Decentralized Security

Centralized systems are traditionally fragile. Universal healthcare systems tend to have supply issues that lead to rationing. Highway systems managed by the state tend to be under construction for good portions of the year (at least here in Minnesota) with nothing obvious to show for it. And centralized security systems tend to be easily bypassed. While the world seems doomed to continue down the path to centralization at least some people are noticing the need for decentralization:

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called “soft targets” are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves.

“Societies have to think about how they’re going to approach the problem,” Noble said. “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”

Allowing the populace to arm themselves is one of the more effective solutions for decentralizing security. All of the “blood in the streets” and “shootouts at high noon” that were predicted by gun control advocates have never arisen. In fact no area that as loosed its prohibitions against carrying firearms has experienced an increase in violent crime. The logical conclusion is that removing those prohibitions isn’t dangerous for the overall population. It also creates a great deal of uncertainty for violent person because they cannot know for sure who is and isn’t armed.

Bruce Schneier often talks about whether or not plots can be developed around security systems. It’s very difficult for a violent person to build a plot around random bag checks because of their randomness. But it is easy to develop a plot around modern police protection. For starters, police response times aren’t instantaneous. If prohibitions against carrying firearms exist and a violent person’s goal is to kill people he knows that he will have several minutes until the police arrive. Several minutes is a lot of time when we’re talking about mass murder. In addition to having several minutes of free reign a violent person also has a decent idea of the tactics used by the police.

Both of these things go away when prohibitions against carrying firearms are lifted. Since a person with a firearm can be anywhere response times are not guaranteed to be in minutes. Likewise, most people who carry a firearm have no received any standardized training, so the tactics used will be less predictable.

It’s much more difficult to design a plot around an armed population than a centralized armed force. Centralization is one of the key things exploited by practitioners of fourth generation warfare, which is a tactic that relies on decentralized forces to attack centralized forces. The more centralized a system is the more fragile it becomes. In many countries the police have a virtual monopoly on force. Those countries have an extremely fragile security system that can be exploited by decentralized forces. It’s nice to see at least one member of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) acknowledge this fact and I hope others will over time.