Sunday, June 10, 2018

Georgia, Russia, McDonald's, WTO & War

New York Times bestselling author Thomas Friedman asserted in the Lexus and the Olive Tree that no two countries have gone to war with each other after acquiring McDonald's franchises. In his conception of globalization, McDonald's represents, to some degree, the civilizing elements of capitalist culture. To paraphrase Albert Hirschman, the interests of commerce can subsume the passions--including those of waging war. While I must admit that the idea is cleverly expressed by Friedman, the veracity of the "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention" was already debatable prior to the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Georgia over the latter's breakaway republic of South Ossetia. As always with the immediate outbreak of hostilities, it is difficult to determine who is the aggressor and who is the defender. Moreover, the position of Russia relative to South Ossetia is difficult to establish.

What is interesting to me given that Russia is trying to accede to the WTO [1, 2, 3] is how this conflict will affect the outcome of its WTO accession negotiations. Russia needs the assent of all current WTO members--including Georgia. Now, I may not be exceedingly bright, but going to war with someone you are trying to gain the favour of is generally not in the Dale Carnegie playbook. Would you like some fries with that?

(As an aside, it seems to me that now is the best time for Taiwan to declare independence. With the eyes of the world on the Olympics, China can ill afford to attempt invading Taiwan for a fortnight or so. I guess it's good that the Taiwanese nationalist Chen Shui-Bian is no longer president.)

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