Globalization’s Double-Edged Sword

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We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid to Nigeria to Russia, stateless terrorist groups have emerged to score blow after blow against us. Driven by cultural fragmentation, schooled in the most sophisticated technologies, and fueled by transnational crime, these groups are forcing corporations and individuals to develop new ways of defending themselves. The end result of this struggle will be a new, more resilient approach to national security, one built not around the state but around private citizens and companies.

John Robb, Brave New War, June 2007.

John Robb has an unusual resume: he went from being an Air Force officer in a counterterrorism unit coordinating Delta Force folks and Navy Seals in the late 80s to working as one of the first Internet technology analysts in the mid-90s. Since then, as the world has gotten more wired and no less bloody, he’s been putting these two disparate strands of experience together, writing and arguing that globalized connectivity and democratized technology will lead not just to increased productivity and creative possibility but to sophisticated attacks and chaotic disruptions. That, in other words, the bad people people out there are just as wired as the good ones.

Robb’s contention is that in our near future, when non-state actors commit cheap but effective network attacks (think internet, electricity, oil, water, transportation, etc.), our lugubrous, inefficient, centralized states won’t be able to help us (think Katrina, or Iraq). Instead, we’ll have to get resilient. Rich corporations and individuals will lead the way:

Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for, much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals and multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of our collective system, opting instead to hire private military companies, such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their homes and facilities and establish a protective perimeter around daily life. Parallel transportation networks — evolving out of the time-share aircraft companies such as Warren Buffett’s NetJets — will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next.

John Robb, Security: Power To The People, Fast Company, March 2006.

But his real call to action is more public, and more local. He’s looking for a 21st-century self-sufficiency, with community food production, a more supple and sophisticated power grid, and an underlying assumption that the only way to survive attacks in a globalized world is to be able to survive locally.

I should have mentioned that Robb was also an Eagle Scout. Are you prepared?

John Robb

Author, Brave New War

Blogger, Global Guerrillas

Richard A. Clarke

Advisor to Presidents Reagan, Bush (I), Clinton, and Bush (II)

National Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, National Security Council, 1998-2001

Author, Against All Enemies and, most recently, Breakpoint

Chairman, Good Harbor Consulting

Moisés Naím

Editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy

Author, Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy

Former Venezuelan Minister of Trade and Industry

Extra Credit Reading

John Robb, Security: Power To The People, Fast Company, March, 2006: “This terrorist-criminal symbiosis becomes even more powerful when considered next to the most disturbing sign coming out of Iraq: The terrorists have developed the ability to fight nation-states strategically–without weapons of mass destruction. This new method is called “systems disruption,” a simple way of attacking the critical networks (electricity, oil, gas, water, communications, and transportation) that underpin modern life.”

Michael Tanji, Brave New Review, Haft of the Spear, April 22, 2007: “Comparisons are going to be drawn between Robb’s work and that of Tom Barnett of Pentagon’s New Map and Blueprint for Action fame… Suffice it to say that their work is complimentary in many areas save for issues related to the roles of government and the long-term. Tom is Pooh Bear, John is Eeyore.”

Grim, COIN: The Gravity Well, BlackFive, April 23, 2007: “Give me ten minutes, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know to understand this new model of insurgency. Plus, I have a little addition of my own — a way to visualize David Kilcullen’s “disaggregation.” Ten minutes, and you’ll both understand how the Global insurgency works, and how to fight it — even in those times and places when we have no combat troops to devote to working it.”

Chris Monasterski, Most powerful force in the international economy?, Private Sector Development Blog, March 21, 2007: “Naim painted a picture of transnational criminal networks of “specialists in logistics” operating as independent cells. He warned of the growing criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime in many corners of the world.”

Dan tdaxp, Guerrillas as Petty Realism, Tdaxp.com, April 24, 2007: “Unable to hold territory, and unwilling to join a minimal winning coalition capable of achieving victory, all global guerrillas can do is generate violence. All they can do is make some other group even more attractive, if that group promises to end or reduce the violence.”

Richard Clarke, Breakpoint, Powells Books Blog, January 23, 2007: “In Breakpoint, somebody is attempting to destroy the technological facilities making scientific advances. They are using the vulnerabilities that exist today in cyberspace, in our computer controlled networks.”

