Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The End of Globalization? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An EU and a Greek flag fly in front of the ancient Parthenon temple in Athens, Greece on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Has the rising globalization that we have witnessed over the past decades come to an end? There is no doubt that this seems to be the case on the political level. The US seems to have completely lost its appetite to deal with international affairs, concentrating instead on domestic concerns and devoting itself to the issues of immigration, gay marriage, taxes and unemployment. This policy shift has come at the expense of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and the remarkable rise of Russian influence.

Europe is excluding itself from anything new, rejecting immigrant workers from Third World countries, and becoming more racially prejudiced on the pretext of safeguarding nationalism despite its economy’s dire need for fresh manpower. The long life expectancy rates and the negative population growth rates in Europe are threatening the success of any future economic and development plans.

Many believe that the emergence of new barriers and the fall of globalization is due to the lack of a shared and unified conviction within the EU on how to deal with the US as a unified entity in the face of expanding Russian influence and Chinese incursions into Asia, Africa and elsewhere. The US had been the strongest promoter of this idea of globalization, particularly following the Bill Clinton era. However, Washington today has neither the desire nor the interest in guaranteeing the continuation of this policy.

At one point in time, the global financial market and the Internet were the greatest icons of globalization. They accurately depicted the promises of globalization in terms of offering the world simple and easy solutions that went beyond sovereign laws and geographical borders.

But these icons were ultimately abused. Major mistakes were made, leading to the global financial crisis of 2008. No sooner did the crisis begin in the US than it moved to the old continent, harming one country after another. Gradually the dream of globalization—at least in terms of the financial markets—turned into a painful and extremely expensive nightmare.

The global financial crisis created a massive backlash, with countries seeking to secure their own national economies. US President Barack Obama stepped in to rescue America’s banking and insurance sectors by pumping millions of dollars into them to avert a financial meltdown which would have led to a complete breakdown in the US financial infrastructure. Obama did the same thing with the auto industry by providing aid, loans and exemptions in order to rescue the sector from complete destruction. Later, Germany led European efforts to provide financial support to debt-stricken countries such as Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal.

The main idea behind globalization is that the entire world would benefit from a closer exchange of ideas and views, including sovereign states. But, ultimately, this swing towards globalization resulted in a back-swing away from his phenomenon. The West’s reaction to the financial crisis was that it turned inwards, erecting barriers and imposing restrictions in order to “protect” national economies. Furthermore, countries gave priority to national industries. As a result of this, the idea of globalization being a uniting and unifying force that does away with borders has proven false.

There is also increasing examples of racist views and incidents sweeping across the West today on the pretext of protecting the homeland against extremist ideology, whether in the name of the War on Terror or preserving “national identity.” In reality, of course, this is based on a fear of global openness.

Russia’s policy towards Ukraine shows that it, too, has failed this test. According to the main tenets of globalization, disputes between states cannot be resolved through war but by means of dialogue, law and arbitration. However, globalization is dying and there are those who believe that it should stay dead. Others, however, believe that we need to resuscitate this phenomenon and bring it back to life.