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Geoffrey Garrett on Globalization in Two Eras

Geoffrey Garrett on Globalization in Two Eras

In the first lecture of the new Global Studies course, the vice provost of the International Institute discusses globalization before and after 9/11, President Bush and the war on terror and opposing views about where the world is headed.

Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost of the International Institute, said that the idea of globalization has changed since the 90s. The opening lecture, called "Globalization, 9/11, and World Politics," was the first of a series in a new Global Studies degree program course at UCLA.

The talk contrasted the rise of globalization from the late 80s to Sept.11, 2001, with the changed priorities in U.S. foreign policy post-9/11. Garrett said that American foreign policy centered on expansion of free markets and economic globalization in the 90s, then shifted drastically to security and military issues after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at some cost to the free movement of people and goods.

American foreign policy as a lens to globalization

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, Americans viewed globalization as reducible to the extension of world markets and democracies. Garrett called this a period of American triumphalism: "You didn't need government to regulate the economy and you didn't need government to provide security because security threats had gone away."

Foreign military actions were not absent during Bill Clinton's two terms in office, but they were limited to what Garrett called "high-tech interventions" -- bombing from the air with practically no American casualties -- in Bosnia and Kosovo. Markets were the dominant social institution. "People thought in the 1990s that prosperity was never going away," Garrett said.

Thus, said Garrett, "International security and foreign policy were literally irrelevant to the 2000 [US] election." Instead, the world economy was foremost in discussions of globalization, and free markets were the watchword of the day. "Al Gore didn't win, probably because the Republicans were able to play up Monica Lewinski," Garrett said. This is in stark contrast to the 2004 election in which national security and the war in Iraq dominated campaigns.

There were, however, increasingly polarized opinions on the effects of globalization in the 90s. Many celebrated the trend and hailed it as a chance for economic prosperity. The Economist, for example, coined the term "Davos Man" (February 1, 1997) for the world's economic leaders and CEOs who gathered at the Swiss ski resort for the World Economic Forum and were optimistic proponents of world markets and investments. Others, however, believed that globalization was mainly Americanization and forced open the doors of poor countries to unfair competition from American goods. "They thought globalization increases inequalities," said Garrett.

Opponents of globalization mainly pointed to U.S. plants moving overseas where they competed with local industry and also meant lost jobs for American workers. A more conservative strain of opposition to globalization was exemplified early on by Ross Perot, the surprisingly successful independent candidate for president in the 1992 elections. Perot won an unusual 20 percent of the vote by warning American workers that they would hear a "giant sucking sound" as their jobs flowed south of the border after the NAFTA agreements opened U.S. markets to Mexican goods and transport.

Ultimately, it was the left that mounted the largest and most effective negative challenge to the vision of international free trade. The Seattle protests against the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in 1999, which drew as many as 100,000 people, highlighted deep divisions in views about meanings and effects of globalization, said Garrett.

Globalization on a global scale

Garrett said that these opposing forces have not slowed the spread of global trade, investments or communications and travel, all of which have grown on a broad front. He cited statistics that show marked increases in world GDP (gross domestic product), exports, international tourism and Internet use.

World GDP increased 30 percent from 1990 to 2002, said Garrett. The Internet also saw incredible growth through the 90s; one estimate is that 810 million people worldwide are now Internet users. The number of democracies and amount of exported goods both doubled in the 90s. In 2002, 690 million people -- more than ten percent of the world's population -- traveled internationally. "Globalization is also about people movement -- growth in international tourism mirrors growth in international trade," said Garrett.

This remarkable increase in global numbers is having a cultural effect: Garrett pointed out that his young daughter has grown up with the idea that her toys and clothes are "Made in China" or "Made in Malaysia." "The idea that something would actually be made in the U.S. is foreign to her," Garrett said.

Globalization has increased economic volatility for developing countries, Garrett said. In the 90s there was a sharply rising graph of foreign direct investment in the developing world. This is "great," said Garrett, "until the foreign money decides to exit." The 1997-98 Asian financial crisis produced a virtual collapse of foreign investments for much of the developing world, in Latin America as well as Asia. The initial deep recession was followed, however, by a growth of direct ownership of plants in developing countries by companies and by joint ventures based in the developed world. But the crash, along with the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, showed the negative effects globalization can have on developing countries' economies.

Markets alone were not enough

Geoffrey Garrett pointed to Samuel P. Huntington's famous 1993 article, "The Clash of Civilizations?" (Foreign Affairs, Summer, 1993) as one of the first straws in the wind challenging the idea that the post-Soviet world was going to be a peaceful place dominated by trade and good fellowship.

Huntington said that the world is a darker place and that it would be naive to be seduced by the prosperity of globalization. "It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural," Huntington said in his article.

Huntington proposed that the cutting edge of this impending global clash would be between forms of traditionalism and industrial modernism. While the jury is still out on how fully Huntington's prediction has proved to be true, Garrett said that there is certainly evidence of a growth of traditionalist hostility to globalization in general and to the United States in particular.

In 1999, for example, a farmer, Jose Bove, in the town of Millau in the south of France, became an instant celebrity when he drove his truck into a McDonald's to protest U.S. duties on French cheese. "He became a cultural icon because he was standing up for French traditionalism," said Garrett.

Garrett added that the feeling of hostility to what is perceived as U.S. imperialism “was even more strongly felt in the Islamic world," and is one of the root causes of recent terrorism. "Many people think terrorism is spurred by the penetration of the U.S. military and culture into the rest of the world," said Garrett.

The world post-9/11

Garrett compared the 9/11 attacks to the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor: "I would argue that 9/11 was a bigger blow to the American psyche than Pearl Harbor." But, said Garrett, while 9/11 was earth-shattering to Americans, in the rest of the world, terrorism was much more common, albeit less devastating.

From 1996 to 2003, the total number of deaths due to terrorism in the Western world was 3,646 (over 3,000 of those from 9/11). Compare this, Garrett said, to the 42,643 deaths on U.S. roads in 2003 alone, the just over 1,707 coalition troops deaths in Iraq since 2001, and the 350,000 deaths on the battlefield in Congo from 1997 to 2003. "Does the death of 457 people [those not killed in 9/11] justify a complete change in priorities?" he asked.

A complete change in priorities is exactly what happened, though. By 2002, argued Garrett, the American national security strategy changed from war as self-defense to preventive warfare, exemplified by the war in Iraq. In President Bush's second term, said Garrett, "I would argue that Bush is even more radical." The president is protecting the U.S. in a "diffuse sense" by promoting America's "morals imperative to free people around the world," said Garrett.

If, in the decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, American policy makers thought that security and the state were unimportant, in the years since 9/11 the foreign policy shift threatens to undermine the economic and trade goals that seemed so paramount a few years ago. Restrictions in immigration reduce world travel while security concerns discourage investment and impede the flow of goods.

Garrett said that in the short-term, America's war on terror is terrible for globalization because it creates barriers between the U.S. and the rest of the world. But even these excessive policies will not permanently curb the forces pushing toward a gloablized world economy. Globalization continues to be an impetus for cooperation between many parts of the world.

"The beat goes on in globalization," said Garrett.

You can see slides from Garrett's lecture on the Global Studies 1 course website links section.