Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let's call it The Civilitary

Every year there are natural disasters and accidents all over our world that do more damage to lives and property than any other kind of external threat. Yet we spend a tiny fraction of what we spend on the military to mitigate that far greater exposure. And many of those lives are lost simply because we cannot respond massively enough, quickly enough, or lack the logistics, technology, or equipment necessary to prevent it.

At the same time we have a world of nations growing ever more intwined and interdependent economically after having emerged from a long competitive adolescence of imperialism, nationalism, and xenophobia. They seem today more like a group of young adults impatient to thrive. There is a lot of rivalry, past grudges, and ideological bickering still going on, but its as if they've realized the only lasting way to settle their differences is to prepare to make some compromises and work them out. Fighting terrorism is police work; it should never be perceived as war because that legitimizes it as a tactic when it is nothing but a heinous crime. (If you hadn't noticed, the bushwhack blowback boondoggle backfired. Badly.)

We are presently looking for clever ways to collectively rid ourselves of the most aggressive and indiscriminate weapons because they honestly have no real utility for any nation anymore. (It may only be because killing enemies indiscriminately loses some appeal when they become customers, but lets count our lucky stars no matter what the reason!)

The first generation of kids to have grown up with the internet are starting to emerge into to a world with far less respect for the ideological baggage of their cultures. They see a world filled with avenues for creativity, enterprise, and discovery rather than sufficient reasons for conflict or hatred.

And we have a military-industrial complex that represents an enormously valuable intellectual property--a highly organized, coordinated, and deeply empowered team that could build a lot more than weapons. They could apply that expertise to engineering ways to save lives just as easily as take them. Well, okay, so maybe it's not just as easy. They'll still rise to the challenge and we'll have a more valuable MIC after they've mastered engineering things like levees that can be setup in minutes, spill containment and recovery systems, emergency structure reinforcement, massive rescue/evacuation and temporary housing deployment, mine collapse recovery equipment, etc. Whatever they can imagine that would be useful to save lives or property.

We should be looking for ways to create more meaningful connections between the people of all these nations and I started this blog by noting one of them: the need for an independent international organization to hold all free elections. (I think we need it here in America just as much as Iran apparently does--I'm not convinced our elections are completely kosher.) And if we're going to build an organization that we trust enough to conduct our elections, doesn't it make sense to add emergency response and recovery as well?

The world as a whole can afford a far better response capability than any single nation. There is no easier time to overcome one's prejudices than during an emergency when something clicks and people instantly morph into something more like ants--willing to give their all to work together with someone they despised just a moment earlier. It's an amazing thing, an emergency. Because a bond formed that way doesn't break very easily. The respect earned in those moments seems to permanently undermine the ability to restore any prior alienation.

There has never been a time better suited to form an organization like the civilitary I'm trying to describe here. A sort of mirror image of the military. Instead of a bunch of competing enterprises looking for the best ways to defeat each other, they are one cooperating team of people independent of all nations and looking to protect mankind as a whole. I imagine it would be more rigorous, lower paying, and even riskier than a military career. Because we won't need a lot to attract people. A civilitary would most likely become the most sought after employment there is because of the enormous honor that serving in and later being a veteran of it would convey. If there is honor in being willing to die to defend your nation by preparing and standing ready to fight its human enemies, there must be more in taking the same steps to defend all nations and people against the many natural enemies our world periodically manufactures. I'm betting that engineering better ways to save lives is just a lot more fun than looking for more efficient ways to destroy them.

I see it as an enterprise designed to train and deploy some fraction of the world's young adults for two to six years after high school, keeping the best of them for permanent roles. For them it's an unbelievable chance to travel around the world, get to know many cultures from the perspective of an ambassador of aid, form lasting ties with other young people from all over the world, and learn skills that will remain useful all their lives. For the rest of us it's a better solution to a threat we all face every day. We benefit the most by having a lot more response for the same or lower cost. We benefit from the cross pollination of perspectives, ideas, and cultures that the returning veterans will bring back with them. There will be more marriages between peoples from different nations, and a steadily growing awareness of the entire community of mankind by all nations. It would be a large step towards engineering a new world order that finds cooperation enormously easier than conflict.

Lastly, it generates a deep and meaningful hope across mankind just by proposing it. And at a time when such a jolt would do a lot all by itself to stimulate the world's gloomy economies and spark a more intense flame to illuminate other opportunities to engineer peace. It would be many months before talks could even begin to flesh out the form and legal status of such an organization. And many years before all the treaties and physical infrastructure necessary to deploy it could be ready. But from day one the economic impact would kick in, from simply uplifting the spirits of everyone on earth, to mobilizing the entire world's current rescue and recovery infrastructure into studying how to make such a transition. And periodic stories of the progress would renew that optimism throughout its development.

The crisis in Iran proved something fundamental has already changed about our world--those lines you see on the map are beginning to fade. The vast bulk of humanity is growing weary of all the many ways our ancestors found to artificially divide us. They can see we're all the same. We all just want the opportunity to live in peace and pursue our dreams. Let's seize the genuine reasons we have to work together by more aggressively developing them.

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