Nanobots (image: kaioshin/flickr)

There are two resources you should keep your eye on in interpreting the current positions of the defenders of large military budgets.

The first is the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College and the other is the Project for National Security Reform (PNSR).

Since 2005, both of these organizations have done a series of studies on what they call “national security reform”, studies that look to redefine the mission and structure of the US national security institutions on as sweeping a scale as was done in 1947 — but to do it in order to preserve high levels of defense funding.

One of the studies that PNSR did was a visioning study of needed changes to US national security institutions. This study hypothesized nine threats to US security and gamed how they would be dealt with now and how they could be deal with after the instituion of certain reforms.

The scenarios that the PNSR vision working group picked are:

1. Red Death – A country struggles to get back on its feet after a major biological attack in the midst of a debate about the future US role at home and abroad.

2. Peoples War – The US is caught up in global asymmetric warfare against a nuclear-armed great power. The US must respond to anonymous attacks at home and abroad without escalating to a nuclear conflict.

3. Grand Strategy – The utility of an the capability to develop an integrated grand strategy in smoothing the transition from one presidential administration to the next.

4. A New Economy – The US faces its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

5. Pax Robotica – Continuation of the trend of escalating robotic and sensor technology. Public policy choices to enable more real-time interaction between the military, diplomatic and intelligence organizations of the US government.

6. Who Holds the High Ground – A land grab for the moon.

7. A Brave New World – A plan to provide proven neuroscience, psychiatric, and medical techniques to control pathological behaviors in a world awash in readily accessible weapons of mass destruction.

8. A Warm Reception – Developing international consensus of the matter of global climate change and possible unintended consequences.

9. It’s a Small, Small World – Nanobots have become ubiquitous. These are expanding in novelistic detail in pages 23-77. Read from the standpoint of the craft of fiction for an interesting perspective on the use of your tax money.

That is by far the most fascinating document. However a report for the Strategic Studies Institute used case studies of Truman, Nixon, Mondale, George H. W. Bush, and Al Gore to make a proposal to institutionalize the behind-the-scenes (then they won’t be, eh) foreign policy responsibilities of the vice-president. We need to monitor these discussions carefully. They intend to influence policy. And we need to frame some alternative proposals from our vision and present it in more realistic and better-thought-through terms than the nine scenarios.

On the road from the Chicago Public Library main branch. Keep our libraries public and free.