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16 March 2002
Globalization means global conflict between elites of the rich nations. World trade is one example.
Take President Bush's recent move to protect U.S. steel producers with tariffs on imports of foreign steel. This vexed Pascal Lamy, the European Union's trade commissioner.
"We can't let an industry that has gone through hell and high water to become the most competitive in the world suffer the consequences of illegal measures by the U.S.," he said in the Mar. 10 Financial Times.
The U.S. won't compensate the EU for the steel tariffs by reducing tariffs on other imports, noted Grant Aldonas, the U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade. And the EU's response?
It plans to penalize US air carriers subsidized by American taxpayers. "Under the plan, non-EU carriers deemed to have benefited from unfair subsidies will face "equalising" tariffs or taxes and may even have their landing rights restricted so that the benefits of any original government subsidy is negated," reported the Mar. 12 Financial Times.
The EU could have waited a year or so to have its legal day in the World Trade Organization about the U.S. steel curbs. Yet whatever the EU does, the driving force of trade conflicts will remain.
On one hand, the global economy is comprised of nations. They go their separate ways, as the U.S. and the EU just did.
On the other, world capitalism needs a world government to manage the growth of national economies. The WTO is not a world government.
The capitalist system needs government management. Without this we had the Great Depression and two world wars.
Meanwhile, the internationalization of commerce is the key to economic growth. The system faces a dilemma.
On a related note, Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan told Congress on Mar. 7 that the U.S. economy is supposed to be emerging from its year-long recession. But it's hard to see how the U.S. can grow if rivals such as Japan and the EU, hit by U.S. steel curbs, don't.
Alongside trade tension there is brute force in global relations. In brief, U.S. military power paves the way for its commercial domination of other nations.
Just ask Thomas Friedman, in all his lethal arrogance. In the Mar. 28, 1999 New York Times Magazine, he wrote that military force is "the hidden fist" that keeps the world safe for the U.S. corporate sector to rule the roost.
The president's recent nuclear saber-rattling is a veiled reminder of U.S. military power to unnamed rivals in the rich nations. The Cold War merely kept a lid on this rivalry.
Turning from trade to resources, the world's leading warrior nation gets to exploit the resources of lesser nations first. Those with the biggest weapons and the willingness to use them try to extract what they want on their terms.
Crucially, the U.S. leads the way in the extraction of resources that facilitate world trade, mainly oil. U.S. Vice President Cheney's mission to the Middle East to cobble together a coalition to attack oil-rich Iraq is a case in point.
His trip comes amid much rhetoric from the president and members of his administration such as Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Iraq's threat to the security of Americans. Iraq stands in the way of peace and freedom, claims the Bush White House.
Yet many outside the U.S. see Iraq mainly as a beaten Middle East nation. Eleven years of cruel U.S.-backed U.N. economic sanctions against the Iraqi population are proof of that.
Talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is fog to mask what's really going on-a struggle for the nation's oil reserves, the world's second-largest. A U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, a pre-Gulf War ally, would enlarge American corporations' control over Iraq's capacity to produce oil.
Oil is the main energy source for the world economy, as no substitute now exists. Thus controlling oil is one way for U.S. corporations to maintain their domination of the global system partly by weakening competition from rich nations.
Certainly, there are counter-trends. One strategically situated example is the U.S. peace movement.
To be sure it faces challenges. A big one is being seen and heard by the American public.
Why are messages of peace so hard to publicize in the U.S.? The masters of war hog the stage 24/7 in the corporate news media.
Peace activists in the U.S. and worldwide are among the many who support globalization from the grassroots. It offers humanity a civilized alternative to national relations that are locked into global conflicts about trade and resources.