Hisham Melhem: The Diminished West – Al Arabiya English

CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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35 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    The decline of the west is great business. It’s going to go on forever. How else can people keep writing columns about a handful of trivial ( but slightly stupid) incidents and turn it into cataclysmic end of days.

    Also Al Arabiya is Saudi owned so there just might be a teensy weensy bit of underlying motive in saying bad things about Iran.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

      Do you know anything about Hisham Melhem? Did you read the article, but somehow miss the parts – the very first paragraph and the second-to-last one, for instance – where he specifically rejected interpretation of the events as some kind of “cataclysmic end of days”?Report

      • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Yes i read the piece. The title, the decline of the west, is suggestive. The petty incidents he lists are indicative of nothing. Covering up Italian are it stupid and i’m against it, but it is uber petty. The incident with our sailor is again a big mug full of nothing. Our guys bumbled into their territory, Kerry rang them up, they were released. Holocaust denial is stupid but nothing new and proves nothing. Those poll numbers; i didn’t follow up with them to see where they came from. Extremely doubtful. There is no decline in those incidents and people have been predicting the decline of the west for, literally, generations.

        It is a saudi owned outlet and the saudi’s are is a major region wide, Sunni v Shia conflict with Iran.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

          greginak: The title, the decline of the west, is suggestive.

          Or would be, if that was the title – or necessarily the author’s title either way, and if, in specifically mentioning and rejecting Spengler, he was not specifically rejecting that title or “variations” on it.

          greginak: Those poll numbers; i didn’t follow up with them to see where they came from. Extremely doubtful.

          Well, he gave the source: Gallup. You may have heard of that organization. It wasn’t hard to find the report.


          Here’s the abstract of the relevant section. I found the number for the U.S. surprising:

          Would you fight for your country?

          In the year that has marked the centenary of the start of the ‘Great War’ it is noteworthy to see how people responded to the question of whether they would be willing to fight for their country. Globally, 60% said that they would be willing to take up arms for their country while 27% would not be willing. Western Europe proved the region most reticent to fighting for their country with just 25% saying that they would fight while about half (53%) stated that they would not fight for their flag. This contrasts sharply with people from the Arab countries of Middle East and North Africa who are the most likely to be willing to fight for their countries (77%) followed by those living in Asia (71%).

          44% of respondents in the USA said they would fight for their country whereas the figure was just 27% in the UK, 29% in France and 18% in Germany. Despite being widely recognised for their neutrality, 39% of people from Switzerland said that they would be prepared to go to war for their country. It was the Italians who proved to be least willing to bear arms for their country with 68% revealing they would refuse to do so.


          I’m sure opinions on such matters are quite subject to change, and I’m generally skeptical about any poll numbers on questions of that type, which I think people tend to re-interpret circumstantially or tactically, and in various ways, but still.

          A user at an on-line forum compiled the numbers after going country by country – apparently the US number was marked by a large proportion of undecideds. The question is also different from the headline – a common problem with too-interesting polls, since “if there was a war involving your country…?” attaches an element to the question that makes it different from a simple “would you fight for your country?” The former does not indicate that your country is necessarily threatened, only that it is involved in a war. Could be “someone else’s war.” If you were in Europe, you could especially think that’s what the question tended to imply. Likewise, some respondents might be more inclined than others to interpret the question narrowly or pragmatically or literally: If the U.S. was merely “involved,” the fact is that I probably wouldn’t literally “fight,” since I wouldn’t very likely be in a position to do so. If, however, I was somehow summoned authentically to fight “for my country” against a threat to my country, I’d likely give it my pathetic all.

          But still…

          “If there were a war that involved [your country], would you be willing to fight for your country?”