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  • Sutter

    Ok, my immediate free-association on reading this was to Ronald Coase’s 1937 essay “The Nature of the Firm” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Coase#The_Nature_of_the_Firm for a summary). I’m no expert, but Coase argued, in essence, that vertically integrated firms arise when collecting various functions (e.g., production and/or acquisition of parts, assembly of those parts into a finished product, marketing and distribution of the finished product, etc.) under one umbrella is efficient because the Firm can minimize transaction costs that would plague us if these functions were performed by different entities.

    I haven’t read Robb’s stuff, but it sounds as though he’s applying Coase to governance, and suggesting that the costs of acting through states has become too high vis-a-vis the benefits of avoiding transaction costs through the state’s assumption of those roles. The Coasian analogy is helpful, but also somewhat misplaced, for the reasons suggested above (and in other discussions we’ve had here): Unlike a Firm, which is really designed to maximize shareholders’ (or other owners’) value, states tend to deal with issues that have broader political implications. That is, the state must respond not only to outcome-related concerns, but also to process-related concerns such as democratic participation, deliberation, and so forth. So, is it enough to say that a corporation is better at doing X and therefore should do X? Or do we need to ensure that the issues Robb mentions are addressed in a manner reflecting governance by the people? And (the hard question, especially in a crowd that I assume will mostly favor the latter) where is the “tipping point”? At some point, we must acknowledge that the ability to act will trump democratic input, right? It might be ideal to vote on whether to lob missiles at a particular site where we know bin Laden is hiding, for example, but if the choice is between efficient action and democratic but delayed and therefore ineffective action, we’d generally prefer the former…

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/author/david/ David

    Just a quick point here in case my post was confusing: I don’t think Robb is advocating that businesses take over from governments in assuring our safety. Rather, he’s saying that it’s just bound to happen — that business will take the initiative. His real call, as I wrote above, is to localities and individuals.

  • katemcshane

    After listening to a number of interviews with Jeremy Scahill (Blackwater: The Rise of the Most Powerful Mercenary Army) this stuff frightens me so much that I may not be able to listen to the show tonight. Lately, everything reminds me of Atwood’s A HANDMAID’S TALE. It seems more and more inevitable that life here may become intolerable. I just hope that I’ll have some knowledge and skills that will be useful to the resistance. Otherwise, I’ll make plans, like Virginia and Leonard Woolf did in case of a Nazi occupation, for suicide. I don’t want to live the way more and more people are predicting we will live. I probably shouldn’t have written this much — do you think I panic easily? Oh yeah.

  • Bobo

    As the title of Robb’s book is “Brave New War”, I’ve decided to let my geek flag fly and take a look at some sci-fi parallels.

    “globalized connectivity and democratized technology will lead not just to increased productivity and creative possibility but to sophisticated attacks and chaotic disruptions.”

    I’m reminded of William Gibson’s Idoru novels. Basically, following a series of internet security breaches, virtual terrorist attacks, etc., the governments of the world get together and decide that it is necessary to restrict and monitor the internet on a very large scale. The ‘freedom’ of the internet which we revel in today becomes nothing but a nostalgic memory. And life goes on. I think we can already see many of the seeds of this future being planted.

    “We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid to Nigeria to Russia, stateless terrorist groups have emerged to score blow after blow against us.” — Brraaaazil… Da dada da da daduh da duuuuhhh Braziiillll Brraaazil…

    On the whole terrorist vs. mercenary vein, the soon-to-be-released “Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots” seems to offer a nice example of this trendy sci-fi trope.

    http://www.gamespot.com/ps3/adventure/metalgearsolid4/media.html

  • Sutter

    David, I realized as I was writing that I was attributing a normative cast to what seemed like a descriptive argument. That’s completely my bad. But we still are well advised, of course, to consider the normative implications of what Robb believes to be inevitable.

    (ROS could probably do a whole series on the flow of power away from nation-states in the current era: To sub-state actors (companies, terrorist cells, etc.), to supra-state organizations (UN, NATO, World Bank, etc.), to non-state actors (NGOs)…)

  • Bobo

    And on a slightly more scholarly note:

    [the two major sides of the political divide] “…differ in that some think that if they are equal in any respect they are equal absolutely, others that if they are unequal in any respect they should be unequal in all. Hence there are two principal forms of government, democracy and oligarchy;”

    “superiority is a cause of revolution when one or more persons have a power which is too much for the state and the power of the government;”

    “In democracies, the rich despise the disorder and anarchy of the state; at Thebes, for example, where, after the battle of Oenophyta, the bad administration of the democracy led to its ruin. At Megara the fall of the democracy was due to a defeat occasioned by disorder and anarchy.”

