Monday, March 28, 2011

The Art of NOT Being Governed: Defense Benefits of Being a Non-State

"Acephalous communities like the gumlao were subversive to British - or any other - administration; they provided no institutional levers or handles with which to enter the community, negotiate with it, or govern it....Egalitarian acephalous peoples on the fringes of states are hard to control.They are ungraspable. To the command "Take me to your leader" there is no straightforward answer. The conquest or co-option of such peoples is a piecemeal operation - one village at a time and, perhaps, one household at a time - and one that is inherently unstable."

It is often wondered how a society can defend itself against outside aggressors absent an all-powerful state providing such defense. I do not take the above quoted passage as the last word on this topic, however an interesting idea is presented. Without a leader, without central levers of command and control, it becomes rather difficult for anyone to take power. This is quite effective as it relates to an outside aggressor.

It may seem such a strategy can only work in small, isolated pockets. I don't know. However it seems it could be quite effective even in a large geographic region like the United States.

Imagine no central control or bureaucracy via which to exercise victory or subsequent control. What might this mean to a would be conqueror? The first hurdle would be (for many) several thousand miles of ocean on two sides. Inherently a logistical nightmare. Beyond this, what to do when you land? Is it feasible to conquer the continent one home at a time, over an area 3000 by 1200 (more or less) miles? Other than a few large cities, the entire continent is sparsely populated. No small feat.

Consider the hundreds of millions armed, each of whom must be overcome. Yet no central machine to do the heavy lifting of coordination and control. Each victory, one person at a time.

You might choose to make a threat: "We will nuke you." With whom will you negotiate terms? What if no one came to talk to you?

This was one of the strategies of the tribes, in Zomia and I would assume elsewhere. Combined with mobility and hidden underground crops, it served independent minded people quite well for countless centuries. It would seem there are lessons that could be applied today as well.

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