The Grand Alliance and Global
By: J. Ernesto Serrano
October 2, 2007
?Since the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 and every subsequent empire
thereafter, decline has always been preceded or followed by widespread
instability—economic and/or military. The definition of “empire?is somewhat
subjective; different historians will cite different qualifications, such as
landmass, people, or wealth. For the purposes of this paper, I will refer to
the widely accepted global empires/superpowers. I will take a brief look at the
circumstances surrounding their rise and fall and draw some parallels from the
historic powers to the current world order. The historical empires I will look
at are the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. In each of these cases, the empire set
the global order well beyond the boundaries of their rule.
the reigning empire is that of the American empire, but it appears that their
time is waning while China
emerges as the world’s next great superpower. In this paper, I will argue that
a change in the global order is not a desirable outcome for the great
democracies of the world, (or even the non-democracies of the world) and that
they should, in fact, actively engage to preserve the current world order.
While this is the general proposition offered by Pelanda (2007), I will provide
support for this idea through exploring the consequences of fallen empires
throughout history and the economic benefits of globalization in the current
?In order to get an idea of what we may
face in the future, it may be helpful to consider the events of the past. Here,
I will show that the transition from one empire to the next and one global
order to a new world order is usually wrought with tumult and danger.
Roman Empire ruled for over 500 years,
expanding ever more and bringing more peoples into their rule. Though war was
relatively ever present as tribes raided the boundaries of the empire and
challenged its borders, the subjects of the empire enjoyed an advanced society with
many comforts unlike their contemporary neighbors. Credited with being one of
the three pillars of modern western civilization, the Roman
Empire collapsed due to a variety of contested issues, among them:
plague, mismanagement, and Christianity. What is not contested is that the
Germanic tribes conquered the Western Roman Empire
and gradually rolled back the advances of the Roman civilization (Heather,
2007). The fallen territory became unsafe and unruly. What was left of the
Roman Empire to the east became known as the Byzantine
Empire. The Byzantine Empire lasted for a thousand years more, but
it would also fall in war when the Ottomans conquered the capital city of Constantinople. Following
their conquest, the Ottomans proceeded to pillage, murder, and rape the
remaining survivors (Quataert, 2005).
Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 until 1922 and
spanned three continents. They functioned as an arbitrator of trade from the
east to the west due to their geographic location. The Ottoman
Empire expanded aggressively but stagnated and began to lose
territory during the 18th and 19th centuries (Goodwin,
2003). The Ottoman Empire finally collapse at
the end of World War I after suffering disastrous casualties.
?While World War I was the death
knell for the Ottoman Empire, WWII saw the decline of the British Empire from a
Global superpower to a supporting role to the United States. At its pinnacle the
British Empire ruled over a quarter of the world’s population, it was a great
source of pride for her people that “The sun never set on the British Empire?
(James, 1997). However, the sheer size of the empire along with the
responsibilities of maintaining the global order would force the British to
fight many battles, including WWI and WWII (Ferguson, 2004). The economic pressures posed
by WWII as well as the coming of age of American power would be too much for
the British Empire to withstand.
?This small sample covers the major
historical empires and their downfall. What they all have in common is that
their decline was either preceded or followed by wars and/or financial
difficulties. In the case of the more recent powers in which international
trade took on a larger role in the wealth of nations, the decline of the
reigning superpower would affect not only the declining country but also its
trade partners and allies.
without exception, every empire has buckled under the pressures of war, whether
they were already in decline or not. As illustrated in the cases above, these
wars can have the effect of rolling back advances in technology and
civilization, as was the case for the Roman Empire.
These wars can also result in mass killings, as was the case of the Byzantine
Empire, and can be ruinous not only to the vanquished, but to the victorious
power as well. For confirmation, one need only examine the case of the Ottoman
Empire and the British Empire; one empire was
soundly defeated and the other was victorious in world wars, but both lost
their empires as a result of these wars, illustrating that victory is not
necessarily a safeguard against decline.
like the Roman Empire, the American world
order we have enjoyed since the end of World War II is diminishing. At this
point in time, history can repeat itself and China
can emerge by helping the United
States in its descent, or the great
democracies of the world can prop up the flagging Americans and conserve the
global order. They can decide to bolster the country that has absorbed the
costs of maintaining the world safe for democracy and free trade from which
they have all benefitted. The time of free riders is coming to an end, and as
history has shown, when one superpower overtakes another, the consequences can
be drastically destabilizing. In this era of economic interconnectedness and
nuclear weapons, the world community can hardly afford to assume a wait-and-see
The Current World Order Under Globalization
?A prominent reason to maintain
the current world order is to sustain the international benefits afforded by
globalization. Generally speaking, globalization refers to the process through
which national economies around the world become integrated and interdependent.
Historically, globalization emerged successfully in the latter half of the
1800s, but it later collapsed between 1914 and 1945, the time frame during
which two world wars, a great depression, and a cold war took place. The latter
half of the 1900s, however, marked a renaissance for globalization (O’Rourke
& Williamson, 2001), and this rebirth coincided with the United States
staking claim as the world superpower. The current state of globalization is
one that positively influences several national economies on a global stage.
??/span>According to Fisher (2006), globalization is
correlated with enhanced quality of life and increased economic freedom on a
world front. Since the 1950s, globalization has paved the path toward
improvements in trade, foreign investment, international travel, and global
communications. Specifically, as a percentage of world product, trade has
increased from 15 percent in 1986 to approximately 27 percent today; since the
1980s, the stock of foreign direct investment assets has increased nearly
four-fold as a percentage of gross domestic product; and over the past 55
years, there has been a dramatic incline in global travel, with one foreign
visitor for every 100 individuals in the 1950s, to six foreign visitors per
every 100 people in the mid 1980s, to twelve foreign visitors per every 100
individuals in current times. Furthermore, countries that are more open to
globalization are more likely to have governments and corporations with more
stable policies and regulations, are more likely to sustain legal systems that
acknowledge and enforce property rights and the rule of law, and are more
likely to have institutions in place that foster innovation (Fisher, 2006).
?In particular, in the last 50 years, globalization has
brought about unprecedented economic prosperity, not only to the United States and Europe, but also to formally
poor nations in Asia—most prominently, India
(Schifferes, 2007). In the United States
globalization has led to dynamic economic growth as trade’s share of U.S. gross domestic product rose from 9% to27%,
merchandising exports rose from 4% to 40% from pre WWII to post WWII levels
(Griswold, 2007). Additionally, thanks to globalization, over the past 20 years,
more than 200 million people have left poverty behind and the trend continues
as more countries both developed and developing take advantage of the world
market (Geddes, 2004). ?/span>What is ironic is
that globalization has not only benefitted the U.S.
and its allies but one of the heavier winners of globalization has been China. The
country that now threatens the system owes at least in part its meteoric rise
to globalization. Reasonably, it follows that many of the countries that have
benefited from globalization have strong incentives to maintain the status quo.
China continues to expand
and achieve unprecedented levels of economic and military power, the United States will have to either surrender its
role as the world’s primary superpower or look to alliances to form a
counterweight to China
(Pelanda, 2007). The specter of world wars in the nuclear age is too dangerous
to chance, and the accomplishments of free trade and globalization are too
significant to risk. With the dawn of Chinese power near, strategies must be
pursued by all those countries that have a vested interest in freedom,
democracy, and free trade. The Grand Alliance is an idea whose time has come.
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