The United States of America called for “A different kind of war against a different kind of enemy,” in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Centre by Al-Quiada on September 11 2001. Terrorist attacks, such as these, have shattered our traditional understanding of a physical war between two states over wealth, as in this case a war was declared by a political group rather than a state, fighting for their ideals rather than for land. Globalisation can, according to economist Joseph Stiglitz be defined as a combination of “the removal of barriers to free trade and closer integration or national economies,” and the development of “closer links and more rapid interactions among the peoples of the world.” According to Stiglitz’s definition of globalisation the greater links between people and states enable the faster transfer for physical mass – goods, capital, people and labour – in addition to greater sharing of knowledge and values. While wars, and other threats to security, have traditionally been perceived merely as the visible threats, such as a frank military attack on one state by another, the world has changed, and so must our perceptions of war. We live in an age where multinational corporations can be more powerful than states and we can, in seconds, communicate clearly and concisely to people on the other side of the globe, we have truly become global citizens. As such, we cannot expect our conflicts to be contained by state walls. This essay will explore our traditional understandings of war, as well as more modern security threats reflecting on the reasons why the process of globalisation has contributed to this change in our mindset.

Traditionally war has been seen as comprising of merely visible threats such as a forthright, ‘honest,’ military attack on one state by another. While such threats are undoubtedly legitimate, to limit ones definition of security and security threats to solely to the military would limit a leader’s, or government’s ability to provide for their nation-state or region security and stability. Matthew and Shambaugh make the argument that “[T]oday we must broaden our perspective to encompass neglected areas in which new threats are intensifying, vulnerabilities are real, and forward looking policies are required.” The much discussed global ‘war on terror’ is perhaps the leading example of this change. People now fear attacks from terrorist groups rather than the attack of one country by another, as ‘military conflict between major states is unlikely,’ these same people however are still turning to their government for security and protection.

A government’s ability to provide for their nation-state or region security relies of their ability to provide stability, as an unstable nation, will become insecure, as a lack of economic and income security in a country, can lead to poverty, leading to political and social unrest. For a nation to be secure its values must not be threatened, these values include the values of the individual. To take John Locke’s liberal position on the topic is to argue that governments exist to provide for and protect the rights of individuals, when individual rights include a person’s right and “ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness” regardless of how interconnected the states have become.

If we can agree that we have changed in our understanding of war, we must also agree that we need also to change our understanding of defense. A legitimate government should, according to Locke, defend the public good even where this may conflict with the rights of individuals, providing a just and impartial judge for individuals within the society, which should be synthesised with the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. An illegitimate government therefore is one which acts out of self interest, and fails to protect the rights of, or violates the rights of, the individual members. Locke argues that as men/women give up the individual rights of liberty and equality and power they held in the state of nature when they entered society, it is for the good of the legitimate government to provide for the individual these rights, to ensure smooth operation of society. This is because no rational human being would leave what he/she has for what he/she knows to be worse.

In Australia, and indeed any genuinely democratic nation we vote for our government and leaders, and in that way we are agreeing to abide by a social contract, to follow the laws of the land. Globally however, do we make this same promise? Arguably, we do as international organizations are made up of governments and leaders who have promised to represent the best interests of their people. If we were to see the global community from Locke’s perspective, how do we define the public good? And is it possible for a nation to leave the global community as an individual may leave a country whose government he/she disagrees with?

Globalisation means that communications and interactions between states, businesses and individual people has increased, effectively making the world a smaller place. As a consequence of this, conflicts occurring on the other side of the globe affect us more, and seem far closer than they did just a few decades ago. As such, I believe that our traditional understanding of when we should become involved in a war needs to change. In the most basic of explanations, people would enter a war in order to protect themselves from invasion, protect their own lives, their families, their crops, their land – or alternative to take these things from a neighbour. In the contemporary global society however, I believe that we need to look at humanitarian intervention as a valid and necessary part of warfare, as wars occurring far from us now have an impact upon us.

Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa, for example, is probably as far away from my home of Hobart as a person can travel before they start to come back again, as such, a few decades ago conflict there would have had little or no consequence to me. Today however, we rely on cocoa beans from West Africa to make chocolate, we enjoy Nigerian music, and have developed personal relationships with the many West African refuges that have made Hobart home. As such, we need West Africa to remain stable, as a globalised world means that events in Sierra Leone now affect us in our day today lives.

