There is an unseen connection between the social justice debates in Western societies and the fate of the West and the liberal international order. There has been much soul searching in the West about new challenges to global order and democratic decline globally and in the West. Western dominance is waning, and what will follow is unclear. At the same time, within Western countries, old orders and habits are also being challenged. Received histories and heroes are being reconsidered in a reckoning with the racial injustices that have been a central feature of European and U.S. history.
Western proponents of a rules-based, cooperative order—in order to further it—need to learn from domestic debates and better understand how history and the West’s liberal rhetoric is viewed by others. The liberal order and rhetoric of freedom and equality long co-existed with blatant betrayal by the West of “Western” values. A more honest evaluation of the West’s sins and failings will help policymakers find the right balance between confidence and humility. A new equilibrium should include confidence in values, humility in judgement.
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