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Responding to the Critics of Globalization. (Bookshelf).

SOME HAVE CLAIMED that the Western world, and business in particular, caused the tensions raging in the Middle East, and that we wouldn't have this war if America and her corporations would just leave Arabs and Muslims alone. Economic growth through globalization is perceived by some Arabs as much-hated Americanization that fails to improve the everday lives of the people. Saudi Arabia, for example, produces 9 million barrels of oil a day, yet it has seen per capita income in the past 20 years fall from $18,000 to $6,000. The FBI has said that more than half of the 19 hijackers, as well as Osama bin Laden, hail from Saudi Arabia, considered by some experts the greatest source of silent funding for Al Qaeda. Like most other Muslim nations, Saudi Arabia does not have a democratically elected government, and thus its citizens must shift the blame to corporate America.

How can CEOs educate themselves to understand the forces at work in the Middle East and respond to the critics of globalization? Several books lend context to terrorist violence, and predict where current military actions will lead. I encourage fellow CEOs to read about that region, to understand why they and their companies are often blamed for creating poverty and for degrading Muslim culture, and to consider whether they are part of the problem, part of the solution, or both.

President Bush has said, "Islam is peace," but Samuel P. Huntington warned in The Clash of Civilizations that Americans should not delude themselves and argued that we would soon be up against "the bloody borders of Islam." Early on, Huntington projected that Muslim combatants would be the next major enemies of the United States. He argued that Islamic countries are among the most violent in the world, prone to regular attacks on each other. In fact, Muslims were attacking Europe and Europeans for more than 400 years prior to the Crusades that bin Laden has used for his justification of terror.

The Clash is much criticized by Arab writers such as Edward Said, who claim it ignores the subtle cultural variations within the seemingly monolithic civilizations of the West and the Middle East. Nonetheless, it is extremely influential. Read it, and you will agree that the Bush Administration has gone out of its way to praise the peaceful tenets of Islam only by grossly downplaying 1,400 years of war.

If Huntington's analysis had been affirmed by a few CEOs, they wouldn't have been surprised by the recent events. It's not enough to just have professors and students read books like Huntington's and debate them in coffee houses. CEOs should read these books, and then ask the government why we continue to fund adversaries.

When bin Laden made the statement that "America is filled with fear," I wished that every American had a copy of Victor Davis Hanson's Carnage and Culture, which points out, through nine gory battles, how unstoppable Western armies are, especially against Eastern armies, starting in 480 B.C. when squabbling Greeks from an area with a population of 2 million defeated the armies of the Persian Empire, population 70 million. Hanson describes how Muslims went on the attack during the life of Mohammed and how, in 632 A.D., the centennial of Mohammed's death, they raged across Europe until they suffered a decisive battle in France that began Western Europe's expulsion of the earliest radical Islamists.

There is no way to read Hanson without feeling that the West will win this war, utterly and completely. The Islamic tradition creates armies that can and do kill unarmed civilians, but Hanson shows that, faced in battle with the West, they always lose. Carnage makes the case also for Western business creativity as a source of power. Read it, and know that by running a company you are a key element of this tradition of victory.

Benjamin Barber's Jihad vs. McWorld contends that an inherent global conflict exists between tribal interests and commercial concerns, with democracy the casualty of both. Barber's title has caused an explosion of sales; a fight almost broke out at the counter when I went to get my preordered copy from my local bookstore, which had been allotted only four. This rush to read Barber is sad, because his book, while required reading to understand the critics of globalization, creates straw men. Barber blames business for creating jihad sentiment, fueling arguments that trickle down to leftist professors, who inflame students and fan the rumors that inspire the masses to blame their poverty on business and the U.S.

For every copy of Jihad sold, I hope 10 copies are purchased and read of the new book Against the Dead Hand, written by Brink Lindsey, a trade specialist associated with The Cato Institute. Dead Hand argues that the headline problems of poverty, war, and more are far more insidious than any that can be blamed on business or any single cause because they emerge fundamentally from incorrect thinking about the relative merits of collectivism versus freedom, particularly free trade.

Lindsey makes the case that the Industrial Revolution engendered a massive creation of new wealth, but that collectivists, using false arguments about how big business inevitably would lead to monopolies, legislated that the state should be the business monopoly. Collectivists believed that war would help solidify the people into an even stronger nation state--which led to the terrible disasters of Communism and the World Wars. The shocking thing about Dead Hand is that the ideas that motivated these nightmares--like sequels to a horror movie in which the serial killers resurface time after time -- are still loose in the world.

Bin Laden has invited a transnational collective of Muslims to declare war on America and its allies, using many of the same (dead wrong, in my opinion) arguments that the West (at least the Left) itself used in decades past. Dead Hand contends that collectivist ideas are bad ideas that, like bin Laden's, can be used to justify the mass murder of civilians. Nonetheless collectivist thinking persists, even among people who pride themselves on looking at the facts. This book should be translated into Arabic, Farsi, and other languages spoken by Muslims and air-dropped over Afghanistan.

Resource Wars is the most CEOfriendly of these books. Michael Klare writes in a clear, calm, and comprehensive style--as if he were humbly briefing the CIA on how to brief the White House in answer to the question, "Where and why will the wars of the next 20 years start?" It offers an explanation for the current conflict: the presence of an oil field under the northern border of Afghanistan. CEOs adept at "reading between the lines" will likely conclude that bin Laden has, inadvertently, handed the U.S. an excuse for establishing bases of operation where we would have done so anyway.

These books are required reading for CEOs (with The Prize by Daniel Yergin an extra assignment for those in the energy and transportation industries) because they explain that war is inevitable (The C/ash), that limited resources underlie modern conflicts (Resource), that Westernized forces will likely prevail over fundamentalists (Carnage), and that business will be scapegoated for causing the conflict (Jihad); when, in reality, free markets and democracy may be the only forces capable of satisfying the needs that otherwise will turn to violence (Dead Hand) . The real lesson of September 11 and the war on terrorism is that business is not only a solution, but is the only solution for the long run.

--Reviewed by Alex Lightman, CEO of Charmed Technologies.
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Title Annotation:Resource Wars; Against the Dead Hand; Jihad vs. McWorld; Carnage and Culture; The Clash of Civilizations
Author:Lightman, Alex
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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