During the horrific civil war in Sierra Leone, Australia and the rest of the developed world failed to send in intervention forces to help support the women and children being murdered, raped, tortured, and having their limbs hacked limbs off because they were suspected of supporting the Government apposed by rebel forces called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Our traditional concept of war and our involvement in wars did not allow us to see how this civil war in a small country of West Africa would affect us. As such intervention for Sierra Leone did not occur until the year 2000, when a team of a mere 800 British soldiers working with UN troops restored peace to the wore torn nation, nine years after one of the most grotesque civil wars of Africa began. Meanwhile in 2003, Fatmata Sesay*, a 34 year old West African hairdresser moved to Australia with her five children to escape the violence in her own country. Fatmata is an amputee as a consequence of the rebel’s violence. She and her five children are now Australian citizens; human evidence of globalisation bringing the people of the world closer together, every person they have met in Australia has been affected by the war in Sierra Leone. Globalisation makes the suffering of other’s real to those of us far from them, enabling us to share their grief. This was not an issue in wars fought in the pre-globalised era.

Stephanie Lawson supports the claim that globalisation has lead to a need to view war in a different light, including humanitarian intervention as a valid part of defending human security across the globe. Lawson argues that decreasing focus on state security in favour of humanitarian comes from the numerous ‘spill over affects’ of national conflict and including international insecurity, large-scale refugee migration as well as environmental degradation are due to globalisation becoming the responsibility of the international community as a whole. Unfortunately however, international law does not currently recognise humanitarian intervention as a valid form of warfare. For example the human rights atrocities committed in Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin were extreme there was no collective intervention to remove Amin’s regime. Tanzania was the first state to step in and take justice into their own hands, to liberate their suffering neighbours from the vile leadership of one of the most infamous dictators in history. Tanzania however, claimed their actions were in the name of self-defence rather than humanitarian intervention – a far more acceptable argument, one protected under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Arguably this claim stems from an idealistic belief, such as those which were shattered during the United States’ 1993 intervention into the genocide in Somalia, when the bodies of 18 murdered US Troops were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, that although international community struggle to see humanitarian intervention as a legal option, state leaders, in a globalised world, cannot sit by and watch such atrocities be inflicted upon their neighbours without interfering.

War can also be seen, according to Michael Sheehan as an economic phenomenon. Ideas about economic capabilities being instruments of war have developed slowly as the world has become more and more globalised. A perspective geo-economics, which can be explained as ‘an economic agenda for neorealists’ (Moran, 1993), argues that in a world where military battles and intimidation have been, especially in the developed world, decreasing, realists have ‘transferred their mindset to the economic domain.’ It is argued, that, “in a world in which military conflict between major states is unlikely, economic power will be increasingly important in determining the primacy or subordination of states” (1993: 72). While this may be true, I believe that while we may claim globalisation has in the word of economic primacy changed the way we view war and its instruments, it has also helped to eliminate economic conflict and domination between states. Globalisation and the increased international trade it brings have naturally lead to the intermeshing of states economies. This attachment between states economies, as a result of globalisation, has done two things: firstly it has decreased the economic interdependence of individual states, as all states are now reliant to some degree or another on at least one or two other states economically. Secondly, this intermeshing of states economies means that it is less likely that an individual state is less likely to be in a position to dominate the world economically.

Globalisation has affected the global media enabling pictures, stories, and films of world events to reach every corner of the globe. It is the media that makes states of emergency and wars occurring across the globe real to the rest of the world who are sitting home watching it on their televisions. The Viet Nam War was one of the biggest wars of the twentieth century; it was also one of the first ‘globalised wars’. The Vietnam War was, in the words of Michael Arlen, the “first living-room war,” the first “television war.” Mass media, in the form of the television, which had become available to the masses in the West brought the horrific stories of the war into people’s homes, forcing people to take notice and acknowledge the devastation of war in ways they have never done in the past. It is argued that although less than one quarter of film broadcasts of the Vietnam War showed any images of the dead or wounded, simply bringing the war to people in their homes led to the war losing public support across the globe. Although globalisation and the communications it has brought allowed the media to truly “bring home” the horror stories of the war, eight years still passed from escalation in 1965 to the cease-fire in 1973. Globalisation, through the increased media coverage of war, has altered our traditional understandings of war as something that happens ‘out there’ to nameless, faceless soldiers to a very real, very tragic event which destroys lives and causes pain.