    Just a bit of ancient wisdom from Aristotle (Pol. V). I personally saw a clear connection between Aristotle’s Oligarchy and Robb’s ‘wealthy individuals and corporations’. Anyone see some other Aristotelian parallels in this conversation?

  • Sutter

    Just looked back over my incredibly academic post above… To bring it down to a (slightly) more tolerable level, the question I’m posing is pretty simple: When “efficiency values” clearly militate toward privatization of a function formerly provided by the state, how should we account for “democracy values” in deciding whether to “spin off” that function, and is there any way to ensure that those “democracy values” have a role in the decision-making?

  • http://olywa.blogspot.com Emmett O’Connell

    One of my favorite Vaclav Havel speeches (given in front of Independence Hall in Philly) covers these bases:

    Periods of history when values undergo a fundamental shift are certainly not unprecedented. This happened in the Hellenistic period, when from the ruins of the classical world the Middle Ages were gradually born. It happened during the Renaissance, which opened the way to the modern era.

    Today, this state of mind or of the human world is called post-modernism. For me, a symbol of that state is a Bedouin mounted on a camel and clad in traditional robes under which he is wearing jeans, with a transistor radio in his hands and an ad for Coca-Cola on the camel’s back. I am not ridiculing this, nor am I shedding an intellectual tear over the commercial expansion of the West that destroys alien cultures. I see it rather as a typical expression of this multicultural era, a signal that an amalgamation of cultures is taking place. I see it as proof that something is happening, something is being born, that we are in a phase when one age is succeeding another, when everything is possible.

    The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world.

    That we can’t expect the morality that we based our old way of doings things to catch up with the world we’ll be living in eventually. But, Robb seems to leave out any kind of future morality that Havel refers to, unless the open, public and local protection that Robb talks about to is this morality.

  • Bobo

    Ok, so I was just looking back over the intro to this show, as well as my own and others’ comments. I have a feeling that this is quickly turning into a very disorganized jumble of thoughts, ideologies, and methods. Could someone (possibly David) who is more familiar with Robb provide a couple of really simple questions or statements. Then I guess we can chose whether or not we want to use them, but I feel like I could use a bit more guidance on this broad-reaching topic.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/author/david/ David

    Bobo: Thanks for the request. I’ll do what I can. (This is what happens when we put a show togeter on one day’s notice!)

    Robb’s central thesis has two basic parts:

    1. All the great connectivity and technology that we celebrate and can be (and is already being) used for ill. This is an innevitable consequence of both the technology itself and the openness of the platforms. Attacks won’t have to be grand, like we saw on 9/11, in order to wreak havoc. Insurgents in Iraq have done plenty of damage with small-scale, targetted attacks on vital nodes of infrastructure.

    2. States are not prepared to deal with disruptions from these kinds of attacks right now, and show no signs of being ready any time soon, so it’ll be up to other entities (or individuals).

    One large question I’m grappling with is whether or not we need to strike a new balance between the benefits of our techological openness and the inherent vulnerability it leads to. And is it even possible to find a new balance, or is that like putting fizzed-up selzer back in a bottle?

  • plnelson

    I think he’s been watching too many post apocalyptic thriller movies or reading too many cyberpunk novels.

    There’s no question that each one of us and our employers and personal economies is at the tail-end of many long and intricate chains of transportation and telecommunications connections and that these chains are rich in vulnerabilities (to terrorists or simple human accidents).

    But there are many MANY chains of connections, and they take many different forms and routes, and there are also many different and alternative ways of accomplishing the same things. And furthermore, these systems are constantly changing and adapting. (take it from me – I’m a software engineer and the general public has no CLUE how many major threats are detected and DEFEATed on a daily basis)

    So I think the systems our globalized world depends on have more redundancy and flexibility than the Chicken-Littles think. Which is not to say that there will not be brief outages such as 9/11 or the Blackberry blackout the other day. We might even lose the occasional city to a hurricane or a terrorist attack or a failed foreign policy. But history and experience shows us that the world will move on because the benefits of globalization, interconnectivity, and worldwide collaboration outweight the risks. It’s not worth circling the wagons over.

