Posted by: cousindampier | 23 February 2010

Barnett, Trade, War, Life

Been out for a while again, but once again in front of a computer (and I’ve even had time to think).

All news of the political realm seems polarized. There was a NYTimes alert about Republicans voting to pass a jobs bill, and, stunningly, it was not the entire block but five senators broke ranks.

I was stunned people crossed the line on their own volition to vote for a Democratic bill. That just doesn’t seem to happen anymore.

What caught my eye in that context was this editorial by Thomas PM Barnett in World Politics Report, in which he says,

“ The list of problems to be solved goes on and on — and yet, this is humankind’s best set of problems yet! Because within them lie the seeds of future successes — but only if we maximize our definitions of “us” and narrow our definitions of “them.”

Are we an inclusive society? Politically, no, but the populism now may just be superficial and short-lived. There is no grand vision of who we are anymore – there are so many problems internally, America has a hard time articulating an external vision which maximizes ‘us’. We had that vision during the Cold War – granted, the vision was based a little on what ‘they’ were, and how we were different; but for as much as Obama tries he can’t articulate a vision when about 30% of the electorate agrees with a man who wants him to fail, and a Congress which is terrified of doing anything to establish a vision of ‘us’ because they can’t look past the next election.

One of the larger questions – what is different now than before in regards to trade and war? In 1939, France was Germany’s largest trading partner, and they still went to war. Does the economic integration of today preclude war in any way?

The yes answer: with the spread of globalization, and intense amounts of money produced by international trade, war between great powers is unlikely. America wants cheap Chinese goods, and China wants the trillion dollars a year America spends. War is prohibitively expensive on a small scale in Iraq and Afghanistan – in a large scale, more traditional context, with more platforms destroyed, the cost will only increase.

The no answer: With the spread of globalization comes a period of nationalism. Part of the cause of World War II was a redress of grievances from a period of nationalism, which led to the most nation-state centric war we’ve experienced (and World War II didn’t even include rival religions fighting in state format – except the communist and fascist ideology, which essentially were religions, but that’s a different topic). Take Pakistan and India. Both have nuclear weapons, both are fairly homogenous in religious terms, both religions don’t mind dying for their cause.

That was a thirty second answer to a much larger question, but I think the underlying basis to that question is the ends portion of a war. During the Second World War (or just the era of nationalistic wars – First and Second World Wars being the shining examples), the end was unconditional surrender – destroy not only the military, but everything behind it, including the order. Can the order be destroyed now by a (legitimized) nation-state, which would fight a interstate war for it? Or has the system by which nation-states are determined (globalization) spread too far and established roots too deeply to allow nation-state war to occur?


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