Best Defense

If a new global elite is forming, what are the implications of that for U.S. military?

Here’s an interesting assignment: Posit that a new global elite is forming, based around information technologies.


Here’s an interesting assignment:

Posit that a new global elite is forming, based around information technologies. This group is disproportionately wealthy, compared to the global population. Its members are more comfortable with each other than with the peasants and proletarians of their own nations. It speaks a common language, which is a combination of English and information technology. It shares a common culture. It resembles the elites of 15th century Europe more than it does those of 20th century democracies.

Now, design a global strategy to deal with that.

What are the military implications? First of all, militaries are products of nation-states, and this new elite rises above that. Its members are to nations as tribes and provinces were to the elites of preindustrial times, Patricia Crone notes.

So the U.S. military is going to be uncomfortable with the very existence of this group. But what if the military is given the mission of defending it? How to find common cause?

Of course, we’d want a larger political strategy. It would offer easy immigration for elites. It would maintain conditions that attract technological elites, such as freedom of speech and easy access to capital. It would have reasonable tax rates, in part to maintain the education that creates American members of such elites. The great thing is, we already have a lot of this, except that our rates on capital gains are far too low. So I think that in political terms we are well-positioned for the rise of the global elite. But the military end of it may need some work.

And on top of it, here’s a dystopian idea: What if the core of the global elite is the one percent who have captured American wealth over the last 40 years, and used it to capture the political system? And they don’t need human protectors because they can convert their robots to infantry. As Martin Ford puts it in Rise of the Robots, “The plutocracy would shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones. In other words, we would see a return to something like the feudal system that prevailed during the Middle Ages.”

Image credit: Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis (1631); Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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