    He’s looking for a 21st-century self-sufficiency, with community food production, a more supple and sophisticated power grid, and an underlying assumption that the only way to survive attacks in a globalized world is to be able to survive locally

    Ideas like this are bound to appeal to the survivalist crowd – including the modern suburban ones ready to circle their Lexuses and defend their gated communities from the hordes streaming out of the inner cities when it all goes down. And no doubt the Birkenstock-wearing green crowd with their hemp shopping bags filled with locally-grown organic veggies will welcome any argument against globalization.

    But some of us think that the best weapon AGAINST terrorism is an interconnected world where rapidly rising living standards and job opportunities brought about by global trade provide people and societies with a stake in the future that looks like a better deal than joining a terrorist cult.

  • Bobo

    Thanks David,

    Given some reflection and clarification, I have one major question for Robb. Your prescription for ‘us’ to survive the destabilization of necessary infrastructure seems to be that we should place more emphasis on local food production: scaled-down self-sufficiency. But how will the ‘global guerrillas’ survive the tremors which they create? Aren’t they just as dependent on this infrastructure as we are? I might be wrong, but my impression of most of these groups is that they are upper-class, educated, idealistic, and completely not suited to labor such as farming.

    That said, it seems to me that any sort of ‘collapse’ model would require sustained harassment by the ‘global guerrillas’. I would tend to think that they are more vulnerable to the effects of infrastructure destabilization than the rest of the world is. This model would make any sort of sustained campaign impossible. The ‘global guerrillas’ would fade very quickly under the conditions they created. The rest of the world would barely feel the effects, and the whole thing would be deposited in an insignificant and forgotten chapter of history.

    Simply: Isn’t it in the very nature of these groups that the type of damage they cause is more damaging to themselves than the world? And if that’s true, what do we have to worry about?

  • http://StudentsForTheEarth.org joneden

    Did ROB say:

    We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid to Nigeria to Russia, stateless groups have emerged to score blow after blow against us. Facilitated by cultural fragmentation, sold out governments, legal insulation against harm to the environment, schooled in the most sophisticated technologies, and fueled by transnational flows of capital, these corporations are forcing individuals to develop new ways of defending themselves.

    I’m sorry, I got that all mixed up, didn’t I.

    Jon

    Connecting the dots: from human behaviors to ecosystem decline

    http://StudentsForTheEarth.org

  • nother

    “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.” –Colin Powell

    See what happens when you try to take things into your own hands. The US wanted to be a vigilante for the world, and it sounded good at the time; of course it has now become counter-productive. When you move away from a code of centralized ethics, it becomes a game of one-upmanship in badness.

    We see it out of Iraqi this week. The Iraqi soldiers don’t even see a debate when it comes to torture. It’s always the same argument – we have to speak the bad guy’s language. Speak it enough and you become the bad guy.

    So, my gut reaction is the opposite from Mr. Robb, I feel in this age of globalization that we need to strengthen the centralized security of the Security Council. It will be tough to swallow for the US because it will ultimately mean relinquishing some our cherished sovereignty. It’s the only way to keep the game fair.

  • herbert browne

    (quote, from BObo) ..”In democracies, the rich despise the disorder and anarchy of the state; at Thebes, for example, where, after the battle of Oenophyta, the bad administration of the democracy led to its ruin. At Megara the fall of the democracy was due to a defeat occasioned by disorder and anarchy..”-

    Interesting… I remember a quote, something to the effect that ..”the poor resent being governed badly, while the rich resent being governed at all..” Based on my observances of oligarchy-heavy countries in Latin America, I’d say that it’s a fair statement.

