WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- The four main risks of globalization are the expansion of asymmetric warfare, increased competition for scarce resources, corrosion of state power, and strengthened fundamentalism, an English intellectual said Monday.
John Gray, a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics, told a forum at the American Enterprise Institute that globalization can be seen in the light of three fundamental beliefs of conservatism, or "a Tory philosophy."
The first is that human nature is constant. Gray said he rejected the "Marxist, liberal and postmodernist belief in the indefinite plasticity of human beings."
Second, humans are a flawed species. They are not perfectible, and their needs "contradict with one another." Gray called the Enlightenment belief that human condition will improve with the growth of knowledge "an illusion," at least in the political sphere. The 20th century saw an explosion of knowledge but also the mass killings of the totalitarian regimes.
Third, people want from their governments what they always wanted: protection from violence, a modicum of prosperity, and recognition of their particular identities -- usually religious or ethnic. Governments will gain and keep legitimacy according to those standards, Gray said, and in most parts of the world, there is no reason to think that people want liberal democracy.
Gray said globalization is driven by technologies that abolish or foreshorten time and distance but do not produce a corresponding convergence of values. It has been going on at least since the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in the last third of the 19th century and continues with improvements to the Internet.
Gray elaborated on globalization's risks and disadvantages as seen through the lens of the core conservative beliefs he outlined.
The diffusion of new technologies has led to the increasing globalization of asymmetric warfare, of which terrorism is one expression, Gray said. This gives advantages to seemingly weak opponents, who can make use of miniaturized devices and spin-offs from genetic engineering.
Cyberwar -- such as interference with financial markets -- can be waged with cheaper, safer and simpler technologies. Gray said that because humans are irreparably and irredeemably flawed, any new technology always will be put to perverse and destructive uses. We must prepare for the worst, he said.
Globalization also results in greater competition for scarce natural resources, especially oil, and "a growing proportion" of petroleum reserves lie in regions of political instability, high population growth and declining per capita incomes.
Gray said the Persian Gulf states are still almost totally dependent on oil income, their populations are growing dramatically, and youth unemployment is high. "This is the first generation to live in cities," he said.
Per capita income has fallen by two-thirds since the late 1980s. By calling attention to this scenario, Gray said he intended to "bring back into political reflection a rather taboo category" -- the realization that some problems may be insoluble.
"What could be more dangerous than tens of millions of unemployed young males cut off from traditional social structures (of the countryside) and exposed to fundamentalist ideology through powerful new media such as satellite television?" Gray asked. "I don't believe that it's feasible to imagine large-scale democratic and cultural and social transformations" under such circumstances, he said.
If this is an example of an insoluble problem, we should be thinking and planning on that basis and not on a Utopian basis, he said.
A third risk of globalization is its association with the corrosion or collapse of state power. This results in the shift of control of warfare from states to loose networks often linked to globally organized crime, Gray said. Controlling war and monopolizing violence within borders are defining features of modern states. Now, widely dispersed clan-based networks are emerging.
This makes counter-terrorism "very, very difficult," he said. Splinter groups repudiate peace agreements made with principal factions. "The IRA (Irish Republican Army) is followed by the Provisional IRA, which splits into the Real IRA," Gray said. Britain has pursued peace in Northern Ireland for 25 years, but terrorism still has not been eradicated, he observed.
"It requires only a very small number of irreconcilables to carry on the war."
Gray said he favors drug legalization for reasons of public health but mostly to deprive organized crime cartels, which often have links to terrorists, of their income.
The informal banking systems terrorists and their criminal allies use are pre-modern, tribal associations based on trust, not contracts. "It's not true that the groups that always do best or act most effectively in circumstances of globalization are ones animated by individualism," Gray said.
States are weak or corroded in much of the Third World and parts of the former Soviet Union, Gray said. "In much of the world, there is nothing resembling an effective modern state."
This has wide-ranging effects. "It's no good recommending extensive economic development, or even large-scale humanitarian aid, if the very bases of state power are lacking," Gray told the forum. "The aid will be stolen; the aid workers will be killed. ...
"It's no good expecting rapid economic development in the absence of secure property rights, contract law, and the basic rudiments of state security."
Finally, there's fundamentalism. In some parts of the world, globalization has worked to strengthen fundamentalism and the revulsion against Western values and Western-oriented governments, Gray said. The professor said fundamentalists are not rebels who reject modernity. Rather, he said, fundamentalism is a morbid feature of modernizing societies.
"It's not something you find in established traditional societies," he said. "Fundamentalism is an urban phenomenon that depends on literacy and uses new technology. It becomes particularly acute when large numbers of people move from the countryside into the city." It is distinctly modern and not uniquely Islamic phenomenon.
Therefore, he predicted that fundamentalism would have growing appeal in coming decades. "The conditions under which it thrives will be more present by almost any estimate," he said.