Preventing War and Global Recession, October 2001

© Hazel Henderson, October 25, 2001
(1,581 Words)

Change Globalization to a Win-Win Game

By Hazel Henderson

Scenarios of global economic recession were on the horizon before the awful attacks of September 11 on the symbols of finance, world trade and US military power. Economic globalization took down the firewalls between national economies – producing today’s roller coaster of synchronized economic downturns. Financial markets electronically linked worldwide spread “contagion” and currency turbulence.

These markets, whose movements are amplified instantly by global mass media, have now become transmission belts of every shock – as we saw in the world’s falling stock markets in the aftermath of September 11th. There has been much good news for trade, finance and business from globalization. Now comes the bad news: globalized terrorism, crime, money laundering and disease. For the second time in history economic globalization may end in depression – as in the 1930s and another lengthy war.

Yet terrorism must be faced and checked, and such crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. How could this have been achieved without inflicting further violence and terror on more innocent civilians? Could global terrorism have been addressed more effectively by not calling it a new war, by not demanding that all other countries support the USA or be deemed “against the US”? Might the response of bombing Afghanistan prove less effective than many other diverse strategies? Why was the bombing combined with the now much-criticized dropping of surplus US packaged foods? And as prominent Dutch business leader, Wouter van Dieren asks, “Would the 6,000 victims killed at the World Trade Center have wished that 500,000 innocent Afghan civilians should suffer so much vengeance in their name?”

Such questions are no longer only posed by pacifists, but by millions of “global citizens” who have faced the realities of interdependence created by economic and technological globalization: we live in one world where borders are vanishing. These globally-aware 21st Century humans, with their candlelight vigils and peaceful marches in New York City, London and other cities around the world, opposed US military retaliation.

They offered new analyses, actions and strategies – many similar to those of ignored security strategists in the Pentagon, the CIA and policy think tanks who warned that terrorism required a top-to-bottom rethink of US military force structure and priorities. These “change the game” strategies should have been heeded and implemented before the military strikes in Afghanistan. Eye-for-an-eye dogmas provoke more terrorist attacks and belong to history – not the 21st century. Yet “hawks,” Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush Administration want to widen the new war to Iraq and beyond.

The world now faces looming global economic deflation and recession – caused by the over-investment and bursting of the bubble of the late 1990s. Post-September 11 impacts caused employee layoffs, panicked investors and consumers – with resulting sliding stocks and prices, and rising inventories increasing a worldwide glut. Instead of leading a coalition of bombing raids, I urged the US to organize its allied countries with large inventories and backlogs of unsold food, clothing and other consumer goods to start air-lifting those surplus goods and carefully parachute them over Afghanistan. Starving Afghans, whose UN and other food and humanitarian aid were cut off as a result of the US threats and later bombing, could have found new strength to resist their Taliban oppressors.

As unsold commodities, medical supplies, clothes, blankets, radios and magazines float down from the skies, the Taliban could have become further discredited for their economic failures. As unsold inventories are reduced in stagnating economies in Europe, Asia, North and South America, production can be revived and people re-employed. These economies and companies would rediscover the power of bartering – their surplus goods for peace – at a fraction of the cost of weapons and military strikes. Instead, the US commenced bombing Afghanistan while simultaneously showering packets of inappropriate fast foods – many landing in mined areas. This was clearly a hasty, ill-considered version of the well-coordinated airlifts I and others had earlier proposed. As perceived by official humanitarian agencies, the fast-food drops were judged as “crude public relations efforts” and not a substitute for the vast quantities of flour, beans and other culturally appropriate relief supplies, which were halted by the bombing.

Such outside-the-box strategies are common to game theorists. Today, they are advocated by strategic policy analysts in university think tanks and derive from architect and engineering genius Buckminster Fuller, after whom the carbon-based “buckyballs” are named. Fuller, the most practical futurist of the 20th century called for human design revolutions so that our evolving technological societies could provide for 100% of humanity – within the tolerances of planetary ecosystems.

Many thousands of Bucky Fuller’s former students teach in universities, invent green technologies and, like myself, promote win-win approaches to today’s malfunctioning globalization and money systems. Others are calling quite sensibly, for a global Marshall Plan to meet crying needs and head off a global depression.