    This “globalization” thing, it’s mostly about convincing other cultures that we’re on the right track, and then using them to crank out cheap labor & raw materials so that we can keep on being the Big User, right? And then we sell them “services”- like banking, telecom, insurance, so that they can eventually be like US- and then it’s their job to find another planet to ravage? I’ve watched the “!st World/ 3rd World” charade around the local port since the late 60s… and it’s still pretty much the same show. We export logs, grains, fruit, hides, pulp, scrap iron- and the occasional jumbo jet- an import shoes, purses, cars, TVs, skis, plastic flowers, etc etc. Up the coast (where the refinery is) they mostly import oil… So, what this has done is eliminated a mfg element in our community- and created a lot of “retail” (& other “service” sector work- what my friend calls “moving piles”). Of course, a lot of the “service” work now has its own “service work-force”- which is also “imported”… ^..^

  • herbert browne

    Salient feature of “double-edged swords” = everybody bleeds… ^..^

  • Yark

    Nothing to DO about terrrism?

    Hmmmmm – - maybe every other year (like on EVEN years) we give equal amounts of money to the Palestinians that we gave to the Israelis (like on the ODD years) the previous year. Perhaps that would be a START to convince the world that we are TRYING to be fair.

    And then Maybe redo that sweet (for our pals) deal and give the oil back to the Iraqis instead of 70% to Cheneyburtoxxinmobil…

    Then hand over a PROVEN KNOWN TERRRIST: Extradite Luis Posada Carriles!

  • PaulK

    When we have people running the White House who don’t care if they starve billions, and who declare wars for oil profits, we will just have to not take nationalism that seriously. Our genuine friends might be elsewhere.

  • Yark

    You assume that anti-terrrism activity is for our safety – - HA ! That is to make the people complacent about the {ever-more-fascist} control intruding on our society.

    Money is WAY more important than mere safety:

    Headline Today—>Safer chemical switch not required

    By BEVERLEY LUMPKIN — Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) New federal regulations for chemical facilities neither require nor encourage companies to switch from potentially dangerous chemicals to less hazardous substitutes, and that has some lawmakers and activists worried.

  • Garcia

    Private corporations and rich individuals providing their own security! Sounds like William Gibson’s science fiction novels, i.e. Neuromancer. So the rest of us chumps just get wiped out? Sounds like a way of recuiting more terrorists.

  • Locke

    I’m not sure if globilization is germane at all in this discussion. The underlying thesis is that there is us, and there is the other.

    “the bad people people out there are just as wired as the good ones”

    Presumably we are the good ones, and to protect ourselves in the absence of a functional state, we are to organize ourselves in defensible, sustainable enclaves.

    “rich corporations and individuals will lead the way”

    The other includes the masses that cannot fit within protected infrastructure. This construct brings to mind the dystopia Octavia Butler explored in her Parable series.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Robb’s central thesis (as explained by David above) seems to me to be highly flawed. The US military is the largest sanctioned terrorist organization on the planet and with its private industrial contractors it developed many of the advanced technologies that other terrorist groups (some trained and funded by the US military and CIA) are now starting to possess. What goes around comes around! Sections of the US government have also used these technologies to gather information about its own citizens. While all these terrorists do battle, civilians become innocent victims and democracy gets further trashed.

    Now Robb is suggesting that wealthier citizens and districts need to hire their own private militias, to protect themselves because the US military has let the devil out of the box and can’t control it. Isn’t this just more of the same fear tactic used after 9/11 to take away long fought for rights and boost the profits and status of the security industry?

    I have not listened to the show yet, but I hope Chris doesn’t let this character off lightly.

  • plnelson

    This “globalization” thing, it’s mostly about convincing other cultures that we’re on the right track, and then using them to crank out cheap labor & raw materials so that we can keep on being the Big User, right?

    Wrong.

    I’m sure I personally know far more Indians and Chinese than you do.

    Globalization, for them, means an end to an unbroken generational line of poverty. It means that a young man or young woman today, whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, ad infinitum, were poor peasants, can now be an engineer, a scientist, a doctor, a business manager, or an economist.

    Globalization is no longer just about cheap manufacturing labor – that idea is so 20th century. Today it’s about invention, design, discovery, ownership, and investment. I regularly collaborate with Indian and Chinese engineers on the design of new products. An Indian company just bought the last major UK steelmaker. The Chinese are about to start exporting Chinese-designed cars to the US. And as far as “big users” go, there are almost twice as many Chinese cellphone users today as American ones.

