* Edward Pearce
* Wednesday August 27 2008 07:00 BST
"The west": we say it all the time. "What will the west do to combat this hardline Russian regime, about Georgia?" Nothing actually, apart from froth and affirmation at the Nato meeting where Miliband sounded like Gulliver in Brobdingnag.
This foxed and worn-down term, "the west", is itself at issue. It has been used so often with so little thought by so many not-very-resourceful journalists that it comes out tired. There is often a hint of self-pity about it. Oswald Spengler wrote Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), a book I am happy to know only by report. Hans Carossa, a pretty fair German poet, wrote, in 1945, a long lament beginning "O Abendland".
In darker moments, contemplating the American vice-president who recently compared that rough but rational Vladimir Putin with "A-dolf Hitler", I reckon that the fearful American right, which has so many 1913 impulses, thinks in translation. There used to be a phrase, not much used now, but familiar down in Dixie: "White, western, Christian civilisation." Well nothing wrong with shorthand. For along with the self-pity, there is triumphalism. No inconsistency there. In the world of geopolitics, bang and whimper march arm-in-arm.