Today’s global casino is largely unregulated, providing conduits for money-laundering, funds transferred by terrorists, drug lords and mafia groups. In April 2000, the G-7, and the OECD, with full support of then US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, launched an effective blacklist of all financial havens harboring such illicit financial transactions. The incoming Bush Administration then withdrew US support. Mr. Bush reversed this policy on September 24th – in recognition that regulating global financial flows is key to stemming terrorists as well as other criminals.

But money-based systems, policies and national accounts, such as GNP are only half the story – and limit our thinking and strategies. Money does not equate with wealth, a broader term, which includes human creativity, intellectual and social capital and ecological assets. Outside the box of conventional economics lie a wealth of creative strategies based on barter, reciprocity, mutual aid, sharing and cooperation. This hidden parallel economy is estimated at $16 trillion annually, but money-free and therefore invisible to economists. These strategies used by the other half of humanity, the poor and those bypassed by globalization, are all considered irrational and primitive by market economics with its competitive strategies of maximization of self interest and profitability.

Those who advocated airlifting surplus clothes, medical supplies, food and unsalable consumer goods to Afghans follow the logic of game theory, not economics. The world’s growing glut of unsold inventories is still causing layoffs, deflation and recession in today’s tightly-linked economies. Clearing the back-logged shelves in exchange for Afghans’ goodwill in deposing the Taliban and bringing Al-Qaeda’s network to justice, makes more sense than a 20th century style war. Wars have always been one way of getting out of economic depressions – as World War II production ended the Great Depression.

Today, we know a better way. The murderous terrorist attacks would better have been designated as criminal. Rather than declaring war, the US could have preserved many more options by mobilizing INTERPOL, the global financial system (as it later did) and the UN Security Council to bring Al Qaeda operatives to the International Court in The Hague as perpetrators of crimes against humanity. This would mean that the US would have to stop opposing the International Criminal Court already approved by most countries, as well as paying the $500 million balance still owed to the UN. Reciprocity, barter, cooperation and mutual aid (win-win) work better than competition (win-lose) in a closed system like today’s interdependent global economy. They are also superior national security strategies. Many within the Pentagon have tried to promote more diplomacy and better prevention of terrorism, cyber-warfare and the new Information Age threats of the 21st Century.

Such game theorists as Robert Steele, founder of the think tank OSS, Inc., William Perk, former board member of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, Jan Lee Martin of Australia’s Futures Foundation and many others understand the wealth of win-win strategies available beyond conventional economic and military thinking. An example was Mikhail Gorbachev’s challenging the US to cooperate with him in reducing nuclear weapons. Baffled Pentagon hardliners finally understood his use of “tit for tat” game theory and began to cooperate, allowing Reagan and Gorbachev to find common ground. In the 1950s, Cold War sociologist David Reisman in his famous essay “The Nylon War” proposed a classic win-win game to discredit Soviet leaders in the eyes of ordinary Russians by parachuting consumer goods into the USSR. Military brass could not think of such surprise tactics.

Competitive strategies remain important for national security and economics. But as the very new challenges of the 21st Century and globalization unfold before us, we must expand our policy approaches to embrace game theory. Win-win cooperation and initiating, as Gorbachev did, virtuous cycles of behavior, such as the boom in socially responsible investing, can serve the world well. Even economists are getting these concepts and seeing that in an interdependent global economy, business-as-usual competition can turn into a lose-lose game for all countries.

Win-win globalization will focus far beyond humanitarian assistance and food aid to reduce surpluses. The adoption of strategies already agreed to in UN summits in the 1990s on food, children, health, human rights, shelter and poverty eradication would make the world a safer place. The reduction of weapons budgets worldwide, as security is redefined in human terms, need not cause massive unemployment and depression. There will be enough work for everyone in redesigning sustainable societies based on renewable energy and resource-use that can provide for 100% of the human family. Such re-designing of global financial architecture will be the agenda at the UN Summit on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, March, 2002. In our globalized, interdependent world, justice, equity and cooperation have become pragmatic.


HAZEL HENDERSON, author, futurist and consultant on sustainable development.  Her latest book is Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy.  The Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators were partnered with the US based Calvert Group of socially-responsible mutual funds are at  Click on the National Security Indicator for background information.

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