I rarely comment on the op-eds of others. And I try not to use ad hominem attacks in lieu of argument. Usually I reply forcefully on the principle of retaliation rather than preemption. So I hesitate to devote space to a single essay. But in the case of an article by one Jakob Augstein in the recent issue of Der Spiegel I’ll make an exception, since his asinine views are emblematic of the poverty of thought that now is so evident among the European Left. In what follows I quote the article, “Once Upon a Time in the West” in italics, with a bracketed commentary following each paragraph.
Once Upon a Time in the West
A Commentary by Jakob Augstein
The word “West” used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word — along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence — should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.
[By referencing American democracy as a “thing of the past”, I expect the author now to demonstrate how the United States either does not hold elections or is not governed by its republican Constitution. Somehow, I expect in what follows to learn neither—and anticipate that Mr. Augstein objects not to the lack of democracy, but to the particular election results resulting from a quite vibrant democracy.]
The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically — in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.