GLOBALIZATION AT WAR:
WAR ON TERRORISM
Jan Nederveen Pieterse
At the turn of the millennium an emerging consensus on at least some
features of globalization holds that globalization is being shaped by
technological changes and major corporations, is uneven, involves the
reconfiguration of states and goes together with regionalization.
Information and communications technologies are part of the infrastructure
of globalization in finance, capital mobility and transnational business.
Major changes in the international economic landscape are intertwined
and contemporary accelerated globalization is in effect a package deal
that includes informatization (applications of information technology),
flexibilization (changes in production and labour associated with post-Fordism),
financialization (the growing importance of financial instruments and
services) and deregulation or liberalization (unleashing market forces).
This package effect contributes to the dramatic character of the changes
associated with globalization, which serves as their shorthand description.
Since "globalization" per se refers to a spatial process,
i.e. world scale effects (precisely of what is not determined), the
term itself is inadequate but serves as a flag word signaling wider
From the nineteenth century the form of globalization was the growing
predominance of nation states (Robertson, 1992). While between 1840
and 1960, nation states were the leading format of political organization
worldwide, since the 1960s regional integration has entered into the
picture as an increasingly significant dynamic. From the mid-twentieth
century state authority has been leaking upwards, in international and
supranational forms of pooling sovereignty, and downwards. If the latter
happens in a controlled fashion it is referred to as decentralization;
if it occurs in an uncontrolled fashion it is termed ethnic or regional
conflict, resulting in fragmentation and possibly state disintegration.
A familiar account of the implications of globalization is the erosion
of boundaries and the growth of crossborder activities, economic and
otherwise. For instance, "A critical issue raised by globalization
is the lack of meaning of geographically rooted jurisdiction when markets
are constructed in electronic space" (Kobrin, 1998: 362). The "internationalization
of the state," another common notion, refers to the blurring of
boundaries between international and domestic politics (producing "intermestic"
While earlier analyses argued the retreat of states (Strange, 1996),
the onset of a borderless world (Ohmae, 1992), the end of the nation
state and formation of the region state (Ohmae, 1995), these arguments
have been superseded by more nuanced views (e.g. Boyer and Drache, 1996;
Mann, 1997), according to which states may now be leaner but also more
active and in some areas assume greater responsibilities (Griffin and
Khan, 1992). Perhaps what consensus exists may be formulated in the
twin processes of a general trend towards the pooling of sovereignty
at different levels (regional, international, supranational) in combination
with an incomplete shift from government to multi-scalar governance,
from local and municipal, national and regional, all the way to supranational
Presently the leading political form of globalization is regionalization,
ranging from customs unions, free market zones and regional security
alliances to the deep institutionalization of the European Union (EU).
For example, a spatial-political perspective is to view regional formations
as anchors around which peripheries align-with Japan and China as centres
in East and Southeast Asia; North America and Latin America; and the
EU and Eastern Europe, the Southern Mediterranean and Africa. A temporal
perspective is to view regional integration as a stepping stone towards
growing multilateralism and eventually global governance.
Contemporary globalization is largely concentrated in the Triad of North
America, Europe and East Asia. Income and wealth are extremely and increasingly
unequal in distribution: 14 percent of the world's population accounted
for 80 percent of investment flows in the period 1980-91 and for 70
percent of world trade in 1992 (Hirst and Thompson, 1996). The ratio
of income of the top 20 percent of the world population to the income
of the bottom 20 percent has jumped from 30:1 in 1960 to 78:1 in 1994.
The personal assets of 385 billionaires in the world now exceed the
annual income of countries representing 45 percent of the world population
(Castells, 1999). This is captured under headings such as "Triadization",
"selective globalization" or "truncated globalization",
confined to the "interlinked economies".
While this prompts the idea that the "Third World" is being
left out or excluded from globalization, this would overlook the many
ways in which countries in the South are being affected by global dynamics.
Rather than describing these relations as exclusion they are more accurately
described as asymmetric inclusion or hierarchical integration (Nederveen
Pieterse, 1997 and 2000). While during the past decades the development
gap between advanced economies and newly industrialized countries has
narrowed, the gap between these and the least developed countries has
been widening. Paraphrasing the terminology of uneven development, the
present situation may be referred to as combined and uneven globalization.
Another common understanding, that globalization means time-space compression,
refers to more intensive interaction across wider space and in shorter
time than before, in other words the experience of a shrinking world.
