Supporting Legitimate National Aspirations
Coping with Globalization
For both idealistic and practical reasons, the U.S. has long been committed to the spread of democracy worldwide, aiming toward the day when it becomes the universal political system.
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Since the First World War, the U.S. has also advocated the right of peoples to determine their own future. But U.S. support for legitimate national aspirations is more qualified than the U.S. commitment to the spread of democracy. Carried to an extreme, the ideal of self-determination can promote divisive regionalism, interethnic warfare, and the fragmentation of states into ungovernable subunits, all of which endanger peace and democracy. As a result, the U.S. has been more cautious in advocating universal application of the principle of national self-determination. Indeed, as illustrated by U.S. support for the European Union, the North American Free Trade Association, and the unity of multi-national states such as India and South Africa, Washington for practical reasons has often encouraged or accepted supranational units.
On the other hand, Washington usually opposes the repression of legitimate national aspirations. U.S. protection of Macedonia and the Kurds of Northern Iraq, pressure on Israel to allow a measure of Palestinian self-rule, recognition of Slovenia, and decades-long advocacy of the restoration of the independence of the Baltic Republics are cases in point. The challenge for Washington will be to determine precisely how to differentiate between legitimate expressions of national aspirations and destructive tribalism, and to thus promote national self-determination but discourage factionalism and intergroup intolerance.
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Globalization offers many opportunities to expand markets for U.S. products and services, and to increase U.S. political and cultural influence. However, the United States is not immune from the negative influences of globalization, such as the diminution of U.S. sovereignty and autonomy in an increasing number of areas. The role of international broadcasting in influencing both world and U.S. public opinion during the Gulf War offers both positive and negative examples of these phenomena. On the one hand, CNN news broadcasts presented much of the Middle Eastern ruling class with more effective arguments for U.S. intervention against Iraqi aggression than any old-fashioned propaganda could have provided. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein and his spokesmen were able to address the English-speaking world without interference from the governments of the anti-Iraq coalition.
To a large degree, the globalization process represents the attainment of U.S. ideals of free flows of trade, persons, and ideas. Furthermore, the U.S. is isolated by its surrounding oceans and protected by its strict environmental laws and large territory. It boasts a large and rich domestic market, political stability, and well-enforced laws governing financial and corporate activity. Thus, the United States is less threatened by the negative aspects of globalization than most other countries. Therefore, globalization offers considerably more advantages than disadvantages to the United States. While recognizing the threats inherent in globalization, the U.S. appears likely to continue to support its development.