in the Era of Terrorism
A. Muqtedar Khan
University of Richmond 02.02.04
history is often marked by periods when a singular process is
dominant and this process often becomes not only the
constitutive but also the definitive characteristic of that
period. Consider for example the era of colonialisms and
global empires (1500-1900), the era of decolonization
(1900-1970), the era of industrialization (1600s- late 1900s),
the information age (1990s), the era of globalization that
also coincides with the information age (1990s onwards).
a dominant global theme helps in getting a structural
understanding of history. Themes are very useful in teaching
history as well as politics. But the present period is a
conundrum for some one like me who teaches both globalization
and foreign policy and national security. Are we still living
in the era of globalization or are we witnessing the emergence
of an era of terrorism?
far I have been fudging the issue by labeling terrorism as the
dominant global issue of our times and globalization as the
dominant global process. Perhaps I must develop a course on
globalization of terrorism that explores not only how
terrorists act across borders but also how terrorism itself is
facilitated by the processes of globalization. We can perhaps
then get a handle on our time by understanding how terrorism
and globalization affect each other. My early intuition is
that while globalization facilitates global terrorism;
terrorism itself will put the brakes on globalization.
the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks against the US,
the very discourse of international relations and global
politics has been transformed. Prior to Sept. 11th,
the dominant issues were geoeconomic in nature. Globalization
and humanitarian issues occupied the agendas of international
summits and international organizations.
But now geopolitics and security concerns have once
again become the central issue and the “old language and
institutions” of the cold war are shaping our thinking about
simple survey of the use of acronyms by media illustrates this
such as WMD and CIA now occur more frequently than WTO and IMF.
When was the last time that protests against WTO and IMF, or
anything about these institutions made the headlines?
As I write this piece I cannot even recall the names of
the Presidents of the World Bank or the IMF (even though I
debated the former through a video link from Philippines just
over 18 months ago), but I can now name neighborhoods in
Tikrit (Iraq) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) where bombs explode at
remember the days, just three semesters ago, when I had my
students doing assignments on topics such as “the culture of globalization”, and on “globalization
of cultures,” but now they prefer topics such as “clash of
cultures,” or “clash of civilizations”.
But has the world really changed all that? Globalization
as a process was facilitated by the liberalization of
transborder transactions by the devolution of state
sovereignty. Globalization was mobility. Mobility of
labor, ideas, capital, technology and profits can move
across borders with minimal governmental interference.
Above all, globalization was a sense of profound
optimism that the world was inevitable heading towards
greater and greater prosperity for greater and greater
great sense of insecurity that terrorism now inspires in the
US economy and the government, the two most important forces
behind globalization, has resulted in a reassertion of
sovereignty by the US and other nations. The fear that soft
borders created by globalization facilitate the mobility of
terrorists, their finances and their ideas, is pummeling
states towards reconstructing the boundaries and the borders
that globalization was subverting. Ariel Sharon’s
“security fence”, under construction to keep security
inside and terrorists outside, symbolizes this anti-globalist
trend more than anything else.
efforts to prevent terrorists from moving their resources is
leading to greater scrutiny of banks and setting up of new
measures that will slow down the flow of capital. The fear
that porous borders allow terrorists to enter target countries
is leading to new rules about border patrol, visa regulations,
and monitoring of foreign travelers. New security measures at
airports have already raised the costs of travel and are
affecting the profitability of the airline industry. Extensive
customs and increased regulations on imports are slowing
international trade. Higher cost, as a result of all the above
is reducing profits and may dampen the incentive to seek
ironic that global terrorism, the phenomenon of terrorists
operating in and against several nations simultaneously, was
facilitated by globalization and now it has become the biggest
challenge to globalization. Global terrorism depends on the
success of globalization. In fact one may very well conceive
of global terrorism as a facet of the global culture resulting
the rise of terrorism arrest or even reverse globalization?
One of the dictums of Globalism is the globalization is not
only inevitable but also irreversible. If this is true, and if
it is also true that globalization facilitates global
terrorism, then will global terrorism become an integral part
of our times?
I stop teaching globalization as part of International
Political Economy, and terrorism as part of national security
and foreign policy and integrate the two into a new
discipline? What shall we call it – globalization of
terrorism, or the terrorism of Globalization?
Aah! andI thought teaching in a small liberal arts
college in the deep Midwest of America, where the hunter-
gatherers are still hunters, would have kept me safe from the
agonies of globalization and the insecurities of terrorism.