Increased communications between states and individual people means that we now know exactly which states have arms, which states are researching into defence, and which states are going through political, non-military, non-violent conflicts. This knowledge alone alters the ways in which we view other countries, and the ways in which we think about war and conflict. We know for example that in 2003 Australia spent 1.9% of their GNP on defence meanwhile the USA spent a huge US$3.3 trillion on defence in the same year. This knowledge means that long before a war has been officially declared, and long before conflict arises, we as states are thinking about our responses. The recent example of North Korea testing nuclear weapons illustrates this point perfectly. And while no one has been attacked by North Korea, and no one was harmed in these tests, the international community has responded angrily and defensively. Globalisation has meant that whenever anything happens, we know about it, and as we know about it, we assume that it is our business. Traditionally however, we would view an aggressive act by one state as a direct threat only to their immediate neighbours. We would keep an eye on it, so to speak, but we would not react strongly to it. Today however, our knowledge of events occurring around the world is greater than ever before, and so we feel closer to events that are geographically no closer than they have ever been. Also, the weaponry used in contemporary wars, and the weaponry currently being developed has a global scope. Conflicts far away from us do affect us in that, any number of countries could at any time release a weapon of mass destruction and destroy the earth forever. This is perhaps the biggest globalised aspect of war.

No essay on our changes to our understandings of war could be complete without mention of the ‘War on Terror.’ The ‘war on terror’ is can be defined as the ‘struggle between liberal democracy and its uncompromising enemies.’ The United State’s response to the September 11 terrorist attacks has, according to Gearson been to ‘statify’ the terrorist threats, while translating characteristics of the war on terrorism into those seen in a more ‘traditional war.’ The “closer links and more rapid interactions among the peoples of the world,” brought about through the process of globalisation have meant that an attack on the United States and her people has an impact of Australia, her people, her security and her economy. As a result of these links America’s responses to the ‘war of terror’ including the invasion of Iraq affects us.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq sparked the then UN Secretary General, Koffi Annan, to describe the global community as being at a ‘fork in the road.’ In the decades following World War Two the global community has dealt with threats to peace with a ‘system based on collective security and the UN Charter.’ The war on terror however allowed for the first time for states to use military might to face ‘threats to international peace and security’ as the closer links between states and the greater movement of people, as caused the lines betweens states to be blurred.

In the wake of September 11, the UN Security council for the first time passed Resolution 1368 which affirmed the right of self-defence in response to terrorist attacks for the first time. Whilst NATO declared that ‘the attack on the USA was an attack on all member states and that they were prepared to act in collective self-defence.’ In a nut shell it is this idea, this concept of collective self-defence and the belief that an attack on the USA is also ‘attack on all member states’ and/or ideals, which best represents the way in which globalisation has had an impact on our traditional understandings of war. What was once a battle between two states, now rates a mention on the global agenda as all states are automatically involved.

In conclusion, if we look at globalisation only in terms of the development of “closer links and more rapid interactions among the peoples of the world,” then we can argue that globalisation as challenged our traditional concept of war simply by involving more states, people, in war, and every part of its development: security threats, terrorism, defence budgets and the development of weaponry and development strategies by our neighbours. As this essay has clearly shown globalisation has led to the people of the world feeling more involved with, and being more informed on world news and events. This knowledge and information brings wars closer to us than they have been at any other time in our history. Our trade and economic involvement with other states as a consequence of globalisation has also meant that we share interests with other states in ways never before, so a war on the other side of the world could actually affect us economically if one of our trading partners was involved. Globalisation leading to people becoming global citizens means that we no longer view war as something that can occur without us being involved as in the past. Globalisation has challenged and changed out concept of war by drawing it closer to us, we no longer see conflicts as containable by state walls, an attack on one state, is an attack on all states, as global citizens are affected.


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