Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Westphalia, Joschka Fischer, and Networks

Does the Treaty of Westphalia still have a hold on a world wherein nation-states are in some sense being replaced by distributed networks of people? Traditional boundaries are being skipped in many ways, not the least of which is terrorist organizations. Wretchard expands on this: "Viewed from one angle, modern Islamic terrorist cells are not so much a return to the forms of the 8th century as new structures made possible by 21st century technologies." A few very thoughtful pages follow. (Some of the comments are also worth reading.)
Note this paragraph:

"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."

Discussions - 3 Comments

Fascinating. When I was in grad school, and teaching talented young ROTC students, one of them informed me that, as part of their republican military training, they were trained to replace - and in some cases actively defy - their superiors on the assumption that one day that the command structure would have to get revolutionized. Sounds like a great way to train for net-war.

Let me recommend, once again, Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts on this theme. Kaplan and the Special Forces soldiers with whom he lived complain about the military bureaucracy, but when they’re left alone to do what they do best, they’re exceptionally good at their jobs.

While I’ve never really bought the idea, most of the Abu Ghraib & Gitmo torture dismissers (separate from the deniers and defenders also to be found here) have usually claimed that POW or detainee torture or gross mistreatment committed by our troops was committed by the (standard) "few bad apples," and that it wasn’t approved of or ordered by leadership above them, as in it didn’t come from military bureaucracy. However, if your theory is true, then shouldn’t the torture episodes give us some idea of the downside of what the troops can or will do when "they’re left alone" or "when largely left to their own devices," - it’s not exactly inspirational, higher-calling stuff. Of course, this wouldn’t apply if the torture performed by soldiers could be attributed to military leadership or orders from civilian leaders, or if we perform a Clintonesque maneuver and redefine "torture" into a completely meaningless concept, in which case there’s no problem at all.

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