Global Commons ..

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The paper should be between 4 and 5 pages.
Does American need to control the global commons? In answering the question, draw
examples from two of four strategic commons- Cyberspace, outer space, maritime space,
and aerospace- in making your argument. You should feel free to introduce the relevance of
the global commons to US Grand Strategy.
Think of it this way.

What is the global commons? It is a form of public good.
So why is that important?
What is special about a public good, like the commons?
Why does it create a collective action problem?
How does the United States solve the collective action problem and why does it do
How is Trump changing that? Why does it matter?
What is Club goods?
Also, you might consider using maritime space and aerospace to draw examples
because it’s way easier. “World Trade for example.”
Here are some extra sources*:

D. Acre and T. Sandler (2002), Regional Public Goods: Typologies, Provision, Financing, and
Development Assistance (Stockholm: Almkvist & Wiksell International). At:
Maritime Space: Secretary of the Navy (2015), A cooperative strategy for a 21st century sea
power (Washington, DC: DoD), at:
I included the main source in the attachments.
NATO and the Global Commons:
A Perspective on Emerging
James Sperling1*
he current preoccupation with assured access
to the global commons may be attributed to the
concurrent demilitarization of security within the
transatlantic area and the securitization of issues once
considered the exclusive domain of domestic politics.
The absence of an immediate and commonly accepted
strategic threat to the territorial integrity of the Alliance
member states has legitimized ‘coalitions of the willing’
under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, while the
securitization process has produced a variegated range
of national vulnerabilities and threat assessments. These
developments have consequently rendered increasingly
problematic the precise conditions under which Article 5
can be invoked, although the reinterpretation of Articles 2
and 4 now provides a political foundation for adapting the
Alliance to newly emerged security challenges.
Institutional adaptation to this changed external security
environment and the development of allied policies for
the global commons are complicated in three respects:
the potential mismatch between private and public
responsibilities for security of the commons; the potential
disjunction between NATO capabilities and the challenge
of protecting the commons; and, finally, not easily reconciled
national interests within and outside the Alliance.
The technological innovations that have driven the
transformation of allied armed forces have created the
paradox of a military with unparalleled capabilities
matched by singular vulnerabilities. The task of preserving
the allied strategic advantage in the commons is
increasingly dependent upon the civilian sector for the
physical and virtual assets making power projection and
net-centric warfare possible, while that very dependence
exposes the alliance to novel vulnerabilities that it remains
ill-equipped to address. Moreover, the vulnerabilities
attributed to globalization in fact reflect a deeper and
more profound structural transformation of the state that
1 * The author is Professor of Political Science at Akron University,
Ohio. The revision of this paper benefited greatly from the frank
discussion of the original draft during the meeting of the working
group. Particular thanks are owed to Riccardo Alcaro, Dick
Bedford, Paul S. Giarra, Scott Jasper and Sonia Lucarelli. The
usual disclaimers apply.
has progressively diminished the ability of the cisatlantic
NATO member states to exercise sovereign prerogatives,
thereby compounding the vulnerabilities occasioned by
rapid technological change and interdependence.2
The four domains constituting the global commons—
aerospace, maritime space, cyberspace and outer space—
are inextricably linked, but cyberspace and outer space
are the two domains underpinning NATO’s ability to
operate globally on air, land and sea. Allied Command
Transformation (ACT) has employed the language of
‘collective action’ and ‘collective goods’ as the foundation
for NATO participation in shaping future access to the
commons in each domain.3 Yet the objectives of the alliance
(and particularly those of its senior partner, the United
States) clearly underscore the continuing importance and
desirability of sustaining the NATO (and American)
sponsored regimes governing the commons or ensuring
that any modification of those regimes does not harm the
interests of the Alliance or its member States. The final
report notes that the goal of the Alliance, in tandem with
pother stake-holders, is to ensure that the commons remain
accessible “for the good of all responsible users, equally and
without exceptions.”4 This formulation, however, does not
identify who defines responsible and irresponsible actors
and actions. Such a formulation implies that the content of
the collective good sought in each domain of the commons
is bounded by NATO preferences that may not be share
by other stake-holders in the system, particularly rising
powers dissatisfied with the existing system of governance
that privileges the interests of NATO member States.
