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Securing the Commons


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Securing the Commons

  1. 1. JAMES HASIK Securing the Commons A working paper Monday, October 27, 2008 Abstract Securing the commons has been suggested as a paradigm for international security planning, and thus as a market for defense contractors to pursue. By securing the commons, we mean the joint safeguarding of those assets on which actors across the world depend for their common but different livelihoods, and which are most cost-effectively defended in common.The cost-effectiveness test is important, and leads to a risk-based approach to allied defense planning. Pursuing military markets for systems aimed at the security of the commons may provide relatively secure and sustained profitability if enthusiasm for nation-building expeditions subsides after military operations wind down in Iraq, and eventually Afghanistan.
  2. 2. What is securing the commons? Goods can be classified by rivalry and excludability, as illustrated by the chart below.1 Classically, common goods consist of assets, held jointly by groups, which are rivalrous but non-excludable.They are rivalrous because their use by one actor in the group diminishes what is available to another, but they are non-excludable because no single actor can be prevented, at least without an enforcement mechanism, from using them. Examples include unfenced pastureland and rivers whose fishing and water rights have not been delineated. Types of Goods excludable non-excludable rivalrous non-rivalrous private goods common goods club goods public goods Public goods are those that are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Examples include sea lanes, Internet encyclopedia entries, and (for practical purposes) clean air. Public goods can be despoiled by misuse, but their normal use does not meaningfully deplete them.Taken together, these two conditions preclude the operation of a market for the benefits. Markets can be developed by assigning enforceable property rights (such as patents), and estimates of the efficiency of those approaches vary with the goods and the implementation. Non-rivalrous but excludable things can be called club goods; cable television is an excellent example.And of course, rivalrous and excludable things can be termed private goods. Note that the use of the terms private and public do not necessarily refer to the ownership of the thing in question. Cable television can be provided by privately or publicly-owned stations, private goods can be owned or produced by government entities.The Macintosh and Linux operating systems are both Unix- based systems, but the former is a club good, while the latter is a public one. These classic economic definitions are helpful, but not entirely satisfying for the purpose of analyzing common defense, itself a public good by the schema outlined above. Common defense is further a non-rejectable good, in that no single actor in a particular geography or group can choose not to benefit from it.The common defense within any country is organized to protect those things which are more efficiently protected in common.Widespread ownership of firearms2 and the maintenance of local militias3 can provide security for individuals and self- Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 2 of 9 1 Here, I broadly follow a framework provided by the Experimental Economics Center of the Andrew Young School of Public Policy at Georgia State University. 2 See John R. Lott, Jr., More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2000) 3 See Jeffrey Record, Beating Goliath:Why InsurgenciesWin (Potomac Books, 2007) for an analysis of the importance of assistance from foreign governments to the success of insurgencies.
  3. 3. identifying groups, they are only partial substitutes for the organization of internal (police) and external (military) governmental security forces. With this in mind, we can propose the following definition: ————————————————————————————————— Securing the commons amongst nations is the joint safeguarding of those assets on which people across the world depend for their common but different livelihoods, and which are most cost-effectively defended in common. ————————————————————————————————— As one can imagine, this can encompass huge classes of assets and the networks that connect them. Sea lanes, airwaves, banking systems, pipelines, petroleum deposits, electrical distribution networks, the common frontiers of customs unions, and a host of other assets are more efficiently secured in common than by private actors, or even individually governments acting singly. For whatever the ownership or national domicile, the wide usage of the commons makes them attractive targets for actors who wish to impose costs on rival actors, particularly the constituents of governments at which they are at odds. What is securing the commons not? What remains is that which is defensible and worth defending, but which is not most efficiently defended in common, at least from a particular actor’s viewpoint. Securing the commons is not just collective security, but a narrower aspect of it. Most European governments jointly manage their internal security through the EU, and their external security (with substantially overlapping membership) through NATO. Extending that cooperation and its accompanying guarantees to the Ukraine and Georgia seems not fully appealing just now. Ensuring the unmolested flow of shipping around the Horn of Africa is widely perceived as a responsibility of NATO, the EU, or some collection of responsible parties. Rescuing millions of Somalis from the abuses of the pirates’ sharia courts does not, to most who consider it outside Somalia, seem so cost-effective. At least, that was arguably the communal, international sense of the situation when the UNOSOM II force effectively disbanded after the Battle of Mogadishu in 1994. Securing the commons might not include storming through Baghdad with armored battalions, and securing the country afterwards, unless the threat emanating from Baghdad were so great and wide that its defeat head-on by a coalition were most cost-effective than fencing it in through blockade over the long run.4 If Hussein’s despotism was insular, though, that of the Al-Qaedists harbored by the Taliban was comparatively boundless in its global ambitions, and thus attracted, at least after Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 3 of 9 4 For an argument as to how the war may have been cost-effective, see Steven Davis, Kevin Murphy, and Robert Topel,“War in Iraq versus Containment,” NBER Working Paper No. 12092, March 2006. It should be noted that the threat of Saddam Hussein’s acquiring twenty-five percent of global oil reserves through the conquest of Saudi Arabia was much of what prompted the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to launch their counterattack against him in 1991.
