The Relationship Between
Globalization and Militarism
by Steven Staples
Social Justice magazine, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2000)
Globalization and militarism should be seen as two sides of
the same coin. On one side, globalization promotes the conditions
that lead to unrest, inequality, conflict, and, ultimately, war.
On the other side, globalization fuels the means to wage war by
protecting and promoting the military industries needed to produce
sophisticated weaponry. This weaponry, in turn, is used-or its
use is threatened-to protect the investments of transnational
corporations and their shareholders.
1. Globalization Promotes Inequality, Unrest, and Conflict
Economic inequality is growing; more conflict and civil wars
are emerging. It is important to see a connection between these
Proponents of global economic integration argue that globalization
promotes peace and economic development of the Third World. They
assert that "all boats rise with the tide" when investors
and corporations make higher profits. However, there is precious
little evidence that this is true and substantial evidence of
The United Nation's Human Development Report (U.N. Development
Programme, 1999: 3) noted that globalization is creating new threats
to human security. Economic inequality between Northern and Southern
nations has worsened, not improved. There are more wars being
fought today-mostly in the Third World-than there were during
the Cold War. Most are not wars between countries, but are civil
wars where the majority of deaths are civilians, not soldiers.
The mainstream media frequently oversimplify the causes of
the wars, with claims they are rooted in religious or ethnic differences.
A closer inspection reveals that the underlying source of such
conflicts is economic in nature. Financial instability, economic
inequality, competition for resources, and environmental degradation-all
root causes of war-are exacerbated by globalization.
The Asian financial meltdown of 1997 to 1999 involved a terrible
human cost. The economies of Thailand, South Korea, and Indonesia
crumbled in the crisis. These countries, previously held up by
neoliberal economists as the darlings of globalization, were reduced
to riots and financial ruin. The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
stepped in to rescue foreign investors and impose austerity programs
that opened the way for an invasion by foreign corporations that
bought up assets devalued by capital flight and threw millions
of people out of work. Political upheaval and conflict ensued,
costing thousands of lives.
Meanwhile, other countries watched as their neighbors suffered
the consequences of greater global integration. In India, citizens
faced corporate recolonization, which spawned a nationalistic
political movement. Part of the political program was the development
of nuclear weapons-seen by many as the internationally accepted
currency of power. Nuclear tests have put an already conflict-ridden
region on the brink of nuclear war.
2. Globalization Fuels the Means to Wage War
The world economic system promotes military economies over
civilian economies, pushing national economic policies toward
military spending. The World Trade Organization (WTO), one of
the main instruments of globalization, is largely based on the
premise that the only legitimate role for a government is to provide
for a military to protect the interests of the country and a police
force to ensure order within. The WTO attacks governments' social
and environmental policies that reduce corporate profits, and
it has succeeded in having national laws that protect the environment
struck down. Yet the WTO gives exemplary protection to government
actions that develop, arm, and deploy armed forces and supply
a military establishment. Article X~ of the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows governments free reign for
actions taken in the interest of national security.
The Military-Corporate Complex
Since the end of the Cold War, President Eisenhower's 196.0s-era
military-industrial complex has been fundamentally challenged
by globalization. Globalization has weakened the powers of the
nation-state, while freeing corporations to move profits and operations
across national boundaries. Defense/military contractors, once
considered part of the national industrial base and regulated
and nurtured as such, are becoming detached from the nation-state
and are able to pursue their interests independently.
Globalization and the transnationalization of defense / military
corporations have replaced the military-industrial complex of
the Cold War economy with a military-corporate complex of the
new global economy. This is based upon the dominance of corporate
interests over those of the state. The weakened state is no longer
able to reign in weapons corporations and is trapped increasingly
by corporate interests: greater military spending, state subsidies,
and a liberalization of the arms trade.
The Threat of Military Force Is Used to Protect Corporate
According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "the
hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist.
McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder
of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for
Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army,
Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps" (Friedman, 1999).
Friedman illuminates the strategic relationship that exists
between corporations and militaries. As globalization extends
the reach of corporate interests around the world, a matching
military capacity must be deployed to protect those interests.
This is the underlying reason the U.S. military maintains the
capacity wage two major wars in different regions of the world
Globalization is driving a global war economy and creating
the conditions for tremendous loss of human life. Many writers
and researchers have documented the decline in human rights, social
justice, environmental standards, and democracy caused by globalization.
The inevitable outcome of globalization will be more wars-especially
in the Third World where globalization has its harshest effects.
Meanwhile, the elites of the industrialized world are confident
that the global economy will continue to provide them with wealth
created from the resources and labor of the Third World. Their
technologically advanced militaries will protect them and their
investments, insulating them from the violent effects of globalization.
What is required is a complete reassessment of the current
global economic system, with the goal of promoting genuine human
security and development. Global financial institutions, such
as the World Trade Organization, that do not promote these goals
must be revised or scrapped completely and replaced with a system
based upon principles of equity, peace, and democracy.
Steven Staples is the Chair of the International Network on
Disarmament and Globalization (405 - 825 Granville Street, Vancouver,
BC, V6Z IK9 Canada; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), a network
of activists and researchers in over 30 countries who are concerned
about the new global economy and the need for peace, disarmament,
and the funding of human needs.
For more information, visit the International Network on Disarmament
and Globalization at www.indg.org, or e-mail email@example.com.