GEOG 597i
Critical Geospatial Thinking and Applications

Globalization and Security

International terrorism, social unrest, border crises, and tension between nation states present some of the more negative manifestations of globalization. Whereas terrorism is not a new phenomenon on the stage of world history, it is only since the world has become increasingly linked economically that it has grown to a world-wide enterprise. Some historians argue the American colonists in revolt against the British Empire were, in fact, terrorists. Others have suggested Native Americans employed terrorism to fend off those who invaded and eventually took their homelands. It seems that people either applaud or condemn the use of terror depending on whether it is used on their behalf, or against them. One person's terrorist is another person's hero.

The difference between the use of terrorism in previous centuries and today is that, now, terrorists often strike targets that are far from their home areas in order to overcome the perceived evils of a distant society, economic system, or religion (or all of these at the same time). The Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States sought to undermine capitalism and Western materialism. Those who planned the attacks believe that the United States epitomizes all that is wrong with the world. In their eyes, the American system of capitalism has resulted in the destruction of the most sacred human values, and has brought about a level of hedonism in the world that now threatens the basic foundations of Islam. Al-Qaeda is among a growing number of non-state actors who use terrorism in an attempt to destroy the current world order. Some of them wish to do this so that they can reestablish the Islamic Caliphate (which they hope might one day rule the world in keeping with their interpretation of essential Islamic values and principles). Others are involved for a variety of reasons, including a hate for all that is western and for the United States in particular.

As a result of globalization, the more traditional societies of the new world order face ever more complex security risks. Nevertheless, in general, despite a few notable successes of international terrorists, most people are safer today than they have ever been.

Terrorism, however, is only one aspect of the growing threat associated with globalization. In the modern era, people are able to traverse the globe in a matter of hours, and thousands travel about the world every day. As a result of this, diseases spread more quickly. Additionally, the growing industrialization of countries, including China and India, has added significantly to world environmental quality issues. Although hotly debated, most scholars now agree that human activity is contributing to a warming of the atmosphere, which in turn may lead to major disasters in the future. Massive floods, giant hurricanes, forest fires, and catastrophic tidal waves are all potential events that may be at least partially caused by the environmental degradation associated with the rapid industrialization of regions that were heretofore primarily agrarian in nature.

Ulrich Beck argues that the industrialized world is moving toward a risk society in which wealth and the distribution of wealth as a major force relative to human interaction is being replaced with the distribution of risk. In a risk society, the avoidance of hazards and civil threats may eventually overtake economic issues as the primary driving force behind local, national, and international politics. In fact, it is evidence that, to a certain level, this is already becoming a reality. The issue of global warming has become increasingly politicized.