The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

It’s Wednesday, June 21st, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The (Failed) Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention: A Forced Rethinking of Globalization — And Its Clash with the Christian Worldview

The idea that we are living in a great, massive, singular global community is something that has been a dream going all the way back to the time of the ancients, when frankly they didn’t know how many people or peoples were on the earth. They didn’t even have a good understanding of the way the surface of the earth was arranged. Nonetheless, the idea of one unified human community has been very old.

Then you look at the fact that in the last generation, or you might say even in the beginning of the current generation, there came with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the USSR, there came the declaration that we are living in a new era of global peace.

The emphasis there, more on global than peace. A worldview known as globalization. It’s also, you might say an ideology. It’s a theory. It’s the idea that the nation-state, that would mean, the United States of America, Uganda, Italy, Iraq, all those nation-states would be declining, receding into the horizon of history. And instead, what would be emerging is a new singular global community.

Now, sometimes this came with something of a formal proposal, something like would be coming from the far left wing, arguing for one global government, one global reality. Of course, what they were calling for is exactly what the scriptures warn against and that’s consistent, thinking not only about eschatology looking to the future, but also thinking about the Tower of Babel looking to the past. But this idea of globalization was discussed by many people is just something of an economic inevitability.

In the fall of the Soviet Union, it was declared the last great world power conflict had come to an end. Western democracy was in ascendancy. You had the totalitarian experiment, horrifying as it was of the Soviet Union. It fell apart in the late 1980s and formally in the early 1990s, and it was declared that the Western vision had won and the entire world would eventually come into line, and then there would be one great consumer market.

The entire population of planet Earth. There would be one giant deliberative democracy, all the peoples on planet Earth. There will be one interconnected global system, most importantly in economics, but also in terms of security and other issues. One giant welfare state, some envisioned on a global scale. But what we see when we look at the rearview mirror of history, and of course, that’s the easiest way to look backwards because then you’re looking at what happened, not speculating about what will happen. But as you look at the last, say, 30 years, you understand that there were an awful lot of arguments, that all of this was simply inevitable.

One of those arguments was made rather formally by a prominent intellectual known as Francis Fukuyama in a bestselling, incredibly influential book of 1992, entitled The End of History and The Last Man. Basically an argument suggesting that something like the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant’s vision of a great global community was simply taking place and largely on Western terms. That was 1992.

About the same time, you could say just a few years after that, 1996, Thomas Friedman, a very prominent commentator for The New York Times, very influential in global business circles, very popular in globalist circles. It was Thomas Friedman who made the argument that sometimes is referred to as the Golden Arches Theory of Culture or of Conflict Prevention. Formally, it’s often referred to just as that, the Golden Arches Theory referring to the prevention of conflict. Thomas Friedman went so far as to argue that two nations, both of which had McDonald’s restaurants, would not go to war.

Now, if that sounds absolutely stupid, recognize there is a theory behind it. The theory is, that if you look at a McDonald’s, you are looking at a free enterprise, free market company. You’re looking at a franchise model operation. You’re looking at a certain kind of cultural arrangement, and the societies that have reached the point of having that kind of cultural arrangement, they don’t go to war with each other.

Now, does that hold or not? Well, let’s just say even if you tried to add some footnotes in order to say it held for a number of years, it certainly failed last year in the year 2022, when one nation with McDonald’s, that would be Russia, invaded savagely another nation with McDonald’s, that would be Ukraine. And now of course, that war is still raging, and at least one of the casualties of that war is what might be referred to as Thomas Friedman’s Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.

It turns out the Golden Arches don’t prevent conflict. But understand the Golden Arches there was a stand-in for the larger argument that a basic shared economy is going to mean that there is a shared peace that will not be interrupted by one nation with a hostile intent invading another. We now know that was wrong. We also know that we had not reached the end of history.

Now, Francis Fukuyama would say, “Look, that was my title. That’s not exactly what I meant.” But there’s no doubt that he had to correct his own theory and his own argument because he really was arguing that the basic argument about the supremacy of autocracy or democracy had been won by democracy. So you probably come to the conclusion that one of the reasons we’re talking about this today is because of the continuation of the war between Russia and Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

Yes, that’s part of it, but there’s a more immediate cause, and it’s interesting that just in recent days on the front page of The New York Times, which in many ways had shared that globalist perspective, we see a headline, “Failures of Globalization Shatter Long-Held Beliefs.” Now, when you see a headline like that, you have to say, “Well, number one, who was holding those supposedly long-held beliefs?” And sometimes it comes down to the one claiming that what has been shattered are long-held beliefs.

But Patricia Cohen observed something very interesting when she says, “When the world’s business and political leaders gathered at 2018 at the annual economic forum in Davos, the mood was jubilant. Growth in every major country was on an upswing. The global economy,” declared Christine Lagarde, then the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, “is in a very sweet spot.” Talk about words that don’t age well. The New York Times followed that statement with this, “Five years later, the outlook has decidedly soured.”

