GLOBALIZATION AND WAR: ZENPUNDITThe age of Globalization and Warby Mark Safranski
I can only begin by first thanking the contributors to the roundtable - Bruce Kesler, Doug Macdonald, Simon, Austin Bay, Sam Crane, Josh Manchester, RJ Rummel
and Paul Kretkowski
- for their time, their effort and the stimulating ideas that they have brought here to the readers. In particular, Josh and Bruce for their ideas and comments as I was in the process of attempting of putting this event together. Your help was most valuable.
I would also like to thank Dave Schuler
of The Glittering Eye
for his tireless efforts in promoting the Roundtable on Globalization and War and his intelligent and perceptive comments on the guest-posts. And to extend my gratitude for the many blogs that linked including Dean's World, Memeorandum, Winds of Change, The American Future, Coming Anarchy, TDAXP, Grim's Hall,Regions of Mind, The Duck of Minerva, Live From The FDNF, Phatic Communion, The Small Wars Council, Prometheus6, The Dusty Attic
, and last though never least, riting on the wall
. You have all helped my readers connect to some very important ideas.
Ideas, which return us to the original premise of the roundtable:the age of globalization and war.
American leaders are encountering a geostrategic situation where the United States has preponderant and often overwhelming advantages in bringing hard power to bear relative to all other states but the environment in which that power is being used is changing rapidly because of globalization. There seems to be a sense of pervasive cognitive dissonance among the bipartisan American elite who continue to speak and act as if the rule-set of twenty years ago still held sway.
Globalization is turning international borders from barriers into mere filters that only marginally impede networking flows of capital, resources, people and knowledge so that it is more accurate to look at any act of war as disturbing a coherent system than as a clash between two isolated opponents. When Bruce Kesler points out that "There is no “foreign policy” separate from domestic policy" he is observing that the luxury that statesmen once had in a less democratic, pre-globalized time to cordon off foreign affairs from internal politics and economic policy is long gone. Politics does not stop at the water's edge because a global network has no "edge" at which to stop.
War is an ancient art going to the far distant time when the development of language first permitted our stone age ancestors to try to plan an outcome for violent conflict with neighboring tribes. The rise of the state centralized decision-making and staked the claim for sole legitimacy for initiating acts of war; first by Westphalian monarchies and ultimately refined by the mass-production, mass-man, industrial-age, nation-state superpowers. The early Cold War represented the apogee of centralization in warfare as the world began falling into two great ideological camps led by the totalitarian USSR and the liberal democratic United States, to whom lesser " great powers" ceded their sovereignty as to whether their people's would endure WWIII or not.
That time too is gone.
War is slipping out of the exclusive grasp of the state and into the hands of transnational and subnational actors, "global guerillas" and even superempowered individuals waging a " Fourth Generation War". In 1939, to shatter the established order, Adolf Hitler had to first hijack the state of a great power and then systematically turn a nation into a mighty weapon. Today, the Fuhrer could accomplish widespread ruin with fewer followers than marched with him in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. An interconnected global system, one that did not exist during the 1930's, is vulnerable to system perturbations that allow the effects of catastrophic attacks on critical nodes to cascade across the planet.
Taking down a region's financial system may cause more quantifiable damage than the Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg and it might be accomplished from a lap-top in a cheap motel room. Counterattacks by the state may now cause more "blowback" than the state can now tolerate. Like Moses we can see the Promised Land even as we dance on the precipice of the Abyss.
That centrifugal diffusion of war powers calls into question whether globalization and the increasing diffusion of liberal, democratic norms as the only legitimate political system will bring RJ Rummel's " Democratic Peace" or a situation where state actors are at peace with one another but are struggling ineffectively to contain the forces of disruption and terror in revolt against modernity. Will Dr. Barnett's Core powers unite to reset the rules to better squelch violent nihilist "warrior" groups that move through the Gap like Mao's guerillas once did through the Chinese people ? Right now America is not leveraging its advantages in the War on Terror, not even, as Austin Bay pointed out, in the sphere of information and media, a field we pioneered. Our enormous reserves of " softpower" go untapped or are being turned against us.
What American and Core leaders need to do is to begin thinking in terms of the systemic whole because it is the field upon which all their actions play out. The consequences of decentralization of power and information brought by connectivity to previously disconnected communities will, as pointed out by Doug Macdonald's Thai example, incite local elites to resistance to defend their often unjustfiable traditional prerogatives. These are forseeable outcomes and more importantly, they are mostly avoidable ones.
The sooner that our leaders understand that they march upon a spider's web, the better.