Response to Chris Borgen

by Walter Russel Mead

Chris Borgen taxes me with not paying enough attention to the ways in which the responses of non-Anglo-American powers to the Anglo-Americans may reflect their own hopes and plans for the world, rather than a simple dislike of Anglo-American plans or values. I think the two are connected; people dislike the Anglo-Americans both because they don’t like what we have in mind and because our plans and activities frustrate hopes and wishes of their own. God and Gold deals with these issues at some length in the last section; rather than argue with Chris about this now I think it’s better to wait until the discussion moves to the later sections of the book and see what he thinks then.

But there is one point I would like to make now. One difference between the perspective of God and Gold on the world and the conventional approach is that the conventional narrative sees ‘Europe’ as part of the core – and non-Europe, excluding the US and other English speaking countries like Canada and Australia, as a ‘periphery’. From the God and Gold point of view, Europe is also the periphery, at least as far as power and geopolitics are concerned. Spain, France, Russia and Germany have been (some of them still are) as frustrated, alienated and embittered by the progress of the Anglo-American project as much as Iran, China, Egypt and India have been.

And for the same reasons. On the one hand, the Anglo-Americans have blocked the development of institutions, power relations and social dynamics that they did not like; on the other, the Anglo-Americans have furthered a set of changes, institutions and relationships that they did like. The Hapsburg dream of a universal Catholic monarchy; the French visions of Catholic hegemony, Jacobin world revolution, or Napoleonic grandeur; the deeply held belief of idealistic German nationalists that Imperial Germany stood for a higher and nobler way of life than Anglo-American commercialism; the various forms of communist and fascist visions of the twentieth century: these are not just negative anti-American or anti-British world views. They are each based on a set of values and beliefs that arise from the experiences and aspirations of other peoples and other cultures – but they are quickly forced to engage in a struggle with the global commercial vision of the Anglo-American world.

So Chris is right to point out that others have hated the Anglo-Americans not only because they dislike what we are doing, but because the rise of our system has blocked or frustrated the achievement of other goals and other visions. But this has not just been true for people in what he now calls the ‘periphery’; this has been the experience of everyone, far or near, European or non-European, who cherished a vision of either a global or a local civilization built on values and priorities different from those of the Anglophone paradigm.

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