The rise of Asia is a zero-sum game, which necessarily means the relative decline of the West. This outcome has gained an extra edge because the West has not wanted to understand the trend and has been unwilling to accept it. This view has gradually spread among a few policy-makers in western capitals, but its larger implications – and some positive overtones – are less well-known. Nowhere are these points collected in a sharper fashion than in an important and provocative new book, The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East, written by Kishore Mahbubani. As Dean of the Lee Quan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Mahbubani has earned a well-deserved reputation as a critic of the wholesale application of Western values to Asia. His provocations, the origins of which are collected in an earlier book, Can Asians Think?, have led some critics to dismiss him as a nattering scold.
Separatist ambitions in the Caucasus region have received their first tangible boost from the example of Kosovo’s independence. The breakaway Abkhazia region in Georgia appealed to international bodies for recognition of its independence in messages sent March 7, the day after Russia announced that it was lifting its trade restrictions on the territory.
Late last summer Bush administration officials were re-thinking their strategy for out-playing an Iran that seemed to hold all the cards. U.S. forces had done Iranians the service of toppling their traditional foes the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and now found themselves tied down in Iraq. Tehran seemed to be waging proxy-war across the region, almost certainly green-lighting Hezbollah’s attacks that triggered war with Israel last summer as well as the subsequent campaign to destabilize the Western-backed government in Lebanon. Iranian support for the terrorist group Hamas was similarly adding fuel to the Israel-Palestinian violence. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards agents reportedly were arming Shiite militias in Iraq with armor-piercing explosives of the type responsible for the deaths of an estimated 170 U.S. and coalition soldiers.
In Europe, Christian fundamentalists are so few and far between that they are dismissed as small, secretive cultist sects— a minor curiosity in a secularizing age. So Europeans rarely understand that in America, the profile and weight of evangelicals are radically different. In the United States, evangelicals are the nation’s largest, fastest-growing religious grouping. In rivalry for influence and in active opposition in many views to the liberal Protestant establishment (of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and other churches), evangelicals are the core of the Christian conservative movement and thus play a considerable role in U.S. electoral politics and foreign policy. Because of their political activism and disciplined values, the evangelicals have gained since the 1990s what amounts to a veto on the nomination in the Republican party for any presidential candidate and for many other key political posts. The evangelicals’ most influential role lies in the Middle East, where their unwavering—indeed, unquestioning— loyalty to Israel is a major fact of life in U.S. policy and therefore in the geopolitics of this region that is the source of so much Transatlantic concern and so much divisiveness between Europe and the United States. In that sense, the role of evangelicals in U.S. policy in the Middle East is part of a much broader Transatlantic communications gap about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the place of Israel in the broader Middle East.
*He is Germany's defense minister after serving as economics minister in the first Merkel Government. Updated November 11th, 2009.
The European Union and Turkey have been linked by a long history of friendly relations, dating back many years before the Union officially accepted Turkey as a candidate for membership in 1999. As early as 1963, Turkey was granted an association agreement with the then European Economic Community (EEC), and a customs union came into force in 1995. Regardless of the outcome of the membership negotiations that were formally opened in October 2005, Europe and Turkey have a strong, shared interest in maintaining and expanding this special relationship.
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