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After the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks against the US, the very discourse of international relations and global politics has been transformed. Prior to Sept. 11th, the dominant issues were geoeconomic in nature. Globalization and humanitarian issues occupied the agendas of international summits and international organizations. But now geopolitics and security concerns have once again become the central issue and the old language and institutions of the cold war are shaping our thinking about global politics.
The world was rapidly moving to realizing the idea of a global village as commonalities in terms of economic aspirations and technological progress were emphasized by politicians and opinion makers, over differences such as religion, culture and ethnicity. Globalization of the world was the ultimate celebration of the political, economic and social homogenization of the global populations.
On political front there is a consensus that democracy was not only the best but also the only legitimate way of organizing modern polities. On the economic front, the globalization of the economy was a foregone conclusion as nations scrambled to liberalize their economies in order to live up to the new standards set by the World Trade Organization. In the social arena, lifestyle and tastes shaped by multinational consumer corporations such as Nike, Levis, Coke, MTV, were well on the way to Americanizing the global popular culture.
But has Sept. 11th changed all that? Globalization as a process was facilitated by the liberalization of transborder transactions by the dilution sovereignty. Globalization is essentially a measure of the ease with which, labor, ideas, capital, technology and profits can move across borders with minimal governmental interference. This measure of liberalization is also a surrogate measure for security.
The great sense of insecurity that terrorism now inspires in the US economy and the government, the two most important forces behind globalization, has resulted in a reassertion of sovereignty by the US and other nations. The fear that liberal standards are facilitating terrorism is causing the US and other European Union members to control transborder transactions.
The efforts to prevent terrorists from moving their resources is leading to greater scrutiny of banks and setting up of new measures that will slow down the flow of capital. The fear that porous borders allow terrorists to enter target countries is leading to new rules about border patrol, VISA regulations, and monitoring of foreign travelers. New security measures at airports have already raised the costs of travel and are affecting the profitability of the airline industry.
Governments are increasing international cooperation to monitor the flow of information, people and monies across borders. These heightened measures are a result of the change in priorities. Cost is now second to security and therefore in pursuit of safety, profits are being sacrificed. If this state of affairs persists, globalization be retarded and the very instruments that facilitate and accelerate globalization will be blunted.
It is ironic that global terrorism, the phenomenon of terrorists operating in and against several nations simultaneously, was facilitated by globalization and now it has become the biggest challenge to globalization. Global terrorism depends on the success of globalization. In fact one may very conceive of global terrorism as a facet of the global culture resulting from globalization.
Does this mean that in order for us to fight global terror we have to once again resurrect the leviathan the all-encompassing state sovereignty and rebuild the national security state? Can we afford to do so?
All advanced economies depend considerably on international trade. Economic independence is not a reversible option. 25% of US economy is dependent on international trade. The information technology sector in the US and increasingly in Europe now depends on technical expertise of global labor, particularly from India and China. Global capital has tasted the fruits of global profits and will not enjoy being restrained by the ghost of Thomas Hobbes.
If interdependence is irreversible, and if globalization facilitates global terrorism, then does it mean that we have no choice but to live with global terrorism?
In the nineteen eighties as international theorists realized the growing power of economic interdependence they began to theorize what would happen to the anarchic nature of global politics with the increased economic cooperation between nations. Liberals argued that international institutions created to facilitate global cooperation and manage interdependence would eliminate anarchy. The realists however maintained that economic cooperation was not a guarantor of security and therefore we would live in a world that was economically orderly but politically anarchic. Neoliberals and neorealists agreed to describe this condition as a state of cooperation under anarchy.
Will we similarly have to cohabit in a globalized world with global terrorists, enjoying the fruits of cooperation and international trade but also fearing the occasional backlash of political violence?