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The West Never Had A Chance At Winning Over The World

The West Never Had A Chance At Winning Over The World

Just a few weeks ago, there was a growing intellectual trend in the Western world: the rise of the concept known as the "Global South." Initially used by more left-leaning groups, this term quickly gained remarkable attention from mainstream politicians and journalists in Europe and the US.

The summit of BRICS countries held in South Africa and the G-20 conclave in India grabbed unprecedented attention from the Western media. Speculation ran high regarding whether India or China would emerge as the leader of the Global South. President Joe Biden notably expressed his preferences by actively pursuing a closer relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had proclaimed himself as an advocate for the Global South. The Biden administration devised multiple strategies involving India, including forming alliances with Israel and wealthy Arab nations, partly aimed at countering Chinese influence.

A report from the European Council on Foreign Relations echoed this newfound consensus in the West: to establish a new world order, it was crucial for Western nations to court the favor of friendly Global South members such as India and Turkey.

As the ongoing conflict in the Middle East poses a threat to disrupt this Western fascination, it prompts a pertinent question: what was the underlying purpose of attempting to win over emerging nations? Was the endeavor to engage and court these nations merely a product of wishful thinking and image-building by Western elites?

Indeed, this romanticized approach appeared to overlook the potential for conflicting interests between the Western powers and the nations they sought to court. For instance, it overlooked the reality that India, despite being courted by the West, couldn't abruptly detach itself from its reliance on inexpensive oil from Russia or manufactured goods from China, even as it engaged in military agreements with Western nations.

The sudden Western interest in the Global South seemed more rooted in immediate self-interest rather than a deep understanding of its complexities. The term "Global South" gained prominence following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It became apparent that the Western effort against Vladimir Putin could be jeopardized by a lack of cooperation from countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, leading to an awkward realization among Western powers.

It appears that Putin's military capabilities, indirectly supported by both India and China, have managed to withstand Ukraine's counteroffensive. Consequently, backing for Kiev is expected to diminish in the coming months, even among some of its staunchest Western supporters. Furthermore, the Biden administration was unable to garner support from any significant country in the Global South for its efforts.

Furthermore, the conflict in Gaza might have severely undermined the influence and trust of Western nations in the Global South.

Israel's ongoing counteroffensive against Hamas hasn't shown progress towards victory. The increasing number of casualties, particularly among women and children, has prompted even staunch European allies like France to advocate for a ceasefire. Some countries in the Global South are more vocal, accusing Israel of genocide and pointing out perceived double standards in the West.

Western commentators err in taking at face value such morally charged criticism. Pro-Palestinian sentiment had, in fact, receded globally in recent years, except among the young and non-white populations in the US and Europe. With its vibrant high-tech economy, Israel seemed irresistible, and the world, after all, quickly learns to love and embrace a winner. Indeed, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presently a brazen champion of Hamas, was seeking close relations with Israel until October 7."

Palestine has historically been viewed through a "color issue," as noted by George Orwell in 1945. Israel's actions toward Palestinians have sparked outrage not only among global Muslim communities but also among anti-colonialists in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Additionally, African-American figures like Muhammad Ali and Cornel West, alongside voices worldwide, have criticized Israel's treatment of Palestinians. This criticism holds sway even among leaders like Erdogan or Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Bin Salman, who face intensified public opinion within their own countries.

More importantly, many potential partners of Israel in the Global South can cynically calculate that the country under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's leadership is very far from becoming a winner again. They can see that Hamas brutally shattered Israel's aura of inviolability on October 7 and, just as Hamas probably hoped, Netanyahu's retaliatory bombing of Gaza has brought a forgotten Palestinian cause back onto the stage of world history.

Israel appears entrenched in a protracted war it may not succeed in, both on the battlefield and in global public perception. Its inability to chart a viable future for itself and the Palestinians is straining ties with the US, causing divisions in the State Department and campuses, possibly affecting Biden's 2024 re-election. Veteran voices like Thomas Friedman urge the Biden administration to distance itself from Netanyahu.

Few individuals are inclined to support or rally behind an adventurer who persists in reckless gambling despite continual losses. Biden's initiatives involving Israel, Arab nations, and India have faltered, mirroring a grim outcome. The West's aspirations to garner the support of the Global South in shaping a new global order are likely to face a similar fate.

Pankaj Mishra is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is author, most recently, of "Run and Hide."

Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra


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