By:  Cadet Rhys Williams

Globalization refers to the process of making something worldwide in scope and more specifically “the development of an increasingly integrated global economy marked especially by free trade, free flow of capital, and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets.” Globalization has existed since ancient times in a limited fashion in such forms as trade and the spread of religion; however, it has intensified significantly since the beginning of the post-Cold War period. In its economic form, globalization can promote integration, democracy, peace and stability between countries. The forces of globalization, however, also possess the potential to cause political and social problems. Economic globalization has both positively and negatively altered several important aspects of the international security environment in the post-Cold War era. The changing dynamic of national security in the face of a rapidly globalizing world poses several challenges to contemporary United States national security policymakers.

The unique combination of risks, benefits, threats and opportunities of economic globalization has divided supporters and critics of this never-ending global issue. Supporters of the global economy contend that globalization will eventually lead to peaceful, democratic, and market-oriented policies producing a more stable international environment (Frost, 35). Steven Brooks, author of Producing Security, argues that globalization “has led to major changes in the global security environment that collectively improve the security climate in some regions while decreasing it in others.” Brooks contends that the forces of globalization can enhance stability between the great powers, given certain conditions, through the economic integration of previous security rivals (Brooks, 5). Like many well-intentioned economic policies, globalization can have both positive and negative consequences, enhancing security for some states while destabilizing others.

Great power stability as a function of economic globalization, Brooks argues, is produced via three important mechanisms that have fundamentally changed the international security environment: “the parameters of weapons development, the economic benefits of conquest, and the prospects for regional economic integration among security rivals” (Brooks, 7). Brooks’ analysis of United States and Soviet defense production during the last two decades of the Cold War concludes that no state can retain its level of military technological competitiveness without globalizing its means of weapons production (Brooks, 126). The author’s examination of Soviet involvement in Eastern Europe during the last decades of the Cold War exposes disadvantages of economic conquest because the opportunity cost of being isolated from globalization has significantly increased (Brooks, 205). Finally, Brooks proposes that while regional trade agreements have enhanced security relations between developed nations, security relations in the developing world are more difficult to cultivate, as seen in the case of Mercosur (Brooks, 158). Brooks’ argument that globalization is a pacifying tool between the great powers is strengthened by his recognition of its negative effect on developing countries and its mixed effect on relations between great powers and developing countries

The globalization of weapons production, diminishing returns of economic conquest and regional economic integration in the form of regional trade agreements have positively changed international security relations, enhancing security and economic stability between the great powers. The creation of the European Economic Community, referred to today as the European Union, or EU, represented an effort by both France and Germany to reduce the mutual threat of conquest. The formation of the EU and its expansion throughout much of Europe has significantly enhanced the security of the great powers of the EU because the countries are so highly integrated, diminishing the potential returns a state might have sought prior to integration and effectively pacifying them. Globalization has had a negative effect between developing countries where the incentives for conquest and global production have not been as significantly diminished as they have for the great powers. For example, Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and violence erupted in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Furthermore, relations between great powers and developing countries have mixed results such as between the United States and Russia, following the Cold War, and between Japan and North Korea, in the past and still today. While the fall of communism marked the end of a command economy in Russia, it did not result in the full integration of Russia into the global economy, despite its strides to embrace some form of capitalism. Despite their less than full integration into the global market, relations between the United States and Russia have remained peaceful and continue to evolve. Relations between the United States and North Korea remain negative despite an increasingly global economy. North Korea still exists as a communist state, and their continued development and testing of nuclear weapons technology poses an increasingly dangerous threat to Japan.

While globalization has enhanced security between some nations, the shocks associated with rapid globalization can be destabilizing in certain economic, social, and political environments. Critics of globalization contend that globalization undermines democracy, accelerates the destruction of the environment, and acts as a catalyst for violence (Frost, 35). Mary Kaldor offers a critical view of globalization in her book New & Old Wars in which she thoroughly analyzes the recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and other parts of Eastern Europe, exposing the “dark side of the forces of globalization” (Prins, 822). Using a case study of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kaldor argues that warfare as we know it has radically changed and that modern warfare is more concerned with the cultural consequences of globalization than with military technology. According to Kaldor, the fall of the Soviet Union and a rapidly globalizing economy have given rise to identity politics, that is “movements around ethnic, racial, or religious identity for the purpose of claiming state power” (Kaldor, 76), that destabilize nations and can potentially cause genocide among those “who are powerless to control the levers of globalization” (Prins, 822). Globalization is also blamed for the rise of identity politics because it results in the development of parallel economies, giving rise to new forms of legal and illegal ways of making a profit for those who globalization left out. Kaldor argues that globalization has increased criminal activity, and in effect legitimized shady forms of business such as arms dealing, drug smuggling, and hostage taking (Kaldor, 83).

The potential for globalization to have an adverse affect on international security is real. The forces of rapid globalization have the potential to cause conflict in developing countries and undermine security relations between and within countries. The widening gap between regions in Eastern Europe coupled with identity politics caused genocide in the 1990s. These inequalities have given rise to parallel economies that foster corruption and illegal activities. Countries such as Ukraine have turned to arms dealing as a source of much needed currency, and in the last decade have become one of the world foremost dealers of illegal small arms. Corruption and theft on the part of the military following the fall of the Soviet Union has increased the flow of illegal arms, and the Ukrainian government has made little effort to combat it. Ukraine’s actions have no doubt led to conflict among its clients such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the former Taliban in Afghanistan (Gilson). The forces of rapid globalization can potentially undermine security in some regions, but this is not a universal trend. Developing and underdeveloped countries are most vulnerable to the disintegrative effects of globalization and face the most risk in today’s global economy. Economic globalization can decrease security within and between developing countries if it is not carefully regulated.

Globalization has both important economic and national security implications for the United States. Given the United States’ prominent role in world affairs, federal policymakers must develop policies that minimize the risks of globalization and enhance national security. Economic policies governing the use of foreign aid need to be reconsidered. Due to misuse or neglect, foreign aid often is channeled away from those that need it most to groups such as the military for the purpose of making war.  This scenario occurred in the former Yugoslavia and consequently undermined any hope for peace. Furthermore, the use of economic sanctions against rogue governments must be reviewed. The United States’ unilateral use of sanctions often produces unwanted outcomes such as further the further deprivation of civilian populations and the cultivation of anti-American sentiment. A multilateral approach to the use of this policy tool would yield more favorable results. In general, the United States must act more multilaterally if it wishes to produce stability via economic policy.

Economic globalization has fundamentally changed the international security environment in the post-Cold War era. The forces of economic globalization have enhanced security for major powers while simultaneously undermining the security of some developing countries. In the case of the United States, economic globalization has helped to spread democracy and enhance stability. For developing countries this is often not the case; however, if globalization can become a more gradual process, the countries might be able to reap the benefits of globalization. In the face of an increasingly global economy, the United States must take a multilateral approach to international relations to ensure national security and world stability.

Works Cited

Brooks, Stephen G. Producing Security: Multinational Corporations, Globalization, and the Changing Calculus of Conflict. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.

Frost, Ellen L. "Globalization and National Security: a Strategic Agenda." National Defense University Press (2004):  35-74. Homeland Security Digital Library. Virginia Military Institute. 31 Oct. 2006.

Gilson, Dave. "Ukraine: Cashing in on Illegal Arms." PBS: Frontline. PBS. 31 Oct. 2006

Kaldor, Mary. New & Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2001.

Prins, Gwyn. Rev. of New & Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, by Mark Kaldor. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) Oct. 1999: 821-822. 

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