Another potential problem with the approach taken by the
Alliance is located in the operating assumption that each
domain is intrinsically homogeneous in character and can
therefore be treated as a “system of systems”. An alternative
approach would assume that each domain of the Global
Commons is intrinsically heterogeneous and therefore
2 See James Sperling, ‘Security Governance in a Westphalian
World’, in Wagnasson et al. (eds), European Security Governance:
The European Union in a Westphalian World, London, 2009:
Routledge; see also James Sperling, ’National Security Cultures,
Technologies of Public Goods Supply and Security Governance’, in
Emil Kirchner and James Sperling (eds), National Security Cultures:
Patterns of Global Governance, Abingdon, 2010: Routledge.
3 See ACT, Pre-decisional Interim Report: .The Global Commons
Project, 2 December 2010, available at http://www.act.nato.
int/images/stories/events/2010/gc/gc_ir_20101202.pdf. For a
comprehensive overview of the security policy implications of
the global commons for the Alliance, see Scott Jasper, Securing
Freedom in the Global Commons, Stanford, 2010: Stanford
University Press, p. 2.
4 Mark Barrett, Dick Bedford, Elizabeth Skinner, and Eva
Vergles, Assured Access to the Global Commons, Norfolk, April
2011: Supreme Allied Command Transformation, North
Atlantic Treaty Organization, p. 46.
disallow a single NATO strategy for governing each one
of them. This approach may indicate at best a supporting
governance role for NATO, and would cast doubts on the
utility of treating the commons as a “system of systems”,
despite the evident interconnections and interdependencies
of the four domains.
Any assessment of the potential role for NATO in each of
the four global commons requires a conceptual clarification
of the nature of the security good that exists in each domain
and the identification of the barriers to collective action
embedded in each. There are three additional considerations
relevant to understanding the challenges that NATO faces
in providing a global governance structure consistent with
NATO interests: the security salience of each domain for
NATO; the threat assessment within and between each
domain; and the strategic challenges to a NATO-crafted
governance structure for each domain.
The Global Commons
maritime commons. There are few sovereign property
rights in either cyberspace or outer-space; the private sector
owns the overwhelming share of the physical and virtual
assets constituting each system. This range of sovereign
property rights—from mutually acknowledged sovereignty
to sharply defined communal property rights to the absence
of either—defines the challenges that confront NATO in
assuring access and stability.7
A public goods framework provides a foundation for
assessing the intrinsic nature of each domain. Public
goods have two characteristics: non-rivalness and nonexcludability. There are few pure public security goods
(nuclear deterrence being a rare exception), although the
provision of a stable international economy and systemic
equilibrium come close to meeting the public goods
standard of non-rivalness and non-excludability.8 There
are three additional, alternative categories of security goods
found in the global commons based on those criteria:
national security goods (rival and excludable); club security
goods (non-rival, but excludable), and common-pool
security goods (rival, but non-excludable) (see Figure 1).
According to Allied Command Transformation (ACT)
the four commons are the ‘connective tissue’ of international
security and ‘constitute a global public good that serve as a Figure 1. Categories of Security Goods
crucial enabler of international security and trade’.5
5 See ACT, ACT Workshop Report. NATO in the Maritime
Commons, Norfolk, VA, 30 September 2010: USS Enterprise,
available at
gc/report03_norfolk.pdf, p. 1.
6 See ACT, ‘NATO in the Cyber Commons. Survey from the
Fifth ACT Workshop’, Tallinn, 19 October 2010, in Mehmet
Kinaci (ed.), Assured Access to the Global Commons Workshop Survey
Analyses, available at:, p. 3; see also Mark Barrett, Dick Bedford, Elizabeth
Skinner, and Eva Vergles, Assured Access to the Global Commons,
Norfolk, April 2011: Supreme Allied Command Transformation,
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pp. xvi-xvii.
