“CONSERVATISM IS NOT PRO-WESTERN”? COME ON! DON’T BE A “USEFUL IDIOT”!
In Georgia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, there is a widespread misunderstanding: “Conservatism is not pro-Western.” That is absolutely inaccurate. Why?
Let’s start by considering what is “the West.” Of course, the USA would be included. Despite what you may see on American TV or on visits to New York and DC, the majority of Americans in Southern and Midwestern states are conservative and religious (Christian) — to the point that an average American from Missouri, for example, would probably find more in common with an average Georgian from Kakheti than he would with another American in a Washington think-tank. In some cases, I think Americans can be even more “conservative” than Georgians, for example our harsh anti-drug laws and criminal justice system, and the fact that half of Americans favor further restricting or outlawing abortion.
Now, I am in Poland and have heard some interesting debates on this topic. As you may know, Poland has a quite socially conservative government with significant support from religious people (Catholics). At the same time Poland is a successful EU and NATO member, and, clearly, it’s not only pro-Western but an integral part of “the West.”
At the Warsaw Security Forum yesterday, a foreign minister from another mostly conservative Central European country made an excellent point that being “European” does not mean giving up your culture and values. In fact, in a classically liberal society, pluralism of opinions, religious beliefs, and value systems is respected. That includes the beliefs and value systems that are dominant in conservative societies like Georgia.
In other words, don’t fall for a false dichotomy — you don’t have to choose between being “pro-Western” or “conservative.”
(As a matter of fact, promoting the idea of this false choice helps the Kremlin. Of course, Putin can increase his malign influence in conservative Eastern European countries, by pretending that Russia is conservative and the West is not. You can see this in Levan Vasadze’s rhetoric; he claims to be a conservative but really just wants Georgia to be a Russian-occupied theocracy. So, don’t be a “useful idiot”!)