Winning The Long Peace

The most important long-term action to prevent terrorism is to close as many as possible of the open political wounds that allow mass murderers to think of themselves as fighting for a cause, transforming largely ineffective psychopaths into potentially very effective terrorists.

Serious long term work on finding peaceful, equitable solutions to issues like Israel, or the bloody borders of Islam, or Maoist insurgency in places like Nepal should be thought of as parallel to Cold War efforts to restrict Soviet bloc power: a long haul project to be passed forwards through generations. The policy of containment was never designed to be an overnight success.

This long-term peace building process is based on the understanding that a political situation which produces effective terrorists anywhere is a problem everywhere. A clear example of this is LTTE ("Tamil Tigers") who are held responsible for the invention of suicide bombing and are currently experimenting with using light planes as bombers. It is clear that terrorist R&D is conducted globally, not locally, because they are united by technique and not by ideology. But one cannot hope to stamp out a technique of war - only to remove the perception of just cause and turn these people back into ordinary criminals.

Any individual "cause" could eventually give rise to the leadership, will and technical capability to hit America, particularly if supported by hidden nation state backers. It took 60 years for Arab anger about Israel to contribute to the US taking a serious blow, but it did eventually happen.

"The Long Peace" is an alternative model to the "Long War." The "Long War" envisages defeating terrorism by depleting terrorist resources until they no longer function effectively. However, given the relatively low start-up costs of a new terrorist group this seems likely to be a fruitless long-term strategy. The "Long Peace" suggests an alternate model: focus on converting the passive support base of terrorists by multi-decade programs to settle the conflicts which give rise to terrorism, coupled with active outreach on issues like global poverty, AIDS and the environment to get the US the broad popular support that it will take to finally win the war on terror.

Vinay Gupta, Winning The Long Peace. He has some great, concrete proposals for how the US can constructively contribute to world security:

A first concrete instance: what if American embassies the world over issued extremely hard identity credentials to people - US citizens or otherwise?

This is a function typically strongly associated with conventional nation states, but in this age of ICT, there are no technical problems in issuing a biometric identity card to any person who asks for one...Obviously such an identity credential has many positive security implications.

Outsourcing certain kinds of regulations and research is the legislative equivalent of pegging a currency to the dollar. For example, a developing world country could state that their banned chemical list will be the same as the US list of 20 years ago except in the case of new urgent discoveries.

Winning with good products instead of bombs - now that's the American way! Unlikely to ever happen, but I bet it would be far more effective. As Vinay says:

There is no human intelligence network like a population which genuinely supports America and has a vested interest in America's continued prosperity and survival.

Share this

I'm not sure what the author is trying to say

I'll confess I haven't read the entire essay, so I don't know the details. I do think that certain actions can go a long, long way toward popularity. For example, I think Bush should be making a big show of sending aid to China right now. Make the aid so gaudy that people will have to notice. Same with Myanmar (assuming that govt actually lets the aid get there). Natural disasters are morally stark; there's no ambiguity about what needs to be done. Use the opportunity to make friends.

International ID

This is a function typically strongly associated with conventional nation states, but in this age of ICT, there are no technical problems in issuing a biometric identity card to any person who asks for one...Obviously such an identity credential has many positive security implications.

"Positive" for whom?

This proposal for a "hard" biometric ID card issued by the United States federal government for "security" applications would be universally condemned by libertarians as the worst sort of Stasi-statism if its primary intended audience were Americans. How does the surveillance state get any more "positive" when it's exported to foreign countries?

Meh, libertarian concerns

Meh, libertarian concerns with privacy are often overblown. The author explicitly structures his scenario as voluntary. Of course, there is always the slippery slope argument, but a slippery slope argument is a weak leg to stand on absent a sufficient explanatory mechanism.

Simply replace "U.S. government" with "trusted third party institution", like Visa or Mastercard. A system of public-key cryptography might be even better, since it doesn't rely on any single third-party.

Either way, I don't see how better identification is necessarily inimical to liberty. It also engenders trust - which is precisely why I'm able to pay for something on credit when visiting a foreign country even though I am very unlikely to ever interact with that particular shopkeeper again.

Identity

Either way, I don't see how better identification is necessarily inimical to liberty.

I believe you are correct insofar as you assume, as you did here, that you are in control of your identity.

The libertarian condemnation is when your identity is controlled by the government. They can define who you are (e.g. whether DHS has set the "Subversive" flag on your record because of your last blog post) and how it is accessed ("I'm sorry, I can't let you open a bank account here and by law I'm not allowed to tell you why.")

Such pervasive controls are dangerous stuff.

