Saturday, June 9, 2018

Scandinavian Military Conscription: Cyberattacks & the Failure of Diplomacy

Sweden recently enacted mandatory military service, following Norway's lead. Both countries claim they must be ready in the face of renewed Russian threats, but Crimea's one-off aside, it's hard to believe higher troop counts will prevent continued cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns. The truth is the United Nations' failure to create a deterrence framework for cyberattacks has opened the door for useless and counterproductive military expansion and recruitment. 

Notwithstanding diplomatic shortcomings, cyberattacks present substantial and difficult problems under the military's existing approach of deterrence. For example, when should a country launch physical attacks against another country's cyberattacks? When the cyberattacks impact more than 2% of GDP? When they result in actual theft or loss above a certain threshold? What evidentiary standards ensure impersonation hasn't occurred? What is the penalty for online false flag operations? As of 2018, no one knows. 

Consequently, until a framework for proportional response to cyberattacks can be formulated, Scandinavia's sudden interest in military readiness revolves around trade and access to international markets. Note that almost all international trade still occurs through shippingnecessitating protection through naval cooperation and port securityIn the modern world, whether your country's products get safely from Point A to Point B depends on your leverage in trade agreement negotiations, which can be tied to NATO membership or alliances. Such membership is not a casual affair but one involving long-term financial and other commitments. NATO members are required, on paper, to spend at least 2% of their budgets on military spending to ensure proper readiness; however, much of these taxpayer monies will not be used to improve domestic disaster readiness or the lives of military recruits but on military hardware and products from the U.S. and its partners. 
Jim Rogers' Street Smarts (2013)
In the meantime, non-NATO countries, especially Russia and China, are building alternative trade routes on land (aka new Silk Road) or through bridges, presenting a threat to ever-increasing military expenditures that assume constant or increased shipping volumes

Now that we have a proper overview, I'm concerned about the discourse in Scandinavian countries following legislation on military conscription. One Swede wrote

Sweden needs to impose tax reliefs and increase salaries for its military members as two instruments to meet policy goals. Even if this could result in higher costs, the Swedish government must come to conclusion that the current spending levels are insufficient to meet its own goals, making its latest mandatory conscription policy merely symbolic.

Interestingly, his approach mirrors the United States' desire for Sweden to increase its military spending from around 1% of its budget to 2%. I researched him online, and he is an intern for the Republican Party in America, the pro-military political party. I added the following comments to his post, and I'll share them here as well: 

The United States has mismanaged its economy and harmed social cohesion by failing to properly audit its military spending. The benefits you mention--as well as job preferences for veterans in the private sector--are tied to trillions of dollars of debt post-9/11, most of it on adventurism and some of it on the jobs and benefits you mention. 

One reason these benefits exist is because military volunteerism is often the primary way for citizens and non-citizens to avoid working low-level, dead-end jobs in small American cities. Such spending is not popular in larger, more affluent American cities with diversified economies because people with options don't generally want to join an entity that has arguably lost every war since Vietnam. Where such spending is popular in larger cities, it is often tied to high-paying private sector jobs, i.e., defense contractors.   

In short, the U.S. military has the military benefits you mention as a de facto jobs program, especially for young men in rural areas with underdeveloped private sectors. A country able to create enough meaningful jobs in the private sector may find its military overlooked by most of its citizens. In such a situation, it may need to resort to conscription to maintain troops ready to assist in case of domestic disasters (earthquakes, floods, etc.). In the absence of a clear and present danger or need to spread economic gains more equitably across territories, your advice to increase military spending seems beneficial to countries with military spending as primary economic catalysts rather than countries focused on social welfare and social cohesion. 

Feel free to contact me with any questions. I haven't visited Sweden yet, but Uppsala is on my list :-) 

I often quote Eisenhower in my writing, and I'll quote him again: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft. The cost of one modern, heavy bomber is this: a modern, brick school in more than 30 cities."

American discourse once recognized citizens could not have both thriving domestic infrastructure and excessive military spending, i.e., "guns vs. butter." In other words, do you want a new aircraft carrier or a new university? When presented with the question directly, almost every citizen will choose the latter. Absent active war or a credible threat, fear or a lack of common sense are needed to choose the former. Accordingly, the so-called Russian threat is being used by NATO and its allies to convince Europe and other countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia) to maintain the military-industrial complex and its trillions of dollars of debt--debt that is unsustainable without additional buyers of weaponry or presumed naval dominance in trade.
Jim Rogers' Street Smarts (2013)
I never imagined a world where diplomacy would be actively thwarted or ignored in order to promote ever-increasing military spending, regardless of necessity or results. Even tiny Singapore has caught the bug: "[D]efense constitutes the largest item in the annual national budget." 
Chua Beng Huat's Liberalism Disavowed (2017)
You're never too young to be indoctrinated, I guess.
Remind me... does Singapore have any enemies besides SARS?
It's as if everyone in the world has forgotten the reason the United Nations was created: to prevent war through superior diplomacy and, by implication, unnecessary military spending. But of course people haven't forgotten the reasons for diplomacy at all--they've replaced international diplomacy with trade agreements and import-export or development banking institutions, reducing the United Nations' efficacy through fragmentation and rendering it a body for social progress and humanitarian aid rather than conflict avoidance. Such changes have serious implications for smaller and less developed countries wishing to maintain their independence and for larger, more developed countries like Turkey, which has realized NATO membership does not automatically confer greater labor and trade cooperation. (Notice how few Turkish products are on European supermarkets' shelves?) 

A world where no international body commands the moral weight necessary to ensure peace without de facto military bribes to larger countries means a world where "might makes right," and larger, more economically-powerful countries can take advantage of smaller countries. Such regression is tragic. Witness Woodrow Wilson's speech on the League of Nations, later the United Nations:  

There is only one power to put behind the liberation of mankind, and that is the power of mankind. It is the power of the united moral forces of the world, and in the Covenant of the League of Nations the moral forces of the world are mobilized. For what purpose? Reflect, my fellow citizens, that the membership of this great League is going to include all the great fighting nations of the world, as well as the weak ones... They enter into a solemn promise to one another that they will never use their power against one anther for aggression; that they never will impair the territorial integrity of a neighbor; that they never will interfere with the political independence of a neighbor; that they will abide by the principle that great populations are entitled to determine their own destiny and that they will not interfere with that destiny; and that no matter what differences arise amongst them they will never resort to war without first having done one or other of two things--either submitted the matter of controversy to arbitration, in which case they agree to abide by the result without question, or submitted it to the consideration of the council of the League of Nations. 

Has everything America championed become dust in the wind? Do we not realize freedom from war and freedom from a police state require sober statesmen and worldwide cooperation to corral private and public weapons markets? Every soldier who joined the military or was conscripted did so because he or she trusted the government not to waste their time, effort, or sacrifices. To that end, neither military leaders nor international bodies have adapted to the threat of unconventional warfare, which vitiates most military expenditures. No matter what Hollywood tells you, nations that cannot resolve agricultural tariffs or shootings of unarmed journalists but seek to increase military cooperation require sleight of hand to maintain such strange juxtapositions. May all of us--not just Scandinavians--remember why diplomacy exists before we weaken domestic economies and social cohesion in honor of the military-industrial machine and its debt-fueled, precarious expectations. 

Bonus: "The United Nations has no power to prevent war, but it can try to avoid another war. The U.N. will be effective only if no one neglects his duty in his private environment. If he does [neglect his duty], he is responsible for the death of our children in a future war." -- Albert Einstein, at Lincoln University in 1946 

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