The World Bank offers this analysis, “Nearly all the economic forces that powered progress and prosperity over the last three decades are fading,” The World Bank went on to say, “The result could be a lost decade in the making, not just for some countries or regions as has occurred in the past but for the whole world.”

Now, why would all this be coming about? Why would this be on the front page of the nation’s most influential newspaper? The next paragraph explains, “A lot has happened between then and now.” That means between 2018 and 2023. “A global pandemic hit, war erupted in Europe, tensions between the United States and China boiled. And inflation, thought to be safely stored away with disco album collections, returned with a vengeance.”

Now, I’m raising this issue today on The Briefing so that as we try to think through a Christian worldview, we understand that the Christian worldview offers a certain picture of the world, and that picture of the world is incompatible with the ideology of globalization. Globalization argues that there is inevitably going to be a period of world peace and commonality. That will mean the minimization of borders, the minimization of ethnic and national identities, and the overcoming of all of these barriers by this reign and perpetual peace as Kant had called it, and that we would eventually be entering into a new era in which a global identity would replace a national identity.

Now, much of this was just economic futurism because there is good reason for those behind say, major international corporations to hope this is so, why wouldn’t they want to turn a local or regional consumer base into a global consumer base?

The global part of globalization has a lot to do with those who want to do business all over the globe. But there’s another aspect to this, and it’s even more ideological. You could look at the business side of it and understand, well, there are people who are driven by that kind of business economic expansionist ambition, and they’re going to try to force the world into their picture. But there are those who aren’t driven so much by the business perspective as they are by something more political or more cultural, even more ideological.

Those who look at say, certain activist community such as the LGBTQ community and say, “You know, that needs to be a global reality. The redefinition of marriage needs to be a global thing. Global citizenship should come with a set of progressive, leftist rights, and they should be understood as acquiring a global government with a global police force and global elites complete with global standards. Psychologically, psychiatrically, culturally, legally, penally, educationally in such a way that a child growing up in one nation would have the same experience and would know the same political accountability and would be driven by the same kind of globalist morality and shaped by a globalist culture as a child on any other part of the globe.”

One of the things we need to realize is that there are people, there are forces, organizations, sometimes they’re known as NGOs, Non-Governmental Organizations that very much have this ambition. There are those in groups with formal structures such as the United Nations, who definitely want to see this kind of picture realized.

But this front page article in The New York Times, and I say, again, The Times is sometimes exhibit a of this kind of agenda, if not ideology. Well, the reason this front page article appeared is because it’s not working like the profits of globalization had promised. Now, let’s just walk around the world for a moment and remind ourselves of the extent to which this isn’t working.

First of all, if you go back to the fall of the Soviet Union and the declaration of this new age of global peace, it was declared that there was one and only one superpower on planet Earth, and that was the constitutionally driven, democratically governed United States of America. And the argument was simply taken for granted by many inside and outside the United States that the US was the last superpower, it could basically shape the world as it wanted. Let’s just say the obvious, hasn’t turned out so well.

So even with the end of the Cold War, with the fall of the Soviet Union and with the remaining dominance then of the United States of America, the argument was that there would be no future superpower conflict. Well, guess what? There is, and we’re not now talking so much about the superpower being Russia as we are talking about the superpower being China.

China is surging by almost every metric. It has some economic challenges to be sure, but by almost every metric, it has gained more power, net, economically, culturally and politically, even militarily over the course of the last 20 years than any other power on earth. And you have very assertive leadership driven by the Communist Party in China that clearly wants to reshape the globe in China’s interest.

And then back when people were declaring at the end of the Cold War, this age of global peace, who would’ve thought that you could look at a risk of world conflict over a giant spy balloon that the Chinese would send across the Pacific, entered into American territory and was finally shot down off the eastern seaboard of the United States, and that to great damage to the relationship between China and the United States. But that relationship had been sorely strained. And even as U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has just returned from a rescheduled summit meeting with Chinese leaders that was declared to be to some degree one way or another, a success of some kind or another.

The reality is that everyone understands that we are looking at even greater future challenges when it comes to China. China’s interest and the American interest, the interest of the Chinese world and the interest of the American dominated world, those are two very different sets of interests, driven by two very different worldviews. Two very incompatible ideologies.

So just looking at the headlines this week with the Secretary of State returning to the United States after a rescheduled summit meeting, rescheduled because of the shooting down of a spy balloon. We understand we’re just in a different form of Cold War. The flags have changed, but the basic conflict pattern remains.

And then you go back to the early 1990s in the fall of the Soviet Union and you recognize that there was a general hope and sometimes a specific expectation that Russia would basically enter into a European identity, that it would come within the community as civilized nations, as a democratically elected government, and that bound by a constitution in Western norms, it would enter the community of nations as a partner for peace, will just ask Ukraine how that turned out.

