Russia invades Georgia. China
jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously
unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices.
Islamic terrorists keep car bombing.
Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea
shrug and watch - all in a globalized world that tunes into the
Olympics each night from Beijing.
"Citizens of the world" were supposed to share, in relative harmony,
our new "Planet Earth," which was to have followed from an
interconnected system of free trade, instantaneous electronic
communications, civilized diplomacy and shared consumer capitalism. But
was that ever quite true?
In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:
(1) The U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.
(2) The U.S. military would keep the sea lanes open, and trade and
travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global
communism, the Americans, as global sheriff, would continue to deal
with the occasional menace like a Moammar Gadhafi, Slobodan Milosevic,
Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the Taliban.
(3) America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with
the world - like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with
the petulance of dependent teenagers.
But there have been a number of indications recently that
globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both
materially and psychologically.
The United States
may be the most free, stable and meritocratic nation in the world, but
its resources and patience are not unlimited. Currently, it pays more
than a half trillion dollars per year to import $115-a-barrel oil that
is often pumped at a cost of about $5.
The Chinese, Japanese and Europeans hold trillions of dollars in
U.S. bonds - the result of massive trade deficits. The American dollar
recently has been at historic lows. We are piling up staggering
national debt. More than 12 million live here illegally and freely
transfer more than $50 billion annually to Mexico and elsewhere in
Our military, after deposing Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, is
tired. And Americans are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the
cheap criticism of global moralists.
But as the United States turns ever so slightly inward, the new
globalized world will revert to a far poorer - and more dangerous -
Liberals like presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack
Obama speak out against new free trade agreements and want existing
accords like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) readjusted.
More and more Americans are furious at the costs of illegal
immigration - and are moving to stop it. Foreign remittances that help
prop up Mexico and Latin America are threatened by any change in
America's immigration attitude.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy becomes harder to take. After all, it is
easy for self-appointed global moralists to complain that terrorists
don't enjoy Miranda rights at Guantanamo, but it would be hard to do
much about the Russian military invading Georgia's democracy and
bombing its cities.
Al Gore crisscrosses the country, pontificating about Americans'
carbon footprints. But he could do far better to fly to China to
convince them not to open 500 new coal-burning power plants.
It has been chic to chant "No blood for oil" about Iraq's petroleum
- petroleum that, in fact, is now administered by a constitutional
republic. But such sloganeering would be better directed at China's
sweetheart oil deals with Sudan that enable the mass murdering in
Due to climbing prices and high government taxes, gasoline
consumption is declining in the West, but its use is rising in other
places, where it is either untaxed or subsidized.
So, what a richer but more critical world has forgotten is that
America largely was the model, not the villain - and that postwar
globalization was always a form of engaged Americanization that
enriched and protected billions.
Yet globalization, in all its manifestations, will run out of steam
the moment we tire of fueling it, as the world returns instead to the
mindset of the 1930s - with protectionist tariffs; weak, disarmed
democracies; an isolationist America; predatory dictatorships; and a
demoralized gloom-and-doom Western elite.
If America adopts the protectionist trade policies of Japan or
China, global profits plummet. If our armed forces follow the European
lead of demilitarization and inaction, rogue states advance. If we
treat the environment as do China and India, the world quickly becomes
a lost cause.
If we flee Iraq and call off the war on terror, Islamic jihadists
will regroup, not disband. And when the Russians attack the next
democracy, they won't listen to the United Nations, the European Union
or Michael Moore.
Brace yourself -we may be on our way back to an old world, where the strong do as they will, and the weak suffer as they must.