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Jewish World Review April 26 , 2002 / 14 Iyar, 5762

David Silverberg

David Silverberg
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The future of civilization --- and those activists who seek to undermine it


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Washington has now undergone a second round of anti-globalization protests, apparently to little effect. Overshadowed by pro-Palestinian demonstrations, these were not as boisterous as the first round in 2000, nor did they follow the kind of euphoria anti-globalists experienced in the wake of the Seattle riots of 1999. Nonetheless, they deserve to be taken seriously.

Peaceful anti-globalization protesters and activists certainly don't use the same means as Osama bin Laden and his terrorists, but their ends are the same: to sever the ties that bind together the world's current common civilization. Bin Laden would then crush that civilization and replace it with the kind of Islamist paradise he ran in Afghanistan; the anti-globalists would dismantle it (nonviolently, one hopes) and replace it with a localized, free-form anarchy.

Some of the anti-globalist concerns are legitimate: Child labor, unfair competition, brutal working conditions and exploitation are among them. If the anti-globalist effort aimed simply to reform capitalism and make it more humane it would have a contribution to make.

But the anti-globalist movement is not merely one of reform - it also includes destructive elements that aren't satisfied with improving society but want it overthrown altogether.

On Sept. 11 we saw one kind of anarchy and collectively decided that we preferred civilization. In the months since, America and its allies have waged a war of defense on the other side of the world to defend its values and punish the guilty. That war against terrorism will continue for a long time.

But the nonviolent battle to defend civilization is also far from over, and if its battles are less dramatic, they're no less crucial to civilization's survival. The officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were struggling just as hard to uphold a common global good and advance it as the protesters were working to dismantle it.

This week the United States Senate will have to fight a battle to uphold, defend and advance global civilization. At issue is trade promotion authority (TPA) for the president, formerly known as "fast track," embodied in the bill H.R. 3005, the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2001. The Senate will decide whether to give the president the authority to negotiate and conclude agreements with U.S. trading partners that will then be voted up or down by the Senate in their entirety.

Passage of TPA looks likely. The Senate Finance Committee passed it by an 18-to-3 vote in December. Politically, it would be unbelievably foolish for senators to strike a blow against a president whose popular approval remains in the 70 to 80 percent range. Nonetheless, one can never take these things for granted.

Given the immense complexity of trade agreements, TPA is an absolute necessity for any kind of realistic trade negotiating. It's simply impossible to have Congress, or any parliament for that matter, pulling apart the strands of intricate agreements that may have taken experts years to negotiate.

TPA is also necessary for the United States to conduct commerce with the world at large. The president is seeking the authority in order to negotiate with the World Trade Organization, and establish a free trade area in the Americas. By the time this TPA would expire in 2005 or 2007, other agreements may have been concluded as well.

Failure to pass TPA would cripple a president who needs all the authority he can get to both prosecute a war and advance the American economy.

But after Sept. 11, global issues like TPA take on a much greater and significant meaning. The vote on TPA will be nothing less than a test of commitment to the global civilization American soldiers are fighting to protect. As was noted immediately after Sept. 11, the terrorists attempted to terrorize the world into ceasing to function. Small acts of normalcy were blows against terrorism.

TPA is more than a small act of normalcy - it's a big step forward for the entire world. It was no coincidence that Osama bin Laden struck the World Trade Center - he understood that the twin towers were more than symbols of American pride and success: He tried to do nothing less than bring down world trade itself.

He succeeded in bringing down steel and concrete - but he can't be allowed to bring down their underlying foundation.

Passage of TPA will mean that what the terrorists tried to destroy on Sept. 11 remains strong and resilient.

TPA deserves to pass and pass resoundingly.



JWR contributor David Silverberg is managing editor of The Hill. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, David Silverberg