Two new reports about our world reiterate the overwhelmingly positive impact of globalization upon our planet, making it more peaceful and more just.
The "Human Security Brief 2007," compiled by Canada's Simon Fraser University, details the continuing overall decline in global conflict that began with globalization's rapid expansion around the planet in recent years, to include the complete absence of classic state-on-state war since 2003.
As a result, total deaths from conflicts are now lower than the world has ever seen. For anyone looking for a "new world order" after the Cold War, this is it: far fewer wars and much less death from them.
Better yet, when Iraq's bloody civil war is factored out of the equation, deaths from terrorism have declined globally since 9/11 by roughly 40 percent.
Hold Bush-Cheney accountable for botching the occupation and unleashing that violence, but make no mistake, while the sectarian strife briefly fueled al-Qaida's "cause celebre," toppling Saddam did not trigger an upsurge in global terrorism. That long war hasn't made the world more dangerous in the long run.
According to the brief's data, intrastate wars kill on average far fewer people than interstate wars, even when they are internationalized. Since 1950, the average interstate war killed approximately 35,000 people, while the average intrastate conflict killed less than 3,000, jumping to almost 9,000 when conflicts spilled across borders and/or outsiders intervened.
Some look at those statistics and say, "This means we should never bother intervening in civil conflicts and instead should simply let 'em burn." But I spot the essential payoff of that implied new world order: The basic conflict America faces today is at worst one-quarter the size of death and destruction of those we routinely encountered in decades past all dangerous proliferation of technologies notwithstanding.
And no, that's not just a result of the death of superpower rivalry, but rather a series of signals that America has sent the global community since 1990 through our leadership of international coalitions to address regional crisis situations Iraq included. The more willing we are to move "down" the conflict spectrum from big wars to civil strife, the more safe we make the world by signaling our commitment to its system management. That doesn't mean America must take on all crises, just that we're trying in conjunction with other great powers to push "down" the very definition of crisis over time to lower thresholds.
The third statistic worth noting is the profound decrease in civil strife in Africa over the past few years. This is clearly tied to globalization's rapid spread, as rising Asia's huge up-tick in demand for natural resources has benefited Africa plenty, to include a substantial flow of foreign direct investment designed to pull African economics into globalization's network chains of supply and production.
But all of these positive trends constitute mere ripples before the tsunami of structural change globalization now fosters in the emergence of a "world middle class" of unprecedented size and proportion. Most estimates of today's global middle class peg it at a bit more than one-quarter of the world's population. But as investment firm Goldman Sachs argues in a paper titled, "The Expanding Middle," globalization should add 2 billion new consumers to that category over the next two decades, essentially doubling the global share.
This is the essential link: Regional conflicts had to be progressively eradicated to allow for globalization to expand and take deep root. The cause-and-effect dynamic that we begin to recognize on a global scale mirrors the Bush administration's success in Iraq with the improved counterinsurgency approach.
Two essential take-aways: We do not live in a more dangerous world and globalization's stunning spread both reflects and feeds that happy reality; and the wars we'll need to manage to protect globalization's advance are getting smaller with time.
Thomas P.M. Barnett ([email protected]) is a distinguished strategist at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities and author of the forthcoming book "Great Powers: America and the World After Bush."