Of course I am aware that most of the political regimes in history were not liberal and, in fact, most of those in existence today are at most only partly liberal or not at all. However, I don't think people like Vermeule would actually much like Iran or China which are the existing "illiberal" alternatives and obviously they realize (even though their rethorics sometimes makes it sound as if they didn't) that there is no going back to "anachronisms". So they find themselves in a position similar to that of present day communists who insist that something that "has never been tried" but that exactly fits their wishes, is about to become reality. I am not referring to genuine "enemies of liberalism" such as Dugin or even Jack Ma, but to those Western thinkers about whom one cannot tell whether they worry that their predictions could be come true or welcome the prospect.
There are very few things that I consider impossible in human affairs but many more that I consider unlikely. Near the top of the unlikely list I would put society without government, governments and "international order" not based on power (including military power). Less clear is what kind of social and economic system is compatible with what kind of government. For example, is economic literalism compatible with political tyranny? This is the kind of question Aron used to consider. Once the generally accepted answer was "probably not, at least in the long term" . Now few people would be so sure. This is why I still consider Deng Xiaoping the pivotal figure of our times and also why I consider questions about the nature of government, especially that of transfer of power, more important than those of "political philosophy". However, the "critics of liberalism" hardly ever discuss them.
I also view "the rise of liberalism" in a different way from them (hence I also have a different view of its possible "fall"). For me the key factor in the history of liberalism does not lie in any developments in political philosophy but the astounding rise of the United States after WWII, which combined three elements : economic and military dominance and a "way of life" that very widespread if not universal appeal both to the masses and significant part of elites throughout the world. I think all three factors were necessary: the US had economic superiority even before WWII but only when it acquired also military superiority (or at least the ability to protect what became to be known as the free world) that the other factors could exert their influence. In the past there were, of course, many examples of more advanced and prosperous states being conquered by more primitive ones, but the rise of modern technology its relation to market economy and crucial impact on military power seemed to make this impossible. Life style associated with political liberalism (the aspect that most concerns the critics) also has a wide appeal and I this appeal will always be there even if liberalism loses its political dominance, because I think its rooted in the human need for "autonomy", but that alone would not have given political liberalism a position greater than it had before WWII. The appeal of "Western liberal lifestyle", even that of material wealth alone, would not have caused the destruction of Nazi Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, or Deng Xiao Ping reforms in China. The economic and military power that seemed to be parts of the liberal "package" were even more important. In fact, it was exactly the same reasons that caused Japan to "westernize" in the 19-th century and in the 1920s to (temporarily) adopt a form of liberalism that would have been quite familiar to Westerners.
That is why I have never been a devotee of Fukuyama's "end of history"although in practice I once cautiously reached a similar conclusion. I never believed that democracy or liberalism will ever end the role of power (including military one) in relations between states but tended (for a while) to assume that the only way China or Russia could challenge the West would be by becoming, in effect, a part of it. I certainly never imagined that any serious challenge could be mounted by the primitive and powerless Islamic world.
Of counce there were always niggling doubts. the first one concerned Nazi Germany, which was an attempt to create an anti-liberal state while retaining some of the key aspects from which the economic and military power of such a state derived. Without WWII, could Nazi Germany have thrived in the environment of the second half of the 20- th century or would it have gone the way of USSR? We can only speculate. The other cause of doubt was Deng Xiaoping. I always realized that Deng's aim was to build a system that would be able to replicate the first two aspects of Western liberalism: economic and military power without making any concessions in the area of individual political freedom and related ones. Could such a thing succeed? I was not sure but most western liberals who discussed this issue certainly believed that "economic forces" would push China in the direction of political liberalization. Of course this has not happened and now "The Economist" has just published an article entitled "How the West got China Wrong" . Actually, while it's clear that "the Economist" got China wrong, it's not yet clear that Deng got it right. The carefully balanced system that he created, which was supposed to ensure orderly transfer of power within the elite and even to provide some outlets for release of accumulated dissatisfaction for the rest of the population is now being dismantled by Xi Jinping. This puts in doubt the future of communist rule and even the unity of China when inevitably the question of succession arises (and with that lots of other things are put in doubt).
As I already mentioned, one thing that I completely failed to imagine at the time of the fall of communism was the spectacular loss of confidence seemingly amounting to a loss of "instinct of survival" that would affect the victorious liberal West, especially the E. U.
This has several aspects but what appears to be the most important now is Muslim immigration, islamism and the fear of 'islamisation" that this has inspired. This, in turn, has become the main factor undermining "liberalism" . Since I still don't believe that Europe or even any nation in Europe will commit a suicide, I can well imagine that this process could lead to the collapse of "liberalism" as we have known it. So I seem to be agreeing with those who have been predicting precisely this thing, but with a caveat. If such a collapse happens - what will replace "liberalism"? Vermeule says we don't kown but he welcomes it and has a plan how to use it to restore Chrisitanity (or the Catholic church) to something like its former position. Howeve, to me this collapse, if it takes place, seems likely to be very different from a return to "Christian values" . If anything, it will be closer to what Deng wanted to create in China, which is well described as Western liberalism completely cut off from its Christian roots. Of course some would reply that this is already the kind of liberalism that already prevails in, for example, American and British universities and it would be a valid point, but universities are only a small part of society and anyway, things could still be a lot worse.
Finally, I want to return again to my main criticism of most of the writing on "end of liberalism" -that is, that the writers concentrate on political philosophy but ignore the much more important issues of practical politics. One such crucial issue is transfer of power. The principle of "popular sovereignty" ( "democracy") is now so firmly entrenched in human minds that the demand for periodic transfer of power to a different subset of the elite or even outside the elite is a basic fact. One of the main reasons for the rise of the so called "populism" are attempts by the "liberal elite" (especially in the shape of the EU) to limit the scope of such transfer to an increasingly narrower section of society that is deemed respectable. The solution (that would not exactly ensure but make more likely) the survival of the most valuable aspects of liberalism, involves accomodating as much as possible of these "non-liberal" forces within a fundamentally democratic, constitutional system. This, of course, seems to run into what is usually n called "Popper's paradox". When expressed in the most common form, the "tolerant" versus the "intolerant" , the whole thing turns into a pseudo-paradox causd by the use of ill-defined words like "tolerance". But when you converted to the language of practical politics, it reveals a serious issue. Can a political system accomodate those dedicated to overthrowing the system? Clearly not, and there is no paradox here. However, a stable system should be able to accommodate as large a section of the society as possible that is actually willing to work within the system, however "unrespectable" or "deplorable" this section appears to the elite. So far America is just about managing this.