There is plenty of controversy as to what some of these features mean,
so it's not easy to draw a line between the consensus and the controversies
over globalization. Overall, globalization invites more controversy
than consensus and areas of consensus are narrow by comparison to the
controversies. While it is widely assumed that globalization is fundamentally
multidimensional (as in its cultural implications) economics is usually
presented as the driving force. Another dispute concerns globalization
and capitalism: does globalization coincide with neoliberalism or is
neoliberalism merely the current form of globalization? How one answers
this follows from one's assessment of the timing of globalization and
whether it is a recent or long-term historical process.
Globalization crosses boundaries of general, government, business, cultural
and academic interest; it is politically and theoretically challenging.
Politically it crosses the ideological spectrum and challenges social
movements and local, national and international politics. Theoretically,
it involves a paradigm shift from the era of nation states and international
politics to global politics.
The globalizer globalized
Major historical events, like existential and political prisms and mirrors,
reveal our preoccupations. Like in a mirror everyone views 9/11 through
one's own lenses. As a "politique du spectacle" of almost
apocalyptic proportions 9/11 reverberates on many levels-as an emotional
shock that raises levels of anxiety and alertness, a signal that arouses
deep thought and reflection about the world we live in and that is translated
into action along various lines. In the United States 911 is the national
alarm number. In the Islamic world a key date is 10/7, when the bombing
of Afghanistan began. All is in the eye of the beholder. A terrorism
expert thinks of methods of terrorism. Others ponder misdeeds of the
In the United States, 9/11 has been experienced as a major crisis. Considered
by planetary standards it may be reasonable to ask what crisis? Attacks
that take many innocent lives, that have economic, political and cultural
spillover effects is what many peoples have been experiencing for decades.
For countries such as Sudan and Afghanistan crisis has been chronic
and a permanent condition. Now the United States which has so often
inflicted crisis, experiences crisis. The globalizer globalized.
9/11 shattered the illusion of the United States as a separate reality
of peace and prosperity. Third World diseases such as TB are now found
in New York and the West Nile virus has been signaled across the country
(Sassen, 2001). Goods and resources from all parts of the world reach
the United States and so do illegal immigrants and human trafficking.
Strategic or selective globalization, which is so troublesome to achieve
for many countries, turns out to be a difficult undertaking for the
United States as well. The idea that the United States can have globalization
the American way, tapping energy sources and cheap labour the world
over without sharing the burden is no more.
Global reach used to refer to multinational corporations. However, "If
economics could be globalized, why not political violence? The two are
in fact connected" (Ferguson, 2001: 78). Global reach turns out
to be a two-way street. Congo never attacked Belgium, but now for the
first time, notes Chomsky (2002), the guns point the other way. Is this
so novel? During the Algerian war, Algerians undertook attacks in France;
the IRA hit targets in England; the PKK attacked Turkish targets in
Germany. Many European countries have experienced attacks of various
kinds; yet this is the first time that the United States has been successfully
attacked on its own soil, so in a perverse way the world is one as never
before. "September 11 shrunk the distance between the world that
benefits from globalisation and the world that has been left behind"
The globalization divide-between rich folks and poor folks-used to match
a conflict divide. The US defense system conventionally distinguishes
between C level security threats or minor conflicts, B level threats
to the "national interest" and A level threats to national
survival. Asymmetric conflict between unequal parties and across technology
gaps used to mean Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda (Nederveen Pieterse, 2002a);
9/11 has suddenly stretched the spectrum of asymmetric conflict all
the way to A level.
Some counsel that 9/11 calls for a security response and for global
democratization, including economic democracy between North and South-a
forward-looking reaction that looks past the paranoia of the moment.
The dark scenario is that this episode yields a cycle of deepening violence
and militarization, a sliding slope of risk and retaliation, and inaugurating
a new imperial episode. A light scenario is that this highlights the
need for a global conversation and serious engagement with world problems.
However, the media through which, in part, this conversation should
be conducted have long been underperforming. Mainstream media in the
US have under-reported the globalization divide, the nature of American
policies overseas and reactions to American policies, as well as dissent
within the US. In the wake of 9/11, a monotony of patriotic correctness
suddenly swept through the media and academia. In the US, "You
will find more opinion pieces on airport x-ray machines and new check-in
procedures than about global injustice" (Freedland 2001). By legitimating
policies while recycling stereotypes the media intoned a collective
We are all part of the theatre of war considering that contemporary
warfare includes the use of media. Much information that reaches the
public may be understood as part of a knowledge-intensive military strategy,
which is technically termed Integrated Information Operations. In Operation
Desert Storm and the Allied Force Operation in Kosovo media manipulation
was a crucial component of strategy, and warfare was conducted as a
multilevel spin doctoring operation. According to a strategy analyst,
"The essence of Information Warfare and Information Operations
is that the aim of conflict should be to manage the perceptions of an
An integrated IO strategy would therefore incorporate
covert action, public affairs and propaganda, diplomacy and economic
warfare" (Rathmell, 1998: 290). This approach applies to international
and domestic arenas. For the US to win the war at the narrative level
("hearts and minds"), one plea, phrased in double-speak, is
now for "an 'information strategy' complete with truth-seeking
teams of 'special media forces'" (Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001a:
9/11 and media
The usual sequence is first the facts, then judgment. In relation to
9/11 two sets of data are available: mainstream media, which have suffered
from patriotic correctness, and alternative sources such as internet,
which are uncorroborated and speculative but raise key questions.
