Globalization as Grand Strategy

Thomas PM Barnett puts it well:

From history’s perspective, it can’t get much dumber than this: our globalization sweeping the planet in the form of an international liberal trade order, but right at its apogee, the four million-man army nations [note: U.S., Russia, India and China] find a way to turn on each other more than the collective problems and opportunities staring them in the face.

Barnett argues here, meanwhile, that globalization should be the grand strategy of American foreign policy, and it seems to me that any assessment of the Clinton presidency would conclude that that was, in fact, the case. The “Bush doctrine” was understandable, if not necessarily advisable, in the aftermath of 9/11, but Barnett cautions against finding a new crusade to replace it as the war on terror fades into its “bureaucratic downgrading”:

Pursued with our usual demonizing tendencies, a “league of democracies” combating rising great power autocracies will result in globalization being fenced off into a cluster of armed regional camps, replete with destructive trade protectionism.

I’m not convinced that the current backlash against globalization is necessarily or exclusively a reaction to American unilateralism, rather than a naturally occuring phase of consolidation of the gains (by emerging economies) and consideration of the costs (by developed ones). But I agree with Barnett’s assessment that we need to take very seriously the changing dynamics in the formulation of American foreign policy going forward. I recently read that globalization and regional integration were the “inheritors of deterrence,” an assessment I found very astute. We take them for granted at great risk.

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