23 February 2024

Delusions on display: The emptiness of the West’s strategic thinking will be on full show at the 2024 Munich Security Conference

Gabriel Elefteriu

The Munich Security Conference (MSC), which opens this week, is the Davos of the defence and strategic policy world. There is a degree of overlap as both gatherings see much debate about geopolitics and global issues. But the World Economic Forum shindig in the Swiss Alps attracts the planet’s top leaders from business, tech, finance and politics – plus a wealth of other hangers-on – to talk about what new globalist “Reset”-type policies to foist on their peoples.

In contrast, the MSC is the get-together of the high priests of the transatlantic “foreign policy community”, from national security-related officials, ministerial figures and heads of government to the crème de la crème of Western strategic thinking. By and large these are the very “elites” who have brought us, in about twenty short years of bungled policies from Iraq to Afghanistan and now Yemen, from the pinnacle of Western power to our current predicament – and who continue to hold sway in the national security councils of allied governments.

It is therefore worthwhile paying some attention to the MSC, if only to get a sense of the latest nonsense and delusions that Western strategic policy will have to endure at the hands of the foreign-policy classes who have already given ample proof of their collective incompetence. Even more important than the actual policy prescriptions that filter out from these Munich jamborees are the globalist ideological currents and narratives they help spawn and amplify, and which continue their decades-old work of undermining and rotting the Western spirit and identity from the inside.

The most infamous MSC edition in this regard was that of 2018, whose report inveighed against the “illiberal understanding of Western civilisation, based on history, culture, and religion instead of liberal values and democratic achievements.” Here was the perfect expression of the Davosian view of the world, where only the progressive “liberal values and democratic achievements” stand on the side of righteousness, and where to understand ourselves in terms of our own history, culture and religion has now become a sign of regressive “illiberalism” that must be condemned.

This perspective, which is rampant across Western establishments, goes hand in hand with the wokeism of our times that only treats our past glories with contempt and condemnation. To say that this plays into the hands of our adversaries is an understatement. In this connection, it is useful to know that one of the members of the MSC’s Advisory Council is Fu Ying, a former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China.

So what can we expect from this year’s MSC? The answers are to be found in the organisation’s 2024 Report, published ahead of the conference, and which is designed to guide the discussions in Munich. Written in a particularly boring and often asinine way – for example with no less than 24 references to the metaphoric global economic “pie” that needs to be grown – the paper offers partly a run-of-the-mill description of current geopolitical challenges, and partly a set of strong suggestions as to the directions that Western policy should take.

The core theme is a deep and recurring socialistic concern with redistribution of Western “gains” towards the Global South. From the very first paragraph the MSC report wags its finger at the West, declaring in no uncertain terms that “the Global South have become dissatisfied with what they perceive to be an unequal distribution of the absolute benefits of the international order”. We are also admonished, at various times, for failing to pursue “inclusive global growth” and there is much talk about the “costs” that poorer countries are supposedly incurring from the receding tides of globalisation.

In a general sense, global cooperation of the classic “win-win” type – i.e. the operating framework of the post-Cold War globalisation drive during the US unipolar moment – is now seen by the MSC authors to be receding in the face of the new de-risking priorities of the major powers. In the MSC report’s telling, this is leading to “relative-gains” or “zero-sum” thinking where the objective of policy is to overtake the adversary – or arrest his development – rather than pursue mutual benefits from a global increase in wealth and economic interdependence.

This insight is then used to chastise Western governments for having raised their defence budgets, introduced sanctions and having “reconsidered their policies of engagement with many nondemocracies” in “response to autocratic revisionism”. The MSC worries that these Western responses “could contribute to a downward trend, perhaps leading to trade wars or arms races”. Incredibly, the sages running the MSC are effectively blaming the West – i.e. the victim – for trying to secure itself against Russian and Chinese aggression.