There are many anomalies in the standard accounts. Many intelligence
warnings were ignored. Anomalous dealings in stocks of United Airlines
and American Airlines days before 9/11 are odd as well. So is the circumstance
that according to a French analysis of US armed forces photographs after
the explosion there is no plane to be seen at the Pentagon (see http://www.asile.org/citoyens/numero13/pentagone/erreurs_en.htm).
These oddities could point in various directions. Most odd is that no
intercept of the civilian aircraft that strayed off course by military
aircraft took place, although that is a standard procedure that normally
takes place within minutes. That this routine procedure would not have
worked in one or two instances can happen, but it did not occur either
in relation to two further aircraft that swerved off course almost an
hour later (a detailed discussion is in Ahmed, 2002). Stranger still
is that no pressing questions have been raised about this in the mainstream
In the fog of war all is twilight. How can we assess 9/11 without full
disclosure? Adequate evidence of Bin Laden's involvement in 9/11 has
not been provided; the US government's promised white paper was never
published. Neither is there certainty whether Al Qaeda is of real significance
(when I was visiting Peshawar and the Afghan border in spring 2002 it
was jokingly referred to as `phantom Al Qaeda'). Where evidence does
appear to exist, it is not, or only belatedly, being disclosed. For
instance, while it is argued that the anthrax scare of fall 2001 originated
from an American military laboratory, allegedly known with precision
in the security community (Monbiot, 2002), we lack full disclosure on
this issue as well.
In November 2001 a confidential memo leaked from the chair of CNN, Samuel
Isaacson, directed to CNN correspondents to the effect that given the
death toll of 9/11 it would be perverse to highlight civilian casualties
in Afghanistan; if reported they should be mentioned along with reiterating
the casualties of 9/11 (www.fair.org). In effect the world's most influential
news medium served as a war trumpet. We don't really know what is going
on in war theatres since most information comes from or via the Pentagon.
Information Coordination Centers were set up in New York, London and
Islamabad to neutralize and deflect news of civilian casualties and
other unfavourable reporting on a 24-hour basis. In October 2001 the
Pentagon sought advice from Hollywood and hired "A well-known Washington
public relations firm [the Rendon Group] to help it explain US military
strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences" (Strobel and Landay
2001). While the Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence did not have
a long career, who knows what share of US foreign policy reporting now
consists of black ops (disinformation intelligence operations) or marketing
A standard account of 9/11 refers to blowback. In a nutshell, this reiterates
how during the Afghanistan war the United States and allies supported
conservative religious organizations as a counterweight in the fight
against communism. The US supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan the
way Israel sponsored Hamas in the Occupied Territories, as a counterweight
to leftwing Palestinian groups. The Bin Laden phenomenon, then, is an
outgrowth of previous anti-Soviet policies (Bodansky, 2001; Orbach,
2001). Since it is also an extension of Saudi oil wealth, part of the
wider backdrop is US Middle East policy. For decades the US and other
countries relied on oil supplies from the Middle East while sustaining
oligarchies. The US poured oil revenues into the region while alienating
it politically, particularly through its virtually unconditional support
of Israel: a policy of politically alienating while economically strengthening
a strategic region. During the cold war this imbalance was compensated
for by the struggle against communism; the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia
and other countries conducted joint operations from Afghanistan to Zaire.
Saudi Arabia as part of its own balancing act supported both anti-communism
and conservative Islamic movements. When the cold war unraveled so did
the alliance. The Mujahideen in Afghanistan funded, armed and trained
by the US and Pakistan, turned to other targets. Returnees from the
Afghan front became armed Islamic militants in Egypt, Algeria, the Philippines,
Bosnia and Kashmir. Meanwhile the Gulf War brought US military bases
into Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf Emirates.
