by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 11, Jumada' al-Ula', 1443)
For several decades Western academia and the corporate media have been peddling a narrative of a ‘rational’ and ‘scientific’ West, leading others towards a facts-based world. While this narrative suffered a huge image crisis with the selection of Donald Trump as US president, the substantive societal and intellectual setback was delivered by the mass anti-COVID and anti-vaccine movement throughout Western Europe and North America.
Suddenly, societies and regimes which spent vast resources forcing the Western worldview on Iraq and Libya or civilizing Afghanistan and “freeing” Muslim women from Islamic fundamentalists, got themselves caught-up in a chaotic saga which is here to stay for the near to medium future. By chaos we don’t mean the virus-induced pandemic, but the bizarre reaction to it by many in Western societies.
Even though it will take some time to understand the full impact of the COVID denial movement upon Western secular intellectual tradition, the political ramifications are manifesting themselves much faster and are more visible. Three years ago, an average Belgian, Dutch or American would have had a hard time picturing populations of Brussels or Rotterdam rioting over measures aimed at containing a pandemic.
In 2018, it would have seemed odd to many that a significant number of people from societies which champion science as the answer to everything and anything, would be rioting against vaccine administration to increase people’s protection from an illness. Yet, it is happening.
Societies and regimes which for decades looked down on others for holding on to sacred intellectual traditions and belief in God as dogmatic and anti-empirical, have ended up producing an anti-empirical mass movement. To put it mildly, a basic overview of the environment in once globally domineering Western countries does not look promising in intellectual and practical terms for the near future.
On the internal front it is the dogmatic positions on how to address COVID’s economic, political, and social impacts. Externally it’s about the inability to adjust to the multipolar world order.
Call them Trumpists, anti-vaxxers or by any other label, the so-called anti-COVID crowd is being used by the fascist right-wing political spectrum in Western societies as a steppingstone towards political influence. While the chances of success of this grouping to capitalize on the anti-lockdown sentiments in tangible terms is questionable, they will continue to act as political destabilizers in one form or another.
The reason the right-wing political spectrum in NATO member countries is unlikely to achieve any major political gains could be observed from their gathering in early December in Warsaw.
That get-together did not just feature a few prominent right-wing organizations or produce any coherent way forward in eliminating many existing differences between Europe’s right-wingers. They simply got together to declare that they are anti-establishment, which many of them would probably have a hard time defining.
Because the right spectrum of politics in NATO member countries is so disoriented, the only thing they can unite around in practical terms is COVID-19. Therefore, just like the virus itself is going to be around for some time, COVID-19 will continue to be used as a political tool of mobilization to keep many of the right-wing organizations somewhat relevant.
Opponents of right-wing groups will cling to the lockdown as the primary policy of dealing with COVID simply because retracting from the lockdown narrative will be seen as giving in to the right-wing’s bizarre conspiracies. Thus, on the internal front there will be a vicious cycle of political tensions centered around a medical problem which requires medical solutions.
On the opposite side of NATO’s political spectrum, US President Joe Biden hosted a so-called Summit for Democracy on December 9-10. This political gathering was as disoriented as its antagonist conference in Warsaw.
Biden’s latest PR stunt is of the same genre as Barack Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009 which was supposed to usher a new progressive era in US-Muslim relations built on so-called democratic values. The Obama stunt failed dismally even according to its proponents.
The reason for pessimism is not so much the divisions or tensions within the NATO camp, but the fact that the solutions NATO regimes are seeking to implement are geared towards a faulty objective, namely retention of Western dominance. The end game is outdated. The world has changed and multipolarity is no longer a state of affairs which is emerging, it is already here.
Thus, any policy initiative or alliance that does not take this into consideration is simply operating under an expired global order. Just like generals who lose wars are often said to have been preparing for the last war, the current NATO political leadership seems to be gearing up to manage an expired global order.
This in itself could be qualified as a foreign policy predicament, but combined with the reactionary anti-COVID movements and the ongoing lockdown narrative which is yet to deliver its final economic and social blows, the world finds itself in unchartered territory. Thus, NATO regimes are not simply facing an external challenge, but a sizable disoriented internal mass movement whose petty and at times bizarre politicking is disrupting the society’s intellectual orientation. It is a situation very dissimilar to cold war or any other situation the NATO regimes have faced, yet their mindset is stuck in the late 1990s.