It is on account of the circumstances in which we find ourselves since 9/11 that I fear the West is precariously tilting at the edge of terminal decline. The situation today is dramatically different than the one in 1979. Then, Ronald Reagan, with Thatcher and Pope John Paul II on either side, reversed the slide of American politics and the West — from the debacle of defeat in Vietnam, brought by the fecklessness of the Democrats, to the hostage crisis in Tehran.
The Soviet Union did discipline the West and, ironically, the existing reality of the Soviet Empire gave Reagan the measure needed to re-group and deliver the coup de grace. But after 1992 we have been in the state of enjoying our unrestrained appetite for endless orgy, the zeal that comes to declining bodies from the artificiality of induced eroticism by pills which give to narcissists of the “sixties” generation the pathetic sense of immortality. These are the folks the people have elected to run their lives, protect their cultural legacy, hold back the enemies of freedom, maintain balance of power in strategic and vulnerable regions of the world and, as Burke reminded his own generation, maintain the promise of the present and inheritance of the past as trustees for the unborn generations of the future.
Ten years after 9/11, we, the broad public of liberal democracies, still have not fully grasped the meaning of that horror-filled morning, or understood without any apologetics or polemics the evil nature and ideology of the men who planned and executed the deed. We remain more or less preoccupied with re-litigating the debate over the decision by the Bush administration to take the war declared upon the West into the heartland of the enemy and expunge them; and instead of faulting Bush for not going far enough at home and abroad in defeating the Islamist jihadi assault on the West, for reasons that have everything to do with the nature of our corrupted polity, we have contorted ourselves to find the right mix of appeasement. From the ashes piled high at the end of the Second World War to the re-grouping that was essential to contain the Soviet Union, the passage of time was barely twenty-four months. Ten years after 9/11, the West has as leaders Obama and Cameron, Sarkozy, Berlusconi, and Merkel still clinging to the fantasy that Islamists are merely a Middle Eastern version of Milton and Locke, Tocqueville and Mill, leading the reform of the Islamic civilization that once gave us Alhambra and the Taj Mahal, Omar Khayyam and the tales from the Arabian Nights.
The fault, as Cassius reminds Brutus, is in ourselves, a decaying civilization that will be saved (if it will be) not by the snobs in Washington and New York, London and Paris, Rome and Berlin, but by our version of the unsophisticated children of truckers who are now waking up from the drug-induced stupor of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. I have hope, the eternal hope of a fearful heart, that the West will survive and yet again gather speed, but how sad are the losses and tears that have piled up — with more to come. They could have been avoided if we, as a people, were not so irresponsible or unfaithful to our history as to place at the head of our societies leaders so unworthy and clueless as the one who so unfittingly occupies the seat of Washington and Lincoln, at the head of this great republic.