BREAKING: Globalization Is Dangerous

Globalization is dangerous.

But not, as it turns out, because it has gutted the middle class. Not even because a globalized supply chain has made it easier for our rivals to sabotage our defense programs, or that a globalized supply chain has led to a loss of manufacturing capacity that threatens our defense, to say nothing of our distinctly American commercial sectors.

Rather, retired Admiral James Stavridis, in a more popularized version of a piece he wrote for a National Defense University volume on the topic, argues that “deviant globalization,” whether that of drug traffickers, terrorists, counterfeiters, or hackers, poses a rising threat.

Convergence may be thought of as the dark side of globalization. It is the merger of a wide variety of mobile human activities, each of which is individually dangerous and whose sum represents a far greater threat.

I’m sure it is a threat. But Stavridis makes the same mistake just about everyone else makes when they consider criminal globalized networks to be a security threat: they ignore that there is little these illicit networks do that licit ones didn’t already pioneer. They ignore that the only thing that makes them illicit is state power, the same state power that corporatized globalization has weakened.

In fact Stavridis’ fourth point telling how to combat deviant globalization is notable for what it’s missing.

Fourth, we must shape and win the narrative. Many have said there is a “war of ideas.” That is not quite the right description. Rather, the United States is a “marketplace of ideas.” Our ideas are sound: democracy, liberty, freedom of speech and religion — all the values of the Enlightenment. They have a critical role in confronting the ideological underpinnings of crime and terror. Our strategic communications efforts are an important part of keeping our networks aligned and cohesive.

You see it? In spite of using the metaphor of the market to describe the realm of ideas, Stavridis neglects to mention that one of our ideas, so-called capitalism (or the marketplace itself!), that value of Enlightenment, is precisely the logic that has made globalization imperative.

If the way to beat these criminal globalized networks is to compete ideologically, but the ideological foundation our elites cling to most desperately is the same one the criminal globalized networks are exploiting so spectacularly, haven’t we already lost the battle of ideas?

Stavridis’ choice to ignore capitalism is probably why he doesn’t get the problem with his call to “follow the money.”

Third, we must follow the money. Huge sums of cash from these trafficking activities finance terrorists and insurgents such as the Taliban, as well as corruption. The money is used to undermine fragile democracies. Efforts to upend threat financing must be fused with international initiatives, move across U.S. agency lines and have the cooperation of the private-sector institutions involved.

It is true that globalized cash flows undermine weak governments (the same ones that otherwise might make these criminal globalized networks illicit). But that’s at least as true of the money looted from poorer countries and deposited, completely legally per western elites, in secrecy regimes, or of the hot money that destabilizes the global economy more generally. Moreover, one of the biggest impediments to tracking the flows of criminal globalized networks is that the so-called licit multinational banks they use to transfer their money are more interested in the profits from the money than in cooperating with increasingly weak states. So long as HSBC can get away with a wrist slap, after all, why would any multinational bank give up its customer base to American authorities?

Stavridis ends his column by citing Hardy’s warning about icebergs.

Just over a century ago , the poet Thomas Hardy wrote “The Convergence of the Twain” about the collision of the Titanic and the iceberg that sank it. “And as the smart ship grew/ In stature, grace, and hue/ In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.” There is an iceberg out there in the form of weapons of mass destruction; what is most worrisome is the convergence of such a weapon with a sophisticated global trafficking route enabled by cybercrime and the cash it generates. That is the convergence we must do all in our power to prevent.

Stavridis almost gets it. He almost gets it that these global trafficking routes, whether deemed licit or illicit by increasingly weak states, are the iceberg that is looming.

It’s just that he chooses to ignore the iceberg he can see for the parts he can’t see.

11 replies
  1. Ben Franklin says:

    “Stavridis neglects to mention that one of our ideas, so-called capitalism (or the marketplace itself!), that value of Enlightenment, is precisely the logic that has made globalization imperative”

    Exactly. The big problem is that shadow economy (which includes those undeclared cash businesses and workers paid under the table) Transparency is a two-way mirror allowing only one party to see goings on.

    They must know the exact location of all that counterfeit Fed and IMF currency, and some are just side-stepping their immaculate gameplan. This must stop.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s only “deviant” globalization that poses an existential threat. Hahahaha? That’s another way of saying globalization itself is an unalloyed wonder, a comment that must ignore much of reality in order to be genuine.