  • http://www.catsynth.com peoplestank

    Richard Clarke brought up the scenerio of people becoming more and more radicalized in reaction to technological advances, I guess that is the premise of his new book. But it’s a scenario that makes my blood boil, I found myself seething on the entire ride home about the “anti-modern” people, who may not be just the usual Christian and Moslem suspects, but the “left-leaning” hippies that in my home town here. The hysteria around cloning is just one example in the recent past. Is there any way we can stop the anti-modern trend? Are there other people around the world that we can reach out to help?

    I suppose this is a topic for a different hour…

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Nother wrote: See what happens when you try to take things into your own hands. The US wanted to be a vigilante for the world, and it sounded good at the time.

    I love most of what you write, Nother, but I do think you have too sentimental an idea about the goodness of your State (please be clear I am not talking about your Nation).

    For many people around the globe the US being vigilante never sounded good. It always seemed like a mask for a different agenda and now this has become clearer to more people in the US, though I think many people are against the war in Iraq because the US has all but lost it and it has had an opposite effect to that intended: it has destabalized.

    The need for the spacial expansion of global capital markets in order to avoid a crisis in capitalism goes hand-in-hand with some kind of “security” force guaranteeing transnational corporations access to resources and stable supplies and trade routes. This can be window-dressed as nation building or bringing democracy, but military and economic domination is what it is.

  • herbert browne

    (from pln) ..”I’m sure I personally know far more Indians and Chinese than you do..”-

    You are part of a great multicultural collaboration then… and that’s hopeful. Assuming the older cultures with whom you choose to collaborate have a great deal to share, how is your grasp of Hindi… and Mandarin? (I’m only into the 6-stroke characters, myself… and the way they squinch the radicals is still a tough visual…)

    (ibid) ..”Globalization, for them, means an end to an unbroken generational line of poverty. It means that a young man or young woman today, whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, ad infinitum, were poor peasants, can now be an engineer, a scientist, a doctor, a business manager, or an economist..”-

    Somehow, I can’t imagine that the Chinese & Indians have been able to do without doctors, scientists, economists, etc for all these millennia… but I know that they had civil servants…

    (ibid) “Globalization is no longer just about cheap manufacturing labor – that idea is so 20th century. Today it’s about invention, design, discovery, ownership, and investment..”-

    The Cutting Edge? Again? Maybe that’s where the Fun is, but the knife works poorly that has no blade- & no handle- just a “cutting edge”… (maybe a ‘virtual knife’ only needs a cutting edge, though…)

    (ibid) “I regularly collaborate with Indian and Chinese engineers on the design of new products. An Indian company just bought the last major UK steelmaker..”-

    Yes? They showed that they knew a metallurgical thing or two back when they were an “economic jewel in the crown”… comes around, goes around…

    (ibid) “The Chinese are about to start exporting Chinese-designed cars to the US..”-

    I’m sure they know what’s good for us (Actually, I’m sure a NUMBER of Asian countries know what’s good for us- or at least ABOUT us)…

    (ibid) ..”And as far as “big users” go, there are almost twice as many Chinese cellphone users today as American ones..”-

    Well, fair enough- since that’s where they’ll be coming from. What are the stats on “cycling cellphone users”? That would be an indication of the visionary wisdom of an enclave… and of their appreciation of the limits of The Marvelous.

    As someone who lived just upwind of our national Plutonium mfring site, the nature of security was an early awareness. Our parents were forbidden to discuss much of anything about work in “The Area” (of Hanford)- even after the war was over. Imagine, then, my surprise at learning of visits by Soviet nuclear engineers & scientists in the 70s, when it was still “off-limits” to the local citizens (who didn’t work there). This was a reason to suppose that a technigarchy might be a part of a foreseeable future for us all (but I was reading a lot of sci-fi in those days)… along with a Nation of College Graduates. Now, that’s Spooky! It’s kinda like what might happen if Everybody invested with the “Smart Money”…

    (from sidewalker) ..”The need for the spacial expansion of global capital markets in order to avoid a crisis in capitalism goes hand-in-hand with some kind of “security” force guaranteeing transnational corporations access to resources and stable supplies and trade routes. This can be window-dressed as nation building or bringing democracy, but military and economic domination is what it is..”-

    Amen to that… ^..^

  • Potter

    PLN- Ideas like this are bound to appeal to the survivalist crowd – including the modern suburban ones ready to circle their Lexuses and defend their gated communities from the hordes streaming out of the inner cities when it all goes down. And no doubt the Birkenstock-wearing green crowd with their hemp shopping bags filled with locally-grown organic veggies will welcome any argument against globalization.

