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Globalization versus nationalism versus al-Qaeda
These three things are important to understand as bad, good, and bad, respectively
John Kusumi
8/20/2004

The state of world politics has advanced to a point where everyone, from age 8 to 80, has to be aware of three things in this world: globalization, nationalism, and al-Qaeda. To understand them is increasingly important, for all from 8 to 80. The purpose of this article is to aid in understanding these "three big ideas" that have become impactful for all the world.

Arranging the cast in its order of appearance, most people first knew nationalism, having grown up with it. Later came globalization, and later still was most people's introduction to al-Qaeda. As it turns out, globalization and al-Qaeda are two different ways of disrespecting nationalism, and they are each making a mess of the world. On the part of globalization, to make a mess is unintentional. On the part of al-Qaeda, to make a mess is the whole idea.

Nationalism is a way that society chose to order its affairs. As children, we learn that nations are territories, each under the leadership of its civil and/or military authorities. As territories, they have geographical boundaries, and can be found as shapes on a map.

There is far more to know about nations than the simple child's understanding, as above. They are units of community and polity, each with a history and character all of its own. Just as people are unique, so too are nations, and they do have lives of their own. It should be underscored that in nations, people live there -- nations are communities. In each, we can find an economy; a society; and one or more cultures. Every nation will be found to be richly intricate and complex. Each has no shortage of angles for analysis. A nation is an intense thing, not to be trivialized or taken lightly. And -- I am convinced -- a nation is a good thing.

Enter globalization. It is as if Bill Clinton said, "Hey -- forget all that. I have a better idea." Globalization is the antithesis of nationalism. Globalization suggests that there are no boundaries, just one globe. Globalization would put all ambassadors out of a job, because who are they? --Aren't they just people who shuttle back and forth between those nation-states, which are thought, under globalization, to be passe?

After the Cold War, was globalization the logical next step, as presented? Or, was it in fact a very, very radical and completely drastic departure from past practices, or the status quo ante? Was it the symptom of a U.S. President and establishment, now less cognizant of their nationhood, and less cognizant of borders, boundaries, and limits to their power and authority? Did this raise anew such questions as, "Where do you draw a line?" Was it the symptom of a U.S. President "thinking big," and in fact getting it wrong, for thinking too big?

There could be some back-and-forth on this issue. Global transportation was becoming easier and more routine. Communications technology was spreading globally, and led to a global information explosion. Spiritually, some people like to feel that we are all connected, and I applaud ideas like universal human rights. Bill Clinton could tick off a list of issues where the answers are best if global, like the environment, diseases, responding to terrorism and WMD proliferation, and issues that all societies have in common. As I say, there is some back-and-forth by which we can mentally turn these matters over and examine them.

At the end of going back and forth, I am clear in saying that globalization was unfounded, naiive, childishly simplistic, and wishful. As far as I'm concerned, "you don't take away our nations -- no thank you!" Furthermore, we need our nations to fight terrorism. (Note. My own thinking finds that globalization and nationalism are like oil and water. You can have one, but not both. They are concepts in conflict. An international nature includes nations; a global nature contains some intellectual aggression against the boundaries that we draw on the globe. A robber can ask you to choose between giving up "your money or your life." Similarly, globalization requires that you choose loyalty to "your globe or your nation.")

Enter al-Qaeda. Here comes the terrorism that we need to fight. A frightened population may simply think of al-Qaeda like the barrel of a gun, or the last thing you see before a plane hits your building, or a truck bomb goes off. Some analysts explain that this is militant Islam, or Muslim terrorists that we are fighting. I reject that as hooey, and assert that we are fighting with plain, vanilla evil. There is no valid goal of Muslims that is advanced by terrorism; when the evil of al-Qaeda occurs, there is no accomplishment and no good is achieved in the destruction. Destruction is destruction, and evil is evil.

Now that nationalism, globalization, and al-Qaeda have been introduced, we can begin to compare, contrast, and to look at the interactions between them. Al-Qaeda does something similar to globalization: it reaches out across international borders. As noted, globalization and al-Qaeda are two different ways of disrespecting nationalism. Each is a threat to our communities. Globalization threatens the identity of one and all. It tries to say to (e.g.) Americans, "you are not Americans -- rather instead, you are just the collateral consequences of corporate decisions." Likewise, it says to Chinese that you are not Chinese; to Russians, that you are not Russian; etc. The difference between globalization and al-Qaeda is the difference between an intellectual threat, one the one hand, versus a physical threat, on the other hand.

It is said that al-Qaeda is opposed to globalization, seeing that as a threat to its religion. Here is the first and only place where I agree with al-Qaeda; I am opposed to globalization, seeing it as a threat to my religion! Yet, for al-Qaeda to say such a thing is hypocritical, because al-Qaeda is threatening people of all religions.

The answer to al-Qaeda's evil is to brace, buttress, and strengthen the system of nation-states. As we will remember from the old days, nations are places with authorities -- who are fans of law and order. Under a strong system of nationalism, such evil acts as the premeditated murder of civilians are against the law. Further, nations have the armed forces and the experience to enforce the laws.

Does this mean drop globalization? To me, yes, that is implied and indicated. A strong system of nation states is our best bulwark against terrorism, and against the global scale errors of U.S. Presidents who are thinking too big, as they delude themselves with visions of omnipotence. I believe that upon entering the White House, a new President does not get a magic wand -- he gets a job. Further, that job should be to defend his nation against threats. Globalization implies an omnipotence that is illusory, and the pursuit of same is itself a threat to the nation, as surely as al-Qaeda is a threat. Recent Presidents have indulged in a dangerous flirtation that we can no longer afford.

I would say this to those who are the betting types -- put your money on nationalism, and forget the more recent globalization and al-Qaeda. Also, free trade must stop at the border of the free world, thereby cutting out communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs, unless they export oil. To overcome evil, perhaps we should stop embracing it.


John Kusumi is Executive Director of the China Support Network, former teenage candidate for U.S. President (Ind., ྐ), Ronald Reagan's youngest opponent, and the first GenX politician. He has also authored websites, books, and software.

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