A certain genre of Western literature can be summed up by the title of one of its earliest entries, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, published in 1918. As the title suggests, the author had a dire view of Western democracy. The defeat of fascism in the Second World War ought to have cheered everyone up, but the guns had barely stopped firing before we had books such as The West at Bay, by British economist Barbara Ward, about the “Communist challenge,” and Witness, by Whittaker Chambers, an even more sober assessment of that challenge. Chambers was sure the West was going to lose this battle for hearts and minds.
Even relatively tame Japan loomed as a menace to the West in the ’80s. I recall one book, whose title I forget, predicting a new Asian Pacific war between the United States and Japan — a classic instance of Marshall McLuhan’s rear-view mirror. Since the ’90s, the invincible Japanese, those economic if not military giants, have been humbled by their own woes and have ceased to trouble the dreams of the West, and the United States in particular.