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Summer 2001
Getting a grip on Globalization
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On the flip side, there are super-empowered angry men and women. Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire who blew up two American embassies in Africa two years ago, was a super-empowered, angry man. And he had his own network, too, a kind of jihad online, JOL, which he used to take on the United States of America. Do you know what the United States did to Osama bin Laden? It fired 77 cruise missiles at him one day four years ago -- 77 cruise missiles at a million dollars each fired at a person. That was, I believe, the first recorded battle between a superpower and a super-empowered, angry man.

Ramzi Yousef was the Pakistani gentleman who wanted to blow up the World Trade Center. I always wondered, what did Ramzi Yousef want? Did he want a Palestinian state in Brooklyn? Did he want an Islamic republic in New Jersey? I reread the court case from a book, and what he wanted was to blow up the two tallest buildings in America. Period. Globalization as Americanization had gotten in his face and it had empowered him as an individual to do something about it. Like Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef was a super-empowered, angry man.

What is scary about the system we're living in today is not that Osama bin Laden or Ramzi Yousef can or ever will be superpowers; it is how many people today can be Ramzi Yousef or Osama bin Laden. And what makes this system so complex to understand and to manage today is the fact that we now have states and states, states and supermarkets and states and super-empowered people all wildly gyrating against one another every day on the front pages of our papers.

I have an intuition that we will look back on the Clinton years as a kind of fool's paradise between the end of the Cold War system and before the globalization system, with all its complexities, reached full force. And you have to look at the Clinton years as a coincidence, from the American point of view, as a number of highly fortunate and stabilizing forces that came together. Those forces are called Boris Yeltsin, Helmut Kohl, Alan Greenspan and a lengthily expansive American economy, which was hugely important for stabilizing the global economy and the global system. Whether the next eight years will produce the same combination of wise, geopolitical actors and a stable American economy is, I believe, central to the success of the globalization system.

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