Wednesday, June 13, 2007


In her Slate column today, Anne Applebaum writes that this G8 has shown that we’re progressing beyond a 9/11-based politics, in which: there are other major issues to address aside from terrorism; Europeans and Russia are going to push for them; and that quite possibly nothing is going to get accomplished:

"…it's not exaggerating at all to state that the events of the past week—and the wildly divergent international news coverage that accompanied them—illustrate a profound transformation that has been taking place, slowly and quietly, over the last several years. Call it post-post-Sept. 11, or maybe just a return to status quo ante: Either way, it's pretty clear that that brief moment of consensus—those very few years when the world's most powerful governments all believed that the world's worst problem was international terrorism—has now passed. "

Not that terrorism is any less important an issue, but there are other things to worry about, right? Climate change, global economic inequality and poverty, AIDS, immigration, missile defence (which shouldn’t even be an issue, mais bon), and oh yeah the war in Iraq—which, due to the peculiar genius of the Bush Administration, has become impossible to separate from the fight against terrorism. Which is technically a whole other war.

While there are certainly other issues that deserve attention, I’m not sure why fighting int’l terrorism has to suffer as a result. It seems she is criticizing the ADHD nature of modern politics, wherein concrete action is taken only in the presence of a tangible crisis or disaster, and long-term vision goes as far as the next election. Now that 9/11 and the subsequent European bombings are receding into memory, terrorism won’t be given the overarching attention it deserves until the next major attack (which is only a matter of time).

Applebaum’s final point is that this return to a cacophony of voices and priorities makes the post-9/11 solidarity seem like an exception to the historical rule: “Most of all, though, the world's divided attention proves once again that global Internet access and global television have not created anything resembling a global conversation.” This might border on cynical (and isn't even entirely true). But she's got a point that the globalized world is perhaps more provincial than it ever was, with national governments and companies fighting even harder for their citizens’ support in what has become a (threatening) global market. As the rest of the world encroaches upon you, in both positive and negative ways, some might accept it with open arms; others may lash out against it (Which helps explain the re-emergence of the extreme right across Europe over the last 15 years). While nations tend to act in their own self-interest, to the possible detriment of others, such a strategy makes less sense in a more interdependent world, where our greatest threats now come from the 'bad' countries farthest 'off the grid' of Western-style liberal democracy. (There are also some 'good' countries 'off the grid', and they too should be kept an eye on, because failed states are not in the interest of really successful ones, like G8.)

With perspectives like these, it is hard to be an optimist. Unless you are rich, in which case I'd recommend buying property on a mountainside in a temperate zone.

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