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Globalization and Its Discontents in 2004

The year 2003 was in many ways a disaster for globalization. America and its "coalition" of the willing went to war in Iraq without the support of the UN, and the World Trade Organization meeting at Cancun--which was supposed to provide the impetus for a successful conclusion of the Development Round of trade negotiations--ended in failure. 2004 will almost surely be better, for political globalization as well as for the global economy. But don't look for a banner year.

The events in Iraq demonstrate the failure of democratic processes at the international level--and the need to strengthen them. The Bush administration's approach to the war in Iraq and its aftermath has been marked by the same unilateralism shown by its rejection of the Kyoto protocol and the International Criminal Court.

In each instance, when the world's collective decision differed from what America wanted, President Bush insisted that America get its way. Whether the US government deliberately lied to the world about the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or got carried away by its own rhetoric is less important than the lesson to be learned: it is dangerous to put excessive power in the hands of a few.

But the US is finally realizing that even a superpower cannot ensure security in a country occupied by force. It might have been able to win over the Iraqi people in the early months of the occupation, but by now its cumulative mistakes may have doomed the campaign for hearts and minds to failure. America has also come to recognize the need to forgive Iraq's debts, which will require rapprochement and cooperation with traditional US allies that opposed the war.