In his final State of the Union address, George Bush stated that “[America] is engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century.” Let’s be honest: Can we really know what the defining struggle of the century will be when we’re but eight years into it? It would be like Teddy Roosevelt claming that conservation would be the defining struggle of the 20th century. Or perhaps it would be like telling oneself he would have a glorious day after a successful tooth brushing, ignoring what could possibly happen in the next 14 hours of the day.
If there is one struggle that may define how history will look at the 21st century, it will be the realization of globalization. As the United States comes to realize more and more that the age of American Exceptionalism is over, globalization will become more easily achievable. Fareed Zakaria opens his book The Post-American World with the line “This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather the rise of everybody else.”
Super powers can be the greatest set backs to globalization. These powers tend to ignore procedures and rules when it is not in their interest to do so – as the argument goes, “Who can stop us?” Certain international treaties can be ignored, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the International Criminal Court or the Kyoto Treaty. International organizations can be ignored when invading a country, such as the war in Iraq or Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia (both members of the United Nations).
So, more cooperation on a global level not only creates more cohesiveness of humanitarian, criminal and environmental standards, but I’ve got to say it feels good, too. Think about the campaign right now. The McCain campaign wants to play the old balance of power game and aggressively use the American superpower image to back Russia and China into a corner. When one argues against globalization, he is essentially instilling fear, a sense of false superiority and an unwillingness to work together.
The Obama campaign recognizes that the greatest issue of the 21st century cannot be solved with games. Climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemic disease, terrorism and genocide cannot be dealt with from the traditional “nation-to-nation” structure. They require global responses.
I will concede that being in a superior position can grow on a person. For example, in a psychological study concerning how we react to being given power called the Stanford Prison Experiment, we learned that there is certain obliviousness to the dark side of power, which is often overlooked.
Like a child in the “me stage,” there is a joy in claiming things as yours and thus molding the world to fit American ideals. Globalization also proves to be a more realist view than the old balance of power game. Failures in balance of power politics include the genocide in Darfur, the Israel-Palestine conflict and the tension between Russia and Georgia. In each situation, rather than forcing our own or anybody else’s views onto the conflict, globalization can help create an environment to give international players an opportunity to air their differences.
Many of you, I’m sure, are thinking that such an organization exists already and it doesn’t work (namely, the United Nations). To that I would respond that you are absolutely right. However, the problem is not that international organizations don’t work, but that the one in place does not have any teeth. It’s a great idea on paper, but it needs to be implemented correctly to work in actuality.
I hate to sound cliché, but really, can’t we all just get along? Wars have been fought for too long over ideology and balance of power politics. Our generation must look past banal classifications like what ideology you believe in or what state you live in because our problems and sufferings cannot be confined as such. We must recognize that we are all human beings. We must accept a global solution. Like a child, America needs to mature and learn that the world does not revolve and us, and yes, we may have to share powers with others.