When Europe ran the world, trade followed the flag, meaning that globalization in its initial expression -- otherwise known as colonialism -- grew out of the barrel of a gun, to paraphrase Mao Zedong. On this subject, Franklin Roosevelt and Vladimir Lenin agreed, even if that conclusion led them to embrace diametrically opposed strategies: FDR's realization that "the colonial system means war" drove him to erect an international liberal trade order following World War II that doomed the vast colonial systems of his closest European allies. Roosevelt's success not only enabled America to contain and ultimately defeat the soul-crushing Soviet alternative, it laid the initial groundwork for today's American-style "open door" globalization, itself a nod to cousin Theodore. In the end, that "traitor to his class," as Roosevelt was often labeled, should rightfully be acknowledged as the single-most successful anti-imperialist revolutionary leader of the 20th century.
Read the entire column at World Politics Review.
I just participated--this morning--in my first virtual meeting of the Geopolitical Risk Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum as led by Eurasia Group CEO Ian Bremmer. I wrote this piece in anticipation of that, in effect offering my definition of the biggest geopolitical risk I could imagine: "declining" or "retreating" America + rising-but-pol-mil-weak China = a system whose revealed risk could suddenly spike. How so? Some scenario comes along that confirms US impotence or unwillingness to step into any new breaches, while likewise confirming the "paper tiger" nature of the PLA (shiny weapons + no experience makes Wang a tentative soldier). Then the question is, what or who steps into this breach? Rising secondary powers? Underpowered and/or atrophied international organizations? Or, most likely, is that breach simply left wide open, revealing the true macro geopol risk in the system--namely, that we stand astride a transition from an overburdened and overleveraged superpower to an inexperienced and lacking-in-will-and-political resilience newcomer? And what is the possibility of alliance between the two at this time? Poor indeed. You pile that geopol "revealed risk" on top of a fragile global recovery, and that's a dangerous mix.