The McDonalds Theory of Conflict Prevention

Thomas Friedman argues that forces of globalisation work to prevent conflict between two countries who have decided to wear the ‘golden straitjacket’. Simplifying the thesis to the fast-food level of abstraction, he argues that no two countries with McDonalds have ever fought a war with each other. My own guess is that Friedman’s theory has failed in South Asia, thanks to Kargil. (I’m not sure if Pakistan had a McDonald’s at that time though, and Musharraf would point out that Kargil was not a war, but only a raid by freedom-fighters). I would argue that his theory holds in ‘rational’ states, that is in countries where the government percieves economic development over dogma as the overarching national interest. Hitherto in the case of Pakistan it has always been the other way around.

Take Pakistan’s currently mooted $500m eurobond issue. Political and security risks are a key determinant of how the issue performs. Should these play up in the coming months, Pakistan would end up having to pay higher rates raising the cost of its borrowing. So it is in Pakistan’s interests to play down tensions with India, prevent domestic terrorist acts and show that it is taking its role as a ‘frontline ally in the War against Terror’ seriously. Assuming that Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz are in control, we should not see Pakistan ratcheting up tensions at least until the Eurobond exercise is complete.

Conversely any serious acts of violence in Kashmir, Afghanistan or within Pakistan during this time could mean either that Musharraf sees fit to override Shaukat Aziz’s economic plans or that the Musharraf is not fully in control. Both conclusions are cause for worry.

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