Events in Context: Paris Riots and SAFTA

While abating (only 400+ cars burning a night), the Paris Riots continue passing a two-week milestone.

As I have mentioned, the rioters use of blogs and sms-texting for coordination and planning have been a demonstration of “netwar” on a small scale. Many have taken the next logical step and declare the Paris Riots as another example of the “decline of the state”. Indeed, pundits have long been proclaiming that Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) as an excellent example of this, and only made possible by globalization (specifically the proliferation of low-cost technology).

The recent Amman Bombings in Jordan, a state which possesses a strong security apparatus, fell victim to another non-state actor, Al-Zarqawi.

And so, many procliam that very definition of a state (Max Weber’s notion of the legitimate monopoly of force over a given territory) maybe losing some sway and with it withers the nation-state…

But while the monopoly of violence and information seemingly grows less, in the other direction we have been seeing an increasing in regionalization – that is, countries forming in to blocs. These blocs are typically economic (NAFTA) but can take security-related or political dimesions (EU and SCO).

Just yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Singh of India called for the creation of the South Asian Free Trade Association (SAFTA), which would include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives. The Prime Minister declared:

Regional economic integration is more about finding an engine of growth rather than just promoting trade. Countries — developed as well as developing — have looked to regional economic integration as a means of strengthening their economic competitiveness and as an engine of economic growth in the recent years. (source, hat tip to Publius Pundit.)

Additionally, PM Dr. Singh mentioned the need for greater energy and transportation cooperation between the region’s states as part of the need for greater economic integration.

In events near by India, StrategyUnit wrote last month in “China, Russia tries quasi-NATO?” on the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an organization by which China and Russia are attempting to push greater economic, military and energy-related integration and impose their power over the smaller Central Asian states at the expense of the United State’s presence in the region. Interestingly, India is an observer of the SCO and has been asking for membership.

So thus, we are seeing two global trends: the Empowerment of Non-State Actors and states coalescence into tighter integrating blocs.

Globalization is, of course, the engine of both of these trends – pulling a state a part in one sense (diminished monopoly of information/violence/etc) and pushing on the states into (increasing need to pull resources together).

Simply put, globalization has forced states’ function to evolve. While the nation-state in past could be seen in terms of protecting its citizens with raw power, the “New State” will be seen as merely a facilitator, the stabilizing force that allows for commerce, media, financial transaction et cetera to occur. Instead of just being defined by the size of its military, it will also be measured by its ability to be the rock by which connectivity (flow of finance, technology, markets, media etc) are made.

Those of you who have’t, I suggest following up on this post by reading Thomas Barnett’s famouse Esquire Article, “The Pentagon’s New Map“.



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