- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

The suicide air strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have been compared to Pearl Harbor, not only because the surprise assaults killed thousands, but because they "awakened the sleeping giant" and mobilized the American public to wage war.

The United States, however, is not the isolationist country it was in 1941. The stupor of complacency from which Americans need to be awakened this time harkens back much further. The spirit of our "post-Cold War" era at the dawn of the 21st century has more in common with ideas in vogue at the dawn of the 20th century in what was the great power of that day, Great Britain.

The reigning dogma a century ago was classical liberalism, the legacy of David Ricardo, Richard Cobden and John Stuart Mill. Its most absurd example was Norman Angell, who in 1913 published "The Grand Illusion," which argued that war had been rendered impossible by economic interdependence. It would be "irrational" to resort to violence. In a letter to H. Rider Haggard that same year, Rudyard Kipling called this attitude "a disease not a set of ideas" and predicted that world events would soon discredit it.

He was right, as World War I broke out the following year.

Yet, the notion that our enemies are "irrational" continues, with the common use of the term "madmen' to describe those who would attack us. But they are only "irrational" if they fail to intimidate us, win concessions and advance their own causes.

For the last decade, the "globalized" business community has been sending a clear signal that America can be manipulated. Business lobbies led by the National Foreign Trade Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have worked to remove sanctions from anti-American regimes, rogue states and sponsors of terrorism and to pump in billions from trade and investment to finance their bellicose ambitions. They have pushed to lift restrictions on "dual use" military-related technology sales to rogue states.

This has included the kind of encrypted telecommunications equipment that can be used to link terrorist cells.

The NFTC has opposed sanctions on Libya, Iran and Sudan and even created a subsidiary, USA*Engage, dedicated entirely to sleeping with the enemy. The Chamber of Commerce has been courting Fidel Castro, among other tyrants. And the Business Roundtable has raised millions to promote the People's Republic of China and to explain away every threat Beijing makes against the United States.

A bevy of other trade associations, retailers and bankers have reinforced these efforts in the mistaken belief that the world was about to become a harmonious place. In such a world, the nation-state, with its concerns about power, wealth and security, would wither away. Corporations could then shed their national identities and become "citizens of the world."

Yet, the real world has remained a dangerous place. Terrorism is only the tip of the geopolitical iceberg. Hezbollah financed by Iran, but based in Lebanon under the protection of Syria, threatens to trigger a regional Mideast war. Asia, after decades of the world's most rapid economic growth, is fraught with possible conflicts. Chinese threats against Taiwan. The divided Korean Peninsula. The India-Pakistan arms race. Separatism, revanchism, oil and religion. In Latin America, drugs and political radicalism endanger many states. In Africa, Sudan and Congo are only the most prominent examples on a continent ablaze in war.

On Sept. 11, the great symbol of the liberal dogma of globalization, the World Trade Center, was demolished by terrorists linked to far more ancient and enduring concepts. Men who do not believe in a "world without borders" showed they could exploit the vulnerabilities of those who do.

Globalization is nothing more than a concept created by corporate managers who want to run transnational production and distribution networks without any government controls or accountability. It has been promoted, however, by intellectuals in the classical liberal tradition who idealize the notion of a "world without borders." Despite its expansive rhetoric, globalization is a very narrow way of looking at the world; petty and irresponsible. It is guaranteed to miss the broader concerns of humankind the concerns that give life true value.

The business view of the world did not motivate those who attacked the WTC; but it also didn't motivate those who rushed to rescue the victims, hundreds of whom subsequently died in heroic action. It will not motivate those Americans who will risk their lives to carry out this country's righteous retribution.

The incompetence of the classical liberal approach to world affairs was summed up by the great economic thinker Joseph Schumpeter. Though a vigorous defender of capitalism as an economic system, Schumpeter was also a keen student of history and sociology. He understood the limitations of capitalists once they stepped outside their offices.

In "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy," he wrote, "We have seen that the industrialist and the merchant, as far as they are entrepreneurs, also fill a function of leadership. But economic leadership of this type does not readily expand into the leadership of nations. On the contrary, the ledger and the cost calculation absorb and confine."

The business class, Schumpeter continued "is ill-equipped to face the problems, both domestic and international, that have normally to be faced by a country of any importance."

Terrorism has removed the World Trade Center from the landscape of New York City. An effective response will require that we remove "globalization" from the landscape of American politics. We must rebuild U.S. foreign policy on the more solid and traditional foundation of national security. Captains of industry will be expected to mobilize their economic strength to bolster America's position in the world, not undermine it.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide