The crisis in Ukraine and the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight have done more than expose weaknesses in regional security and international air safety arrangements. They have exposed fundamental flaws in the bedrock assumptions underlying that secular faith known as globalization.
George Ball, liberal State Department and Wall Street apparatchik, stated the first axiom of globalism in his famous 1967 testimony to a congressional Joint Economic Committee when he declared nation states “obsolete.” This has been unquestioningly accepted as an article of faith by the smart set. Western elites have come to believe nations will wither away in a brave new economically integrated world.
As a corollary, we are to believe flags are simply vestiges of a bygone era rather than touchstones of pride and identity. Individuals’ self-identity will be tied not so much to country of birth as to their smart phones, whose parts have crossed more borders than five generations of Mexican migrants. “iPhone or Android” will mean more to homo modernicus than “American or Brazilian.”
We were promised deracination would lead inevitably to world peace. The original Cobdenite told us nations that trade with each other don’t go to war with each other. Free trade apologists have been repeating this utopianism ever since, facts notwithstanding. (Germany and France were major trading partners before World War I.) No rational head of state would upset the harmonious workings of the global economy; nationalist passions would be tempered by “market realities.”
It’s clear they didn’t get the memo in Russia and Ukraine. They have been significant trading partners, yet economic realities did not trump nationalism. To be sure, many of the Maidan protestors coveted their own flag more than designer goods from the EU. It is a modern Western conceit to view human aspirations strictly through a materialistic lens. Alexander Solzhenitsyn decried Western society’s tendency to focus on the accumulation of material goods to the exclusion of all other human characteristics.
This stubborn insistence on seeing the world in purely economic terms blinded us to anticipating that Vladimir Putin could do exactly what he did. Putin wasn’t supposed to risk upsetting “the market”—but he did. He was supposed to fear sanctions and economic backlash—but he didn’t. The only possible explanation is that he is disconnected from reality, as Angela Merkel reportedly said.
Blind faith in economism informs the solutions to foreign conundrums proposed by many across the political spectrum. Economic sanctions will promote good behavior in Eastern Europe, while economic engagement will promote human rights and religious tolerance in East Asia. In Ukraine, we can conveniently have it both ways, sanctions and engagement: exporting loads of cheap American natural gas will reward our friends and punish our enemies.
Just as events in Ukraine show us nationalism is not a spent force, the Malaysian Airlines mystery shows us the limits of global technocracy.
We have come to believe that raising everyone to the Western standard of living will spread our values. The assumption is that having the same material goods makes everyone the same—the software goes with the hardware. President Clinton used this formulation to sell PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) with China: democracy would flourish in China in tandem with a middle class.
Since Malaysia’s Boeing 777 is the same as American’s Boeing 777, the Malaysians will operate it as just as Americans do. We now see how naive that is. National pride trumped a dispassionate pursuit of truth, and had as much to do with excluding the FBI, NTSB, and others from the Flight 370 investigation as concerns about revealing military intelligence assets (or lack thereof). Nationalism and national differences are alive and well.
Despite developments in Ukraine and Malaysia, the Obama administration and its globalist fellow travelers in think tanks, on K Street, and in Congress continue to pursue their post-nationalist agenda. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership would merge the U.S. economy with the EU and other countries around the world, among them Malaysia. These agreements are part of the transnational project envisioned by George Ball and David Rockefeller 50 years ago. They are based on the assumption that nationalism is a thing of the past, and that people around the world think, believe, and conduct business in the same manner as Western elites.
Those who have the courage to look will see that those cherished notions died in the waters of the Indian Ocean, and on the shores of the Black Sea.
Curtis Ellis is a political communications consultant and writer.