Colonialism brought Europe and the West to Asia and Africa. The tide has now turned. Demographic change and immigration are now bringing Asia and Africa to the West. The West prevailed in the first encounter that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lands it conquered and ruled for centuries didn’t have the military might to keep out the powerful intruder. Technology had given the West the ways to produce steel and gunpowder, and those innovations combined helped it to equip its armies with guns and grenades.
Now, the once conquered are using the West’s remarkable demographic decline to leave behind their countries battered by drought, political conflict and famine to head north and west. The West has begun to resist. It is using politics to build a wall around it. This is quite literally the case in the US with Donald Trump passionately committed to building a “big and beautiful wall” to keep the Hispanics out of his country. His devoted backers are prepared to forgive him a lot as long as he erects that wall. The European wall is more figurative.
In the words of a newspaper reporter covering the France presidential election, “ever since Trump proved last November that anything is possible in the topsy-turvy world of the Western politics, May 7th has been circled in European calendars with a mix of giddy anticipation and existential dread. To right-wing populists, the election in France — a country scarred by unemployment and terrorism — seemed to offer the next big opportunity to remake the post-war global order in their own nationalist, nativist and protectionist image.” The possible electoral triumph of Marine Le Pen was seen by many a third strike after Brexit in June 2016 and the Trump victory a few months later in November. These developments had the potential to doom the EU, Nato and other pillars of the trans-Atlantic alliance.