Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Ethos of Global Intervention

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Ethos of Global Intervention

Article excerpt

Despite the presence in the world of a great many particularist movements that would split societies into smaller units, there is also a powerful drive toward consolidation, powered primarily by an international leadership that has adopted an ethos of global meliorism. In effect, the philosophy is that "everyone's business is our business." Important voices in the United States have expressed a desire for some constraints, but even these have called for a wide scope of world intervention. All of this is very much at odds with the traditional American foreign policy that prevailed until 1898. Now that the Cold War is over, the author says, it is time for a serious reexamination of the premises underlying both the new and the traditional policies.

Key Words: International affairs, American foreign policy, world intervention, global meliorism, Davos culture.

Powerful opposing forces - some centrifugal and others centripetal - are contending for preeminence in the world today.

In their recent book Beyond Westphalia?: State Sovereignty and International Intervention, Thomas Weiss and arat Chopra interpret this as a continuation of the anti-colonial breakup that followed World War II: "The decolonization process that began in Africa and Asia continues not only in the former Soviet empire but also within newly independent states, as ethnic particularism and subnationalism surface...."1 They would almost certainly agree, however, that the fragmentation goes far beyond what can be attributed directly to the breakup of the earlier colonial system.

A centrifugal flying-apart into fragments occurs in movements that in many places passionately seek local autonomy, often even secession from the larger entity to which they have belonged. A short list of the areas in which local peoples are asserting themselves in a great many parts of the world would include the United Kingsom, Spain, Corsica, Italy, the Balkans, the Russian Federation, Canada, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, southern Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines and many parts of Africa.

The centripetal tendency, on the other hand, leads toward consolidation. It entails an all-encompassing outlook that is premised implicitly on the assumption that "everybody's business is the world's business," and presumes a proper role for global policing and social welfare. Historian David Callahan speaks of an "internationalist project as a whole" that is backed by "elite liberal internationalist opinion."2 The past century has seen the growth - even though unevenly and with much interruption - of a "global community." It often holds definite opinions about what is right and wrong, and is willing to take action to mold the world, as best it can, in the direction it finds desirable.

Cultural historian Samuel P. Huntington says "the term 'universal civilization'" is used to speak of "the assumptions, values, and doctrines currently held by many people in Western civilization and by some people in other civilizations." He suggests that "this might be called the Davos Culture." The name comes from a very tangible presence: "Each year about a thousand businessmen, bankers, government officials, intellectuals, and journalists from scores of countries meet in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland." Huntington tells how "Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world's governments, and the bulk of the world's economic and military capabilities."3

The Davos meeting is, of course, just the most recent sign of a consensus that has long existed among the global elite (and here I use "elite" in a neutral sense that denotes those in the professional classes who hold the most prominent positions). The name "Davos Culture" is useful, but the consensus is much older and more expansive than could possibly be suggested from a single annual gathering. Even those who point to the influence of the Tri-Lateral Commission or the Council of Foreign Relations, which are essentially parts of what Huntington is referring to with his term, are speaking too narrowly. …

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