A Modest Proposal: Delicious Irony Served up by Internet
The more aggressive children among us like to assert their supposed power by encroaching little by little on the territory of neighbors, where "territory" can include relatively neutral border space. They'll see just how far they can push before they're challenged. When the threat is not called, the bully is likely to press the advantage until open conflict results. This is best done when parents and teachers are not watching.
When this behavior is exhibited by adults, it is called "defensive preparedness" by the encroaching party and "a threat to peace" by the other party. The classic case is moving troops toward a border.
Because bullies are usually also cowards, they like to do as much of their "defensive preparation" as secretly as possible, leaving the threatened party in the dark until the encroachment has a chance of success. So countries send their lieutenants to school to learn how to move tanks and artillery and airplanes in the dark and promote them to captain, etc.
'I obfuscate so carefully, that now I am the ruler of the Queen's navy.'
Because bullies of a feather flock together, it is often the case that the militarists in one country actually protect the militarists of other countries, notwithstanding the fact that those same countries might under certain circumstances be their attackers. (We're not dealing with reason here.) These arrangements are called "alliances," and their militarists often keep one another's secrets.
The purpose of alliances is to assure the ally that threats against a non-allied power are not dangerous to the ally, forestalling actions in the common defensive interest of all neighbors and allowing the bully to subdue each neighbor in turn. No country has alliances with all other countries, and the nature of alliances is that they shift to achieve momentary advantage as the bullies jockey for position, leaving a condition of perpetual instability.
If each neighbor, allied or not, knew EVERYTHING about the current structure and deployment of potential aggressors, the lives of would-be bullies could be made really difficult. No one could sneak up on a neighbor, and the movement of forces to threaten one neighbor might immediately result in threats against the bully from other neighbors, not because they necessarily cared about the effect on the prospective victim, but because their own aggressive tendencies might be stimulated.
A repository of information accessible to all countries could reduce potential for military adventuring. If all troop movements, force deployments, equipment allocations were common knowledge, it would be very hard to execute a sneak attack, and individual countries would be freed from the need to maintain elaborate intelligence networks.
The problem in creating this type of free information system is that each country restricts the ability of its own residents to reveal military information to nonresidents. In some countries this is by assent, in others by repression; but either cause allows the government of that country to sustain its ability to threaten.
What if this were not so? Enter the Internet.
OK, here's the deal...
Assume Country A has a strong alliance with Country B, and Country B has a weak alliance with Country C. Country D has a strong alliance with Country E, which has a weak alliance with Country B. Et cetera, ad infinitum, with variations on the theme too numerous for toadies to track.
A resident of Country D has no obligation personal or national to Country A or Country B. Country D is like most countries allied with few others.
I propose that residents (not the government) of Country D host public web servers on which any person can anonymously post the troop movements, weapons deployments and general military behavior of any country with which Country D is not allied, e.g., Country A. A person in Country B, for example, could host similar information regarding Country D or E. We'd all be watching one another's back, and each of us would have one less thing to fear.
There would be no legal basis for restricting such publication, since the individuals and states are not bound by treaties or alliances. Physical assaults on the servers could rather easily and inexpensively be obviated by mirroring in yet another unallied nation, and broad interruption of Internet traffic across borders would be against the economic interests of all parties, rendering it unlikely. No records need be made of the source of information by any server, and the infrastructure needed to record, decrypt and examine every message would make current military budgets look like chicken feed.
The quality of the information on such servers could be quite good. The recent announcement by several news agencies of forthcoming publication of one-meter satellite images (to the immense consternation of major "defense" organizations) suggests that photographs of military deployments could be accessible over the Web in real time very soon. This imagery will no doubt be extended to non-visible wavelengths in a straightforward manner, and by extension of Moore's Law such technology should be available to the common man within this decade.
[UPDATE APRIL 2005 - Dr. Sihulo points out that Google.com now makes available static one-meter-resolution satellite photos of much of the world, free on its website. Now it's just a matter of time before they change from historic to real-time images, then to multi-spectral real-time images (visible and invisible light...). It's coming, folks, for good or ill. Will you decide, or will they?]
The trick here is that each server report only the actions of military forces with which his own government has no alliance. The whole world can watch one country, but one country can't watch the whole world.
Go ahead, call it 'treason'
Where does one's duty lie? If I'm a citizen of Country A, whose ally B is threatening D, and I do business in Country E, buying widgets that are shipped to me through D and C, how is it in my interest or my compatriots' interest to support a military threat by our government's ally against my widget supplier? If I reveal the deployment of B's troops to the border of Country D, I'm protecting my line of supply, keeping my cousin from going to war and lowering the general level of conflict in the world. Of course, my old school chum General Xyz (who was promoted because he knew how to move BOTH tanks and airplanes in the dark), will be mad at me, but generally the blandishments of nationalism might be expected to fall on deaf ears when contrasted with the siren song of economic interest. After all, I need those widgets; and if I get them, I'll buy the general a shiny new ribbon for his suit myself; a bargain!
And scalability, too
The same logic might be operable at a community level. If the police had a public server on which citizens could report the current distribution of criminal activity in real time, it would be rather hard for robbers, pimps and pushers to operate. Or for the police to rodneyking the citizenry. (Yes, that is the infinitive form of the verb, which is conjugated, I rodneyking, thou rodneykingest..., we are rodneykinging..., we have rodneykinged..., etc.)
The deluded and the true believers ye have always with ye. This "modest proposal" is more about Saddam Hussein (this was written in 1999 -Ed.) and Hideki Tojo than Timothy McVeigh. The latter can have fifteen minutes of fame and 100 victims. The former can inflict suffering on millions, if we let them. With further refinement, the same logic can be applied to individuals, but the complexities of civil rights protection would make local application harder than addressing the clearer threat of international militarism.
Yum! Feel free to revel in the role of the Internet -- which was created to sustain "military preparedness" -- in the elimination of the military as bully. No secrets, no power. The role of the military can be shifted to one of "community police," with community defined as you, me, and our global neighbors.
In the future, the power need not belong only to the powerful.