Part II

The World Map is Changing Before Our Eyes: How New Enemies and New Allies Are Reshaping Global Alliances

But something else we need to think about is that the world has even in ways beyond the rivalry between the United States and China, it’s changed in ways that were unforeseen and frankly, the world map when it comes to these alignments it’s changing very fast. Consider the fact that even as the US secretary of state has just come back to the United States from China, the prime minister of India has just arrived in the United States.

And by the way, India is now not only the most populous nation on earth, it is the most populous democracy on earth. That is a government that is elected by the people. And even as Narenda Modi, the prime minister of India has arrived in the United States, he has come to cement a deepening and strengthening relationship between the United States and India. What’s unusual about that? Well, during the Cold War, the United States and India were not on the same page.

India was largely allied with the Soviet Union. The United States was largely allied with India’s main regional enemy, Pakistan. Well, what changed in all of that? Well, for one thing, the war on terror. The breach in the so-called age of peace that came after the fall of the Soviet Union, that change of situation for the United States did not so much, come by one nation invading another nation shortly thereafter, but by the rise of international terrorism, and in particular the terror attacks on New York City and Washington on September 11th, 2001.

All of that represented a vast change in the world picture. And then it became very apparent that this attack on the United States was not so much from explicit state actors, but by terrorist groups and terrorist cells that sometimes operated with implicit if not explicit state support. And in that case, Pakistan turned out to be a very different friend than the United States had considered it to be before.

Because you’ll recall, at least a couple things might jump immediately to mind. Pakistan had aided the United States when the United States was trying to subvert the Soviet Union’s efforts in Afghanistan, but Pakistan also gave aid and comfort one way or another to figures such as Osama bin Laden, who after all had been living comfortably in Pakistan for years before the Americans located him and eventually took him out. So the United States in recent years has gone colder on Pakistan and warmer when it comes to India.

Well, why would India be a lot warmer to the United States? The answer to that is not so much Pakistan. The answer to that is the opposite border for India, and that is China. A resurgent China offers an immediate threat to India, and thus India is looking for a global partner that would help to ensure its long-term stability and security, and that role would be filled by the United States of America. And so the unusual has happened, you have the Indian prime minister coming to the United States after the American secretary of state has left China, and China’s a part of the equation in both sets of conversations.

And by the way, India of course has a lot to worry about sharing that long border with China, a very long border, very difficult to defend against invasion on either side. But then you say the United States of America is a long way from China, so our threat is a good deal lesser. Well, it might be minimal, but it’s real.

And just consider the headlines that have come in recent days about the fact that, Cuba, a nation less than a hundred miles off the coast of Southern Florida, has now agreed to become something of a listening site for espionage for China against the United States of America. And furthermore, it has also been demonstrated that China and Cuba are now working on an agreement for “joint military training.” Again, less than a hundred miles from the continental United States.

Now, all that to say is that if you’re buying into a worldview that says, that the modern age is going to bring a new age of global peace, you’re fooling yourself. And if nothing else, you just need to look at the headlines of the last couple of weeks and recognize, the world is not cooperating with that theory.

As a matter of fact, the headlines are coming to us as such a rush and international diplomats are having to deal with so many issues simultaneously that if anything, it might look somewhat clarifying just to look back to the Cold War and say, “Well, at least back then we knew where basically everybody stood.” These days, the entire chess board appears to be moving around.

But before we leave that thought, we need to understand that a common enemy clarifies things enormously. And when you consider NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Just consider that NATO was considered something that nations like Finland and several others in Scandinavia wanted to keep it arm’s length. Not anymore.

The threat of Russia and seeing what Russia has done in Ukraine means that there were several nations in Scandinavia that were scrambling to join NATO. Virtually all of them want to join NATO. It’s another story as to how that’s working out. But let’s just say that several of those nations are already in and the others want to be in. It’s only basically a matter of time and diplomacy as to how that works out.

So China has accomplished at least one thing. It’s largely scared India into friendship with the United States and Russia in invading Ukraine and other aggressive actions has basically pushed the Scandinavian nations and many others in Central Europe running ahead long looking for friendship with the United States.

But the situation in the United States is one that we are reminded is closer at hand in terms of threat than we’d wanted to think. It’s not just a Chinese spy balloon flying over American farmland. It’s also a Chinese spy station being built in Cuba right off the coast of Florida.

Part III

From Soccer Moms to the Suburbs: The Demographics of Swing Voters Change and Stay the Same

But next, let’s come back to the United States for just a moment, and let’s look at another argument that emerged in the 1990s and is coming back just like an old pop music tune.