  4. 4. their signature attack on NewYork City and Washington DC in 2001, a larger (if less effectual) coalition of nations interested in suppressing them. Who threatens the commons? As Mancur Olson pointed out, all governments have the characteristics of stationary bandits, or mafiosi: they seize through the threat of force a portion of the assets of those whom they attempt to protect, whether the protection is desired or not.These, however, are quite preferable to roving bandits, which cannot financially farm their marks, so to speak, but can only endeavor to pillage before they burn.5 In theory, the global commons should not be so threatened by the stationary bandits who benefit from it, as by the roving bandits who have little use for it. This is what makes rejectionist international movements like Al Qaeda so pernicious. Grumpy men with long beards who live in caves and consider satellite television immoral care little for the networks of global progress.There is little to dissuade them from attempting to wreck what is valued by so many others.At the same time, while running them all to ground could take a great deal of time, their willingness to threaten so widely may bring large numbers of opponents against them, none of which, in theory, need spend to deeply to defeat them.They are, in this sense, enemies of the commons itself. What motivates attacks on the commons? In the rationalist viewpoint,6 the eruption of open warfare, whether over private or common assets, requires three conditions.All three are applicable when considering the security of the commons: ✦ Issue indivisibility. For two sides to go to war, they must be relatively unable to share the asset at issue.While the use of classical common goods can be regulated, this can sometimes be done only with great difficulty across international boundaries.Water rights and land use restrictions may be complicating Israeli-Palestinian relations, if these are not sufficiently complicated already. Britain and Iceland fought the three Cod Wars (1958, Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 4 of 9 5 See Mancur Olson, Power & Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist And Capitalist Dictatorships (Basic Books, 2000).As students of theVirginia School of political economy are apt to say, to analyze politics, one must remove the romance from it. For a comparison to another type of stationary bandit, see Diego Gambetta, The Sicilian Mafia:The Business of Private Protection (Harvard University Press, 1993) 6 See James D. Fearon,“Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization, vol. 49, no. 3 (1995), p. 379–414. It can seem easy and appealing to dismiss outnumbered and resource-deficient irregular opponents as irrational fanatics.The fanaticism, however, may only apply to the fervor with which they fight.The strategies and calculus may be quite rational within the enormity of their ambitions.
  5. 5. 1972, 1975–76) over fishing rights, if without any actual fatalities.7 While public goods are non-rivalrous, they can become the subject of strife when one side wants to convert them to club goods. Somali pirates are attempting to treat the Horn of Africa in just this way today, rather as the Dey of Algiers sought to treat the entire western Mediterranean two centuries ago.They simply are not willing to share the waters without a cut of the navigational proceeds. ✦ Informational asymmetry.Wars begin, Fred Iklé wrote, over a disagreement in two sides’ relative strengths, and they end when the warring sides come into agreement over who is more powerful, at least with respect to the situation at hand.8 The exit problem can be acute with global insurgencies against the international community. Fighting between those who thrive on international trade and norms, and those who live off the grid, so to speak, can be difficult to stop because each manages insufficient insight into the motives and values of the other. ✦ Inability to make credible commitments.9 In the interstate context, wars can occur even when agreements are possible if one side’s commitment to the agreement is not credible. In this context, wars against the commons can drag on for the same reason.Al Qaeda cannot surrender, because no member of its loosely structured organization has the authority to order the surrender, and none of its leadership could enforce it. Bound together only by an umma of Wahabism, transferring money by hawala, and divided into a highly cellular structure, the membership is difficult to track down, even for those who are supposed to be in charge. Attacks on the global commons can thus drag on even after the war against any particular network of insurgents has been effectively defeated. On the other hand, the commons to be secured are not quite anything political leadership chooses to defend. Under what conditions are the commons most readily secured? Some commons are more easily defended, and thus ultimately more common, than others. Elinor Ostrom’s framework for evaluating the likely future success of environmental security initiatives suggests criteria for evaluating the long-term common defensibility of globally relevant assets:10 Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 5 of 9 7 See Mark Kurlansky, Cod: a Biography of the FishThat Changed theWorld (Walker & Company, 1997) 8 See Fred C. Iklé, EveryWar Must End (Columbia University Press, 1991).Alternatively, a war could end with the complete annihilation of one side, but this has been comparatively rare in the modern world. 9 See Robert Powell,“Bargaining Theory and International Conflict,” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 5 (2002), p. 1–30 10 See Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge University Press, 1990)