Nor is the MSC’s lament over “trade wars or arms races” one that is tied to, say, the general risk of a loss of strategic stability in the international security system. Rather, and quite clearly, the main concern here, again, is that increasing security-driven protectionism in the West is impacting growth in the Global South specifically, by “fragmenting” the world economic system.

If there is any handwringing to be done in this report about the state of world affairs, according to its authors, it is not in relation to the West’s own strategic situation. No, instead, the MSC informs us in black and white, on page 21, that “shrinking national budgets will make it more difficult to compensate the ‘losers’ of globalization”. This is what exercises the elite conscience in Munich.

Apart from its anti-Western inclination, this argument is not even accurate. Leave aside the vast and growing amounts of foreign aid – over $200 billion in 2022, half of which from European nations – that is being transferred every year to the Global South from Western taxpayers. But the notion that the West is to blame for lower global growth because of a “dangerous spiral into protectionism” (page 49) on security grounds is morally preposterous and a crass manipulation.

It ignores the huge detrimental impact on economic growth – certainly in the West – by the utterly crippling costs of the Net Zero agenda as well as Covid (promoted by the Davos/MSC crowd themselves), not to mention the more chronic problems of Western states, from government waste and corruption to ever-expanding welfare budgets. If the policies of liberal democracies are a cause of a shrinking “global pie”, the problem is with the incompetent governance of our elite establishments at home, not with economic security measures directed against rivals abroad.

Overall, the MSC 2024 report is little more than a long complaint about the fact that the West is – belatedly – starting to mobilise and secure itself against the depredations of its revisionist rivals, particularly China. The paper goes so far as to warn decision-makers to “avoid adopting an ever-more expansive conception of security relevance” (page 84) lest we damage the prospects for an “inclusive [world] order”.

In other words, the logic of the MSC’s report is that the West should let its guard down for the sake of more lucrative business with the autocracies, so that Western governments would have more money left available to give out to the Global South. The report even goes on to state, with breathtaking insolence, that “de-risking from China should go hand in hand with redirecting investment toward Africa and other low-income countries”. It is not often that we are treated to quite such brazen evidence that globalism is and has always been a socialistic redistribution project on a planetary scale.

As an authoritative expression of Western national security elites’ credo, the MSC report is exactly what one would expect from the liberal circles of this failed establishment meeting in the German city that is synonymous, since 1938, with appeasement. The document is an expression of weakness, of folly and – which is particularly galling – of moral corruption that abdicates from any real sense of Western interests or real values where they appear to interfere with an ideological vision of a value-less inclusive world order.

The MSC 2024 report reflects the mindset of a Western strategic community that, at best, has been overtaken by events. This is the generation that matured intellectually in the post-Cold War “end of history” era of hyper-globalisation, “soft power” and liberal internationalism. It has a hard time accepting the very hard and uncomfortable truths and imperatives of the resumption of great-power competition in the world system, let alone adapting to the reality of what it takes to win in this kind of environment.

A world of competing power-blocks does not fit with their instincts, a withdrawal from the hallowed ideal of a happy global society where all countries are “developed” shocks their conscience, and switching to an aggressive zero-sum game to defeat or disable your enemies before they can do the same to you, is anathema in their books.

Yet zero-sum and overmatching our adversaries is the only way forward if we want to preserve what’s left of Western security, while returning to the globalisation ideals of the 1990s cannot happen under Chinese dominion. We should be under no illusions – unlike the MSC crowd – as to the kind of geopolitical forces that have now been unleashed in the world.

The aspiration to a better world and to global prosperity is legitimate and perhaps even a good thing. But it is the primacy of Western power and values in international affairs that is the precondition for any grander vision of human flourishing, despite what we might hear from the siren songs of the Chinese Communist Party’s vision for the world or from Putin’s “concern” for world peace. For now, however, we remain mired in the deceit, delusions and decay embodied by the proceedings at Davos and the MSC, with their expensive glitz and bankrupt ideas.

No comments: