Have Western liberal democracies effectively responded to challenges to their power? In your answer, refer to at least one internal and one external challenge.
In 1989 political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history.” Despite his language, Fukuyama was not an apocalyptic religious fundamentalist awaiting the rapture, but rather, he saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union the ultimate and final triumph of liberal democracy. Fukuyama draws on Marxist and Hegelian interpretations of the narrative of history as one of progress, in this case with its apex at the liberal democracy best represented by the United States of America. The triumphalism of this ...view middle of the document...
But first, some background must be given as to how Western liberal democracies such as the United States and Great Britain protected their power in the 20th Century. The most obvious answer is through military supremacy and conflict, as in the case of the Vietnamese and Korean wars, as well as conflict in Central America, although there were numerous other more subtle ways that the same protection was achieved, using “soft” forms of power like economic influence through organizations like the World Bank and the IMF. Free trade agreements and other neo-liberal policies were often pressured onto politically weaker developing countries, particularly in South America. This kind of economic liberalism was highly controversial, opening markets up to international competition, and sometimes leading to knock-on consequences such as increasing poverty and hunger, as well as supporting dictatorial regimes like Pinochet’s Chile.
The Islamic World
Perhaps the most obvious geopolitical competitor to “Western” liberal democracy is the Islamic world, and the Islamist movement in particular. “Islamism” is widely used to refer to radical, politically-ideological versions of Islam, which frequently supports violent actions such as terrorism and suicide bombing. The West has had strong influence in the Middle East since the First World War, and has frequently backed oppressive regimes such as the Pahlavis in Iran in order to protect its own interests. This realpolitik backfired with the case of Saddam Hussein, who went from an ally of America during the Iran-Iraq war, to a strident critic and foe of American geo-political dominance.
After 9/11, the revised National Security Strategy asserted “the right of the United States to undertake ‘preventative war’ at will,” despite this being contrary to international law. As a response of a liberal democratic power to potential terrorist threats, this disregard for international law in the interest of maintaining hegemony should be judged negatively as, according to Michael Glennon, the invasion of Iraq exposed international law to be merely “hot air,” and its framework came “crashing down.” On a more practical level, this militaristic response had the effect of fermenting a huge increase in anti-Americanism, and a comparative analysis of Pew Research Center Surveys shows that in the Islamic world a “favourable” attitude towards the US dropped significantly following the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, in some cases by 60 (Indonesia) and 50 (Morcco) percentage points. This anti-Americanism has both domestic and international consequences, leading to the (sometimes violent) radicalization of Muslims in the US and Europe, and as a potent tool for recruitment of soldiers into pan-Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda. The aim of the US to bring stability to the region was also a failure, as it increased the influence of both Iran, one of the most powerful opponents of the West in the region, and Islamists.