The libertarian

The libertarian condemnation, in this case and in others, is not just restricted to cases where one's identity is controlled by the government. Some libertarians seem to get upset whenever privacy is weakened, whether it be by government or private action. (I had a blog post on this topic about libertarian privacy watchdog Claire Wolfe a few years ago, but I can't find it anymore.) And the very plausible reason for this is because they fear a slippery slope phenomenon taking place whereby once the information is publicly available, the government will have access to it and take advantage of it.

And notice that even when privacy is weakened directly by the government, this still isn't reason for concern on privacy grounds, until we bring slippery slope rationales into the equation. No one really cares what the government or anyone else knows about us; we only care when someone has the power to act on this knowledge. Deny that power and you deny any harm that can come from that knowledge.

So to take your examples, I couldn't care less if the government is keeping tabs on my blog posts, so long as they can't do anything to me as a result of this knowledge.

Security implications

Micha:

The author explicitly structures his scenario as voluntary.

I hear that you don't, legally speaking, have to sign up for a Social Security Number, either. The problem is just that, if you refuse to, there are a lot of things that the government will just happen to keep you from doing.

Suppose that the U.S. government gets into the business of producing biometric identification cards aimed (as the author explicitly suggests) especially at developing countries where the local regime doesn't really have the resources to issue those kind of "hard" identification papers without help from richer and more efficiently organized states.

Who do you suppose would be the primary "customers" for a "service" like that? (1) Willing customers who just happen to want an absurdly detailed ID card for "security" in their day-to-day business, or (2) unwilling customers who are either directly or indirectly forced to get that absurdly detailed ID card because the regime in the country where they live now requires everybody to get this biometric ID card as part of its coercively imposed "security" procedures?

A "service" like this is sure to have "positive security implications" for the primary consumers of "security" technology today. But those are governments, not ordinary citizens, and the degree to which they are able to carry out their "security" schemes has little or no connection with positive outcomes for ordinary citizens' safety or quality of life.

Simply replace "U.S. government" with "trusted third party institution", like Visa or Mastercard.

Oh, come on, you know better than that. I may as well argue that government welfare is a great idea, because, hey, if you replace "U.S. government" with "voluntary mutual-aid societies," then I'd be describing a voluntary and potentially valuable service.

Governments don't have the same incentives, the same structure, or the same partners and allies as private organizations. Not surprisingly, even though Visa or Mastercard could in principle already be issuing "hard" global biometric identity cards like this, they aren't, because it doesn't pay to do so, if your incentives depend on voluntary customers, and are based on making money rather than on geopolitical power and "security."

Either way, I don't see how better identification is necessarily inimical to liberty.

It's not. However, more relentless government surveillance is. And that's the primary thing that any government-issued biometric ID scheme being put into effect for its "security implications" is going to facilitate.

Oppose the abuse, not the technology

The problem is just that, if you refuse to, there are a lot of things that the government will just happen to keep you from doing.

Sure, and that's an argument against the government being selective in how it sells/promotes/distributes the technology. But the technology itself is not objectionable, any more so than it would be objectionable for the government to offer 3rd-party credit checks and then later abuse credit ratings for other, nefarious purposes. The objection wouldn't be against credit ratings; it would be against government abuse.

Of course, government abuse is a serious and very plausible worry. But that's true with anything the government does. Privacy is nothing special, and libertarians get tripped up when they fail to separate the technology from the promoter.

A "service" like this is sure to have "positive security implications" for the primary consumers of "security" technology today. But those are governments, not ordinary citizens, and the degree to which they are able to carry out their "security" schemes has little or no connection with positive outcomes for ordinary citizens' safety or quality of life.

Actually, I think it may be just the opposite. Private provision of contract enforcement seems to thrive when new and better methods of identity (and thus reputation) verification are established. The international law of merchants that made cross-border free trade possible hundreds of years ago is in a sense the forefather of modern credit agencies. In any future system of fully private, fully free-market law and contract enforcement, technological and social advances in identification, reputation, and security will all be a boon for liberty. And it often seems like these kinds of advances in reputation verification move us closer from a statist world of contract enforcement to a free, market-based world. Government policemen have less to do (well, less legitimate things to do) when bail-bondsmen do it for them.

Not surprisingly, even though Visa or Mastercard could in principle already be issuing "hard" global biometric identity cards like this, they aren't, because it doesn't pay to do so, if your incentives depend on voluntary customers, and are based on making money rather than on geopolitical power and "security."

It doesn't pay to do so yet. But I can easily envision a day when biometric becomes sufficiently cheap and noninvasive that credit card companies and other free market institutions offer lower rates and other benefits to customers who are willing to confirm their identities and reduce the risk of identity fraud. Just as I can easily envision a day when rfid tags become cheap enough and small enough to put in practically every object we wish to keep track of.

