Maybe it won’t be a great day for you–be careful what you wish for… In recognition of the success that Kony2012 had in rasing money for a niche geopolitical cause, students at MIT created a faux webpage “Kick Starter” pretending to raise money for things on the opposite side of use of force continuum – a mobile black site for intensive interrogations, among other things.

The reason for doing this was to demonstrate the ability to crowsource funding for initiatives that are championed by ideologies that are on the hard-power end of foreign policy.

As the last blog I posted demonstrates, the ability for motivated individuals to become active in a conflict exists and is very real. What amounts to DIY intervention can have an impact upon the course of World events (similar to the warning given to us service members from the SECDEF). To me, what this says is that citizens no longer only vote for a foreign policy with their ballots, but they can also–directly–do so with their wallets, time and skill-sets.

The conditions are right, and the historical precedent is now set for the ‘memetic stew’ to bring forth a Non-Governmental Organization as a third option that takes elements from Kony2012, private security firms, and Kiva for those who wish to see some sort of change in the World.

What strikes me as ironic, is that the words typically espoused towards supporting World peace, are now the intellectual foundation under which we may see a new method for hard power applied in the World. This is not to say that the end goals of those who see the utility of hard power is all that different from those who see greater utility in soft power.

Rather, in the long term, I am interested to see if the potential I’ve outlined here coalesces to incorporate both hard and soft power elements. Such a coalescing would amount to a private sector analog to a nation’s foreign policy. Which would, arguably, be the tipping point for the replacement of the Westphalian era, where an organizational paradigm like a government is no longer required to bring together the ends, ways and means to execute foreign policy.


Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Hard Power, History, Soft Power

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  • Benjamin Walthrop

    The last couple of posts you’ve brought to USNI should be thought provoking to the readers. What I wonder, is if you’re cogent observations of the world (as we see it) are all that different from previous generations. I suspect you’d argue that the proliferation of technology has ushered in a new era. You’d be in good company with that argument. That’s entirely possible, but I could take the opposite argument that technology has changed but the principles have remained the same.

    Government in recent history have relied on private enterprise to bring forth the essential elements required for hard power (see Howard Hughes). I think that what you’re essentially arguing is that the proliferation of any number of technologies has put the elements of hard power in the hands of the individual or at least in the hands of a motivated group. While this is correct from a tactical perspective (see 9/11), I wonder if it is correct from a strategic perspective.

    You may be right. If Bill and Melinda Gates decide tomorrow to build nuclear weapons instead of supporting medical research and humanitarian assistance, they probably could pull it off. I’m not necessarily convinced this is a truly new phenomenon, but the discussion of organizational paradigms is an important discussion to engage. I suspect the argument will fall along the lines of those “we” trust vs. those “we” don’t trust. Defining the “we” may be the first tough diplomacy that’s faced in a sweeping discussion of the future of humanity. It seems to be a difficult slog for individuals to engage in strategy beyond future predictions past a generation or two (20-80 years). The science fiction writers have given it a good try. I recommend Heinlein.

    Enough of my rambling.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III


    I agree that there isn’t anything new under the sun… Weren’t the crusades also funded by the money raised in church donations, as well as fiefdoms raising their own armies?

    The challenge I see is that for most of modern history it has been the government outlining the political objectives in modern times. With initiatives like Kony2012, we see individual (and small) groups defining the goals and arranging the means to obtain those goals.

    In terms of technology, I see the fact that those who may support such goals as Kony2012 transcend nationalities, and thus possibly conflicting with their government’s foreign policy. The Modernist definition of citizen is being challenged.

    This has always existed in some degree with things like the French Foreign Legion, or with people devoting their-self to one cause or another. However, what has tempered most from devoting their-self is the amount of effort required towards affecting things on the geopolitical scale. But, if people can personally interviene in a conflict from their couch as long as they have connectivity and the right email address, or by sending $10 a month to some group, the potential for greater involvement in a foreign policy that more closely matches their moral compass is there.

    In short, it is an adjustment to the 80/20 principal. The 20% who physically do something, now have greater potential resources at their disposal. The 80% who will not do much, can do more with the ‘same’ amount of effort.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Your observations are good ones, but I wonder if your assumptions are correct. Regarding the 80/20 ratio, it remains to be seen if the folks who now have the potential to more easily support something without a great deal of effort will choose to participate in your vision of a much more democratized (not necessarily better) world.

    Kony2012 is a compelling case in your favor. The era of the nation-state may have reached it’s apogee, but we’re going to have to reach a much greater degree of connectivity (both virtual and actual) to see it return to earth. Good post.

  • Dee

    This article is close in some respects to the study done on the affects of web2.0 in the arab spring where crowd sourcing and google maps was used to target snipers in as much as those who are fully comfortable with the media can use it in creative fashions that those who simply can conceptualize the technology cannot.

    Even if you are in the IT segment of the workforce and have considerable computer skills “coming of age” in these technologies provides an insight into the subtle leverages of them. The do and the don’t as well as the ability of a specific technology to be used creatively.

    I’m not sure with lengthy review boards, ECB’s, AOA’s etc.. if the speed of innovation can be matched in near real time as these tools evolve?

    It is easy not to “get it” so to speak if you do not use these medias. I’m wondering if people are taking these technologies seriously enough and in respect to OPSEC if the younger generation is getting enough exposure? I would think that at a minimum that the service academies should have some type of curriculum that balances OPSEC and an immersion into these medias.

    I like to think that I don’t “miss stuff” but I didn’t get the importance of this media. In part due to my age, in part due to non of my cronies use the technology, and finally because I “didn’t come of age” in the technology.

    With a balance of OPSEC and unstructured curriculum this media needs to be explored by a younger generation.