Saturday, January 10, 2009

Transparent mercenary humanitarian warfare and state building is starting to get some traction. I just posted the following idea there, which is a little more ambitious than most.

Transparent mercenary humanitarian warfare and state building



This is a non-profit idea that requires tens of billions in initial funding, but creates far more value in the long term.


The poorest countries in the world suffer either from pervasive predatory crime and warfare, or from corrupt, oppressive dictatorial regimes which prevent economic development, or both. Attempts to help by providing minimal economic resources are of limited value since they miss the core of the problem. People don't REALLY need crank powered water purifiers and micro loans, they need full plumbing and credit cards, and a government, education system, and social institutions which make those possible. Some organizations which attempt to protect human rights in places like Darfur, including even parts of the United Nations, have recently begun considering the use of force, in particular the use of private mercenary armies for enforcing the protection of human rights. Generally such considerations are quickly dismissed since the use of force can so easily be abused.

This proposal involves creating a layer of transparency which would make it possible to consider truly humanitarian military operations, consisting largely of mandatory always-on helmet-mounted cameras and microphones, and wireless networks to transmit the steaming images and audio to a distant monitoring center, which could also be fully accessible by the entire world via the Internet. Every mercenary would be rewarded with bonuses for effective completing pacification tasks, and penalized financially or criminally for any corruption, attacks against civilians, or other human rights violations.

  • First a country for the initial operation must be identified. It should be a very small, poor failed state, or a state run by a government whose human rights violations are particularly condemned by as much of the world as possible, where the lives of the citizen are beyond doubt a living hell. Let's say this country contains 1M people, with 50,000 active armed rebels or agents engaged in flagrant and ongoing human rights violations, commanding a $50M annual aggregate military budget. A force of 100,000 mercenaries should be sufficient to completely subdue and police the country, and create sustainable basic institutions of justice over a 5 year period. And unlike the recent US operation in Iraq, this operation would have orders of magnitude fewer people to control per combatant, and would furthermore benefit from the credibility of complete transparency, and a more pure humanitarian mission with fewer conflicts of interest. At $100K per soldier per year, this would be a $50B project. In addition, building an initial infrastructure supporting economic development, education, and heath care would cost perhaps another $50,000 per person, for $100B total commitment.
  • If the initial 5 year operation is successful in creating a small democratic regime along the lines of post WW2 Germany or Japan, funding can be obtained from world governments to repeat the experiment on a slightly larger scale.
  • The initial operation may not necessarily be legal according to international law, and may have to be funded by rogue billionaires, but with sufficient transparency and measured effectiveness it will eventually gain the support of the UN.
  • The cameras and microphones along with the offshore monitors would also be used by the local police post-pacification, as well as all government employees. Over time the organization will completely withdraw and allow the state to return to self-government. The plan and time frame will have to be clearly specified upfront, as well as the milestones for early or late withdrawal. In addition there will have to be milestones for failure: at some point before the money runs out, the organization will have to pull out and accept defeat, if necessary.
  • The real essence of this idea is that with enough transparency and clarity of mission, the local population will buy into the program and get behind it, drastically lowering the initial cost projections and time frame, and allowing the approach to scale to larger territories.
  • Another alternative to is to create incentives for existing governments to adopt the full transparency approach, for instance Israel in its current Gaza operation.


  1. cool idea! but I still don't get how this will help

  2. Wouldn't the helmet cams put the merceneries at a significant disadvantage since (I think) they'd be unable to do anything requiring secrecy or at least have serious trouble taking such actions? By secrecy I mean getting into advantageous positions relative to the other side or, depending on just how transparent we're talking about, even formulate plans.

  3. May I get your advice on real estate loans dot com? Gil kerk

  4. How about enabling the transparency but without the military action. Military force is good for breaking things and killing people in order to achieve objectives, and as such has its place in defending from invasion. I doubt that the U.S. would have been quite the same if another country had used military force to remove the British. I believe that freedom must be earned to be appreciated.

  5. Do not ever say that the desire to "do good" by force is a good motive.

    Ayn Rand

  6. it drastically lowering the cost and time frame.

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  7. Dear Semyon,

    Are you aware of Patri Friedman and his ideas of seasteading? Seasteading is much more feasible to genuinely change sovereign statuses around the world, and the only military required would be to protect yourself.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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