The culture of threat and retreat is back in full force

The culture of threat and retreat is back and is intensifying. Examples are before us every day. Some are tragedies that consumed families, houses and countries, others are mere warnings of what may be…

The culture of threat and retreat is back in full force

The culture of threat and retreat is back and is intensifying.

Examples are before us every day. Some are tragedies that consumed families, houses and countries, others are mere warnings of what may be to come. These are not the words of anarchists or terrorists. They are leaders and politicians speaking to their own ranks, and on the national and global stage.

And few around the world fully understand what’s going on, but they should.

From Tehran to Pyongyang to Riyadh, governments and their fans have lost their minds. They claim to be following national security, or security threats. But they are deeply confused as to what any of that really means.

Each is now saying, in different languages, “Let’s withdraw as much from the outside world as possible.”

These leaders are lashing out in response to a whole range of threats that have been reduced or disappeared: Iran’s mullahs only have to put the hammer down on domestic opponents and world oil prices always fall. So everything is “oil, oil, oil” these days.

In Washington, the War on Terror is a distant memory, and a good thing, but only the faintest of voices are saying “let’s see what’s going on in Asia and the Pacific.” And behind closed doors, a never-ending list of threats and dangers is lining the Pentagon’s spreadsheet. The increasingly visible nuclear threat from North Korea is a viable threat. But it is denied, ridiculed, ridiculed and its consequences ignored.

In Europe, people know that yet another Ottoman Age is under way, but public discourse is only about Islam’s threat to Europe.

Europe-wide EU citizens ignore borders as its fate but seem to share common language and reflexes that exclude from their sights those who might threaten Europe.

Beyond Washington, there’s a new culture of “refugees, refugees, refugees,” which means that many Americans are still shocked by the Islamization of their own country, but are just not giving a damn about the plight of anyone else in the region.

Sovereign nations are denying the people they claim to protect a voice. A paranoid, fearful elite is blocking entrance into the world and keeping itself out. No one escapes its gaze.

This is what ‘cancel culture’ looks like in action.

They do not care what anyone thinks about their approaches. Just let their world be safe for their leaders. Then it will be safe for us, too.

Arrogant nationalist governments and fanatical fanatics are talking about renouncing their different religions and/or rejecting and even destroying their national minorities. All this is dressed up in language of safety, as though anyone else’s safety are irrelevant.

The culture of threat and retreat is back and is intensifying.

No one can be surprised. Decade after decade of totalitarian rule and isolation have left the people of these countries traumatized. The reason is that they need those years of psychiatric isolation as much as the world needs them.

But they are not adequately prepared to sustain the brutal kinds of pressures that governments impose on them.

The tragic irony of this new ‘cancel culture’ tantrum is that a small number of countries and communities are making life much safer for themselves.

M. B. Fall has authored more than 50 books on politics, diplomacy, China, Middle East issues, and the history of U.S. foreign policy and remains a leading expert in China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, Central America, the Balkans, and Cuba. Follow him on Twitter @MBFall2012.

Leave a Comment