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Globalism’s Failed Promise

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 [1] 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 [2]. 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 [3] 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. 

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Globalism’s Failed Promise"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 20, 2014 @ 1:50 am

Nationalism has a troubled record as a positive force, but replacing it by a worldwide oligarchy of sociopathic globalist corporations is a stunning reversal of the democratic accountability that has been the positive aspect of the development of the liberal nation-state. In my opinion, we are witnessing a return instead to the barbaric style of governance, which technological progress does nothing to prevent and can even enable, where moral self-restraint is lacking.

#2 Comment By seamus_padraig On May 20, 2014 @ 9:27 am

Good work, Curtis!

I have always viewed the hoary notion that trade precludes war with supreme disdain. War and trade have co-existed since the dawn of human civilization, if not the human race itself. Indeed, certain forms of trade and war have historically been very closely linked. Competitive economic advantage often entails the control of real-estate, resources, and markets–which has led to war on many occasions. That’s one reason I like TAC (and contribute to it): they see through the ‘free-trade’ mythology.

#3 Comment By Johann On May 20, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

“Free trade apologists have been repeating this utopianism ever since, facts notwithstanding. (Germany and France were major trading partners before World War I.) ”

Come on now, you cannot deny that trade between countries have to make it harder to go to war. The trade is a force against the war.

I also agree that globalization as we know it today is really not free trade as other commenters have mentioned.

Another Cobden quote that is hard to argue with – “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.” Here again, the absolutism of the comment is false, but one must admit that when people meet their supposed enemies, government sabre rattling propaganda suffers.

#4 Comment By Avery On May 20, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

This is a powerful essay, and I hope it will be widely read. The globalist myth is becoming an indisputable certainty to some people (e.g. Merkel) even as the reality of the 21st century is beginning to undermine it.

#5 Comment By RadicalCenter On May 20, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

Johann is clearly more right on the premise that substantial trade between two nations tends to make it less likely that they will have a major military conflict.

We have evidence of this in the past couple months as Germany and other European countries balk at sanctioning Russia, on whom they rely for a large percentage of their oil and natural gas.

#6 Comment By Stephen Reynolds On May 20, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

Globalization was always a device for making corporations more powerful than governments and totally independents of the demands of labor. Why we have accepted it so passively I do not know, but in so doing we may have doomed ourselves.

#7 Comment By Andrew On May 20, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

There is nothing new in this column. The failure of the American political class or “elite” to recognize what is going on is largely due to its MO, which is:

1. Go to the country of interest;
2. Find, in this country, people who speak and think like you;
3. Pretend that those people are a majority or express a hidden desires of a majority;
4. Deny facts and history of that country;
5. Build your assumptions on the opinion of those from the p.p. 2;

I omit here an inevitable element of hubris and….voila’, Chalabi is all over again.

Since early 1990-s it was clear that the titanic struggle between a nation-state and globalism (liberalism, free trade fundamentalism etc.) was inevitable. But instead Huntington many decided to believe in the End Of History. It made them feel good, even if for a short while.

Most of the points, actually more, presented in this wonderfully written piece are the subject of the large scale public discussion in Russia for at least a decade. Especially so after war with Georgia in 2008. All this is secret de Polichinelle.

“This swift decline in British vigor at home and the failure to exploit the empire were not owing to some investable senescent process of history….That cause was a political doctrine….The doctrine was liberalism, which criticized and finally demolished the traditional conception of the nation-state as a collective organism, a community, and asserted instead the primacy of individual. According to liberal thinking a nation was no more than so many human atoms who happened to live under the same set of laws….It was Adam Smith who formulated the doctrine of Free Trade, the keystone of liberalism, which was to exercise a long-live and baneful effect on British power….Adam Smith attacked the traditional “mercantilist” belief that a nation should be generally self-supporting…”

“The Collapse Of British Power”, Correlli Barnett. William Morrow & Company, Inc. New York, 1972. Page 91.

#8 Comment By Baron Stein On May 20, 2014 @ 11:52 pm

Excellent, more common-sense straight no chaser, than anything I’ve read on this site in many moons.

#9 Comment By Jim Evans On May 21, 2014 @ 11:55 am

Nation-states have a greater cross-section of people than corporations.

Which entity is more likely to respect the will of the Common Man?

#10 Comment By Bernard Scherr On May 22, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

My question is why did people not know this all along? Why do “folks” have to relearn this? If we had paid attention to how people actually act, then it would have been obvious. The evolutionary biologist, Dr. Wilson, tells us that tribalism is one of the five fundamental characteristics of human beings.

#11 Comment By john werneken On May 22, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

The fact that PEOPLE BELIEVE in nations does not make it right to do so. Nor plausible to assume that they always will so believe.

Why CARE about missing airplanes, dead people, or invaded lands? When you are harmed is when to care and in these cases we are not harmed, just annoyed.

#12 Comment By The Anti-Gnostic On May 23, 2014 @ 9:12 am

The only possible explanation is that he is disconnected from reality, as Angela Merkel reportedly said.

Or, that he is more connected with reality than a bunch of deracinated, affluent NATO/EU bureaucrats.

#13 Comment By Tom Avitabile On May 23, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

Brilliant analysis. And an omen to us that no matter what Google should not be offered permanent observer status at the UN.

#14 Comment By Maxine Albert On May 23, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

This is an excellent analysis. Well done.

#15 Comment By Max Fenster On May 26, 2014 @ 1:08 am

Mr. Putin appears to be backpedaling in the face of economic pressures. Is this not obvious?

#16 Comment By Brett Champion On June 7, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

That straw man has been thoroughly whipped.

Even among the “elite” the idea that nations have ceased to matter or would cease to matter in the near future is a minority belief. What the majority opinion about globalization says is that it will make nations more willing to resolve their differences peacefully rather than militarily. It’s not that globalization has, or even will, make warfare obsolete, but that it will increase the costs of going to war, thereby reducing the overall amount of conflict.

And who in their right minds would question the fact that, while they are far from being liberal democracies, the regimes governing such countries as China and Russia are much less repressive than they were even just 40 years ago. And that weakening repression is primarily the result of an indigenous human rights lobby working under an umbrella provided by outside pressure brought to bear by Western trading partners. And the indigenous human rights lobby the result of local populations’ exposure to Western ideas about rights and liberty.