The Rise of Chaos, the Rise of Counter-chaos
Daniel Deudney of Johns Hopkins discusses "omniviolence" in the post-9/11 world at Blogging Heads TV. Academia discovers the Three Conjectures and many of the themes that have been discussed on this site independently. Of course the Three Conjectures itself is hardly original, but it's useful as a starting point for discussing why 9/11 showed we were potentially headed for an unstable situation and why it was important to get a grip on it. In my view the War on Terror was necessary if only because a solution to the instability had to be found, even by trial and error. That was better than not trying at all. Dr. Deudney makes the same point about instability via a slightly different route. I think that's good news because it makes thinking about these issues legitimate and may attract first-class minds to focus on the problem in much the same way that Herman Kahn and Tom Schelling focused on the nuclear deterrence problem. It's astounding now to realize that for a long time after Hiroshima nobody knew how to rigorously think about the nuclear age until people like Kahn and Schelling articulated a framework in which nukes could be understood. Six years after 9/11 people are finally beginning to think scientifically about emergent forces in the 21st century world. Finally there's a chance for Presidential candidates to get advice that isn't rooted in the 20th century.
However, I think Deudney, in suggesting that more regulation and world government are necessary to contain chaos, misses the critical importance of counter-mobilizing other emergent trends to combat the subnational forces which he correctly sees as inheriting large parts of the post-Cold War world. While there is certainly room for government action and a new international framework to replace the creaky institutions founded after the Second World War, I will argue that big, institutional solutions are not enough. You might argue that Petraeus key insight in Iraq was to understand that MNF-I had to become viral in order to attain victory. Big institutional solutions were not enough in Iraq and they will not be enough on a global scale. The very same forces -- technology, self-organizations, memetic evolution, etc -- at the metabolic root of terrorism are also at the basis of creative, civilizing forces which can be glimpsed over the Internet. That's good news because it means that the very trends which fuel al-Qaeda also fuel its nemesis. And harnessing those forces, I think, is the part of the solution, which insofar as I can see on Blogging Heads TV, Daniel Deudney fails to emphasize.