The close ties between American and Saudi elites are well on record
(including relations between the Bush and Bin Laden families; a brother
of Osama Bin Laden invested in Arbusta, a small oil company set up by
George W Bush, and later in the Carlyle Group, the eleventh largest
defense contractor in the US, on whose board is George Bush Sr.; Ahmed,
The implication of blowback, originally a Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) term, is unwanted consequences of past security operations (for
a broad account see Johnson, 2000). While this implies admission of
past involvement, on the other hand, it disavows responsibility and
takes politics out of ongoing events by treating them as merely unanticipated
consequences of past actions. Is this an accurate account of ongoing
The same organizations that the United States promoted in the eighties
were declared to be the new enemy in the nineties, renamed fundamentalist,
with the "clash of civilizations" serving as a new enemy doctrine.
Yesterday's freedom fighter became today's terrorist. The "clash
of civilizations" formula is not merely primordialism warmed over
but diverts attention from the role of politics in the equation: yesterday's
allies were created and then recast as today's enemies.
In Afghanistan, the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban,
helped them come to power, and kept them in power by demobilizing their
rivals such as the Northern Alliance as late as 1998 (Ahmed, 2002).
Central Asia emerged as another strategic backdrop and geopolitical
pivot, amply discussed (Brzezinksi, 1997). In 1998 Dick Cheney told
the oil industry, "I cannot think of a time when we had a region
emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian"
(Pilger, 2001). Taliban leaders were flown to Washington and Texas by
then president Bush Sr. and Unocal. At the time a US official stated
that "with the Caspian's oil flowing, Afghanistan would become
"like Saudi Arabia", an oil colony with no democracy and legal
persecution of women
and we can live with that" (ibid.).
From 1995 on the US and Unocal talked to the Taliban government about
oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan, as reported
in Congressional hearings of 1998 and 2001 (Ahmed, 2002). According
to the Unocal negotiator based in Islamabad, by mid-August 2001 talks
were advanced to the point that a draft contract was ready to be signed.
US officials offered the Taliban the choice between "a carpet of
gold or a carpet of bombs" (Crogan, 2002). Sometime in August the
Taliban changed course and opted to work with Petronas of Malaysia and
an Argentinean oil company instead. The breakdown of talks in August
brought into effect the military option. That US military operations
in Afghanistan were planned to take place in mid-October was well known
in policy circles in Pakistan and India in summer 2001.
Needed then, between August and October, was a trigger to provide justification
for an attack on Afghanistan. This raises the question whether sections
of the US government had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack; this is an
open question that in the absence of a full inquiry cannot be addressed.
It may take years for the truth to come out, like with the Gulf of Tonkin.
War on terrorism
That the war on terrorism is an unlikely kind of war has been widely
observed. The post-cold war weaknesses of US national security and intelligence
are well on record (Eisendrath, 2000). Launching unmanned missiles at
distant targets vaguely defined as "the infrastructure of terrorism",
as was done since 1998, is neither an effective military strategy nor
a credible deterrent against further criminal acts. Unlike the cold
war, the war on terrorism is open-ended. While the war on terrorism
is widely scorned as simplistic, it is worth considering what purposes
this multi-pronged and open-ended project serves-political, geopolitical,
military and military-industrial.
The war on terrorism fulfills certain purposes better than the war on
drugs. Perceptions of threat, security buildup, expansion of the military
budget, and projection of American military presence overseas were all
in place already, consider for instance the $1.3 billion Plan Colombia.
The reactions to 9/11, then, reinforce an existing pattern; 9/11 has
been a godsend to the hawks. A new component is the narrowing of the
spectrum of American debate and the curtailment of domestic dissent.
The American leadership responded to 9/11 with remarkable dispatch,
launching a brand new war on terrorism and obtaining broad Congressional
support within weeks. The basic parameters of the "new kind of
war" were set in a matter of days; in the words of defense secretary
Donald Rumsfeld (2001): "Forget about 'exit strategies'; we're
looking at a sustained engagement that carries no deadlines". This
marks a clear break with the post-Vietnam principle of avoiding long-term
military engagements overseas.
The widely ridiculed "axis of evil" in fact refers to three
regions of major geostrategic concern to the United States. Brzezinksi
(1997: xiv) notes that "he who controls Eurasia controls the world"
and offers a virtual blueprint of American geopolitical objectives.
He identifies pivotal areas that include Iran, to secure access to Central
Asia; Iraq, to secure a presence in the Middle East and the Gulf; and
North Korea, to keep Japan within the circle of military influence.
(An alternative interpretation, held in China, is that the objective
is to contain China; Harris, 2002).
The war on terrorism comes with a vast, unprecedented increase in the
US military budget. The increase of $48 billion for the fiscal year
2003 equals the entire military budget of Japan. It brings military
spending for 2003 to a total of three hundred eighty billion US dollars,
which exceeds the combined military spending of the next 15-20 largest
military spenders. "The US intelligence community's roughly $30
billion budget is already greater than the national defense budgets
of all but six countries in the world" (Hoffman, 2001: 20). This
budget exceeds cold war US military spending by more than 15%. These
gargantuan magnitudes must be juxtaposed to cutbacks in already low
federal spending on infrastructure, education and social services.
