Deglobalization and the Road to . . . War
Paul Krugman’s Friday column has to weigh heavily on anyone with a 7-year-old boy. The parallels are clear, at least on the back end. Krugman is hardly the first to play the Norman Angell card. Angell’s ill-timed proclamation of the end of war in the run-up to the Guns of August figures prominently in the opening chapter of Walter Russell Mead’s God and Gold; Mark Movsesian was way ahead of the curve, at 18 Cardozo L. Rev. 1092 (1996). Deep globalization didn’t prove much of a trip wire on the way to WWI. See also this snippet from Robert Keohane in the latest Foreign Policy (“In the 1930s, economic crisis led to Nazism in Germany and militarism in Japan. We must not overlook the threat that global economic crisis could again have malign effects on world politics”).
Let’s hope Moses Naim and the rest of us who think that globalization is different this time around have the better of the argument. But even assuming conflict along state lines were a probable result of this crash, as it was for the last, there are still major questions about what form that conflict would take. Could we possibly see a return to massive armies hurtling themselves at each other on defined battlefields? I’d be willing to engage suggestions to that effect, but it seems intuitively unlikely against the backdrop not just of nuclear weapons but also of the battlefield robots that all Ken Anderson fans will be familiar with. (Nor would it look like the asymmetric warfare we saw during Cold War sideshows and now in Iraq and Afghanistan.) So what’s the alternative? The image that comes to my mind, perhaps only metaphorically, is the London of 1984, in which missiles precipitate on a random basis.
The economy — not terrorism — is now the biggest security threat, and thank goodness that this Administration recognizes it. I wonder how their scenario planning (aka war games) is playing out. Maybe I don’t have to worry about my 7-year old in any particular way, though I’m not sure how much consolation that is.