    Ideas are not tested and honed in a marketplace; that’s where their commercial utility is priced and traded. The notion of free markets is as misleading as the idea that CEO’s love competition. They hate it and do away with it as quickly as possible. Monopoly is what they aspire to, aided by the exclusive use of state authority on their behalf, from tax subsidies to legal immunities to outright protection.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    See? See? It’s all about Scarcity. Dammit, Jim, where’s Gene Roddenberry when we need him? It isn’t globalization per se, it’s globalization in the context of facilitating the accumulation of scarce commodities in the hands of the 5% with military superiority. Come up with a universally available energy source and the rest will take care of itself. Until then, Mobil and BP divvy up the oil and the rest of the world scurries about the edges of “globalization”, whether that be in the protection of the oil or in the redistribution of everything else, which is crumbs.

  4. rsmatesic says:

    Two points:

    1. The convergence of which Stavridis speaks is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. Capitalism, as applied to the marketplace of smugglers, has long demanded exactly the sort of convergence of which Stavridis only now complains. Does anyone really believe that it has ever mattered to the cop that the bribe offered is for moving drugs, as opposed to weapons, human beings, trade secrets, or state secrets?

    2. You ask “If the way to beat these criminal globalized networks is to compete ideologically, but the ideological foundation our elites cling to most desperately is the same one the criminal globalized networks are exploiting so spectacularly, haven’t we already lost the battle of ideas?”

    Your question assumes that “we” have been guided by democracy, liberty, freedom of speech and religion. But who’s “we”? If “we” means our elites, then “we” have never treated democracy, liberty, et al., as universal values, and have instead withheld their application whenever they got in the way of profit. So, no, the elites haven’t lost the battle of capitalism v. the bill of rights, since they were never in it to begin with. That said, I’m not convinced the more proletariat version of “we” can claim anything different.

  5. Frank33 says:

    Here is another example of globalization, Potemkin Villages. There only used to be Potemkin Villages in Russia. They were similations of actual prosperous villages that did not exist. Potemkin Villages have gone global.

    The G8, our financial oracles, meet every year to plan austerity and disaster capitalism for the sheeple. They are in Northern Ireland this year. But the economic blight is disturbing for these powerful world leaders.

    They are in Enniskillen, an Irish Potemkin Village, with prosperous shiney happy people in phony storefronts. This is the reality that exists in the imagination of the oligarchs.

    What they’ve done is they have filled the shop front window with a picture of what was the business before it went bankrupt or closed. In other words, grocery shops, butcher shops, pharmacies, you name it, they have placed large photographs in the windows that if you were driving past and glanced out the window, it would look as if this was a thriving business. It’s an attempt really by the local authority to make the place look as positive as possible for the visiting G8 leaders and their entourages, and it’s really tried to put a mask on a recession that has really hit this part of Ireland really very badly indeed.

  6. TarheelDem says:

    Stavrides ignores the extent to which the deviant globalization uses institutions of the state-approved globalization to transact their business. And the extent to which some of the deviant activities are in fact subsidized by various nation states and corporations.

  7. greengiant says:

    I’m tired of globalized components like capacitors with the wrong PH fluid in them and companies such as Dell, HP, Phillips etc that put them into products with the resulting product failure in two to four years. This harvest will not continue. Consumers don’t have enough money to keep buying crap.

  8. joanneleon says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: This is a perfect response. “It’s only “deviant” globalization that poses an existential threat.”

    And organized crime, if it’s done by a government and their biggest industry friends, and their military and intel/paramilitary organizations, is all good!

  9. Procopius says:

    It’s kind of disheartening to see how dumb some of our high-ranking “leaders” are. I always thought flag officers (generals and admirals) had to pass through a number of graduate-level, even post-doctoral, education systems, had to learn about politics and economics as well as military theory. This guy doesn’t seem to realize that the only difference between “law-abiding” and “criminal” is a willingness to follow the rules, and that he is a member of the class that is least inclined to follow the rules. In fact, one aspect of criminal behavior that makes “rehabilitation” so difficult is that many (most?) career criminals don’t recognize the rules as being such. They don’t see any benefit from following them, so they don’t. Amazing. How does this turkey think he became and admiral? He should/must know that it wasn’t because he’s such a towering intellect or efficient manager.

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