This one comes back in a headline found in the Wall Street Journal. Here it is, “White Women in Suburbs Key Voting Bloc for 2024.” The article on the Wall Street Journal is basically saying that if you look at the 2024 election and you look at the swing vote that might decide the election between the Democratic and Republican nominees, one of the most crucial parts or segments of that swing vote is likely to be white women living in the suburbs. Who would’ve thought, well, at least anyone alive and active in U.S. politics since the 1990s? This isn’t new, it’s just a new headline.

Now, this raises a very interesting little historical footnote. Back in the year 1996, that was the year when President Bill Clinton was running for reelection as president of the United States and Kansas Republican Senator Bob Dole won the Republican presidential nomination. The argument was made back in 1996.

Actually, we know specifically when it was made. It was made in the Washington Post on July the 21st, 1996, when Alex Castellanos, a Republican political strategist, pointed to women in the suburbs as the most determinative swing vote. He invented a term which then became stuck in the American political lexicon.

The article was actually a column by Washington Post columnist then and now, E.J Dionne. Basically a man of the left, very much a figure in Democratic Party strategy and politics. He would define himself as center left, and these days that might actually be true. But he offered a column with the headline, “Clinton,” That means Bill Clinton, “Swipes the GOP’s Lyrics.” Arguing that running for reelection, Bill Clinton simply went and stole a lot of Republican issues. By the way, is that right or wrong? It’s true. He stole them. He just didn’t intend to use them.

But again, I told you that a term was coined, it was invented, and it landed first in this article, and now it’s very much a part of the American political conversation. I think you’re going to hear it when I read this part of the 1996 article. Remember, it’s about Alex Castellanos, who is a Republican political strategist.

Dionne writes, quote, “Castellanos has a shrewd view of what Clinton is up to in pushing such initiatives as school uniforms, teen curfews, crackdowns on truancy, gun restrictions, and the V-chip to block obscene programming on television.” Isn’t that an interesting little, antiquarian note back when broadcasting was television?

But then back to the article, “The president following the advice of consultant Dick Morris, among others, is sending a message to a voter Castellanos calls ‘soccer mom’ the overburdened, middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school. Clinton’s message is,” said the article, “the government will do what it can to help her raise her kids and establish some order in her family life.” You heard the term, soccer moms.

Well, the term soccer moms might now sound a bit nostalgic looking back to the American politics of the 1990s, but this article that appeared just last week in the Wall Street Journal, “White Women in Suburbs Key Voting Bloc for 2024.” Basically makes the same argument, and here’s where we need to understand why there is this continuing influence of this very important swing vote.

It is because in a lot of elections, the election actually doesn’t come down to every county in a state or every congressional district in a state, because a lot of those are very predictable. They’re overwhelmingly going to be red or they’re going to be blue. The swing vote, insofar as there is a swing vote in the United States, has to do largely with metropolitan areas where there are a lot of people have been moving into the region around a city, and they will often be mixed.

So you’ll have red and blue together, and then the question comes down to whether the Democrats or the Republican? The Democratic ticket or the Republican ticket will win in that specific voting area. And the so-called swing voters do often make a difference in that particular demographic context.

A lot of American elections are won in the suburbs of America’s major cities, not so much in the cities, not so much in the country. You have red and blue, very predictable in most of those situations. But in the suburbs, which by definition are fast changing, but at the same time also have a certain kind of economic identity often tied to at least the fact there are more families with children to be found there, than might be true elsewhere.

But the difference between 1996 and that now rather iconic reference to soccer moms in 2023 where the word mom disappears and it’s just, women in the suburbs, maybe the difference there is the decline of the expectation that many of these women will be moms or will be moms, at least at the time they will be voting in 2024. But here’s the big factor behind that, and when it comes to the Christian worldview, there are a few insights that could be bigger than this.

When it comes to many elections, when it comes to the question of the swing vote, when it comes to the question of how women in the suburbs will vote, all you have to do is look back to some specific elections, including a recent gubernatorial election in the state of Virginia to find out that the one biggest indicator of how a woman in the suburbs would vote is whether or not she was at that time a mother. If she had children in the household, she was overwhelmingly likely to vote Republican. She has conservative interests. If she did not have children in the household by almost a mirror image, the advantage went to the Democrats.

There’s a lot of speculation these days about how specific voters will vote, but we need to note that leaves actually very much little legitimate debate. We know how most voters are likely to vote in 2024 because voters have been amazingly consistent over time. The vast majority have.

The question is, how large will the swing vote be? Who will that swing vote include, and how will that swing vote, vote? We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, but we do know that when the election happens, the answers to those questions are going to have a lot to do with, who is president of the United States? Who sits in the United States Congress? And as you know, many other issues flow inexorably from those.

But we also know that one of the major factors in that is whether or not many of the women who are voting in those areas are described in this kind of analysis as woman or mom. It turns out that makes a huge difference, and as Christians, I think we understand why.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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