Matei Bogdan
Publicat în 10 iunie 2020, 18:27 / 802 elite & idei

Petre Roman: Multilateralism and Globalism Upended

Petre Roman: Multilateralism and Globalism Upended

Multilateralism is supposed to beabout world order while globalism is about global economy and trade. More often than notthey happen unforeseeably yet because of one another. Although multilateralism is not a newconcept it has been significantly extended after the Post-Cold War era, when the US-USSRrivalry ceased to be the crucial geopolitical factor since the Soviet economy collapsed underthe surge of independentist movements and the organic inefficiency of the planned system.

Multilateralism reached a new stage when the Western countries agreed that collectivemilitary action is legitimate if the international community is confronted with genocides (theexample being the massacre in Srebrenica) or collective political action is much needed underglobal threats like climate change. The collective NATO action (bombardments) in January1999 targeted against the Miloseviç regime institutions was among the very few thateventually succeeded. Miloseviç was defeated by a popular vote in favour of the democraticleader Kostuniça, without any internal violence.But the world economic order associated to the multilateralist approach was not reallya system. It was neither stable, nor always rational and it was not intentionally a fair design.

There was a set of arrangements, as the “right track” syntagma used by the Western leaderstalking to the new democratic leaders of the Central and Eastern Europe. Marilynne Robinsonrecently characterized those arrangements as “highly profitable for some (countries and) 1people but gravely damaging the world”.Fortunately, for the former European Communist countries the perspective of joiningthe European Union, strongly supported by the American administrations of those years,ensured the development of democracy and the integration of their economies into theEuropean single market.Multilateralism could be positively understood in light of the JCPA agreement withIran or the Paris Agreement on climate change. In the meantime the non-collective1 Marilynne Robinson, “What have we done with America?”, NYRB, June 11, 2020international intervention in Syria is a failure of epic proportions and horrendousconsequences,Today, the American administration and an increasing number of other governmentsprone to a nationalist attitude are ignoring multilateralism if not treating it with contempt. Defacto, they are breaking up the post-World War II and post-Cold War arrangements.

Thepolitical domestic reasons prevail and even worse: those reasons are well-served by theleaders posturing as true national leaders when the international bodies like the UN, WTO,WHO are attacked. It doesn’t matter that in many cases those attacks are not well-founded, ifnot simply irrational. They are hostile to the past, impatient of the present and cheated of thefuture. True, in years we’ve accumulated many griefs and we are frustrated by the inability ofthe UN Security Council, for example, to stop terrible situations occurring in many places inthe world. But let’s imagine our world without the UN. The world would be a place with norecourse for the vast majority of militarily weak countries and an excellent aggressive playfield for the powerful.Paraphrasing Konrad Adenauer, global problems can only be solved under amultilateralist roof. I replaced “German” for “Global” and “European” for “Multilateralist”.Cooperation is vital for the world’s collective ability to deal with climate change,mass-migration, disease and famine, genocide and massive movements of refugees. In fact,cooperation is the only solution. In the meantime, a faithless cooperation is doomed tofailure.

There should be faith in common purpose, there should be faith in a future for all.The Covid-19 pandemic is an agent for the renewal of faith, a “wake-up call to the globalcommunity”. We love to pronounce and repeat these phrases but we cannot ignore that to2many leaders around the world, they are maybe nice, but useless words. Nevertheless, if wehave faith we have to keep up tenaciously with our endeavour to build a more effectivemultilateralism. There is already a tremendous commitment of the people in the whole worldto find an appropriate cultural expression of the global problems which in turn could supportthe political one. I found an interesting example in a recent survey realized by OxfordUniversity. To the question: “Has migration had a positive or negative impact on Britain?” in2015 the answer was 43% negative and 34% positive. Today, after the Brexit, the answer isshockingly 48% positive and only 27% negative and an overwhelming majority want thenumber of migrants coming to Britain to work in care homes. This reverse of the cultural2 Gordon Brown, Letter to G20 leaders, 22nd of May, 2020expression was certainly influenced by the fact that 93% of the doctors who have died ofCoronavirus in the United Kingdom have been ethnic minorities, mostly from overseas.

The“executioners” of the immigration in UK became victims (of the COVID-19) saved byimmigrants who died saving them. That fact sets an example: if we cannot tame globalturbulences we can at least humanise them. “Man is capable of great deeds. But if he isn’tcapable of a great emotion, he leaves me cold”, said Albert Camus. That makes me wonder:is globalism shaping up multilateralism or multilateralism will tame the excesses ofglobalism? Globalism as a new form of monopolist capitalism generally prevailed whilemultilateralism is in dire mood. But the underlying anarchy of global governance indicates 3that both multilateralism and globalism are in reverse.Economic self-reliance is “a l`ordre du jour” in America, China, India, Japan andalso inside the European Union”. “Strategic autonomy” is the new concept. The open systemof trade that dominated the world economy is obviously in trouble. And the most vulnerable,the poorer countries will suffer in this more expensive and less free world trade. The resultcould be a fractured world.

The glue that holds financial order together is made of capitalism’s ability toguarantee global prosperity. And that glue continues to be the American economy stronglyintertwined with the Chinese economy. But the surge of the animosity between the twocountries, the emergence of a new, ideologically rooted, Cold War, could reach a dangerouscritical threshold, a threshold behaviour, beyond which something radically different andnegative might occur. Under the American no-guidance, cooperation (and knowledgeablepolitics) has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can finda real foothold. Moreover, preventing extremely negative or plainly horrendous situations inthe world (from genocides to climate change) are not as popular as they should be, not clearlyaligned with national interests, in many countries and first of all in the United States.

And it’s true that the voters who count are still as national ever.Right now we are still more distant from the passion for the common destiny ofhumanity and closer to indifference. The explanation could lie in the Samuel Moyn analysisof liberalism “falling prey to an economic libertarianism in practice that produces moreconformity and hierarchy than choice and individuality”.43 “Goodbye globalization”, The Economist, May 16th – 22nd 2020, page 84 Samuel Moyn, “The Trouble with Comparisons”, NYRB, May 21st 2020Globalism, as a new form of capitalism, is not only a social reality; it is a reality ofour civilization due to its facility for adaptation and reconversion. Fernand Braudel, whodemonstrated that capitalism is a creation of the world’s inequality, also acknowledged that:“The advantage and superiority of capitalism resides in the possibility of choice. Acorporation disappears? Well, a new one will emerge! It is about the death of capitalism, theone of the grandfather and of the father, not the one of the son and of the grandson”.5Differentiating multilateralism from globalism these days means, as a perfectexample, that multilateralism would promote a vaccine against the COVID-19 available forall people and free, while globalism will be much more about profits.The cost of doing big business is often associated with hostility to collective action.The hyper-ambitious multinationals have a long record of abusing the authorities which havea mandatory job of protecting the working force and the consumers. It’s a pattern ofbehaviour not just an intent to get more profit. The common good, although not clearlydefined in many cases, is easily sensed.

To delete the difference between truth and falseultimately beggars belief. Otherwise all will be true and right because it is stated so.Humanity exists and didn’t fell apart because common good is what it is.The dignity of human beings and the beauty of the natural world are unrelativisable,using the Camus’ word.John F. Kennedy is still guiding us: “If we cannot end our differences, at least we canhelp make the world safe for diversity…and direct attention to our common interests”.

Multilateralism and globalism are challenges that will continue to shape our future.We have to try thoroughly to understand them. 22nd, May 20205 Fernand Braudel, “Une leçon d’histoire”, Arthaud-Flammarion, 1986, page 142

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