National Security goods
(territorial defence)
First, the classification of the four global commons is
problematic owing to the varying degrees of sovereign
rights that can be ascribed to each. Sovereign property
rights are well delineated and acknowledged in the
aerospace commons, and contested at the margins of the
There are two dominant assumptions governing this
dimension of the policy debate. First, each domain is
essentially the same with respect to its intrinsic nature;
second, NATO is the most likely guarantor of commons
stability and unfettered access to them.6 Setting aside the
precise challenges or threats presenting in each domain,
there is good reason to question whether these four global
commons are conceptually the same across a number of
dimensions with respect to their intrinsic nature and the
ways in which that good is provided.
Club Security goods
(nuclear deterrence
regional security)
Common-pool Security goods
(geostationary orbit
bandwidth allocation)
Public Security goods
(freedom of the seas)
7 Ibidem.
8 On the definition of public security goods, see Charles P.
Kindleberger, The World in Depression, 1929-1939, Berkeley,
1973: University of California Press; and Robert O. Keohane,
After Hegemony :Cooperation and Discord in the World Economy,
Princeton, 1984: Princeton University Press.
A representative national security good is territorial defense;
the Article 5 collective defense commitment of the North
Atlantic Treaty is a club security good; and a commonpool security good includes assured access to geostationary
orbits for commercial and military satellites.
The aerospace and maritime commons both possess
the characteristics of public security goods and present
the classic problem of collective action; cyberspace and
outer space, however, are both common-pool security
goods with ambiguous or non-existent definitions of
communal sovereign property rights. The key distinction
between a public good and a common-pool security good
is the existence of a core security resource (e.g., access
to cyberspace or outer space) that is subject to rivalness
or congestion (e.g., a finite bandwidth spectrum or the
number of available geostationary or sun synchronous
orbits). Whereas a hegemon or ‘privileged group’ (in this
instance NATO) is capable of supplying a public security
good, the requirements for providing a common-pool
security good are more demanding and elusive. The latter
requires that states abnegate sovereign property rights and
acknowledge that the resource is held in common; namely,
that the recognized stakeholders create a regime establishing
communal ownership rights and responsibilities.9
the ‘strongest pillar’ technology exists in those instances
where the provision of the public good depends upon the
contribution of a single actor.12
Each alternative technology of public goods production
characterizes a specific domain of the global commons. The
‘strongest pillar’ technology defines the maritime domain
owing to the indispensability of the global US naval
presence to any coalition seeking to enforce the provisions
of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS). The technology of summation characterizes
the aerospace domain: each state has an overriding interest
in contributing to that domain’s stability owing to the
existence of well-defined sovereign airspace, a common
interest in protecting commercial aircraft and commerce,
and a relatively uncontested aerospace regime delineating
national rights and responsibilities with respect to civilian
and military aviation. The ‘weakest link’ technology vexes
cyberspace: the defection of one state from established
security protocols or the lax domestic enforcement of
internationally agreed upon rules or the use of cyberspace
as an instrument of strategic disruption will determine the
absolute level of security available to all. And the ‘best shot’
technology characterizes outer space owing the legitimacy
of the United Nations as the institution best capable of
brokering a global bargain establishing communal property
rights and responsibilities in this domain. These different
technologies contribute to our understanding of the
opportunities and barriers facing NATO as a guarantor or
stabilizing force in each domain.