    The first description leaves out the probablility that these folks are connected to the system you think we should have more of. The second absurd description reflects little understanding of what the anti-globalization argument is really about

    Learning how to grow one’s own food should be in the school curriculum. In the early 70′s I had a strong feeling that I should learn to do that and spent the next four years at it. I even forget what was going on in those days but we had some fears and discussed other survival plans having to do with escape and living on some island somewhere. I still have the book I bought on how to survive various conditions. When we went to Rangiroa a few years ago, the farthest from civilization we had ever been, it was revealing. You can live on the fish you catch and the coconut tree very nicely.

    I prefer civilization and all it’s discontents and hazards and amenities ( health care, without which I do not know if I would even be alive) until I can’t stand it. It may very well be that the best weapon against terrorism is an interconnected world ( as PLN says) but I feel better knowing how to survive if I am cut off from my connections. I always remember that pine trees are edible ( and I have my Euell Gibbons book at hand!) BTW- I find Birkenstocks very uncomfortable. And I forget my cloth bags for the supermarket too often but I do make a fewknots in the plastic ones before I recycle so that birds and other animal don’t get caught in them and also they don’t fly into the trees.

  • plnelson

    Somehow, I can’t imagine that the Chinese & Indians have been able to do without doctors, scientists, economists, etc for all these millennia… but I know that they had civil servants…

    There were very poor societies. On a per-capita basis they had very few of these and until recently if you were born a peasant you stayed a peasant despite the much vunted civil service exams of the Tang, Ming, etc Dynasties (the passing rate was about 2%). Today China has 6 times as many students majoring in engineering as the US (source: IEEE Spectrum). India has historically been tied up in into class and caste limitations that have locked people into poverty or occupational limits, but the needs of modern businesses and commerce are finally breaking these down. And both countries have placed grave restrictions on women that are rapidly being destroyed because of economic growth and the demands of globalization. My Primary Care Physician is an Indian woman and several of my engineering co-workers are Chinese women and I cannot imagine what their lives or opportunities would have consisted of 100 years ago.

    Globalization has been the most powerful force for liberation and liberalization that these societies have ever seen!

  • plnelson

    Learning how to grow one’s own food should be in the school curriculum.

    I think learning Mandarin should be in the school curriculum. All high schools around here require some foreign language study but the offerings are almost always European – French, German, Spanish. Some argument could be made for Spanish but we have so many Spanish speakers in the US that it barely qualifies as a “foreign” language. But China, with its 1.3 billion people, 10% p.a. GDP growth rate and vast worldwide network of ethnic and expat Chinese communities is what we really need to learn. And what foreign language do you think they study in China?

    As for growing your own food, I probably grow more of my own food than anyone else in this discussion! I’ve terraced a whole hillside on my property and I grow 3 kinds of squash, 2 kinds of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, basil, scallions, blueberries, raspberries (black and red), pears, apples, and red onions (plus various herbs).

    And while we’re on the subject of survival-preparedness, last year after a series of annoying power outages in my town I hired an electrician to install a transfer switch and I bought a generator powerful enough to run the whole house! Last week during the Nor’easter I finally had a chance to use it and it was WONDERFUL to go about our normal activities while the rest of the neighborhood was cold and dark.

    So I have nothing AGAINST preparedness – my POINT is that the solution to the world’s problems is not to isolate ourselves in safe little enclaves but, instead, to engage and embrace the world despite its risks because that’s the only way forward.

  • Potter

    PLN- no disagreement for the most part. I gather you agree that kids should learn to grow food?

    I have not cut down the trees yet (to heat the house) where I live now so I can’t grow food without sun- but that’s a choice to save song bird habitat and to have shade . My farming days were on an old colonial farm (c.1749) with plenty of aged manure under the barn. I grew enough veggies to last through the winters for five adults ( sort of extended family) and a baby. I taught my son where his food comes from age 2. He rode his “tractor” around my wire fence eating peas one by one picked from the pods I gave him.

    I do try tomatoes, 4 kinds and lettuce here now and then nevertheless and always garlic and herbs- but we can’t live on that. We have plenty of wild berries to forage, but not enough to survive without having to resort to eating the pines. There are cultivated berries and apples and peaches 2 miles away to pick. In a time of crisis one does not know what one would be narrowed down to.

