Globalism, it seems, has become a dirty word. The term is hurled in some corners as an insult—as a euphemism for unchecked immigration and forfeited national sovereignty. In the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump, even some card-carrying globalists have begun to reevaluate the merits of nationalism and the perils of globalization. While soul-searching is surely warranted, however, a wholesale rejection of globalism is not.
To understand why, it is helpful to start with a clear idea of what globalism is and what it is not. Greg Ip provides a good working definition in a recent Wall Street Journal essay: “globalism” he writes, is the mind-set that globalization—the process whereby goods, capital, and people move ever more freely across borders—is natural and good. Globalists support free trade and open borders; they embrace international institutions and active engagement on the world stage. They do not necessarily dismiss the importance of national sovereignty, nor do they oppose the working class, as is commonly believed.
Put simply, globalism remains a good and powerful idea. The globalist institutions that were established in the wake of World War II—the World Bank, World Trade Organization, NATO, and others—have since helped lift millions out of poverty and have ushered in a period of unprecedented peace among the world’s great powers. And today, many of our most pressing challenges are global in nature and thus will require global solutions.
Take cyber security. As David Sanger reports in The New York Times, the recent hacking of the US election exposed the ever-expanding risks that exist in cyberspace and demonstrated the blind spots in America’s response systems. Importantly, these hacks and cybercrimes are affecting governments and firms worldwide and could pose a serious threat to global financial and political stability. Better international cooperation would be a crucial step toward improving national cyber defense systems.
Similarly, a host of challenges across the Middle East call for more international cooperation, not less. The most pressing threat—terrorism by ISIS and its offshoots—demands the combined energies of the US military, NATO, and a resolute coalition of Arab states. The elusive goal of Israeli-Palestinian peace, too, requires broad diplomatic engagement, as Martin Indyk spells out in a recent New York Times op-ed.
Finally, there is the longer-term challenge to the liberal world order, brought on by autocrats and populists worldwide. Allegiance to liberal democracy as a form of government is slipping, along with trust in international institutions and alliances. Meanwhile, autocrats in Russia and China appear ascendant—more confident and assertive in their roles on the world stage. Ongoing political dysfunction in the United States and Europe only makes it harder to address these trends.
Nationalism offers an insufficient—and likely counterproductive—solution to these challenges. In a world that is more integrated and complex than ever, global engagement and global solutions are critical. This Week’s Reads highlight the debate over globalism and some of the issues that will determine its future.
Greg Ip/The Wall Street Journal
Greg Ip writes that the backlash against globalism, the belief that globalization is natural and good, surprised elites on both the right and left in part because they don’t see globalism as an ideology. Yet it is, Ip argues, and in this solid recounting of the rise of globalization, he shows that elites have been blind not only to the pain of globalization but also to the fact that anti-globalists have both economic and social concerns. Not all those against open borders are xenophobic, and globalists must re-examine their policies to regain the public trust; there may be room to meet in the middle.
Martin Wolf/Financial Times
In this essay detailing the rise and fall of globalization and the post-World War II liberal world order, Martin Wolf comes to the conclusion that while it is important to understand the failures of globalization for non-elites – wage stagnation, rising inequality, job loss – it is just as important to reject knee-jerk false policy solutions that give in to the rage and disillusionment that many feel. Turning inward would mean ignoring the lessons of history and could “destroy the intellectual and institutional pillars on which the postwar global economic and political order has rested.”
Eduardo Porter/The New York Times
“Did a combination of globalization, demographic change, cultural revolutions and whatever else just upend America’s consensus in support of liberal market democracy?” asks Eduardo Porter. Porter describes how the particular US system of checks and balances, as well as a patchwork of state elections regulations that can change depending on which party has the statehouse, can make government easy to demonize as divided and rigged. With one October poll showing that only 2/3 of Americans believed their vote would be fairly counted, Porter says the most difficult question is whether the political system can overcome gridlock to fix itself.
Yuval Noah Harari/Financial Times
Elites have been battered by the failure of “the end of history” theory and the Western world’s apparent crumbling faith in globalization. Yet it’s still possible to have optimism, says Yuval Noah Harari, if one considers humanity’s capacity to rise in times of challenge and how much better the world is today than 100 years ago. Though liberal democracy may appear to be on its heels, there is no real alternative, Harari argues, and the silver lining to being down but not out is that liberalism has the opportunity to reinvent itself.
William J. Burns/The New York Times
One of the United States’ premier diplomats, former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, sounds a note of caution for the incoming Trump administration on Russia. Burns notes that Russia is still “too big, proud and influential to ignore” despite Putin’s desire to disrupt the US-led order. So Burns argues for dealing with the Kremlin on “the critical” before “the desirable.” This means countering Russian hacking, reiterating our NATO commitment, and supporting Ukraine while maintain skepticism that we can work with Russia to counter Islamic extremism or China.
David Sanger/The New York Times
After the Obama administration finally released its report on Russian election hacking last Friday, David Sanger points out that even as the document detailed Russian interference it also showed tremendous lag time between authorities’ detection and reaction. Regardless of whether president-elect Trump continues to resist the report findings, such an “analogue” response in the digital age is stunning and means cybersecurity will continue to be a challenge for the US government, no matter who is president.
Robert Kaplan/The New York Times
The US role in the world is defined by our geography, writes Robert Kaplan. Even as a young country, the United States was a dominant force in the Western Hemisphere, yet our experience with Manifest Destiny meant that we understood the challenges – physical and moral – of nation-building. America is fated to lead, Kaplan argues, but we must remember our frontier roots and understand the global responsibility of a maritime nation. “The further removed we become from the psychology of that original experience, the worse will be our encounter with the world beyond.”
Martin Indyk/The New York Times
Traditional foreign policy thinking – and previous US administrations have signaled – that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be disastrous for Middle East peace as both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their own. Yet Martin Indyk says that perhaps the United States could jumpstart talks by saying it would move the embassy while simultaneously establishing one in a new Palestine capital in East Jerusalem – but only when a final status agreement is reached. It may sound far-fetched, but moving the embassy without a bold initiative to advance peace is a losing proposition, Indyk argues.
Stephen Fidler/The Wall Street Journal
Though the United Kingdom’s talks with the European Union on Brexit don’t begin until later this year, Stephen Fidler runs through what we know so far is likely to result. For one, the United Kingdom won’t be in the EU common market (unlike Norway and Switzerland). For another, it will take years to unwind membership, so there will need to be some transitional arrangement. It will be equally challenging to escape EU regulations in any trade deal and for financial firms to do business across the bloc. And the impact on the United Kingdom’s budget won’t be as positive as Leavers insisted.
Gabriel Wildau, Yuan Yang, and Tom Mitchell/Financial Times
Though China appears to have weathered its stock market plunge last year, many wonder whether it is in a bubble or can maintain its growth targets. The authors traveled to three cities that are beginning to reflect the country’s growth options: rebalance, stagnate, or crisis. Key questions include whether middle class consumption can pick up the slack of the easing manufacturing boom, whether it will instead fall into a middle-income trap due to a combination of deindustrialization and aging, or whether investors who looked past risk during the boom will end up stumbling and bringing the banking sector down with them.