After America

Hello everybody, and merry Christmas. Before we start, apologies for the lack of serious blogging; my writing has moved to Prospect of late. Still, I haven’t been writing enough, and I intend to rectify this over the Christmas break and into next term (when the writing will probably be of essays and sets of notes, unfortunately). I am enjoying writing for Prospect, and it is nice to receive feedback on what I am doing, having been going along in the dark for several years. But is comforting to come home to Topical Creativity, where it all began three years ago.

Not long after I began writing journalistically, the Arab spring exploded onto the news. Its prominence continued as I really began to take interest in politics and current affairs, as we watched in awe as change swept over Egypt and Tunisia. Then the bloodshed began in the civil wars of Libya and Syria, and the spring became the world’s problem. This culminated in the chemical weapons attack by Syria’s President Assad on civilians in August. For a few weeks, it looked as if the West would finally intervene, until Russia seemingly saved the day.

Since then, the Arab spring and its aftermath have somewhat fallen off the radar. The media have relegated the Syrian crisis to third-place importance, after the economy and immigration, so that we now have to rely on reporting in specialist publications and the middle pages of broadsheet papers. How can the story which defined my immersion into politics and drastically altered the international system become old news even as Syria’s death toll exceeds 125,000?

Maybe it’s because we are, collectively, embarrassed by our inability to do anything. As I have written before intervention in Syria is both logistically difficult and politically troublesome, as both Obama and Cameron found out. Harsh facts are hindering our ability to act on our humanitarian instincts.

This is not a feeling the West is used to, especially not Americans. In the past decade, the public has become accustomed to seeing Western power brandished at their leaders’ will. Now, the West’s foreign policy wings seem to have been clipped. This links in with another prominent theme of my political life, the economic and political decline of the West. China is increasingly flexing some pretty scary muscles, and Russia’s President Putin is causing all sorts of problems in Eastern Europe by trying to create his own ‘Eurasian Union’ to rival the EU.

My first term of university has focussed on basic international relations (which, by the way, is really interesting – I still can’t decide if I am a realist or a liberal, a pessimist or an idealist). No good study of the modern world can be conducted without a serious discussion of the decline of American hegemony. As we go forward with our studies and explore the world through journalism, we should probably find an answer to the question: if we don’t want dictators to gas civilians, who is going to replace the US?

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