罗伯特·斯基德尔斯基:再论西方的没落
2019-12-03 08:03:46
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巴黎恐怖分子屠杀事件再次突显,21世纪上空的阴云,让共产主义崩溃给欧洲和西方所带来的希望之光黯淡下来。危险与日俱增,目前的情况值得我们深思。

尽管预言并不真实,但一致的出发点应该是减低期望。英国市场研究公司Ipsos MORI社会研究所的一份报告称:“在西方大部分国家,下一代人将享有更美好未来的假设已不复存在。”

1918年,斯宾格勒(Oswald Spengler)出版了《西方的没落》(The Decline of the West)。如今,“没落”一词已成为禁忌。我们的政治人物用“挑战”来取代它,而经济学家的说法则是“长期性停滞”。语言在变,但西方文明时日(和金钱)不多的观点却没有改变。

为什么会这样?普遍的看法是这只不过是对生活水平停滞不前的反应。但更令人信服,民众也开始明白的原因,是西方未能在苏联解体后建立一个安全的国际环境,来让西方价值观和生活方式持续下去。

这一失败的最重大例子,是伊斯兰恐怖主义的爆发。恐怖主义本身并不是对生存的威胁。带来灾难的,是恐怖分子来源地国家结构的崩溃。

伊斯兰世界拥有16亿人口,占全世界人口的23%。一百年前,它是世界上最和平的地区之一;如今却是最暴力的。这不是弗朗西斯·福山(Francis Fukuyama)在其1989年文章《历史的终结》中预见的“外围”问题。因为大规模难民的涌入,中东的失序正在冲击欧洲的心脏。

这一人潮的迁移和亨廷顿所预见的“文明的冲突”没有什么关系。真相更通俗的认知是,昔日维持伊斯兰世界和平的奥斯曼、不列颠和法兰西帝国分崩离析后,一直没有出现稳定的继承者。这主要(尽管不完全)是欧洲殖民主义者的过错。在帝国主义垂死挣扎时,他们人为地建立了许多日后注定要解体的国家。

他们的继承者美国做得并不比他们好。我最近看了电影《查理·威尔逊的战争》(Charlie Wilson’s War)。影片讲述了美国如何武装同苏联对抗的阿富汗圣战组织(Mujahideen)。在影片末尾,美国昔日保护的组织演变为塔利班,而为他们提供资金的美国政客威尔逊说:“我们大获全胜,但也搞砸了结局。”

“搞砸”是越南战争以来美国军事干预的一个永恒课题。通过直接派兵或武装反对组织,美国部署具压倒性优势的火力,在摧毁当地政府结构后抽身离去,任由这个国家自身自灭。

美国的决策不太可能体现什么理想的世界观,即认为消灭独裁者和建立民主是一回事。事实上,坚信理想结果必定产生是一个必要的谬论,只是用来掩盖不肯坚定、明智地使用武力来实现所期望的结果。

不管超级大国具备多少军事实力,缺乏使用军事实力的意愿和缺乏有效力量没有两样。只要有过一次先例,就失去了威慑力。

因此,2003年卡甘(Robert Kagan)的新保守主义命题:“美国人来自火星,欧洲人来自金星”提供了完全错误的指导。诚然,欧盟在绥靖主义的道路上走得比美国更远。它是一个松散的半国家实体的脆弱神经中枢,其边界形同虚设,并以人道主义论调掩盖懦弱。但美国的兵力部署亦只是间或的,既不可靠,效果也差,也远远够不上火星标准。

与西方的没落一起出现的,是东方的崛起,特别是中国(很难说俄罗斯是在崛起还是在没落,但无论如何,情况都令人不安。)崛起的力量要纳入正在消亡的国际体系,很少能够和平实现。也许,超凡的西方和中国政治可以避免一场大战;但从历史上看,这将是意外之喜。

国际政治秩序日趋脆弱,正在破坏全球经济前景。此次大崩盘后的复苏,是有史以来速度最慢的。个中原因十分复杂,但部分原因显然是国际贸易反弹无力。过去,贸易扩张一直是世界主要增长引擎。但如今,国际贸易落后于产出复苏(而产出复苏本身亦平平无奇),因为有利于全球化的全球政治秩序正在消失。

这种局势的一个迹象,是14年之久的多哈回合贸易谈判以失败告终。贸易和货币协议总算仍有达成,但越来越多是以地区或双边协议的形式达成,而非有利于范围更广的地缘政治目标的多边协定。比如,美国所领导的跨太平洋伙伴关系协定(TPP)就是为了针对中国;而中国的新丝绸之路计划,则是对被排斥在TPP之外的反应。

也许这些区域的讨价还价,只是迈向更广泛自由贸易的一步。但我对此感到怀疑。一个分裂为政治集团的世界,也将出现以保护主义和货币操纵维持的贸易集团。

而虽然贸易关系日益政治化,我们的领导人却在敦促我们做好应对“全球化挑战”的准备,并且很少有人质疑通过自动化削减成本的好处。在这两方面,政客都试图迫使渴望安全的不情愿人群作出调整。这一策略不但是绝望的行为,也是虚妄的。因为,显而易见的,如果地球想要保持宜居,那么经济增长的竞争就必须让位给生活质量的竞争。

简言之,我们还远远没有制定出一套可靠的规律和政策,来指引我们通往更加安全的未来。因此,西方人对未来有不祥的预感就不足为奇了。

作者Robert Skidelsky是英国上议院议员、华威大学政治经济学名誉教授

英文原题:The Decline of the West Revisited

The terrorist slaughter in Paris has once again brought into sharp relief the storm clouds gathering over the twenty-first century, dimming the bright promise for Europe and the West that the fall of communism opened up. Given dangers that seemingly grow by the day, it is worth pondering what we may be in for.

