Wednesday, October 5

Force vs Power and Beijing's costly cyberwar

"Pundita, regarding your post yesterday, it seems you think the Chinese leaders are still following Mao Zedong's dictum that "All political power comes from the barrel of a gun." If that's how they're thinking, I wonder when it will occur to them that the greatest political power comes from the people.
Margaret in Tulsa"

Dear Margaret:
Good observation, provided you're not confusing power with force; because many do confuse the two concepts this seems a good opportunity to review the differences.

Do you recall seeing the news footage of an attorney who provoked an assailant intent on shooting him to death at close range into emptying the gun in wild shots? The attorney was wounded and of course he was lucky but if ever there was an illustration of the inherent limitation of force, that situation was textbook.

Force can rather easily exhaust itself because its energy source can be very limited, and because so much energy must be expended in the process of applying force.

Power, on the other hand, comes from the ability to do work; it is quite literally predicated on how much energy is available for an activity.

Those who govern by force are actually in a very weak position because so much of their energy goes into applying force, which only returns the need to apply more force.

Those who govern by ability are powerful because their accomplishments replenish and return their energy expenditures.

Mao mistook force for power. He and his cadre expended so much energy using force that they could not effectively govern, and so the Chinese people starved. They were saved by intervention of Western governments and notably America.

Laws and treaties are necessarily backed by force of arms. However, politics is dictated by the society's survival issues. Such are rarely treated effectively by force.

Saddam Hussein was an incompetent administrator; the model of governing he used was inherited from European colonial times, which saw administration to relatively small human populations under simple conditions. That model of governing isn't fit for administering to a large, highly complex society.

The situation represented by Hussein's goverment has occurred, to greater or lessor extent, in virtually all regions that inherited the colonial model of administration, and where the human population skyrocketed due to vaccines and antibiotics.

During the 20th Century the knee-jerk response of many who inherited the colonial model was to manage the problems of a burgeoning complex society through massacres, thereby winnowing the population to more manageable size, or through the application of force.

That set in motion a cycle whereby more and more force had to be used, which diverted more and more energy from the task of finding and implementing effective governing solutions. The massive power drain inevitably led to the collapse of the government unless there was a significant external factor in play.

In Saddam's case, he controlled large oil resources coveted by foreign governments. So the governments found ways to help prop up his government, even during the UN embargo.

The overthrow of Saddam's regime opened the door for Iraqis to modernize their government administrations and supplant force with competence in government. So what's going on in Iraq is symbolic of the closing of an old chapter in humanity's history and the opening of a new one. Fitting that this should occur in one of the cradles of civilization. And fitting that a land peopled by immigrants from all over the world should have acted as midwife to the rebirth.

An October 4 Epoch Times article, China's Cyber War, succinctly illustrates how government by force drains massive amounts of energy and thus, power from government:

By conservative estimates Beijing has spent $800 million on their "Golden Shield Project," manned by 50,000 cyber cops, which has the express purpose of forcing China's Internet users to conform to Beijing's dictates on proper use of the Net.

That expenditure and marshaling of manpower is a drop in the bucket next to what will be needed to force compliance in coming years because China needs the Internet. As millions and millions more Chinese come online, Beijing will be forced to spend trillions of USD and divert much more manpower to the deployment of force!

Seen from the long view the situation has a slapstick quality; it's akin to the problems faced by emperors who were forced to retain guards to watch the guards and spies to watch the guards who watched the guards and spies to watch the spies!

Then schoolchildren ask, "Why did so many ancient civilizations collapse?"

Through sheer exhaustion, in many cases. The principle of force in governing drains the very power needed to keep a society rising to new challenges.

Governing by force is coming to the end of the line in human affairs simply because it wastes so much energy. We've raised up societies of such complexity and scale that tremendous power is needed to manage them -- a power that comes from ability, not the force of a gun.

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