The Failure of Systempunkt Attacks

Mark of ZenPundit wrote a great post on super-empowerment, which sparked an excellent discussion. It made me think of John Robb‘s theory of “global guerrillas,” which holds that a force can successfully attack a “systempunkt” in order to achieve its political goals. A “systempunkt” is a single point of failure for an economy, so called because words apparently sound more authoritative in German than in English. Leaving aside the idea of guerrilla organization, which is a subset of the problem, it is doubtful a systempunkt attack could work.

Broadly speaking, a systempunkt attack could come in four major varieties: Domestic-strikers to change domestic-policy, domestic-strikers to change international-policy, foreign strikers to change domestic policy, or foreign-strikers to change international policy. Visually:

Two obvious examples of are the 1970s Arab oil embargo (international strikers to effect international change) and the 1980s British coal miners strike (domestic strikers to effect international change)

There have been fewer attempts to fill in the other boxes, but the turn-of-the-century Anarchist movement (which identified politicians as the systempunkt) is a good example of a foreign-attempt to change domestic-policy, while the 1970s SDS / Weather Underground is perhaps the best example of a domestic attempt to change international policy.

They all share one thing in common:

Robb’s “global guerrillas” are supposedly “open source,” meaning they see what works and act on that. But why would any “open source” warrior attempt a strategy of such unique failure?

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