Brave New War, Part I: The Future of War is Now

I started reading Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, by John Robb. I’ve defined global guerrilllas before, a topic John Robb often blogs about, so I am interested in what he has to say.

Brave New War, by John Robb

This post is not a review of the book, but rather contains my initial thoughts on the first three chapters of the book. Chapter 1, The Superempowered Competition, presents his theory that due to technology and globalization the forces of disorder are more individually powerful than ever. Chapter 2, Disorder on the Doorstep, presents an introduction to 4GW and the generations of warfare. Chapter 3, A New Strategic Weapon, focuses on systems disruption as a key to victory.

The last few pages of Part I (particularly, 60-63) are well written. Robb presents a realistic summary of the partial victory options that remain for the United States in Iraq.

They are the highlight of the book so far

Brave New War averages something like 1 false or questionable fact per page in the early part of the book. These range from strange statements (“Unlike previous insurgencies, the one in Iraq comprises seventy-five to one hundred small, diverse, and autonomous groups of zealots, patriots and criminals alike,” page 2 — is Robb implying that all previous disorder has bene uniform?), to undefined terms (especially “global guerrillas” and “bazaar of violence” on page 15, though hopefully these will be rectified by the end of the book), to questionable assertions (consistent with what he was written before, Robb denies that al Qaeda is totalitarian and implies that al Qaeda leaders are free from the normal human impulse to centralize power that characters most previous revolutionary groups — see page 18 for the first occurance of this).

So far, Brave New War would be better written if it refrained from claiming things were “new” when they weren’t. On page 27, for example, Robb claims that “Unlike early guerrilla wars of the twentiy century, the guerrilla wars we saw in the latter half of the twentieth century were substantially harder to defeat due to a combination of superpower sponsorship and innovation in method… As we progressed into the 1980s and the cold war faded, smaller states began to adopt the use of proxies to fight their enemies as well.” Of course, the analysis falls apart completely when one remembers Britain was in a long counterinsurgency against German-backed Afrikaners in South Africa, that only “ended” with the establishment of an independent South Africa, nominally loyal to the Crown, but ruled by the former insurgents.

I’m writing this in the floor of Chicago O’Hate, as I wait for my flight to be re-scheduled. Presumably, I’ll be done by Part II by the time I land.

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