Gail Williams (gail) Fri 11 Jan 02 09:33
Good point. We spent the soviets into submission. Can't do that with enemies who don't have to purchase the usual shopping lists of government, to deal with infrastructure and social needs, who are diffuse and distributed enough to not really even need defense spending per se. Just low-budget offense and minimal coordination, if any.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 11 Jan 02 10:12
Yeah, I've been wondering what the victory condition looks like. We might win this. It sounds farfetched now, but it was also supposed to be impossible to have *conventional* military predominance. But the US most definitely achieved that: unrivalled, overwhelming, conventional military power, on a global scale. If you went and asked Grant or Pershing or Eisenhower or MacArthur about our situation now, they wouldn't call us victims; they'd say we were in Oz. If guerrilla assaults were supposed to be the be-all and end-all, nobody would have invented armies. Anybody can be a terrorist and yeah, it's cheap -- but armies have profound advantages. Simple advantages, like logistics and a tax base. Unlike terrorists, generals don't have to twitch in their sleep and trade bedrooms every night. Their files are safe. There's a chain of command and a career path. There's professional esprit de corps. And compared to conspiracies, armies are huge. Robin Hood gets a lot of admiring press, but y'know, there are still law enforcement officials in Nottingham. Robin's not around. The US military kinda gets it about guerrillas. They can do guerrilla. It's in the doctrinal manuals for small unit engagements. If you want to hide in the mountains and ambush convoys in the dark, they'll hide in the mountains and ambush *your* convoys in the dark, only they get night-vision goggles and Kevlar body armor and satellite phones. People always claim that the US gets bored fast, but so does everybody else. The US has outlasted a lot of enemies. Iran was a fanatical Islamic revolutionary state back in the 1970s. They couldn't keep the fervor up. The kids born in Iran since then despise their own regime and envy the diaspora kids. You've got to be pretty goddamn keyed up to be willing to blow yourself up at a moment's notice for decades on end. Iran might well decide that theocracy is a shuck and cave in, Soviet-style. Then what is a mujihadeen to do? At some point it gets simpler to put down the gun and get a job -- assuming you haven't ruined your society so thoroughly and utterly that there's no such thing as a job possible. And who knows, maybe at that point the Diaspora floods back in and just buys everything. Maybe that is the victory condition: Very Nervous New World Order. If the USA, Europe, Russia and China all agree that only rogue states shoot each other, and if they all get behind the same surveillance screen while the common enemy is an abstraction called "Terror" (rather than actual nations), well, that's a huge transformation. We might be paranoid a lot of the time and even lose the occasional city, but that's a vast geo-strategic advance over the pre-Sept 11 status quo. It would be World Peace. Only nobody would call it that. They'd call it New War. All the militarists would all think they were just as tough-minded as they'd ever been. They'd strut and bristle just like they always had, only there would never be another Eastern Front. Never another Normandy, another Somme. It would be the Empire of Permanent Emergency.
Gail Williams (gail) Sat 12 Jan 02 11:26
The Empire of Permanent Emergency. Wow. There's rich design opportunity. Is that a logo, or a Coat of Arms? Plus a perma-crisis theme song, half-anthem, half-jingle... something peppy but inspiring, so it can be sung at baseball games and other sporting events, musically similar to the Roto-Rooter "away goes trouble down the drain" tune. All kinds of possibilities there. And then there's the cover art for that massive, dusty unpublished treatise, Just Not Now: Civil Dissent in the Empire of Permanent Emergency.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 12 Jan 02 12:59
Yes, it's been fun, hasn't it? I have to leave this discussion now, as it is incumbent upon me to fly to Washington. I have to meet some people there who do not want anyone to know that I have been talking to them. Luckily, a magazine that will also go unnamed is paying me to do this. Someday we'll look back on all this and laugh. This is also the last day of the Viridian Design Contest for a new logo for Enron corporation. Soon I will have to figure out who wins this contest. If you have a firm idea on the subject, send me email. To firstname.lastname@example.org The contest: http://www.bomoco.com/Viridian/Enron/Enron.htm Oh, and here's my new blog. http://www.infinitematrix.net And my WELL home page. http://www.well.com/conf/mirrorshades/ And the Viridian Design site. http://www.viridiandesign.org That ought to keep you busy. Gotta pack now. Don't be a stranger!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 12 Jan 02 16:18
Thanks, Bruce! And thanks to all who jammed with us this go-round.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 12 Jan 02 18:17
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