September 23, 2003

Occupation Tech

Let me spin you a tale of a future occupation. The US invades K, an universally acknowledged failed state hosting a variety of terrorist groups with a record as an international basket case stretching decades. The conventional war follows a familiar script with the local army quickly being routed and the government collapsing inside a month.

In accord to the new rules now comes the task of occupation, constitution writing, elections, and standing up the infrastructure of a free society so the US never has to come back there again as K will no longer be part of the non-integrating gap but the newest member of the functioning core. In other words, now comes the hard part.

Imagine this, that every family gets issued something on the order of a simputer. They are told that they can find out where to get jobs, aid, information on curfews and other rules, and other useful features via these computers which come with solar rechargers and wireless connectivity. Since the computers don't require literacy, these basic benefits are universal.

At the same time, other features are available, FAQs describing political models, what are the advantages and the difficulties of free societies, what are the expectations of citizens in the new order, instructions on how to properly and effectively petition for a redress of grievances without violence, and on and on are made available to the entire population. If a particular point isn't understood well, an individual can send an email requesting clarification and this feedback constantly improves the information available.

The result? Scarce translation resources stretch a lot further. Intelligence comes pouring in on regime dead enders because you no longer have to step out of your house and risk discovery by being seen. False reports also spike and then quickly drop off as people discover that their messages are automatically signed cryptographically and they have to explain why they sent troops out on a wild goose chase.

Some bright young local techs start up discussion groups which morph into local civic movements and eventually political parties and the whole society comes crashing into the modern functional world as the ability of old elites to bar the masses from the truth and from power come quickly crashing down.

So, would such a system be perfect? By no means, but it would be an improvement and play to the strengths of modern functioning societies and against the weaknesses of the non-integrating gap elites that we wish to displace. Given the likely low cost of such systems (probably around $300/unit) even shaving a couple of weeks off the time to hand over to a new government would make the systems a net money saver by a large margin.

Such a program could be justified solely by the probable increase in military intelligence, by the increase in organization of food aid, curfews, and other traditional military needs, but the likely big payoff is in political transformation.

Posted by TMLutas at September 23, 2003 03:57 PM