Early in 2010, we were at one of those gathering in which people from all sectors discuss global politics and the private military industry. We commented that we saw all the elements in place for what can be referred to as the early stages of a global revolution. We did not suggest Armageddon, but that levels of violence and social unrest across the world would significantly and systematically increase. From new insurgencies to mass protests and anarchy and from the U.S. to the corners of the world, we are talking here about a broad spectrum of evens and places. In the highly interconnected world we live in, there is no precedent (or strategy) to deal with a problem of this magnitude.
All these issues are part of the Coming Global Revolution and Private Security, which was originally the theme we wanted to develop during 2010. However, we thought it was just not right to talk about more doom and gloom given the protracted financial downturn we had just entered. Things have change dramatically over the last few weeks though. The events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa and more demonstrations and social unrest spreading throughout the developed and developing world show some of the trends that make a global revolution, more than an academic idea, an unfolding reality. Throughout the rest of the year, we will elaborate on some of the issues that worry us. Meanwhile, the following bullet point ideas can give you an idea of what we want to write about.
Persistent inequalities and "imaginary capitalism "
In the private military and security industries, companies come and go, some giants emerge and some dwindle, and some corporations do much better some years than others. Wages also fluctuate according to offer and demand. Real services or products are delivered too, but they generate profit margins that fluctuate in synchronization with real world variable. However, for many other commercial sectors there seems to be an unrealistic notion that profits need to grow exponentially on a yearly basis, regardless of anything happening in the world that would strongly indicate otherwise; the hedge fund and derivative finance industries are paramount examples here. If major economies are contracting, people working under the premises of "imaginary capitalism" continue to make record multi-billion profits, year on year. How and why? It is a hot air balloon that will crash again, but will hit us even harder given interlinked financial and global security issues.
Finite commodity supply and spiraling inflation
The day of cheap food and basic commodities prices are long gone. Add to this all the semi precious and rare minerals and metals needed to make all the technological gadgets essential for everyday life. Standards of living are also rising in large segments of the developing world, which incidentally are contributing positively to raise the economic outlook of an otherwise seriously depressed global economy. There are also security concerns affecting the continuous supply of commodities as well as their transport across the globe. While some of us are simply learning to accept this as perhaps the new status quo, for segments of the world population higher prices could easily translate into, for example, widespread hunger and social strife. Further add to this already unstable equation the capricious pressures speculators operating under imaginary capitalism principles exert on supply and consumption prices. No easy solution here. However, broader private security solution will be needed at every level of the production-to-consumption cycle. The structure of international security is being irreversibly changed by these issues alone.
Government's outdated initiative and the reengineering of collective security
Government has lost the plot and more and more people are loosing patience worldwide. As people increasingly look for alternatives for the growing list of security issues government is not longer able or willing to address, security is likely to start incorporating a broader range of non-state suppliers. While for the most part we have in mind security contractors when we think about non-state security supply, the time is coming for civilianized forms of security (neighborhood groups and militias for example) to compete systematically with established public and private security supply. This is the further branching out of an already bifurcated public-private security structure, which remains and under-researched and under-regulated area.
Non-state and non-private security suppliers
In light of the emerging security supply dynamic in which the public and private sectors cease to be the chief suppliers of security, the affected people would be less likely to wait endlessly for multilateral and foreign players to intervene in conflicts or to look for the alternatives on offer by private military and security companies. As noted above, security supply would simply bifurcate into a process whereby the alternatives are formal public or private supply (perhaps openly competing with one another in parts of the word) and a variable and unstable array of civilianized forms of security. Security supply interlinked to international criminal organizations and local mafia groups will inevitably become a readily available alternative to many communities to consider.
The virtual domino effect in the absence of a an alternative future
Perhaps in a few years time people might say that the global revolution started in North Africa , maybe in Tunisia . However, this has been going on for a long while. Social movements are increasingly amplified and propagated through online means and the instantaneous news cycle. Are the people in North Africa and the Arab world the only ones dissatisfied with government? If you listen to the conversations, it is not simply that they have been ruled by dictators and autocrats for generations, it is generalized dissatisfaction with government on any form. Hence, the same underlining narrative is detectable in conversations taking place in many democratic and so far secure domains. It is concerning!
Maybe within the next decade we might see large scale and sudden mobilizations of people across borders while escaping natural or social disasters. This is likely to meet with the militarization of borders, airports, ports, and other travel hubs, whether involving public, private, or non-state and non-private security suppliers. It is just a matter of who is willing to satisfy immediate security demands. Henceforth, the selling price of this security supply becomes a market variable that is not necessarily adjusted upwards or downwards in accordance to risk factors, as it is the case now; thus, traditional public or private security supply alternatives can be easily displaced by non-state alternatives.
1 March 2011