Consider that, more or less, the only argument we get in Beinart’s piece for this view of the West is a review of relative longitudes:
The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of “The West.” Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.
Well, Morocco is at least West-adjacent. No feat of rhetorical might can move the Rock of Gibraltar. What’s more, Morocco was jostled about by Spanish and French empires for a few hundred years. And for a few hundred years before that, it would have been more accurate to say that Madrid was ruled from the Maghreb than the other way around.
Likewise, Egypt hosted the first great repository of Western knowledge—the library at Alexandria—and for a millennium or so following that library’s destruction, it was Muslim metaphysicians who kept lit the flame of Greek ideas. The West’s intellectual birthright, then, was reborn in Latin and French and German and English because it was vouchsafed in Arabic, in the dark interregnum between Charlemagne and the Renaissance.
Oh, and Western ideals were kind of a big thing in the Haiti of Toussaint Louverture, an eminently Western figure whose revolution, dripping in the language of Enlightenment, was the first great post-1776 test of whether Thomas Paine and Jefferson had just been screwing around with all that talk of self-evident truths. (The results, alas, were mixed.)
I contest, too, Beinart’s projection that nobody considers democratic India or G-20 Japan to belong to the West. Japan enjoys the sponsorship of a demure American empire, governed by a constitution written for it by Doug MacArthur’s lawyers, and looked after by the U.S. Seventh Fleet and III Marine Expeditionary Force.
India? India’s in the frigging British Commonwealth.
The point is that these and many other nonwhite, non-Christian places are right well tangled up in the West—influencing and being influenced by it, acting on it and reacting to it. And, here, if you’d like to point out that I’ve just described the fruits of so much colonial rapine, I’ll say fine—but you can’t have it both ways. The West can’t be both a bloodthirsty cultural predator and a lilywhite provincial obsessed with its own purity. The currents in the history of the West preoccupied with miscegenation and corruption of the blood are feeble in the face of the overwhelming tide of annexation, assimilation, and admixture. Sure, it’s messy, but the West nets out as a mongrel civilization, to our everlasting credit.
So, nobody who knows what they’re talking about is talking about the racial and religious purity of the West, and nobody who is talking about the racial and religious purity of the West knows what they’re talking about.