          (ranked by net balance)

          94-05 Fiji [+89]
          94-06 Morocco [+88]
          85-01 Azerbaijan [+84]
          89-07 Pakistan [+82]
          89-09 Vietnam [+80]
          84-08 Papua New Guinea [+76]
          86-12 Bangladesh [+74]
          72-13 Thailand [+59]
          76-18 Georgia [+58]
          75-17 India [+58]
          76-20 Afghanistan [+56]
          69-13 Kazakhstan [+56]
          74-20 Finland [+54]
          70-17 Indonesia [+53]
          66-13 Israel [+53]
          73-21 Turkey [+52]
          72-23 Armenia [+49]
          71-23 China [+48]
          63-18 Malaysia [+45]
          70-26 Philippines [+44]
          69-27 Kenya [+42]
          55-15 Sweden [+40]
          59-20 Russia [+39]
          62-24 Ukraine [+38]
          66-30 Lebanon [+36]
          58-24 Kosovo [+34]
          64-32 Panama [+32]
          61-32 Peru [+29]
          56-27 Palestinian Territories [+29]
          54-27 Greece [+27]
          61-36 Colombia [+25]
          54-35 Ecuador [+19]
          55-39 Bosnia & Herzegovina [+16]
          56-41 Mexico [+15]
          41-27 Latvia [+14]
          47-34 Poland [+13]
          44-31 USA [+13]
          46-36 Serbia [+10]
          50-46 Nigeria [+4]
          48-44 Brazil [+4]

          43-43 Argentina [+/-0]
          37-37 Denmark [+/-0]

          38-40 Ireland [-2]
          38-41 Romania [-3]
          39-47 Switzerland [-8]
          42-50 South Korea [-8]
          38-49 Macedonia [-9]
          30-43 Australia [-13]
          30-45 Canada [-15]
          29-44 France [-15]
          28-47 Portugal [-19]
          25-47 Bulgaria [-22]
          27-51 UK [-24]
          26-52 Iceland [-26]
          21-49 Spain [-28]
          10-43 Japan [-33]
          23-57 Hong Kong [-34]
          19-56 Belgium [-37]
          23-64 Czech Republic [-41]
          21-62 Austria [-41]
          18-62 Germany [-44]
          20-68 Italy [-48]
          15-64 Netherlands [-49]

          Iraq: no data
          Saudi Arabia: no data


          • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            Gallup or not, i find the question and the poll weak. Most people would defend their country. A lot of people’s countries only seem to fight foreign wars of choice for ill-conceived goals. I’m sure germans would fight like, well germans which is saying a lot, if they were attacked. Are they willing to go to Afghanistan or Iraq is entirely different question and doesn’t really serve the purpose the author wants it to.

            True authors don’t usually write the titles of the pieces. That doesn’t mean the handful of examples he uses prove much of anything.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to greginak says:

              Given the US’s history of military adventurism in the last, oh, 75 years (IE, covering most people that are alive) — we’ve got Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan and countless small scale interventions.

              Much of that list was seen as a waste of blood and treasure.

              So I’m not surprised at the large number of undecideds. Americans Presidents are fairly quick to pick unpopular fights and “Would you fight for your country” would encompass both “If we were invaded” and “If George Bush wanted to prove his Daddy wrong on Iraq”.

              It’s a much easier question to answer, I’d imagine, if “fighting for your country” historically just meant “If people invaded us” or “If there were Nazi’s on the other side”.Report

            • You might recall that much of Western Europe favored pacifism after the horrors of WWI, which is one of the reasons that You Know Who got away with as much as he did. But when their countries were attacked, they fought.Report

              • greginak in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Oh i remember. Europe has seen the horrors of war up close in a way we haven’t. Seem deal with religion. They have seen their continent repeatedly wracked with religious wars, massacres, murders and persecution. So they are bit cool towards the war, empire and religion concepts. Since America has been free of any and all problems with those things we are full speed ahead.Report

              • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Sure they fought but only at the last minute and rather ineffectively since pacifism meant that they weren’t prepared to fight.Report

              • greginak in reply to notme says:

                GB and France fought well, but were behind the curve on modern tactics so they got boned. France was prepared to defend themselves. GB has a giant navy and small army as they had done so for decades. Luckily Chamberlin beefed up the RAF after the Munich accords.Report

              • notme in reply to greginak says:

                GB and France fought well, but were behind the curve on modern tactics so they got boned.

                Fought well? Was that when they were retreating to Dunkirk or in North Africa.

                France was prepared to defend themselves.

                Maybe but only behind the Maginot Line which wasn’t finished and didn’t extend far enough. The French naively assumed that the Germans wouldn’t just go around it.