The heterogeneity of the security challenges in these
commons encode different technologies of publicness,
defined as ‘the manner in which [actors’] provision
or subscription levels are aggregated to yield a group
provision or consumption level’ of the public good.10 These
technologies aid our understanding of the opportunities These structural barriers to the management of the global
and barriers for NATO as a guarantor or stabilizing force commons (the type of security good found and the different
technologies of public goods production embedded in each
within (and between) each domain.
domain) are also conjoined to variations in a number of
There are four basic technologies of public goods production: other salient features shaping the context of NATO policy
summation; weakest link; ‘best shot’ and strongest pillar.
in and for the global commons: the strategic barriers posed
Summation represents the simplest case: the sum of the to NATO by rising powers, particularly the so-called BRIC
individual contributions of the group determines the nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China); the security
amount of the good supplied. ‘Weakest link’ technology salience of and security threats to each domain for NATO;
exists where the smallest level of the good provided by a the (in)separability of the commercial and military assets;
single actor determines the absolute level of the public good and the direction and intensity of the (inter)dependence of
available to all. The ‘best shot’ technology characterizes each domain of the commons (see Table 1). These variables
those public goods that are most likely to be provided discipline the following analysis of each common and thest
when resources are concentrated in a single actor.11 And policy implications for NATO as an alliance in the 21
9 See Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of
Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, 1990: Cambridge
University Press.
10 See Todd Sandler, Collective action. Theory and application, New
York, 1992: Harvester Wheatsheaf, p. 36.
11 Ibidem, pp. 36-37.
12 Emil J. Kirchner and James Sperling, EU Security Governance.
Structural Barriers
Strategic Barriers
Security Salience
Public security good
Public security good
Strongest pillar technology
Summation technology
BRIC naval assertiveness
US pursuit of maritime
Importance of sea-borne trade
in manufactures, raw materials,
and energy
NATO force projection
dependent upon unrestricted
Existing regime uncontested
Sovereign airspace
Commercial traffic (passengers and
Strategic Interference
Degraded power projection
Security Threats
WMD proliferation
Interference with energy or
global supply chain security
Violation of air space
Interference with commercial
Delegitimization of
UNCLOS regime
Operational dependence on
cyber- and space-based assets
Operational dependence on spacebased assets and cyberspace
Outer Space
Common-pool security good
Common-pool security good
Weakest link technology
Best shot technology
Global military dominance afforded by net-centric
warfare & vulnerability of systems to adversaries
Scarcity of strategically necessary and commercially
lucrative orbits
Ambiguous attribution, strategies of deterrence,
and proportionality of response
Global reach afforded US/NATO by outer space assets
& BRIC ambitions to thwart that reach
Perforated state sovereignty.
Critical military functions dependent on space based
Global financial, currency, securities, and
commodity markets.
NATO dependence on cyber networks
Physical assets (nodes/fibre optic cables) &
software (malware/infiltration)
Data disruption, theft, & misdirection
Telecommunications and GPS critical to commercial
Unintentional (space junk)
Intentional (e.g., jamming, destruction of terrestrial
assets, ASAT)
Asymmetrical cyber security within NATO and
between commercial/military sectors
Congestion & crowding out of military access.
Highly inseparable
Highly inseparable
Independent of maritime and aerospace assets,
partially dependent on (and substitut- able for
space-based assets)
Independent of maritime and aerospace assets.
Dependent on cyberspace for delivery of critical data
The Maritime Commons
These objectives, in turn, have focused NATO’s
attention on maintaining the integrity of the UNCLOS
The maritime commons domain has the longest regime, particularly innocent passage through territorial
history as a sovereign-free domain facilitating seas, transit through straits used for international
commerce and conquest. Trading nations have had an navigation, archipelagic sea passage, and the definitions
asymmetrical interest in freedom of the seas to ensure of territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive
the uninterrupted flow of trade, just as maritime powers economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf.15 The
have valued freedom of seas to facilitate the projection importance of the UNCLOS regime reflects the
of power. In some cases, there has been a marriage of perceived threat posed to allied freedom of action on
convenience between trading nations and maritime the seas owing to the putative and actual emergence of
powers, while in others the maritime powers are states BRIC states as maritime powers and, more pointedly,
with a major interest in protecting global trade. The China’s revisionist ambitions in the South China Sea
globalization of n …
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