Future’s up to U.S.
During the 50 years of the Cold War, the central organizing structure of the world revolved around either the United States or the former Soviet Union and their respective allies, with the “neutrals” siding with whomever had the biggest foreign aid package. That, too, has changed.
Globalization is today’s new world order. It is the unofficial international system that is shaping the geopolitics, economies and the demographics of the planet. Societies that do not fully grasp that concept will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
The Cold War had its prevailing structure, and the driving force behind it was ideology. The driving force behind globalization is free-market capitalism. Communism imploded because it was unable to adapt to the events of the times and left its people looking elsewhere for answers, just like the dinosaurs that couldn’t adapt to a changing climate. The world is moving toward globalization, and the rules are changing faster than we can codify them.
The culture of globalization is definitively American. And in a world with only one superpower, that concept is unsettling to the remaining 5.9 billion people on earth. While most of us here believe that America is a “gentle giant,” other nations may not share our perspective.
The culture of globalization is American because of the structure of our society and our laws, particularly our business laws and our banking system. In fact, before Enron and WorldCom et al, the U.S. stock market was considered the only non-rigged game in the world. Nevertheless, we remain ideally suited to having the necessary infrastructure to sustain and expand globalization.
Globalization is a curious mixture of technology, military strength, politics, culture, finance and ecology. It requires infrastructures like those of the West to flourish. With war on the horizon, a long and deadly battle with transnational terrorists ahead and the specter of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, the task before us is daunting. But America must find a seamless way of integrating the forces of globalization into societies and cultures that have limited or ineffective infrastructures, and assist those people to stand on their own two feet just as we did with the Marshall Plan in Europe after WWII.
Without a superpower on the other side, our task is made more difficult in many ways. Before 1990, the Soviet Union could rein in the likes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Jung Il in North Korea, but that dynamic no longer exists.
The United States is in an extraordinarily difficult position inasmuch as we must prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, while we export what is good, noble and decent about our society.
Recently, the North Koreans were found to be exporting missiles to Yemen. Can anyone give me one good reason why Yemen needs missiles designed to carry nuclear, biological or chemical warheads? Yet this is the reality of the world we live in. North Korea may already have missile-warhead technology that is capable of reaching Japan, so what happens next? Might this fact precipitate another arms race among Korea, Japan and China?
These are legitimate questions that must be answered. While I do not pretend to have them, I do believe that if we as a nation are to be successful in limiting the threat of dictators and remaining a beacon of hope for the world, we must first disabuse ourselves of the ugly American complex and realize that while our system and values are not utopian, they have brought the greatest prosperity and freedom that the world has ever seen.
Michael Mandelbaum of John Hopkins and the Council on Foreign Relations tells us that “Terrorists like Osama Bin Laden and rogues like Saddam Hussein (and Kim Jung Il) can unleash lethal events upon us, but they do not represent an alternative trend with global appeal.” Neither bin Laden, Hussein nor any other rogue has the power to reverse the trends of globalization.
We are not engaged in a life-or-death struggle as we were with the Soviet Union, but we are in a race against time. Twenty-first century threats are very different from what we’ve experienced in the past, and they must be eliminated because sooner or later someone will assuredly use a nuclear weapon or a biological agent against a major population center.
We must use everything in our armamentarium, from diplomacy to smart bombs. But we must also engage the likes of Saddam and Kim Il with ideas and ideals. The train has left the station, and the West with American leadership must take responsibility to assist the repressed and emerging nations to join us on the journey to peace and prosperity.
Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org