I wish I could find the post now, but one of my first blog posts on privacy here at Catallarchy was one criticizing libertarian privacy watchdog Claire Wolfe for getting all up in arms about private companies like Wal-Mart developing better and cheaper rfid tags. Libertarians often fear the panopticon, but they really shouldn't - sousveillance goes hand in hand with it.

Re: Oppose the abuse, not the technology

Micha,

I'm not sure I've succeeded in making my point clear to you.

Sure, and that's an argument against the government being selective in how it sells/promotes/distributes the technology.

(1) My primary concern about this scheme is not with the actions issuing government (the U.S.). If the U.S. government started issuing some form of international biometric ID, it might very well do something fucked up with that (like incorporating that into its border-Stasi system). But the primary concern I was expressing has to do with how the issuing government would be facilitating more intensive government surveillance by other governments in the name of "security." The point is that the more or less inevitable outcome of the U.S. government providing this kind of ID according to the political and state-security incentives that it faces is that other governments would take advantage of it by beefing up their surveillance regime and forcing their own citizens to become unwilling clients for state-security purposes.

(2) I'm baffled by your suggestion that you could somehow prevent the government from being selective in how it sells/promotes/distributes these ID cards. How? No government "service" in the world is like that. And now government "service" is ever likely to be. Especially not a government service that most directly impacts the fortune of this governments primary allies, beneficiaries, and partners in crime -- viz., other governments.

But the technology itself is not objectionable,

I didn't say that the technology was objectionable. I said that having the U.S. federal government promote and distribute it is objectionable. If some private company were issuing IDs like these, I probably wouldn't buy one (I don't need that kind of ID for anything that I currently do, and I'm very impatient with paperwork), but I wouldn't be lodging the same complaints against it.

Of course, government abuse is a serious and very plausible worry. But that's true with anything the government does.

Sure, I agree with that. There's a simple solution: don't propose for the government to do anything at all.

Government "services" are never going to be anything but corrupt, stupid, inefficient, selective, tilted to political advantage, and often quite dangerous. Why waste one's breath on proposing new ones, or let government off the hook by pretending that they could somehow be done "right" this time?

If you want biometric ID cards, start trying to sell your idea to entrepreneurs or start designing your own. Nobody's stopping you. What possible benefit is there to pushing the idea of having the U.S. federal government do it instead?

In any future system of fully private, fully free-market law and contract enforcement, technological and social advances in identification, reputation, and security will all be a boon for liberty.

Sure. But the first clause of that sentence is the most important part, and it's precisely the part that's dropped in the proposal I'm objecting to.

Technological and social advances are, as a rule, only broadly beneficial when people are free to accept them, reject them, modify them, or adapt to them on their own terms and at their own pace. The uptake of cell phones in impoverished areas is a good example. The emergence of signature-confirmed credit cards in the U.S. and Europe is another. New ID schemes pushed by the government and implemented for their "positive security implications" are not. The "security implications" for which these IDs would be have nothing to do with ordinary people's uncoerced choices or everyday needs, and everything to do with new surveillance and new requirements imposed on them by a government "security" apparatus.

Micha: And it often seems

Micha:

And it often seems like these kinds of advances in reputation verification move us closer from a statist world of contract enforcement to a free, market-based world. Government policemen have less to do (well, less legitimate things to do) ...

Like that's ever stopped them.

Anyway, the proposal wasn't a proposal for giving government agencies fewer things to do. It was for giving a government agency more things to do (viz. designing and issuing biometric ID for absolutely anybody in the world).

Uh...it's the difference

Uh...it's the difference between forced and voluntary. Which I hear makes a big difference to libertarians. You know, like the difference between the FDA and a private certification agency.

Forced and voluntary

Patri:

Uh...it's the difference between forced and voluntary. ... You know, like the difference between the FDA and a private certification agency.

See above.

The proposal was to issue "hard" biometric international ID cards for their "positive security implications." Who do you think are going to be implementing the "security" procedures that require ID cards like that to be presented -- private businesses or governments?

Who implements most security procedures and imposes most ID requirements now?

The reason I currently have to present my papers at the airport, or when I open a bank account, or when I start a new job, or when I go to a bar, or what have you, almost never have anything at all to do with policies voluntarily adopted by private businesses. How about you?

When I open up my wallet,

When I open up my wallet, the vast majority of ID cards I see in it are not government issued - I count my credit cards, university ID, various men's clothing store discount cards, movie club cards, Blockbuster card, supermarket cards, restaurant frequent customer buy-10-meals-get-one-free cards, gas station cards...