Already Afghanistan is being enthusiastically advertised as a laboratory
for testing weaponry, like the Gulf was previously. New equipment-"smarter
bombs, more sensitive surveillance systems and more sophisticated communication
networks"-is to "supply the troops with better information,
precision and speed" (Feder, 2001). The war on terrorism coincides
with a programme of "force transformation" centred on rebuilding
the American military around information technology and phasing out
big weapon systems; this is variously described as modernization towards
a capabilities-based, entrepreneurial approach (Rumsfeld, 2002) and
"a revolution in warfare" (Dao and Revkin, 2002).
Previously a tension existed between the Clinton/Gore "globalists"
favouring broad aims of nation building overseas and "positive
ends", and the "hegemonists" of the Bush campaign focusing
on narrowly defined vital interests and Powell's "preventive defense"
(Harris, 2002). The war on terrorism bridges these objectives and thus
creates a bipartisan framework of consensus.
The Bush administration has adopted an aggressive unilateralism ("if
you are not with us you are against us"), largely bypassing international
institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and UN Security Council.
In November 2001 Dick Cheney warned that the United States could take
action against 40 to 50 countries, with Somalia and Iraq then top of
the list. The Nuclear Posture Review of Congress released in early 2002
adds preemptive nuclear strikes to the arsenal of deterrence. In late
spring 2002 the Bush administration has formally taken the war to an
offensive stage by announcing preemptive strikes; by summer the target
was narrowed down to Iraq.
Forks in the road
The war on terrorism raises short term and long term problems and problems
that are internal and external to the United States.
A short-term problem is that Israel's invasion of the West Bank stole
the thunder from the American war on terrorism. Israel's war on terrorism
took the form of a reoccupation and devastation of a defenseless people
who had been occupied for 35 years already, in contravention of UN Security
Council resolutions and international law during most of this time.
The overt rationale of Israel's invasion of Palestine is clearly absurd:
destroy the "terrorist infrastructure" while "suicide
bombs" are a low-tech weapon of despair; destroy the Palestinian
security forces while urging them to contain terrorism; and devastate
the civilian infrastructure under the pretext of defence against terror.
The implications are absurd: Palestinian infrastructures have been largely
funded by the EU, US and international agencies and have been destroyed
with American weapons and blessings. While the whole world has been
watching, the political and emotional nexus between 9/11 and war on
terrorism has been replaced by another nexus: the war on terrorism and
Jenin. "War on terrorism" now means wanton destruction and
war crimes. The bravery of Palestinians may add up to this: that after
Jenin the US war on terrorism has been derailed for the time being and
its legitimacy has evaporated.
The attempts to bring Iraq back into the picture (funding families of
suicide bombers in Palestine and supplying the "terrorist infrastructure")
and thus linking the US and Israeli war on terrorism backfired by placing
them on the same moral footing, in a frame of international war crimes.
Attempts to bring Iraq's weapons of mass destruction back into the picture
appear thin, also considering that they had been supplied by the United
States in the first place during Iraq's war against Iran.
The resemblance between US and Israeli policies is not occasional. American
conduct in the wake of 9/11 resembles on a world scale the way Israel
has been behaving on a regional scale, along with a siege mentality,
an obsession with security and a garrison state that curtails civil
liberties and is short on dissent. Both share a Goliath complex in relying
almost exclusively on force as a solution to their perceived problems;
this leads to the suspicion that some problems may be manufactured to
justify a war policy and machinery that has become an end in itself.
That different factions in American military circles endorse divergent
strategic principles in reaction to the threat of terrorism presents
another kind of problem. "Overwhelming Force", the strategic
doctrine followed by General Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff in Operation Desert Storm, has been applied again in Afghanistan
as the doctrine informing the use of US military capabilities. This
approach matches the Nazi Blitzkrieg, the swift application of full
military means to achieve rapid victory. Proportionate violence is one
of the principles underlying just war; Overwhelming Force or unrestrained
force is far removed from proportionate. Current American military doctrine
frequently refers to the Blitzkrieg as a shining example for the modernization
of the US military (Rumsfeld, 2002). This type of approach privileges
hierarchical centralized command.
