Coronavirus Shows the Perils and Promise of GlobalizationRoundup
tags: international relations, internationalism, Wendell Wilkie, globalization
Samuel Zipp, professor of American studies and urban studies at Brown University, is author of "The Idealist: Wendell Willkie’s Wartime Quest to Build One World."
These ominous weeks are giving us a new lesson in the perils of globalization. For several decades now, Americans have struggled to square the benefits of accelerating planetary connection with its dangers. Instantaneous communications, cheap goods, stock profits, easy travel and U.S. military supremacy seemed, for a while at least, like fundamental rights or freedoms. But shadowing this taken-for-granted globalization was a darker reality: Islamist militant blowback, market volatility, rampaging inequality, winner-take-all ethics, a global electronic disinformation system and a warming planet.
The nation’s halting and unsure response to the novel coronavirus and its disease, covid-19, brings this conundrum to a head. The crisis has made clear that the United States has welcomed the benefits of planetary interconnection but avoided the responsibilities that would help us weather the disasters that spread across the same global networks.
So how should the United States see its place in the world? Unfortunately, our presumptive leaders offer worn out positions in a familiar debate that pits the xenophobic nationalism of the Trump administration against the globalizers of the modern Democratic Party, keen to restore the “liberal postwar order” led by the United States.
But, there is a largely forgotten leader who might suggest a different path forward: Wendell Willkie. At another time of world crisis, during the first age of “America First” in the 1940s, this former Republican presidential candidate challenged Americans to confront a discomfiting idea: Our lives depend on the well-being of many millions across the world. How Americans reacted to that fact shaped postwar history. We are now returning to that dilemma. How we react will shape the human future.