This interview with Putin began the Financial Times’ defensiveness about ‘Liberalism’:
After a lengthy shaming of Putin , for lives lost in the ‘Middle East’ ,with no mention of American murderous political adventurism, since The War on Terror was declared by Bush The Younger in 2003 , the reader is presented with these two paragraphs:
The Russian leader detects a shift in the political balance of power from traditional western liberalism to national populism, fuelled by public resentment about immigration, multiculturalism and secular values at the expense of religion.
“Have we forgotten that all of us live in a world based on biblical values?” asks Mr Putin, dismissing Karl Marx’s dictum that religion is the opium of the masses. Similarly, in the Russian president’s view, liberal ideology has “outlived its purpose”.
Fragmentation characterises the world of 2019. In response, Mr Putin casts himself as a cheerleader of globalisation alongside his increasingly close ally, President Xi Jinping of China. It is an improbable role for Russia and China, but one vacated by the US under President Donald Trump, who has made “America First” his mantra.
The 2014 annexation of Crimea is also mentioned, but not a word about the American, via NATO, and the EU financed Ukrainian Coup. The natural conflict between America and China is described by Graham Allison, an American Political Technocrat as Thucydides’s trap. How enamored these technocrats are of their Grand Narratives, in fact its a rhetorical disease process.
Headline:Year in a Word: Thucydides’s trap
Sub-headline: The thesis that rivalry leads to war captures the attention of Washington and Beijing
Professor Graham Allison first used the phrase in print in a 2012 article in the Financial Times, in which he argued that “the defining question about global order in the decades ahead will be: can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap?” He elaborated on the concept in a book, Destined for War (2017), in which he examined the historical precedents of rivalry between established and rising powers: in 12 of 16 such cases, the rivalry ended in conflict. He concluded that “China and the US are currently on a collision course for war”.
The interview is interesting in itself, but the obvious political bias’ of Barber and Foy, provides the Financial Times with a pretext for an ‘editorial reply’ on the vexing question of Liberalism, as Putin presents it as having “outlived its purpose”. Their reply to Putin, the Editorial Board can’t quite contain its political hysteria, under the rubric of ‘work harder to defend values and address discontent’. Yet the question remains, where is the evidence for this argued work harder , defend values and address discontent?
Headline: No, Mr Putin, western liberalism is not obsolete
Sub-headline: Mainstream US and EU politicians must work harder to defend values and address discontent
There is an air of triumphalism in Vladimir Putin’s claim — in an interview with the Financial Times this week — that liberalism is obsolete. Since returning as Russian president in 2012 Mr Putin has sought to undermine the liberal western order. Yet his victory cry is hollow. Liberal, market-based democracy remains the organising principle in most non-petrostate countries with the highest living standards — and vital to the dynamism that generated their prosperity. Mr Putin’s statement is a signal, nonetheless, that western politicians must step up efforts to defend liberal values against the challenge from populist nationalists.
That challenge is real. The post-cold war global dominance of America and the EU, and the system they represent, is over. The challenge also comes partly from within. Mr Putin’s comments chime with those of both east and west European nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban and Matteo Salvini; or of Steve Bannon, onetime consigliere to US president Donald Trump — and of Mr Trump himself. Indeed, with his tariffs and contempt for multilateralism, the US president is arguably a bigger threat to the liberal west’s cohesion than his Russian counterpart.
Next in line in defense of ‘Liberalism’ is Martin Wolf :
Headline:Liberalism will endure but must be renewed
Sub-headline: It is a work in progress, not a utopian project
The root word in liberal is liber, the Latin adjective denoting a free person, as opposed to a slave. Liberalism is not a precise philosophy, it is an attitude. All liberals share a belief in individual human agency. They trust in the capacity of human beings to decide things for themselves. This belief has radical implications. It implies the right to make their own plans, to express their own opinions and to participate in public life. These attitudes were realised in the system we call “liberal democracy”.
Liberals share a belief that agency depends on possession of economic and political rights. Institutions are needed to protect those rights — independent legal systems, above all. But agency also depends on markets to co-ordinate independent economic actors, free media to allow the spread of opinions, and political parties to organise politics. Behind these institutions are values and behaviours: the distinction between private gain and public purpose needed to curb corruption; a sense of citizenship; and belief in toleration.
I have been selective in my quotation Mr. Wolf ‘s essay, while not ignoring its opening paragraph steeped in the wisdom , or just the risible cliches of a system, Liberalism, that capitulated en mass to Neo-Liberalism: its political creatures New Labour and The New Democrats, that has collapsed of its own mendacious practice! Putin is the necessary impetus to Wolf ‘s defense of that utterly defunct ‘Liberalism’.
“There is also the so-called liberal idea, which has outlived its purpose. Our western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable.” Thus, did Vladimir Putin claim to be on the right side of history, in a remarkable interview with the Financial Times. But, as Mark Twain might have said, the report of liberalism’s death is an exaggeration. Societies based on core liberal ideas are the most successful in history. They need to be defended against their enemies.
Next in order of consideration is the political greenhorn Janan Ganesh, commenting on ‘Liberalism’ in the current Democratic Party’s over crowded field of Neo-Liberals masquerading as Liberals, in sum a collection of Clinton Surrogates.
Headline: Populists beware: liberalism can be a fighting creed too
Sub-headline: America has become more tolerant since the election of Donald Trump, not less
In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, the US ceased its economic embargo on Vietnam after two bitter decades and Madonna swore like a sailor on the David Letterman Show without sinking either her career or his. Such was the belle époque of liberalism. We can only imagine how much kinder people were to outsiders than they are now.
‘ Such was the belle époque of liberalism.’ Mr. Ganesh’s talent for evocative hyperbole, as the in order too of his cliche mongering. Does it evolve/devolve , via the use of credible statistical evidence, into the last three paragraphs of self-serving political chatter illumined by the notion of ‘Militant Liberalism’? Mr. Ganesh’s ignorance of American Politics Past, in the use of the term ‘Radical Center’ , by pundits and thinkers trying to present themselves as politically potent, was in fact, a clear demonstration of their verifiable political eclipse.
Still, it should trouble populists that righteous energy, a resource they used to monopolise, is spilling to the other side. The smarter among them will listen to what liberals are intimating: we can do anger too.
Liberalism’s enemies have always had it down as a pale and watery thing. Italy’s strongman-saluting Futurists called it “utilitarian cowardice” a century ago. Clerical authoritarians thought it too decadent to withstand them.
But just because a philosophy envisions a looser society, it does not itself have to be held in a loose way. There is such a thing as militant liberalism. If it is a coming force, there was nothing inevitable about this. It was inadvertently awakened by populists. Those who despise liberalism might yet be the making of it.