RAND analysts advocate a strategy of "netwar", or "fight
networks with networks". This analysis argues that Al Qaeda "holds
advantages at the organizational, doctrinal and social levels"
(Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001a: 18-19). In this view, at the organizational
level, the confrontation with networked/ nonstate actors is a challenge
to achieve deep, selective, all-channel networking among the military,
law enforcement, and intelligence elements on the American side. On
the level of doctrine, the method of "swarming" attributed
to the opponent ("a campaign of episodic, pulsing attacks by various
nodes of the network at locations sprawled across global space and time")
requires a "whole new doctrine based on small-unit swarming
emphasizing special forces and limited air power" (Arquilla and
Ronfeldt, 2001a: 18-19; Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001b). This approach
follows the American tradition of low intensity conflict and privileges
Underlying the tension between centralized and decentralized command
is an overall contradiction between structures of hierarchy and dynamics
of modernization. One response to 9/11 is to bring back Big Government
by expanding the Pentagon budget and establishing a new Department of
Homeland Security, a vast new bureaucracy with expanded powers of domestic
policing and surveillance (which aggravates rather than alleviates the
existing problem of bureaucracy in the security community); while another
response relies on information technology to manage security risk, which
requires flexibility and all-channel connectivity and networking to
be effective. Here technology functions as a "silver bullet"
approach to security risk. The hierarchical command structure, however,
is out of synch with knowledge-intensive force transformation, a problem
that also beset earlier attempts to modernize the US armed forces.
US policies and their ramifications for allies and foes raise further
problems from the point of view legality and security. The new policy
of preemptive strikes "could amount to ultimate unilateralism,
because it reserves the right to determine what constitutes a threat
to American security and to act even if that threat is judged imminent"
(Sanger, 2002). Based, essentially, on the threat of weapons of mass
destruction, which is in turn based on classified information, the rationale
for war is unaccountable; it is the preserve of closed-door committees
releasing allegations. Any unruly country or government can be targeted.
The allegation of harbouring or assisting terrorism, possessing or manufacturing
weapons of mass destruction is of a type that only intelligence agencies
can monitor and assess. Meanwhile, the investigator, rapporteur, prosecutor,
judge and executioner are a single entity. While the talk is of a "common
security policy", in matters like this there are no independent
sources of information.
The key question is whether the reactions to 9/11 should follow a war
paradigm or a law enforcement paradigm. International terrorism is a
crime and a matter of law enforcement, not military operations (a pointed
argument is Boyle, 2002). A country seeking extradition of a criminal
must produce evidence. As to sponsorship of terrorism, in reaction to
IRA bombs in London, as Chomsky (2002) asks, did Britain bomb Belfast
and Boston? The definition of terrorism is contentious. Where would
South Africa and the ANC be now if terrorism had been defined then the
way it is now? Terrorism bills in the US and United Kingdom, the curtailment
of civil liberties, suppression of dissent, illegal detention of suspects
of Middle Eastern descent in the US and secret military tribunals for
terrorism suspects, compound the situation.
International law is a major avenue toward stabilizing international
affairs. In brief, without legality, there is no legitimacy; and without
legitimacy, there is no security. Hence weakening international legality
means weakening security. The war on terrorism gives governments a green light to use violent
means to suppress crossborder and domestic challenges. The attractions
of this paradigm do not go unnoticed by other governments. Israel, Russia
(Chechnya), India (Kashmir), China (Xingjian), the Philippines (Basilan),
Yemen, Nepal (Maoist rebellion), Indonesia (Aceh, Malucu) are joining
the bandwagon, and others may yet follow such as Turkey, Sri Lanka (Tamil
Elam) or Senegal. The policy of preemptive strikes may raise the stakes
further: "Israel could use it to justify harder strikes into Palestinian
territory; India could use it to preempt any Pakistani nuclear capability;
China could use it justify an attack on Taiwan" (Sanger, 2002).
It may also prompt preemptive strikes by opponents.
This may open the door to widening international anarchism. While actual
US policy is one of temporary plug-in plug-out alliances (Nederveen
Pieterse, 2002a), the official US response is to formulate a common
security policy for the great powers-Europe, Russia, China, Japan (Sanger,
2002). But each of these envisions different threats and opportunities,
and the policy of "ultimate unilateralism" undermines the
very political and legal basis that the United States seeks to fashion.
If the war against terrorism extends to Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and other
countries a coalition may not hold. Already the Beirut proposal of Saudi
and other Arab countries for peace in the region has drawn a line against
US intervention in Iraq. Legality is a sensitive point in coalition
politics too. European countries may not extradite terrorist suspects
to the United States because of the US death penalty.
Other central concerns are US Middle East policy and macroeconomic policy.
