Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with his Hungarian counterpart Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The West’s Decadent Foreign Policy

The West is increasingly reluctant to allow its vision of civil liberties and human rights to shape foreign policy, often owing to the potential commercial costs. Such foreign-policy decadence threatens to undermine the West's claim to be a community of values – and the EU's claim to be more than a glorified customs union.

LONDON – Nowadays, the West can be described as decadent. That does not mean simply that we are addicted to “bread and circuses,” from welfare programs in Europe (which we can barely afford) to the Super Bowl in the United States. It means also that we are increasingly reluctant to allow our own vision of civil liberties and human rights to shape our foreign policies, owing to the potential commercial costs.

Consider the case of the Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who recently died while serving an 11-year prison sentence for calling for democracy in China. The Chinese authorities refused Liu’s request, made just weeks before his death, to seek treatment abroad for his aggressive cancer, and his wife remains under house arrest.

China’s treatment of dissidents like Liu is nothing short of savage. Yet Western leaders have offered only a few carefully phrased diplomatic statements criticizing it.

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