  6. 6. ✦ Definable boundaries. Fisheries may not be too difficult to police with enough cutters, but they inherently difficult to demarcate efficiently. Fish swim past twelve mile limits and through economic exclusion zones without stopping to show their passports. Shipping lanes are easier for responsible parties to agree to respect, with local exceptions like that of the particular thalweg of the Shatt al-Arab, and the so-far amusing Canadian-American dispute over the so-called Northwest Passage. ✦ Small and stable community. Groups of actors cannot become too large before the incentives to shirk responsibilities lead to informal defections amongst too large a subset. NATO ‘s recent expansion eastward has made the alliance more sensible geographically, but may not have simplified decision-making. On the other hand, by adding countries which have recently been more enthusiastic about overseas combat missions, it has somewhat added to the roster of choices for assembling coalitions. ✦ Appropriate rules.These include incentives for responsible use and punishments for bad behavior.The Second Cod War ended when Iceland threatened to quit NATO, for the alliance seemingly could not prevent one member’s naval vessels from repeatedly ramming another’s. Much of the international discussion over the appropriateness of Chinese and Russian governmental participation in international institutions turns on how these governments can be induced to behave responsibly in their “near abroads,” such as the Caucasus, the Baltic republics,Taiwan, and the Spratly Islands. ✦ Resource dependence. Enthusiasm for collective security increases with one’s dependence on the particular shared resource.A succession of French governments have had less interest than American ones in policing petroleum- producing countries in part because they simply need petroleum less. High fuel taxes discourage consumption, the TGVs are all electrified, and fifty percent of that electrical power is produced by atomic energy.This could, in the long run, induce economically-minded actors internationally to lessen their dependence on aspects of the commons that they use disproportionately, if only to improve the likelihood of burden-sharing in the defense of what remains to be defended. None of this is groundbreaking, but it does point to how “coalitions of the sufficiently threatened” may be recurrently organized to tackle encroachments that cannot be allowed to stand. How have the commons figured in military history? Securing the commons has figured heavily in political considerations for centuries, and for the United States in particular.The four Intercolonial Wars which the American settlers waged on behalf of the government in London were largely disputes over territory, but until the end, they were mostly struggles over Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 6 of 9
  7. 7. unsettled territory that was still held and used in common.11 The first four wars which the United States waged as an independent but unified federation were entirely over freedom of navigation.12 The wars with Mexico and the Confederacy in the 19th century were mostly over the territorial expanse of the federation, and that with Spain in 1898 was in considerable part a miscalculation, if one justified internally by the abuses of Spanish rule in Cuba and the Philippines.The United States entered the First World War entirely over, again, freedom of navigation (this time for freedom from molestation by U-boats, which actually sank their targets without first demanding tribute).The end of the fighting started a long period of the United States’ endeavoring to make the world safe for democracy, or at least some form of it, from the Banana Wars of the 1920s through the restoration of the Emir of Kuwait in 1991. Intermittently, though, United States forces fought directly for a secure commons, as with their operations to enforce free passage in the Gulf of Sidra Incident against the Libyan Air Force in 1981, in the Persian Gulf against the Iranians in 1987, and again in the Second Gulf of Sidra Incident in 1989.The formation of the United States wide system of interlocking alliances, first and foremost with NATO from 1949, was a highly successful effort to fence in international communism until it would collapse of its own contradictions, largely by 1989. The inappropriateness of the term “Global War on Terrorism” aside, today’s campaigns are partly predicated upon the security of the commons.13 The fight against Al-Qaedists,Taliban, and unreconciled Ba’athists in Afghanistan and Iraq are partly justified by the need to secure the international commons for those who use it today (Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be allowed to become safe havens for global subversion), and partly by the so-called neoconservative view that the commons must be expanded for the benefit of all decent people.This seems hardly conservative at all, but ambitiously progressive. Rather,“a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the [Salafists] with unalterable counter-force at Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 7 of 9 11 These were the NineYears War, or King William’s War (1689–97); the War of Spanish Succession, or Queen Anne’s War (1702–13); the War of Austrian Succession, or King George’s War (1739–48); and the SevenYears War, or the French & Indian War (1754–63), which actually lasted, by some accountings, nine years. I use here the Quebecois term les guerres intercoloniales, as it seems more suitable than the American term French & Indian Wars, which overlaps in syntax with the last element in its sequence, the French & Indian War.The War of Austrian Succession was mostly a territorial dispute in the Americas, but is often called the War of Jenkins’s Ear for how it initially started.After the British brig Rebecca was seized in 1731 by the Spanish coast guard ship Isabela, Captain Julio León Fandiño allegedly sliced off the ear of his captive counterpart, Captain Robert Jenkins, with his sword. Some seven years later, Jenkins testified before Parliament in favor of war with Spain, producing the remains of his ear as an exhibit in his argument. 12 These were the Quasi War with France (1798–1800), the First Barbary War (1801–05), the War of 1812 (1812–15), and the Second Barbary War (1815). 13 Terrorism, as John Lehman frequently points out, is a tactic, not a movement, group, or government. Referring to the fight against Al-Qaeda as a ‘war on terrorism’ is like calling the Second World War in the Pacific a war against kamikazes.
