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  • Religion, the Globalization of War, and Restorative Justice
  • Nathan Tierney

As the pace of globalization increases, the world's religions find themselves in a perilous dilemma that they have yet to resolve in either practical or conceptual terms. On the one hand, the globalization of markets exerts a powerful pressure toward consumerist and materialist values, which undermine and undercut religious perspectives and sensibilities. On the other hand, the globalization of war heightens the intensity of these religious perspectives and sensibilities, and distorts them in the direction of violence and religious extremism. This dilemma plays itself out in different ways in the developed and developing world, but, as the term "globalization" indicates, it is a problem for all of us. Governments, in developing countries especially, often find themselves forced to choose between one horn of the dilemma or the other, with often disastrous results as they take one or the other side in a "West versus the rest" scenario. In the long run, the only viable solution is one that addresses both horns of the dilemma at the same time, and this is possible only if, in turn, religions themselves become truly global. This will require a large-scale and focused cooperative effort in which the religions of the world actively and jointly engage with both problems, working with governments, NGOs, religious communities, and interfaith groups to harmonize religious life with economics and to promote a culture of peace and justice.

Because "globalization" is a familiar term in relation to markets, I'll begin by clarifying what I mean by the globalization of war. There are two main aspects to this phenomenon. First, the term refers to a specific transformation in the nature, purposes, and conditions of warfare brought about by the forces of globalization. By globalization I mean the growing trend of the world's cultural, economic, and political forces to bypass national borders and operate on a world scale. This process creates new possibilities for both integration and conflict. When that conflict passes beyond the possibility of diplomatic negotiation, we have the conditions for globalized war. Globalized war is not necessarily world war. It can be relatively local in its sphere of combat; for example, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was a collective response to a worldwide threat of terrorism. What makes it a globalized war, as distinct from international war, is the global nature of the forces that produced it and [End Page 79] are affected by it. Globalized war in this sense has come only lately onto the scene, but its scale and impact is likely to grow in the coming century.

The second aspect of the globalization of war is the tendency of conflict to mutate beyond the interests and concerns of nation-states and be taken up by broader civilizational units, even if they were not originally a response to global pressures. The most likely trajectory for this mutation has been well described by Samuel P. Huntington in his influential article "The Clash of Civilizations" (1993) and his book-length treatment of the same subject (1997). Huntington argues that the fault lines of conflict will not be primarily ideological or economic but cultural, where "cultural" is to be understood at its broadest level—the level of civilizations. He divides the world into seven or eight competing civilizations: Western, Sinic, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox, Latin American, and possibly African. Societies sharing cultural affinities will cooperate with one another, and the attempt by the West to universalize its dominant version of consumer capitalism and liberal democracy will be resisted in an increasingly determined way—eventually to the point of outright war: "the next world war, if there is one, will be a war between civilizations."1

In Huntington's analysis, then, the globalization of war refers to a coming clash of civilizations. He believes that religion will play a central role in this clash as the focal point of civilizations: "Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture tradition and, most important, religion."2 While Western civilization has experienced several decades of decline and decay, in both its cultural unity and its sense of identity, other civilizations have grown both in economic terms and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9472
Print ISSN
0882-0945
Pages
pp. 79-87
Launched on MUSE
2006-11-06
Open Access
No
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