                Luckily Chamberlain beefed up the RAF after the Munich accords.

                Chamberlin didn’t do squat and is regarded as one of if not the worst PM ever.Report

              • greginak in reply to notme says:

                They fought well means they fought hard and gave their lives. Yes they lost quite a lot but they learned to fight back. They often stood their ground even when surrounded.

                Yes you agree the french were prepared and had a strategy. Sadly it didn’t’ work, that didn’t mean they weren’t prepared.

                No, Chamberlin increased spending on the RAF and the military after the Munich accords. That actually happened. Plenty of reason to criticize him though but almost nothing is black and white.Report

      • Do you know anything about Hisham Melhem?

        Didn’t he write Moby Dick?Report

  2. notme says:

    We found the extent of their problems when we had to support them in Libya.Report

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    Haven’t read the article, but if the excerpt is any indication of the rest, I have read this, many times, starting in the mid 70’s.

    Seriously. I recall in the late 70’s, National Review published a cover issue showing the hammer and sickle superimposed over the Union Jack, and breathlessly warned of an imminent “Red Britannia”.
    Of course the only thing imminent was the election of Maggie Thatcher.

    And variations of this “These kids today won’t fight” have been published like clockwork.

    I’m not sure why a Saudi has decided that European kids need to go and shed blood for whatever cause the author has a hardon for, but maybe someone can ask why Saudi, Kuwaiti, and UAE kids are so feckless and cowardly as to not want to go fight ISIS, or whatever enemy I conveniently choose.Report

  4. It was a wakeup call for American officials when they realized that some European countries continued to decrease their military budgets even after Russia’s land grab in the Ukraine.

    Yeah, if I were Denmark, I’d be awfully scared I was next.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    What everybody else said. Westerners might be unwilling to vocalize a desire to defend their countries and their ideas but we don’t keel over that easily.Report

  6. Stillwater says:

    Oh, I don’t know. Italians have never been clear about who they want to fight for. Alsotoo, Europeans need to get over their squeamishness regarding the use of military force.

    Oh, and another thing: John Ashcroft covered up the boobies of the Spirit of Justice statue waaay back in 2002. So this is old news: the West isn’t declining. It’s obviously dead.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

      Europeans use plenty of military force. They just tend to cover it up and not make overt displays for. What Europeans do need to get rid of is their “deep down everybody is a secular liberated European social democratic type person if they would only be sensible about it” thought process. We Americans also have our own form of cognitive egocentrism but seems a lot more common in Europe. I suppose one slight advantage of American paranoia is that Americans are quicker to recognize that other people have different political desires.Report

  7. Slade the Leveller says:

    I wonder if “fight for your country” was defined. It seems to me that the numbers would be way higher if it were posited that one’s nation was being invaded by another. If the phrase is defined as joining the military to serve as cannon fodder for military adventurism of a dubious nature, then the low numbers are quite understandable.

    I daresay the latter is the case.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      “Fight for your country” is also a concept that most modern people in America and Europe can only grasp at an abstract level.
      Aside from the Balkans, few Europeans have an actual memory of being invaded or seeing war in their homeland.
      And no living American has seen their home country invaded; 9/11 was a terror attack, not an invasion.

      But just as with the change in attitudes towards the Taliban that occurred between Sep. 10, 2001 and Sep 12, 2001, the posture of Europeans towards fighting can and would change instantly, if there was an actual attack.

      The idea that we should be like killer bees, primed and ready at an instant to leap into homicidal rage against an imaginary enemy seems a bit absurd.

      Its kind of like those questions of “what would you do if you were mugged”; Sure we all like to harbor fantasies of our Dirty Harry moment, or maybe some noble martyrdom, or some combination of righteousness and bravery.

      But we don’t really know until the moment happens.

      For that matter, “what would you do if the Russians invaded” is a bit like that. We know from history that there are always people who downplay the threat, compromise with it, collaborate and acquiesce.
      And as often as not, they are the very people who were the loudest, most bellicose patriots prior.

      I guess I like Woody Guthrie’s line about gladly carrying a rifle for his country- he just wasn’t sure which way it should point.Report