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Real Security, Part II
Alex Steffen, 4 Nov 03

World military spending rose by 6% last year, to 794 billion dollars. But that figure is actually a low-ball estimate, because it doesn't count black-market arms sales, paramilitary police forces, or "intelligence" spending. By many accounts, the truer figure is closer to one trillion dollars, and may be higher for 2003.

The US spends about half of that money. Are we safer for it? Amory Lovins thinks not.

In an essay titled How to Get Real Security: $11,000 Per Second Can't Keep Us Safe, published earlier this year in Whole Earth magazine, Lovins lays into our current thinking about defense and security and outlines a new approach.

The problem, he says, is not only that we face enemies who fight in ways that a conventional military is poorly designed to counter (e.g., terrorism), but that problems like terrorism are nested in a complex of security threats for which there is no military solution: global poverty and an increasing gap between the haves and have-nots, climate change, environmental degredation, mass-migration of refugees, epidemic diseases, and so on. Our massive military spending, he argues, not only doesn't protect us from the effects of this complex of related problems, but actively provokes others into fearing and hating us.

"Military superiority won't be enough to win the 'War on Terrorism'. For true security we need five dimensions:
*a political one, in which we enhance stability and marginalise the bad actors, so we don't create more monsters like the Taliban and al-Qaeda;
*a diplomatic dimension, where we try to move potential belligerents into a more sympathetic, or at least more tolerant, stance;
*an informational dimension, in which we show the whole world that we're not blaming but rather trying to help the people;
*an economic dimension, in which we help to improve people's lives so the seeds of conflict don't flourish; and
*a military dimension, in which we enforce justice, or as a last resort, use military means.

"It's clearer every day that the world's best armed forces, costing $11,000 a second, are not making us secure. That's because there is no significant military threat to the United States that can be defended against.

"It is not possible to defend against, say, nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction that are smuggled in without leaving a radar track or other return address. Someone could wrap a warhead in bales of marijuana, put it in a shipping container, bring it aboard a ship into any of our harbours, and nobody would notice.

"The point is that anonymous, asymmetric attacks can be quite devastating, but are undeterrable in principle, because you don't know who is responsible for them. That can be especially true with suicidal adversaries. We have already learned that interdiction by prior intelligence can't be relied upon. So the only lastingly effective defence is prevention. How do we do that? We have seen on 9/11 that at the level of intelligence foresight it doesn't work reliably. So what is the alternative? It is to work at the level of root causes. Only by eliminating the social conditions that feed and motivate the pathology of hatred can we bring about lasting security."


"A critical tool for preventing conflict is advanced resource productivity - getting lots more work out of each unit of energy materials, water, topsoil, and so on. Advanced resource productivity can actually prevent conflict in four ways.

"First, it can make aspirations to a decent life realistic and attainable, for all. It removes apparent conflicts between economic advancement and environmental sustainability. You can implement it by any mixture of market and administrative practices you want. It scales fractally from the household to the world. It's adaptable to very diverse conditions and cultures.

"Secondly, resource productivity avoids resource conflicts over such things as oil and water. Military intervention in the Gulf becomes Mission Unnecessary because the oil will become irrelevant.

"Thirdly, resource productivity can make infrastructure invulnerable by design.

"And finally, resource productivity can unmask and penalise proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. Take nuclear power for example: if we use energy in a way that saves money and is enormously cheaper than building or even just running nuclear plants, any country that takes economics seriously won't want or have nuclear plants. They will be simply a waste of money. In such a world, the ingredients - the technologies, materials, skills, and equipment - needed to make bombs would no longer be an item of commerce. They wouldn't be impossible to get, but they'd be a lot harder to get, and more politically costly for both the recipient and the supplier to be caught trying to get, because for the first time, the reason for wanting them would be unambiguously military. You could no longer claim a peaceful electricity-making venture. It would be clear that you were really out to make bombs.

"Another example is organic agriculture, which tends to work better, cost less and be better for health and nutrition, and can at least equally well feed the world. This means that you don't have organophosphate pesticide plants, which means that you just removed the main cover story for nerve gas plants.

"The point is that resource conflicts are unnecessary and uneconomic - a problem we don't need to have, and it's cheaper not to. ... Both oil imports and vulnerable domestic infrastructure are unnecessary and a waste of money. To displace Persian Gulf imports would take only a 2.7 miles-per-gallon increase in the light vehicle fleet. Most United States oil use could be profitably displaced within a few decades with current technology."


"Then, if the previous two layers of protection fail, and conflict occurs, the last layer of defence, and a very powerful one, is 'non-provocative defence', which reliably defeats aggression, but without threatening others. To date, Sweden has executed the most sophisticated design of military forces for non-provocative defence. Its coastal guns cannot be elevated to fire beyond Swedish coastal waters. It has a capable air force, but with short-range aircraft that can't get very far beyond Sweden. ... In every way, by technical and institutional design, they've sought to make Sweden a country you don't want to attack, but one that is clearly in a defensive posture. ...

"Non-provocative defence means layered deployment in non-provocative postures. It depends on forces that are at least as robust as the attacker's forces, but with a decentralised architecture that increases their resilience. Of course, non-provocative defence doesn't stop terrorism, any more than National Missile Defence would. But the resilient design helps to disincentivise terrorism by reducing its rewards, just as the full spectrum of non-military engagement undercuts terrorism's ideological and political base."

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robert wright wrote about "a real war on terrorism" about a year ago, which i think is interesting now in a "what might've been" sense :D


Posted by: smerkin on 16 Nov 03

ops, c&p'ed into the wrong thread! anyway i thought fareed zakaria offered some sensible suggestions (among many) like perhaps shifting some of the military budget to (or at least raising) foreign aid :D

"I think that the president—and many of his advisers—find it easy to embrace democracy but not the means to get there. Actually, they like one method. Let's call it the "silver bullet" theory of democratization. It holds that every country is ready for democracy. It’s just evil tyrants who stand in its way. Kill the tyrant, hold elections and the people will embrace democracy and live happily ever after. This theory is particularly seductive to neoconservatives because it means that the one government agency they love—the military—is the principal force for democratization around the world.

"The second theory of democratization could be called the "long, hard slog" (thanks, Mr. Rumsfeld). It holds that genuine democracy requires the building of strong political institutions, a market economy and a civil society. In order to promote democracy, in this vision, you need economic reform, trade, exchange programs, legal and educational advances, and hundreds of such small-bore efforts. The agencies crucial to this process are the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, even, God forbid, the European Union and the United Nations. After all, the EU provides almost twice as much foreign aid as the United States. And it is the United Nations that produces the much-heralded Arab Development Reports, which President Bush quoted in his speech.

"The president must see that the first strategy has reached its limits. We have used military force in Afghanistan and Iraq, and while it has rid those countries of evil dictatorships, it has not brought them democracy. That goal remains fully dependent on the second strategy. And beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, unless Washington is going to invade all the countries of the Middle East, democracy will come only through a process of reform and modernization. But the administration cannot bring itself to fully support this softer strategy of democratization or call for more of it. (Real men don't do foreign aid.) American efforts to promote democracy, for example, take up about 6 percent of our aid budget, just over $700 million. Why not double this?

"For many of the administration's ideologues, the long, hard slog toward liberal democracy is boring and unsexy. It means constant engagement, aid, multilateral efforts and a world not of black and white but of grays..."

Posted by: smerkin on 16 Nov 03



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