According to an American view, "The United States has a severe
image problem in the Muslim world" (Thomson, 2001: 13). This displaces
the problem of American policies to a question of perceptions. Note
the question of a young Pakistani: "How come Americans are so good
at selling Coke and McDonald's to people all over the world, but can't
sell their policies? 'Because their policies are poisonous and their
Coke is sweet', said Moulana Samiul Haq" (Friedman, 2001). Nothing
short of a change in policies, then, will change this situation; yet
US support for Israel is deeply anchored in American domestic politics.
"The terrorist attacks on America were the Chernobyl of globalization',
according to the German sociologist Ulrich Beck (2001). "Suddenly,
the seemingly irrefutable tenets of neoliberalism-that economics will
supersede politics, that the role of the state will diminish-lose their
force in a world of global risks.
America's vulnerability is
indeed much related to its political philosophy.
has always been a fair-weather philosophy, one that works only when
there are no serious conflicts and crises".
The Canadian journalist Naomi Klein (2001) makes a similar point: "In
this `new kind of war', it becomes clear that terrorists are finding
their weapons in our tattered public infrastructures. This is true not
only in rich countries such as the US, but also in poor countries
The extreme Islamic seminaries in Pakistan that indoctrinated so many
Taliban leaders thrive precisely because they fill a huge social welfare
Interpreting Islamist influence as a stopgap for privatization may apply
to Egypt but not to Sudan or the madrasas in Pakistan where Islamic
influence reflects wider dynamics. While neoliberal globalization means
a weak public sector and `cheap government', in some respects states
have been strong all along: in implementing IMF conditionalities and
structural adjustment programmes, imposing spending cutbacks and suppressing
popular resistance, and in security and defence; but weak in domestic
economic policy and in contending with multinational corporations. With
the turn to war, states again take the front seat; Big Government is
back also in the US.
9/11 has shaken the "animal spirits" of late capitalism. Once
consumer confidence fades an economy driven by replacement demand and
consumer spending on status goods, kept going by marketing mood-making,
comes tumbling down like a house of cards. "Hundreds of thousands
of jobs disappear in a month. Confidence-and stock market gains-evaporate
in a blink. Companies whose strategies appeared brilliant are exposed
as overreaching, or even fraudulent, the moment times get tough"
(Stevenson, 2001). Aviation, tourism, retail, stocks, banks, energy,
accounting, telecommunications, insurance, advertising, Hollywood, fashion,
media, even masculinity and theology-all sectors have been trembling
and repositioning under the impact of 9/11 which is what American media
have been continuously reporting on. Global capitalism turns out to
be as interconnected as network analysis has suggested and as vulnerable.
In this war, Americans have been urged to go shopping. On the whole,
the economic impact of 9/11 has been only temporary, with the exception
of insurance rates; the economic impact of the Enron episode and the
cascade of corporate scandals turns out to be much more significant.
Still there is glaring inconsistency between federal government support
for sectors hit by the 9/11 crisis-especially airlines and insurance
(which incurred a $50 billion loss)-and the Washington consensus which
has been urging all governments, crisis or not, to liberalize economies
and cutback spending. If the insurance industry would not receive government
support rates will increase, delaying economic recovery. Countries that
have been lectured by Washington and the International Monetary Fund
on economic sanity are surprised to learn that the US does not follow
its own counsel. This may have lasting ripple effects, showing up the
shallowness of neoliberal policy. That neoliberalism is crisis-prone
rather than crisis-proof is no news in most of the world (Asia, Latin
America, Africa and Russia) but a novel experience for the US.
During the Vietnam War, the US budget squeeze between Johnson's Great
Society and the war effort led to a major slump; now a deficit economy
faces a budget squeeze between huge tax cuts and a vast expansion of
military spending. In a globally-wired economy with a large service
sector and a failing "new economy", a transition to a war
economy is not as easily achieved nor as rewarding as during the cold
The opportunism of the present US administration in macroeconomic policy
does not help in bringing about a new international coalition. Proclaiming
free trade while imposing steel tariffs and adopting a farm bill with
huge subsidies to American farms demonstrates that the United States
favours free trade only if it does not damage its interests. This is
nothing new, but the signal is louder than before and it clashes with
Washington's agenda in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
9/11 and globalization from below
In media coverage "anti-globalization" now takes a backseat
behind security concerns. Control of the public agenda is one of the
effects of war and also the war on terrorism. The impact on globalization-from-below
movements is minor for their agenda remains essentially unchanged, but
it does affect the representation of globalization from below. This
holds implications for tactics, strategy and methods of action.
Increasing security concerns in summit meetings rule out another "battle
of Seattle". Secure and remote locations for new WTO, Group of
Eight (G8) and other meetings represent a novel pattern, which is symbolic
for a new phase of globalization. Meetings such as the World Economic
Forum and the World Social Forum now take place in locations wide apart
(such as New York or Davos and Porto Alegre in Brazil, respectively).