There are different levels of identity

Supermarkets issue cards with weak or nonexistent proofs of identity, and supermarket cards have been explained as loyalty cards. For the loyalty card to serve its function, it is not critical that the person it is issued to is the unique individual who was born in Hospital X at hour Y day Z. Even credit card companies don't absolutely need to know who you were before you became their customer. If they know nothing about you they will start you off with a low credit limit, and as you prove your value and trustworthiness to them, in your dealings with them, they will raise your credit limit. While credit card companies will initially treat people with an established credit history better than people without, that established credit history does not have to trace you back to the hospital you were born in.

In contrast, governments regularly ask for birth certificates before they pass out IDs. I recall needing one to obtain a passport. So there are differences in the sort of identification that businesses and government use. (The reality may be more complex than I have described but I think that as a matter of need, what businesses need is not the same as what government needs.)

I agree, there are indeed

I agree, there are indeed different security levels in identity confirmation. So what?

Much of the difference, I suspect is that, in the absence of coercion, private companies have to make the process cheap, quick, easy, and in general as painless as possible if they want people to comply, whereas governments don't face the same sort of market costs. If, for example, my supermarket demanded that I use a single loyalty card they initially gave me based on proof of birth certificate before I could complete any purchase with them, instead of a choice to use one of multiple cards, in convenient wallet or key-chain format, with no proof of identity other than home telephone number, or a choice not to use any card at all, then I probably would no longer shop at that supermarket and would find someplace else more convenient.

But as identity confirmation technology becomes cheaper, and it constantly is, we will, and are, seeing more secure forms of ID being incorporated into non-government, every-day uses.

The government is able to get away with requiring the pesky sort of ID long before it is efficient to use because the government doesn't face market costs like normal institutions do.

We already have a mechanism

We already have a mechanism for avoiding foreign terrorist attacks. Keep troops out of other countries. Notwithstanding the propaganda, EVERY country attacked by Muslim terrorists has had a military presence in Muslim countries. Pull out US troops and remain neutral wrt foreign disputes. This has worked for many countries like Switzerland. It is a deliberate lie to claim the US can't pursue this strategy too.

Depends what you mean by

Depends what you mean by "can't". Sure, it's physically possible. But state actions are not governed by physical possibility but by the incentives faced by individuals participating in a shared hallucination. It may be that there is no workable political way to get isolationism, but there is a workable political way to improve how the US conducts its world cop conduct.

Improve how the US conducts

Improve how the US conducts its world cop conduct? Is the dichotomy supposed to be between isolationism (or did you actually mean non-interventionism?) and being a better world cop?

What an awful set of options.

And whether something is "workable" depends on a sufficiently large number of influential political types believing it can be. At least if we're talking about things that are physically possible, but arguably not "workable". Change the hallucination, as it were, to, you know, something approximating the Old Right in this case.

Follow The Money

If the US ended its Aid To Dependent Dictators programs, there would be a lot more countries with functioning economies. Before we start worrying about what great charitable acts the government could perform, we have to remember that we're talking about the same people that gave Pol Pot money AFTER he committed genocide.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/walker1.html

Open Political Wounds

"The most important long-term action to prevent terrorism is to close as many as possible of the open political wounds that allow mass murderers to think of themselves as fighting for a cause, transforming largely ineffective psychopaths into potentially very effective terrorists."

That sounds incredibly stupid. Especially when the terrorists are members of a religion that has perpetutally open political wounds as part of it's tenets. For example, Allah claims that Muslims should rule over non-muslims. So whereever non-muslims are free that becomes an open political wound.

All Jews and Christians are

All Jews and Christians are members of religions that have perpetually open political wounds as part of their tenets, depending on how you interpret their tenets. The vast majority of Jewish denominations, and many Christian denominations, believe that Israel divinely belongs to the Jewish people. Given that the legal boundaries of the State of Israel is an open political question, being fought over by religious zealots not all of whom are Islamic, the only thing that sounds incredibly stupid here is Muslim-bashing.

Hi, I'm the author of this piece

You should read the whole proposal, here

http://guptaoption.com/4.SIAB-ISA.php

which details, exhaustively, how to combine biometrics and cryptography with a rights-respecting, division-of-powers based legal framework to generate a biometric security framework which is good *enough* to counteract wholescale loss of civil rights in the face of the upcoming onslaught they face from technologies like cheap DNA fingerprinting devices.

Check it out, I think you'll like it.

>You should read the whole

>You should read the whole proposal

What? And interrupt our rants about things that everyone knows (but admittedly never studies... even Patri has no concept of the size of off-the books foreign aid)?

Thanks for the link!