It is a long-established truth that everyone in the West is born into guilt while everyone else is born into innocence. But it seems that our penchant for self-blame is now informing what passes for our foreign policy.
In April David Cameron appeared in Pakistan alongside Baroness Warsi. During a press conference he refused to answer a question about Kashmir. His reason: "I don't want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world's problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place." In Heidelberg I recently took part in a discussion at the university where every other culture was talked about but any reference to "European culture" was scorned. The very idea that such a culture even existed was derided, as was the idea of the West.
It is inconceivable that a group of academics in Germany would deny any developing country its culture. Laugh at the very idea of European or Western culture by all means, but laugh at the idea that such a thing as "African", "Black" or "Aboriginal" culture exists and you would be thought not merely ignorant but racist. It is only we who do not have a past, only we who do not have an identity, and only we who as a result cannot be trusted to act.
Had the Prime Minister taken a different tack in Pakistan it could have gone differently. When asked about the possible solutions to the Kashmir problem he might have said that if his Pakistani hosts had any decency they wouldn't speak about the problem. Given their country's historical crimes and its current disastrous influence on the world, it would be best if Pakistani politicians shut up on the subject.
But that is impossible: it would lead to accusations of bad diplomacy, racism and probably imperialism. Didn't Mr Cameron get the memo? Only the West can botch anything up. And when the rest of the world botches things up, it's not their fault but the fault of the West for making them botch it up. If nothing recent can be seized upon, then something from an empire many decades ago surely can be. Which is a great deal if you're a Pakistani government seeking financial support. Or a Libyan dictator trying to cling to power. But what a lesson. It doesn't only keep democrats down, but keeps tyrants in place.