Sheriff Ahmed


In the geopolitical arena, some nations fan the winds of nationalism and embrace a “me first” strategy. While this garners the populist votes, this does not work unless nations pragmatically interact with other people and nations. The reason is simple: we have only one world, and we are all inter-connected in many ways where causes and effects are intricately intertwined.

While countries have geographic borders, the wind, clouds and rain follow no constraints. The pollution in one country negatively impacts another; Canadian wildfires this summer caused very poor air quality in Minnesota. Similarly, water follows a path of least resistance as it winds down the mountain and finds its way to the ocean. The streams and rivers travel through many different states, regions and countries. Along the way what happens to it, how much water is used up, what pollutants are added, and the actions of every community along the path of that river impacts the people who live downstream of that journey.

An event in one place can have far-reaching consequences in another place. When the ocean floor shifts due to a localized earthquake, the resulting tsunami can have a devastating impact in a very far away place.

Sometimes our actions have unintended consequences. I wonder whether the architects of the war in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or Afghanistan discussed the impact of the resulting refugees from those conflicts. Even if we officially do not recognize our involvement, strife in far-away countries like Somalia or Syria also has consequences for us. Very local events like hurricanes, economic hardships, earthquakes, corruption or lack of security in Latin and South America have deep consequences for us.

Countries are interlinked and dependent on each other through the global economic forces. When the Financial Times Stock Exchange in UK sneezes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average in USA catches a cold. And unlike Las Vegas, what happens at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange doesn’t stay just in Hong Kong. We have seen numerous times when one of the major stock markets in the world experiences a big dip, the other global markets are also impacted. In 2008, it took the concerted and coordinated actions from many world governments to avert a global economic meltdown.

Trade tariffs ultimately also do not work. While it may please some entities and buttress the short-term political motives of a government, countries and markets typically find a way to meet demand for goods and services. When we hit China with export tariffs, China started buying beef and soybean from Brazil. The U.S. farmers ended up selling more to Brazil. We as a nation ended up subsidizing farmers, which ultimately ended up costing us tax dollars. But the Chinese still got their beef and soybean.

The current pre-eminent position of the U.S. dollar as a global currency gives us many advantages on the global stage. We enjoy that privilege because of the strength of our economy, and the trust and faith that other countries place on our ability to service our debt. But USD is not the only major currency. The European Union has their own Euro currency which is used in many countries. There are also efforts underway to promote cryptocurrency as a global tender.

Technology links countries. Technology is usually cumulative, where the ideas and efforts of multiple people and nations are needed to find a viable solution for a challenge. Can you imagine what would happen if the internet collapsed or was corroded somewhere?

Other stellar examples of global cooperation include COVID-19 vaccines, the International Space Station and cyber-security, where success fully depends upon global cooperation.

Global companies now are truly global, where all the functions and existence of that company can be globally dispersed.

Lastly, COVID-19 boldly shows how intricately all countries are linked by global contagious diseases. It basically boils down to this: No one is safe until everyone is safe. This is a sobering lesson, but only if we are willing to look at it with eyes wide open and learn. Globalization doesn’t mean that we give away our sovereignty or trade away our self-interests. It just means that working together is better than working in isolation. It means that having other people look at a problem allows for different viewpoints and unique perspectives for a better solution. There is no way any one person or nation can have all the answers, especially for issues and challenges which are inter-connected and which follow no national boundaries.

To me globalization means that we lead with conviction, courage and forward-looking vision. The outcome is not a better life just for us at the expense of other countries, but a better life for us, and for others, and where other countries join and pay a fair share to get the benefits. If we go down the path of isolationism and unilateralism, we will walk away from our historic position of a global leader, and there are others who are waiting in the wings to step in and take our place.

No one is safe until everyone is safe. No one is better until everyone is better. The rising lake water lifts all boats, not just a selected few boats. This is true in global relations, just as it holds true for our state or community relations and well-being. All of us are indeed in this together.

Sheriff Ahmed is a 35-year resident of Savage who contributes to Community Voices.