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Paul Fernhout on the Peer to Peer Security Alliance

A proposal by Paul Fernhout:

Here is the key idea: a peer-to-peer security alliance should be of a different form than a mutual defense pact against outsiders. It should be more like a mutual attack pact against insiders, where if anyone in the alliance attacks another peer in the alliance (or violates an agreed on boundary in some way), then the *entire* rest of the alliance agrees takes action against the peer violating the boundary or doing the aggressive thing. This alliance says nothing about what the alliance will do if threatened from outside. It is purely a set of rules about normative peer behavior inside the alliance.

So, imagine we start this peer-to-peer alliance of countries with the Netherlands and Singapore, at opposite ends of the world (although both concerned about trade). In order to form it, both need to agree to some basic code of international conduct, as well as formalize their borders with respect to each other, and resolve any current trade disputes. Then, say, Estonia decides to join. It to must agree with the previous border claims of the Netherlands and Singapore with respect to itself (and other economic regulations as well as rules for amending the alliance charter, and so on). Alternatively, in the process of joining, Estonia needs to get the Netherlands and Singapore to alter aspects of the alliance including borders in a way that all the countries in the alliance can agree on (so, agreement is 100% consensus within the alliance on the changes or the new country can not join).

Now, you may ask, what is the point of the Netherlands, Singapore, and Estonia agreeing to not attack each other (like they would even dream of that) and to adhere to some generally recognized international laws they are likely already following? What would be the point in the Netherlands and Singapore agreeing that Estonia could step in to stop a very unlikely military conflict between the two, Estonia likely having few troops and few ships and little chance of accomplishing anything by itself beyond some talk? The value begins to grow as more countries join. So, with more and more countries, there would be increasing value in the agreement to allow the other countries in a growing alliance to step in and stop conflicts which any country initiates against other peer countries in the alliance. As times goes by, Venezuela might join, and then Canada, and then joining this alliance might be the sensible thing to do because it will be a new organization setting standards and promoting good things across the peer network. Eventually, a country will want to join who has a border dispute or economic dispute with another country already in the alliance (say, if Russia wants to join and Japan has already joined, and they dispute ownership of some islands). In order to join this alliance, the countries involved will need to work out their dispute. There may eventually be an enormous incentive to join this organization, so, say the value of joining may be bigger than the value of some few islands that are disputed, and there would be a big incentive to bring in even more countries to assure global mutual security by those in the alliance, so, there is a big incentive by all peers to resolve these conflicts before they lead to war, even if significant concessions needed to be made. Eventually, there might be a situation where there are a few big holdouts, like the USA, if it can't agree with everyone else's border claims or figure out a way to resolve it. But there might be enormous internal political pressure on those last holdouts to joint to support world peace. It would at least be pretty obvious at that point what countries were not willing to get along with their peers.

Eventually, this alliance might replace the United Nations. Alternatively, this alliance forming process might actually be done through the United Nations as a series of new treaties with new governing structures. Note, this is *not* the same as world government. This is a set of rules for how peers should behave towards each other. And it is also, ideally, a framework for solving conflicts before they reach the point of economic war or physical war (given economic war and physical war are often interrelated with one causing the other).

Note the big difference of this form of alliance than the conventional form, including this new "Polario" idea. There is no reason for a set of two big blocks which might end up attacking each other. There is the potential for this one alliance to spread globally and define the norms under which peers (countries) interact with each other under the terms of the alliance. I'm not sure what would happen if two such alliances started to form, but ideally, they would negotiate at least a common denominator for borders and trade rules and then merge. But even if two alliances could not agree, they would still not pose any threat to each other, because there is nothing in the alliance about how to interact with those outside the alliance. So, two alliances could even overlap. There could even be different alliances for diferent things (borders versus trade regulations, for example). I'm not sure, as I think about it, what all the implications would be of lots of overlapping peer-to-peer alliances of this form?

Would this work politically? It entails countries essentially agreeing to be attacked militarily or economically by peers if they violate certain norms they previously agreed to, or at least, peers agreeing to be attackers or enforcers, to step in and stop disputes and enforce boundaries. It is a sort of global anti-bullying pact among peers.

So, would this be seen by nations considering joining as essentially giving up some of their sovereignty? Well, I don't know. But it is an alternative way to look at the notions of peer alliances. And it is a way to build a stronger community that has consensus about some international norms for peer behavior at a national level as well as some teeth to the enforcement of those norms as a community.

No doubt someone would want to simulate this before trying it to see if it has any obvious failure modes unique to it, like in Model United Nations exercises.

I'm not even sure there would have to be a violent military aspect to the agreement. It might be good enough for peers to just say that if a peer transgresses a certain norm or boundary, they would slow or stop their trade with that peer (or reduce their internet bandwidth to that country), essentially as a form of "shunning" (which is non-violent, but still disruptive).
There would then need to be some way to compensate individual businesses for economic losses. And the bigger alliance agreement would then perhaps take precedence over contracts between individual businesses across borders.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the best enforcement strategy for agreed on peer norms would be in such an alliance. No doubt people would explore that.

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