Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Global Commons

More genius from The Belmont Club:

The foundation of American power, wrote Gary Posen in 2003, was far deeper thana mere preponderance in its current military or economic power. It lay in what he called the Command of the Commons -- made possible by "all the difficult and expensive things that the United States does to create the conditions that permit it to even consider one, two, or four campaigns".

The U.S. military currently possesses command of the global commons. Command of the commons is analogous to command of the sea, or in Paul Kennedy’s words, it is analogous to “naval mastery.” The “commons,” in the case of the sea and space, are areas that belong to no one state and that provide access to much of the globe. Airspace does technically belong to the countries below it, but there are few countries that can deny their airspace above 15,000 feet to U.S. warplanes. Command does not mean that other states cannot use the commons in peacetime. Nor does it mean that others cannot acquire military assets that can move through or even exploit them when unhindered by the United States. Command means that the United States gets vastly more military use out of the sea, space, and air than do others; that it can credibly threaten to deny their use to others; and that others would lose a military contest for the commons if they attempted to deny them to the United States. Having lost such a contest, they could not mount another effort for a very long time, and the United States would preserve, restore, and consolidate its hold after such a fight. ...

The United States enjoys the same command of the sea that Britain once did, and it can also move large and heavy forces around the globe. But command of space allows the United States to see across the surface of the world’s landmasses and to gather vast amounts of information. At least on the matter of medium-to-large-scale military developments, the United States can locate and identify military targets with considerable fidelity and communicate this information to offensive forces in a timely fashion. Air power, ashore and afloat, can reach targets deep inland; and with modern precision-guided weaponry, it can often hit and destroy those targets.

Internet Dominance...
Mastery of the sea, outer space and the air: these concepts are easy enough to understand -- what other "Commons" could there be? But as anyone who lives in this information age can testify, all of us now live on the edge of a pathway to other conciousnesses connected by the one thing as influential in the 21st century as the Mahanian sea was in the 19th: the Internet. Today, the Internet provides the highway for many of the essential activities of modern life: email, file-sharing, audio and video streams, VOIP telephony and the World Wide Web. Yet unlike the sea, cosmos and air which are primeval, the Internet is wholly man-made, and though it belongs "to no one state" it provides "access to much of the globe". Is the Internet another one of the Global Commons and what would it mean to command it?

That's only about a quarter of this post from May 10th.


A lot to digest (I just got to it now).

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