Boris Johnson, shown walking up Downing Street on March 25, 2021, is still a force to be reckoned with despite being forced out as UK prime minister amid scandals. Photo: AFP / David Cliff / Anadolu Agency

Western nations’ declaration of liberalism is questionable. Certainly, Western citizens treasure liberal values, but this tendency doesn’t naturally translate into their foreign policies, as claimed.

Western nations’ economic and military supremacy has empowered them to dominate the world politically. This has led Western governments to perceive liberalism as a notion that is administered top-down toward the rest of the world, not noticing their hypocritical illiberal behavior. 

Liberalism entails believing that the universe constitutes a multiplicity of identities, qualities and ideas, offering each citizen the autonomy to create his or her own blend that is protected by the law. 

Liberalism, correspondingly, obliges individuals to recognize their peers’ identity. In short, I respect your partialities, while you respect mine. Liberalism isn’t about abiding by the latest technology, trend or given norm; it is merely about having the right to choose as long as these choices don’t harm others.      

Meanwhile, hypocrisy is best exhibited in having a gap between claimed values and given actions. In fact, many Western scholars implicitly acknowledge their states’ hypocrisy.      

Realpolitik that puts values aside entirely in service of a nation’s interest isn’t hypocrisy, but a pure amoral act. Maneuvering between value and interest based on a given nation’s needs or politicians’ desires is the ultimate hypocrisy.   

The United Kingdom’s Partygate scandal, wherein a number of social gatherings took place in the garden of 10 Downing Street and other government buildings involving then-prime minister Boris Johnson while the entire nation was practicing a complete lockdown, clearly exhibited the hypocrisy of the British government – Britain used to be a world example of law enforcement inclusive of government officials. 

For Johnson, who inherited the premiership instead of being elected in his own right, his misconduct was not enough to force him to resign. On the contrary, he managed to remain in power for almost seven months until he submitted his resignation last July, under pressure from Conservative Party members amid unrelated scandals.

To underscore the lack of consequences for deceiving the British Parliament, Johnson, even after being forced out, has been suggested as the next secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and was even considering running again for the premiership after the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss, though he has reportedly changed his mind.   

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a clear violation of another country’s sovereignty. However, the suspension of leading Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik from broadcasting in many Western nations is a clear disruption of freedom of expression. This is no different from autocratic nations that only broadcast the ruling’s party’s narrative. In democratic nations, criminals have the right to explain their motive before being convicted; the same notion should be applied to Russian media outlets. 

Furthermore, Western nations have welcomed Russian oligarchs’ investments for years, while knowing that these funds might be illegally or immorally sourced. Yet when a political need arose, Western nations decided to freeze the oligarchs’ money, regardless of respective regulations that previously secured their money. 

Calling on Idrissa Gana Gueye, a Senegalese soccer player for Paris Saint-German (PSG) France by the National Council of Ethics of the French Football Federation to explain his boycotting of a soccer game that expressed solidarity to the LGBTQ community, was a clearly illiberal act. As stated by Gueye, his contract with PSG obliges him to play soccer, not to advocate for a political or social stance.

Discriminating against any ethnic, sexual or religious group is an immoral act that warrants censorship, as it harms the individual. However, expressing solidarity or refraining from doing so is a pure liberal act. Associating Gueye’s stance with being a Muslim and calling for sanctioning the player by French sport professionals is illiberal behavior.  

Moreover, America’s National Rifle Association’s advocacy of putting weapons in schools to defend children against mass shootings is an argument that would not even be plausible in the world of video games. Arming schoolteachers could fuel even more conflict with students and certainly wouldn’t secure the safety of innocent children. A citizen’s freedom to own and carry a gun shouldn’t infringe on others’ right to safety.

The utmost illiberal hypocrisy of Western nations lies in their relationship with Arab autocrats who are offered a blind eye when economic ties result in Western favor while their falloff results in casting a light on the autocracy’s human-rights violations.

When Egyptians were fighting for their freedom early in the course of their uprising in 2011, then-US vice-president Joe Biden described the late president Hosni Mubarak as a democratic ruler. Then, when the uprising intensified, president Barack Obama switched gears and called on Mubarak to leave the presidential office immediately.

Westerners tend to set and standardize the norms that suit them, applying them to the rest of the world or modifying them when needed.

For example, Western economists for years defined an economic recession as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP, which is the current case of the US as declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research. But now, the NBER and many other American economists are declining to say the US is in an economic recession, which might have a negative political impact on President Biden and for the Democrats in the coming congressional elections. 

Western nations’ true achievement is their application of democracy, clearly backed up by rule of law; this has saved them from internal power struggles. However, when it comes to nation-state conflicts, Western governments tend to exercise their economic and military power by applying sanctions on countries with which they have disputes. 

The present decay of democracy and leadership in Western nations at large and the United States in particular will negatively affect their economic supremacy. The most significant pillars of Western modernization are its institutions and fair regulations; weakening these will negatively reflect on Western economic superiority. 

Aside from democracy, Westerners deserve credit for their widely diversified innovations that better serve human development, but these are always sold to the rest of the world at a price: manipulation when needed. 

The economic and military superiority of Western nations is certainly an advantage, but does not mean that every Western concept is a model for the rest of the world. My concern, as a non-Western citizen, isn’t the domestic political dynamics of Western nations, but their desire to enforce their norms and policies on the rest of the world that is refined by self-deceptive values of sincerity and liberalism. 

Mohammed Nosseir is an Egyptian liberal politician who advocates political participation and economic freedom. Nosseir was member of the higher committee at the Democratic Front Party from 2007 to 2012, followed by being a member of the political bureau of the Free Egyptian Party until 2013.