    We store about 3 months worth of food- a good diet- in case we have to self-quarantine.

    Still when I think of preparedness, it has to be or should be more communal, national and global. It does not feel good to be the only one surviving (“ I got mine”) when everyone else is not. We need to be prepared even as we engage, not instead of and not isolating ourselves either.

  • plnelson

    Wow – it sounds like I was wrong – you really do grow more than I do! It’s nice to meet a fellow fanatic in that department – I keep wondering when my gardening hobby will flip over into small-time farming.

    PLN- no disagreement for the most part. I gather you agree that kids should learn to grow food?

    I think it’s a wonderful thing to learn but I know that I’m very lucky to own a house out in the exurbs where I have enough land to do this kind of stuff on. Also when I was a little kid I lived in in the country (central NH) and to this day the smell of cow-manure makes me nostalgic.

    Every year I have a dumptruck from a local dairy farm deliver a huge load of composted cow manure which I store in my “Strategic Cow$#!+ Reserve” (my answer to the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve). All my gardening is strictly “organic”.

    For most kids today anything to do with gardens and farms, the earth and the soil, involves a fieldtrip. The think that food is some kind of processed goop that comes in a box or a can and was made in a factory a few doors down from where their videogame and cellphone were manufactured.

    Yeah, the tree thing is a big conundrum. My house is on a hill and I’ve been terracing the south side of it for years and years to garden on. The hillside was bare so I didn’t have to cut down any trees to do it. But a group of big red oaks at the bottom have been getting bigger and bigger and now cast a substantial shadow over part of my garden. So I recently made the decision to cut one down and in preparation I girdled it so it won’t grow leaves anymore. It will be standing deadwood for awhile which is good because it can provide habitat for a few years while it seasons into firewood. It was a tough decision because it was a beautiful tree, but it was that or my garden. I guess I should plant something on the north side to make up for it.

  • http://MoreCommonProblems.blogpot.com demarconia

    “The third world war will start in the third world by people who have nothing left to lose”

  • Potter

    PLN- then you must have a copy of Rodale’s book on organic gardening- the bible. We are fortunate. Most people do not have the land to plant. But when I was growing up in NYCity and going to the public schools, every year, late winter in elementary school, we had a chance to order seed packets ( from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) – easy seeds like Nasturtium and Candytuft or Marigold- and then to wait anxiously to get them early Spring and plant in boxes and containers that we saved. We watched things grow on our windowsills. In the summers we fled to the cool Catskill Mountains and foraged for berries. Even living in a city atmosphere, kids can learn. For me, living close to the land was an advance.

    Yes good idea to plant another when you cut one down….

    Demarconia- I worry about that.

  • Potter

    PLN Forgot to say- off topic but since you mentioned Birkenstocks- in those days I did not wear Birkenstocks either- I wore Dr. Scholl’s clogs which were equally uncomfortable. These days I were Wellies.. almost year round.

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    Herbert Browne

    Salient feature of “double-edged swords” = everybody bleeds… ^..^

    Metaphorically, yes. Literally a double-edge sword allows you to slash at your opponent on the back swing without having to recover for another strike.

  • herbert browne

    Re “double-edged swords”- I see… more choppers than thrusters- AND a chance to put that spot-turn to good use, too, eh? Thanks, Brian… ^..^

  • pmalkus

    With regard to how people react to unexpected crisis, I highly recommend Jose Saramago’s book “Blindness”. It is a shocking, and I thought quite plausible, description of how people respond to ?@#% hitting the fan. It deals mostly with the EMOTIONAL response people have to calamity and chaos. I think it’s valuable to face the prospect of bad times realistically, to develop an appropriate MINDSET to prepare for dealing with them. Of course, doing what we can to avoid the PHYSICAL problem in the first place is a good idea. Good show.

  • http://vclosets.com mr. closets

    I think that Robb underestimates the probability that governments will ultimately find adequate tactics in response to global terrorism. Capitalism requires a stable environment to thrive, and wealthy capitalist based governments like the USA can devote enormous resources to finding and implementing solutions. The world Robb predicts resembles the Dark Ages of Europe and it will take more than isolated terrorist attacks to achieve that environment. mr. closets

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