Though prophecy is delusive, an agreed point of departure should be falling expectations. As Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute reports: “The assumption of an automatically better future for the next generation is gone in much of the West.”

In 1918, Oswald Spengler published The Decline of the West. Today the word “decline” is taboo. Our politicians shun it in favor of “challenges,” while our economists talk of “secular stagnation.” The language changes, but the belief that Western civilization is living on borrowed time (and money) is the same.

Why should this be? Conventional wisdom regards it simply as a reaction to stagnant living standards. But a more compelling reason, which has seeped into the public’s understanding, is the West’s failure, following the fall of the Soviet Union, to establish a secure international environment for the perpetuation of its values and way of life.

The most urgent example of this failure is the eruption of Islamist terrorism. On its own, terrorism is hardly an existential threat. What is catastrophic is the collapse of state structures in many of the countries from which the terrorists come.

The Islamic world contains 1.6 billion people, or 23% of the world’s population. A hundred years ago it was one of the world’s most peaceful regions; today it is the most violent. This is not the “peripheral” trouble that Francis Fukuyama envisioned in his 1989 manifesto “The End of History.” Through the massive influx of refugees, the disorder in the Middle East strikes at the heart of Europe.

This movement of peoples has little to do with the “clash of civilizations” foreseen by Samuel Huntington. The more mundane truth is that there have never been any stable successors to the defunct Ottoman, British, and French empires that used to keep the peace in the Islamic world. This is largely, though not entirely, the fault of the European colonialists who, in the death throes of their own empires, created artificial states ripening for dissolution.

Their American successors have hardly done better. I recently watched the film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which relates how the United States came to arm the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. At the end of the film, as America’s erstwhile clients turn into the Taliban, Wilson, the American politician who got them the money, is quoted as saying “We won a great victory, but fouled up the end game.”

This “fouling up” is a continuous thread running through American military interventions since the Vietnam War. The US deploys overwhelming firepower, either directly or by arming opposition groups, shatters local governmental structures, and then pulls out, leaving the country in shambles.

It is unlikely that US policymaking reflects the grip of some ideal view of the world, in which getting rid of dictators is the same thing as creating democracies. Rather, the belief in ideal outcomes is a necessary myth to cover an unwillingness to use force persistently and intelligently enough to achieve a desired result.

However much military hardware a superpower owns, decay of the will to use it is the same thing as a decay of effective power. After a time, it ceases to overawe.

That’s why Robert Kagan’s 2003 neo-conservative proposition, “Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus,” offered such a misleading guide. True enough, the European Union has gone farther down the pacifist road than the US. It is the weak nerve center of a flabby semi-state, with almost defenseless frontiers, where humanitarian rhetoric masks spinelessness. But America’s sporadic, erratic, and largely ineffective deployment of power is hardly of Martian quality.

The decline of the West is juxtaposed with the rise of the East, notably China. (It is hard to tell whether Russia is rising or falling; either way, it is disturbing.) Fitting a rising power into a decaying international system has rarely occurred peacefully. Perhaps superior Western and Chinese statesmanship will avert a major war; but this, in historical terms, would be a bonus.

The increasing fragility of the international political order is diminishing the global economy’s prospects. This is the slowest recovery from a major slump on record. The reasons for this are complex, but part of the explanation must be the weakness of the rebound in international trade. In the past, trade expansion has been the world’s main growth engine. But it now lags behind the recovery of output (which is itself modest), because the kind of global political order hospitable to globalization is disappearing.

One symptom of this has been the failure after 14 years to conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Trade and monetary agreements are still reached, but they increasingly take the form of regional and bilateral deals, rather than multilateral arrangements, thereby serving broader geopolitical goals. The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, is directed against China; and China’s New Silk Road initiative is a reaction to its exclusion from the 12-country TPP.

Perhaps these regional bargains will prove to be a step toward wider free trade. But I doubt it. A world divided into political blocs will become a world of trade blocs, sustained by protectionism and currency manipulation.

And yet, even as trade relations become increasingly politicized, our leaders continue to urge us to gear up to meet the “challenges of globalization,” and few question the benefits of cost-cutting through automation. In both cases, politicians are trying to force adaptation on reluctant populations who crave security. This strategy is not only desperate; it is also delusive, for it seems obvious that, if the planet is to remain habitable, competition in economic growth must give way to competition in quality of life.

In short, we are far from having developed a reliable set of precepts and policies to guide us toward a safer future. Small wonder, then, that Western populations look ahead with foreboding.

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