  8. 8. every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world”14 would constitute a more conservative approach, arguably more efficiency-minded, and more conducive to global burden-sharing. The cost-effectiveness test naturally presents good news. Counterinsurgencies sometimes fail, whether for a failure to adapt strategically, poor leadership, the culture of the armed forces, public squeamishness, of a lack of political support.15 The commons—such as the high seas—are largely unmolested today because so many organized, industrialized actors worldwide have such a strong interest in maintaining their security. How do we determine what in the commons is most at risk? If cost and cost-effectiveness seem obvious tests for security planning, they may be analytically underused. In the first order of analysis, risk management is an exercise in evaluating the products of the probabilities of the occurrence of various unwanted events, the probabilities that they cannot be dealt with successfully when they do occur, and the costs that are then incurred subsequently. In the second order, the interdependence of individual risks—and beneficial, exogenous events—on other risks must be factored into the analysis, along with robust sensitivity analysis. If we consider international security first as by the need to secure of the commons, we may be advocating a partial shift away from capabilities-based planning, yet not a complete return to threat-based planning. Rather, we may propose risk-based planning as the approach by which to consider questions of force structure, basing, technological investments, and other aspects of military management. Note, though, that identifying risks and the best ways of dealing with them are somewhat sequential and separable problems.A shift to risk-based planning would not mean an abandonment of the practice of rooting out Salafists from their safe havens in some of the sketchier parts of the globe.A defense in depth which directly targets the worst of the bad actors may be more cost-effective than walling every border and ringing every power plant with anti-aircraft cannons. Drawing the perimeter around the commons, however, must be done without tactic admission of what lies beyond the pale: Dean Acheson’s infamous exclusion of South Korea from the United States’ westward security perimeter in his January 1950 speech at the National Press Club was taken in Pyongyang as a green light to attack south.16 Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 8 of 9 14 The words, save the substitution of Salafists for Russians, are those of George Kennan. See X,“The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs, July 1947 15 Ivan Arreguín-Toft, How theWeakWinWars:ATheory of Asymmetric Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2005).Toft’s work on what does and does not work in counterinsurgency should be taken with a critical eye: as recently as March 2007 he wrote that “it is far beyond too late to salvage a unified democratic Iraq friendly to U.S. interests.” For his latest on squeamishness, see the forthcoming Worse than Death:The [F]utility of Barbarism inWar. 16 The Bush Administration’s recent, comparable waffling over Taiwan has been similarly unhelpful.
  9. 9. What will be needed to defend the commons? Without such a comprehensive risk assessment, estimating what is required is pure guesswork, but we can comment by observing some trends amongst countries with governments that seem more risk-minded. For example, the emphasis in ground forces has been moving for some time towards motorized- and-protected infantry, light artillery, and rather smaller numbers of tanks. In naval forces, multi-purpose frigates and assault ships have been selling well, as European countries have relatively shifted towards an emphasis on overseas operations, and to some extend, towards quantity over quality. In air forces, the emphasis has been on rotary and fixed-wing transport aircraft, patrol aircraft, reconnaissance-strike drones, and fewer manned fighter aircraft. Persistence and presence have been highly valued, and amongst space forces as well, which may need more bandwidth, more redundancy, and space-based defenses for space-based assets. Moreover, across the spectra of environments, there is clear demand for more powerful C4ISR systems for intelligently exploiting vast amounts of information for “collaborate warfare.”17 The key issue here is organizing, training, and equipping adaptable forces that can swing from big wars to small wars.As Captain Neil Parrott of the US helicopter carrier Bonhomme Richard put it to National Defense magazine recently,“yes, we go to war.We can do that. But our real money is in the prevention of war.”18 Expenditure on systems needed to secure the commons may be considerably less variable over time, in that constant expenditure prevents the small wars from growing into big wars, at least in the economic context. Since financial bonanzas like the run-up in land forces spending seen in the past few years are difficult to predict, the security of the commons may present a more certain concept against which to plan investments for profitably meeting customer needs. Securing the Commons Monday, October 27, 2008 JAMES HASIK • • page 9 of 9 17 See David A. Fulghum,“Arming the Network: U.K. assembles its digital strike force at RAF Waddington,” AviationWeek & SpaceTechnology, 13 October 2008, p. 61 18 GraceV. Jean,“Disaster Relief: Naval forces see greater demand for large amphibious ships,” National Defense, October 2008, p. 24