Chapter Five: Political Globalization

II. Globalization Of Defence

Among national virility symbols, an army presumably counts higher than a central bank or a currency, but slightly below a Queen or a President. Not all countries have armies: Costa Rica is an example of one that by law doesn't and can't have an army. Japan and Germany are still so to speak on probation after WWII, although both are moving towards again having fighting forces with more than defensive roles.

It wasn't always so. In the last thousand years, the first permanent, professional national army came into existence only under Cromwell. Previously, and for many countries for two hundred years afterwards, armies were mercenary. It was only when the unitary nation state gained control over its borders and the physical bodies of its subjects (say, 1800 for most of Europe) that it became possible for countries to maintain standing armies. England, being an island, found it easier, although even there the press-gang lasted until well into the 19th century. Conscription, in one form or another, has sustained most European armies for the last hundred years or more.

The point has been made in previous chapters that most nation states are likely to be extremely unwilling to give up their armies, which are so very potent a symbol of the power of the State. One just needs to think of all those TV clips of travelling politicians inspecting guards of honour, more often than not dressed in improbably Ruritanian 18th century uniforms and carrying guns which would be blown away by any whiff of 'shock and awe'. Even the Pope (how many divisions does he have?) is secured by his mediaeval Swiss Guards.

Curiously enough, it may be the Pope's apparently outdated mercenary model that comes to the fore again in future. Although there are still national armies, there are few national armourers: with the exception of some national champions in the very grandest countries, arms manufacturing has become an entirely private, international affair.

Wars themselves are increasingly becoming international cooperative efforts supervized by global or regional governance bodies or alliances (the United Nations, NATO, the European Union). But why aren't there any United Nations or NATO soldiers? The 'casques bleus' are always national soldiers delegated for a period to a UN force, ditto with NATO. The principle of a UN-mandated force exists, yes, but countries have never yet been willing to equip the UN with actual firepower of its own, and when you consider how it operates, you can understand why. Therefore the countries which sign up to a particular UN mission are often pursuing their own political or economic goals under cover of the UN mission. Sooner or later however there will be a reform of the UN which puts this right; and it seems as likely as not that an EU or NATO military force will eventually crystallize out of existing national military establishments.

Armed forces in the employ of non-territorial bodies such as the United Nations will look a great deal like mercenaries, in the older sense of the term before it became tainted with ex-colonial overtones. And given that the equipment of such 'armies' will be provided on a commercial basis by multinational manufacturers, would we also not expect those manufacturers to expand into the provision of fully-equipped and trained armies? Anyway (see later in the book) by 2050 the fighting units will no longer be people, they will be advanced robots – and only large, sophisticated manufacturers will have the technology and resources to supply them. The movie 'Robot' explored some of the scarier dimensions of this territory; but failed to create a believable global governance framework in which such dangers would in actuality be minimized.