Tarik Cyril Amar – Multipolarity Is Not Enough

Containing and deterring the declining American Empire is the most urgent task for a new international order.

Tarik Cyril Amar (@TarikCyrilAmar) is a historian from Germany, currently at Koç University, Istanbul, expert on Ukraine, Russia, and Europe, and the author of “The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists.”

Cross-posted from Tarik’s Substack Blog


October 2023 is likely to be remembered as either a historic turning-point or a last chance humanity missed before stumbling into World War Three. Here’s why:

Two important developments are unfolding before our eyes. First, while Israel is committing massive atrocities against Palestinians (especially but not only in Gaza), the United States leads the West in enabling the extreme-right-Zionist settler regime by providing diplomatic cover and arms. While Western publics show some signs of resistance and solidarity with the Palestinian victims of the Israeli massacre, Western governments and media are digging in their heels. Israel may not achieve all its aims, namely the ethnic cleansing of Gaza (and then the West Bank) by genocidal means. But if Israel fails, that failure will be due to Palestinian resistance and, perhaps, intervention from other states in the Middle East. The West will have done its worst, meanwhile, to help Israel win and preserve its total immunity against the claims of international law and elementary ethics.

(“Zeitenwende” Germany, weak as it is, is playing a particularly perverse and revolting role, hiding behind its historic Holocaust guilt to leave Palestinians to their fate at the hand of a genocidal regime. Indeed, many Germans seem to positively enjoy the massacring of Gazans in a manner reminiscent of their parents and grandparents who saw nothing wrong with, for instance, the siege and bombarding of Leningrad. German “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” has failed.)

Second, even while making yet another horrific crisis worse, Washington is now backing out of its preceding fiasco, namely its proxy war in Ukraine. And it is America’s fiasco, for two reasons. Concerning how it happened, Russia’s invasion in February 2022 broke international law. Yet Moscow did offer a perfectly viable off-ramp at the end of 2021, and, as the General Secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg has now blurted out, the West – of course with Washington calling the shots – knowingly rejected Russia’s offer to negotiate instead of fighting it out. Rather than finally cease to provoke Moscow by deliberately infringing on its elementary security interests, the USA decided to go for broke.

Then, apart from the causes of the war, there is the outcome: That as well is a fiasco for the West, because Russia is winning. Whereas a compromise in 2021 would have left the status quo intact, the defeat of Ukraine and its Western backers will greatly damage the Western position overall: The West has done its worst to Russia, and it has not been enough. Now Moscow knows how strong it really is, and it also knows how weak the West really is. And the rest of the world knows, too. This defeat will not be like the Western rout in Kabul, grotesque as that was. This one the West will not just be able to walk away from. This one will hurt and keep hurting.

These two Western failures, over Ukraine and Palestine, have three features in common. They confirm the USA’s “leadership” in the sense that the West – i.e., most of Europe, NATO, and the EU, plus several odd cases such as Canada or Japan – obey Washington’s orders, often with sickening enthusiasm. They also show that this “leadership” is now severely circumscribed: No one outside this “West” is going along anymore, and insofar as they do, then only out of a fear that is diminishing rapidly. And finally, and most importantly, both failures ultimately stem from the USA’s shortsighted refusal to adjust to the fact that its post-Cold War “unipolar moment” is over and that it will now have to find a place as one important but no longer dominant state among others.

Washington 2023 is, in other words, radically different from Moscow 1986. Back then, the still powerful yet crisis-ridden Soviet Union was not merely ready but took the initiative to end the Cold War with a compromise instead of a hot war. Indeed, within less than a decade, the Soviets would acquiesce not only to the loss of superpower status but of their whole state. Whatever you think about Soviet history, the Soviets lost their empire peacefully and reasonably and at great cost. They did not have to. They could have fought and taken us all with them.

The American empire in decline is very different. This is not the place for analyzing why. For that, things are too urgent. What we must do now is face the fact that Washington’s “elites” are very likely to fight and fight again – and then some more – to prevent the inevitable, the end of their global power. That is why we need to think beyond multipolarity even now. Valdimir Putin and Xi Jinping are correct when they tell us that a multipolar world order is emerging whether Washington likes it or not.

Yet the real danger is that, instead of finding its place in that new world order, the USA will keep provoking, instigating, and starting wars, until we finally reach one, big overarching cataclysm. The only way to prevent this is to contain and deter Washington. Those states who understand that the survival of humanity is more important than the “Manifest-Destiny” and “Indispensability” delusions of the USA will have to do more than just bypassing Washington. They will have to form a global coalition to threaten it into accepting its decline no less peacefully than the Soviets had to accept theirs.

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