reality

The basic mythology is that the US Government was for Freedom and Democracy.  Exhibit A for the argument is how they rescued Europe post-WW2 through Democratic Capitalism. 

Of course at exactly the same time the same US Governemt mounted now acknowledged coups in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia bringing USG friendly regimes into power that resulted in thousands killed and a form of neo-colonialist dependency on the USG led financial system.

In short, as Douthat himself writes (see highlight above) – perhaps unwittingly – the European project was about Washington (the US establishment along with its financial arms, the World Bank and IMF) consolidating power, along with its local sheriff in Brussels who now exercises local control on nations – as seen in Greece recently – via its Eurocrats.

The illusion of democracy of having choices limited to parties that in theory opposed each other but in truth both subservient to the interests of the elites in Washington and Brussels, is increasingly being exposed.

As long as the economy – a financial system built on ever expanding debt – was good, no one cared how the illusion was maintained.

Now that the stresses behind the system are having real consequences to an ever growing mass of people, the still blissful elites – much like the apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette on learning the peasants had no bread saying “Let them eat cake” –  are bewildered, alarmed and ultimately threatened by the anger of the masses.

The REAL lesson of history is that when any system has power concentrated among a small number of people executing policies the negative consequences of which they themselves are immune from, the system will break down.

Are there any politicians, financiers or indeed journalists who have financially suffered let alone gone to jail,,or otherwise been marginalized for getting it totally wrong whether it’s on the Iraq War, Libya, the Financial Crisis?  Not only have many of the players NOT suffered the consequences that millions of people did, but they profited  handsomely from it.  Indeed Douthat himself acknowledges that many of Washington’s and Brussels projects have failed (see highlight above). 

And this relates to the second highlighted point in the paragraph above. 

The REAL Threat to the Current Liberal Order

In the Liberal-Interventionist world, the end-of-History (briefly referred to in Douthat’s article) is when the whole world follows one model controlled by that exception elite in Washington and its various satrapies throughout the World.  This has all countries following the same moral and cultural principles of the elite within a financial and legal ecosystem that emanates from Washington.

This is when Peace, Harmony and Order will truly be achieved.  This is a Utopian vision of the World that is similar to every other Empire before it.

The true threat to this Imperial thinking is not another Empire with different values, but one that denies that an Empire centered far away can forcibly impose one’s values and systems on another culture.

It is the idea of a truly multi-polar world.

Putin and the Multi-Polar World

And this is exactly what Putin has said on many occasions, including recently at the UN General Assembly in New York.   

 Since Putin opposes the Uni-Polar world led by Washington, the Washington-led propaganda is that he is seeking one that is led by him/Russia.  This is nonsense of course (most Western journalists do not bother to read the freely available English transcripts on the Kremlin website preferring to repeat talking points from anonymous Washington officials of what Putin says). Along with Russia, China and India, the other two large non-Washington-led powers, never say now that their system is best, or that they are moral arbiters of the planet, or Exceptional (currently only one other leadership apart from Washington claims that and that’s the one currently headquartered in al-Raqqa).  Given their own multi-ethnic societies and historical experience, and despite border disputes with their neighbors, they are for a multi-polar world where each nations’s specific historical and cultural practices are respected under a system of International Law in which there is true negotiation among equals.

In other words, Putin – and other nations – are not saying “We are the alternative to Washington that everyone should follow”.  They ARE saying “We are opposed to Washington saying that everyone should follow their path.”

Douthat’s Cognitive Dissonance 

In Douthat’s World, the alternative to a Washington imposed order is either another Competitor (variously projected to be China or locally Russia) or complete chaos.

He and his ilk cannot process the thought that having a system of governance where each nation with differing cultures, priorities, stages of economic development and moral mores can co-exist peacefully under a system of International Law that the United Nations was set-up to do when faced with a multi-polar world at the end of World War 2.

In their view there is only Hegemonic Power – which is an ironic thought for a Liberal – or Chaos. So if it’s not Washington led Hegemony, Chaos will result.

Ironically, under stress from the uni-polar “liberal order” hegemony of Washington and Brussels, with its refusal to acknowledge that a multi-polar world is an option, the historical inevitability to go back to this multi-polar world can indeed be bloodier than it could be.

Post Script

An article entitled “Obama’s team says the GOP earned Donald Trump” in Politico has the following about the current state of American domestic politics.  

This ironically is exactly what’s happening in the World.  It’s a switch from the Uni-polar hegemony of Western governments led by Washington to a more multi-polar world.  Since it’s still in transition, it seems chaotic and complicated.

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