It’s an economic and political strategy that dictates where the world’s “stuff” will be produced. In other words, where capital is available and labor is cheap. To further clarify, globalization supporters “see the world as a single entity, a seamless whole, a single market, a single ecosystem, and a single community.”
Inherent in globalization is fierce competition for the best and cheapest locations to transact business. Of course, the goal is to maximize profit and ultimately the preservation of human life; i.e., food, shelter, clothing safety and happiness.
Most global business takes place in America, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada. But, globalization also extends into the Middle East. And, that’s a problem. It conflicts with the region’s political, social and cultural attitudes.
Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University published an article more than ten years ago titled, The Clash of Civilizations. He predicted conflict with the Middle East, “whose people are convinced of cultural superiority” and will fight Western interests deemed as an attack on Middle Eastern religious beliefs, codes of behavior, laws and life style.
The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization warned: “The depth of Middle Eastern opposition to globalization cannot be underestimated and will [perilously] extend decades into the future.” The key reason given is a lack of effort to penetrate the Middle East with Western culture, ideas and institutions.
However, the historical record shows that Americans made heroic efforts to commingle cultures with the Middle East as early as mid 18th century; notwithstanding the Eastern belief in a destiny to emerge as the World’s dominant culture. America’s interest was not oil at that time, but humanitarian objectives.
In the 19th century, America continued to show friendship and support by aiding the Middle East in achieving independence from Ottoman rule (Turkey). Among military dignitaries visiting the region were Civil War veterans: George B. McClellan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of State William H. Seward.
Additionally, America demonstrated an affinity for Middle Eastern culture by erecting an ancient Egypt obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle) in Central Park in 1880 as a tourist attraction symbolizing America’s friendship and esteem. The monument was given to William H. Vanderbilt’s (son of Commodore Vanderbilt) by Egypt in recognition of America’s past contributions to the country’s defense and welfare.
Moving into the 20th century, missionaries continued America’s outreach of friendship and philanthropic assistance to the Middle East. They helped establish hospitals, colleges and schools for many years up to the start of World War I in 1914.
Unfortunately, Turkey, the most influential entity in the Middle East, joined the Axis Powers (Germany) in WW I, although President Woodrow Wilson advised against that decision. America remained neutral in the war, but finally joined the battle six months before its end.
America’s good relations with the Middle East ended after World War I, mostly due to a distressful aftermath involving war restitutions and religious persecution. However, political and commercial necessities among Western nations and the Middle East evolved into a complex, but workable mixture of belligerency and friendship which extended into the 21st century. Causes for conflict and hostilities appear to be: religion, cultural domination, military power, economics and globalization.
Peace solutions are offered by many, but few, if any, have a cure for war. Nevertheless, neutrality and isolationism strategies were tried in the 20th century. Both used by Presidents Woodrow Wilson prior to WW I, and Franklin D. Roosevelt before WW II, without success.
However, neutrality and isolationism is still in the hearts and minds of many Americans as a cure for war. That sentiment was succinctly expressed by Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor George Earle in 1935, almost 80 years ago. “If the world is to become a wilderness of waste, hatred and bitterness, let us all the more earnestly protect and preserve our own oasis of liberty.”
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