Violent methods of direct action are now no go. Within globalization-from-below
movements this means a marginalization or retreat of the anarchist black
bloc. Within the movements this helps the shift from protest to proposition
that had been in motion already. The French initiative ATTAC, for instance,
campaigns for the implementation of the Tobin tax.
There is no significant change in the issues facing globalization-from-below
movements. Their major agendas remain unchanged-such as the critique
of the IMF, World Bank and WTO, the aims of social development, democratization
and anti-racism. The war on terrorism makes no difference in relation
to these agendas, but some additional agendas emerge: with human rights
now comes the question of civil liberties. The nexus between development
and security acquires a new salience. Regional flash points such as
the Middle East, Kashmir and Central Asia come to the foreground. These
concerns bring back earlier connections between humanitarian intervention
and development (or relief and development), between the peace movement
and solidarity with the South (deadly connections), and between justice
and peace (long proclaimed in liberation theology).
Globalization before and after
Contemporary globalization is still being shaped by technological changes,
involves corporations as major players, is uneven, involves the reconfiguration
of states and goes together with regionalization. But globalization
before and after 9/11 and the war on terrorism is marked by two major
differences from which other differences follow. First, the United States
now displays an aggressive unilateralism that marks a shift from a mixed
international system of uni-multipolarity to unipolarity (Brooks and
Wohlforth, 2002; Nederveen Pieterse, 2002b). Second, if before 9/11
matters of security were background issues in globalization, involving
conflict management in the global margins ("humanitarian intervention"),
or geopolitics that rarely figured on the front pages, now American
homeland defence and an offensive war mode define the overall terrain.
From globalization centred primarily on economic dynamics (international
trade, finance, development) globalization now centres on security and
geopolitics, and the whole world has become a potential battleground.
If globalization before was primarily economic in character, now it
is primarily state-driven. If previously lean government was the keynote,
now big government is back.
9/11 and its aftermath shows how the faces of contemporary globalization
are completely out of synch. What are at issue, among other things,
are corporate entanglements (oil and gas), geopolitical aspirations
(Central Asia and the Gulf), blowback, political zigzags and opportunism
(US-Taliban), military ambitions, partial information or disinformation
(media) as well as a host of factional, national and regional interests.
Any adequate representation of contemporary globalization would take,
for starters, the skills of post-cubist painting.
Besides international law, another major concern in stabilizing the
international situation is greater economic equity and global democratization.
Contemporary globalization is fundamentally hierarchical and unequal.
As many comments point out, "The essential problem is that the
victors of the cold war now run a global world order that has no perceived
legitimacy among billions of human beings, especially those in the Islamic
world" (Ignatieff, 2001); or, "the campaign against terrorism
has reminded Americans that our security depends on ensuring that other
countries have a stake in the international system-which is possible
only if the wealthy nations lower their trade barriers" (Brainard,
2001). This calls for equitable international trade, democratization
of international institutions, and so forth.
US policy circles view doing away with extreme poverty and oppression
that feed the political cultures of terrorism as a pragmatic option,
which is casually referred to as "draining the swamp". This
is not a matter of compassion but of global risk management through
social engineering, that is, a matter of drainage. A moderate undercurrent
in US foreign policy looks to poverty alleviation and economic development
as part of a preemptive security policy. But the $5 billion over three
years allocated by the Bush administration in Monterrey for this purpose
pale next to the $48 billion extra for the military for the 2003 budget.
American unilateralism and bypassing international institutions in the
war on terrorism do not point in this direction either. Besides, mere
gestures at poverty reduction do not alter the perception of plain injustice:
US policies particularly in the Middle East are widely perceived as
biased and unjust.
The open-ended war on terrorism is a formula both for imperial projection
and imperial overstretch. Many accounts refer to the risks of overextension
(for instance, "Too broad a war could just create new foes";
Cannistraro, 2002). The American leadership has seized the moment of
9/11 to vastly expand its military spending and overseas military presence;
such policies would otherwise have met considerable resistance, domestic
and international. The US leadership uses the occasion of the war on
terrorism to implement an essentially imperial project. It is bent on
using the occasion to seize strategic geopolitical positions and bridgeheads,
in the process serving corporate interests (particularly of the energy
sector) as well as political and military objectives. Considering that
the major Congressional committees are bipartisan, this must be viewed
as an essentially bipartisan project. The United States capitalizes
on its present status as sole superpower to try to secure its continued
primacy over the next 50 years. That it does so is not surprising; the
way it does destabilizes international conditions.
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