November 28, 2005
America As Networked Anti-State
This analysis by Wretchard of the Belmont Club is absolutely riveting. He argues that post-national criminal and terrorist cells are actually the first truly 21st-century form of warfare; and that they are badly undermatched by the classic nation-state, such as those found in Europe, or the superstate that many Europeans want to create. He continues on to contrast these approaches with that of the United States:
But most States are an anti-network; in fact the ultimate hive, where drones swarm in vast pyramids around a Dear Leader, a Great Helmsman or a Driver of the Locomotive of History. And if the United States has one advantage over other states in an age of network warfare, it is because in some respects America is an anti-state; ideally, though not always in practice, a framework within which individuals can thrive. In this respect America was conceptually at variance with the scheme of Westphalia whose key precept was state sovereignty: in America sovereignty was useful mainly to allow the growth of individual freedom. For years European intellectuals have secretly suspected America of really being a religion masquerading as a country. And if that is true the First Republic is ironically well adapted to meet the Jihad on the intellectual battlefields of the 21st century.
The key challenge is whether America, in the sense of a shared idea, can be expansive enough to permit subordinate threads which can truly "take on a life of their own", and so become agile enough to engage the Jihadis at the lowest level. We are some of us familiar with the idea of multithreaded applications which can leave the main program and be re-entrant at an indeterminate point. Max Boot had hoped in 2003 that decentralized decision making would be part of the "new American way of war", multithreading within a larger architecture. Yet no sooner had those tendencies appeared when they were reined in by an American Left determined to impose all the blessings of the bureaucratic state upon networked warfare: oversight, endless hearings, legalisms -- the clanking apparatus of the unitary Sovereign -- to 'aid' in the pursuit of nimble bands of modern Mongols contemptuous of boundaries.
If technology has undermined the bureaucratic state, then the intellectual heirs of Westphalia, with their visions of supranational institutions will have truly confused the problem for the solution. In the face of increasing attacks by networks of criminals and terrorists, their answer will be bigger, more international bureaucracies. The United Nations will become the smallest unit capable of fighting modern terrorism. And some would call that good.
I even sampled a few of the comments. Belmont-Club comments always intimidate and dishearten me: he posts only three or four times a week -- but each post gets sixty, eighty, a hundred and twenty comments or more! The comments to this one are almost as fascinating as Wretchard's discussion itself.
Read it and weep (as I did) for our own pitiful efforts at blogging...
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 28, 2005, at the time of 2:43 AM
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The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi
Dafydd, you are an excellent blogger.
You are my third very favorite blogger in all of known blogspace, in spite of the fact that you could not tell i was a grrl. ;)
Wretch's analysis is especially interesting to me....i want to ask, if netwar is such a powerful paradigm, why are we winning? I think maybe C4I is pretty good anti-netwar. And i think our troops are modular, flexible, and reconfigurable to some extent. So if we add relative force flexibility + infinitely superior C4I, maybe we win?
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