Elements of Global Guerrilla Theory

In a comment to my post criticizing John Robb’s Global Global Theory as coherent gibberish, TDL break down Global Guerrillas Theory into three elements: systempunkts, open source warfare, and the bazaar of violence. Below are excerpts from TDL’s summary, as well as posts by John Robb, on these three comments. I then summarize each idea individually, and provide a final overview at the bottom of this post.

Concept: bazaar of violence

TDL’s view: “it has been around for a long time and is not a new manifestation”
Robb’s view: “This bazaar is where a combination of local and global “hot” money is funding a diverse set of groups, each with their own methods of operation and motivations. Groups engage in co-opetition to share resources, intelligence, and funds (see the attached simplified diagram)… Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt.”
My View: A bazaar of violence refers to a distributed set of security providers, analogous to the software bazaar of Eric S. Raymond. Continuing the analogy, most states feature a “Cathedral of Violence” where security is provided by a relatively stable set of official authorities and organized crime. Bazaars of violence are highly unstable, as a large security providers typically exploits economies of scale to become a de facto government.

Concept: open source warfare

TDL’s view: “Open source warfare also seems a useful analytical framework to understand some of the threats we face today; there seems to be a lot more sharing and a lot less top down control among terror groups (networks, stand alone actors, etc.) occurring today than were ten years ago.”
Robb’s view: “Open source warfare, like what we see in Iraq and increasingly in other locations, relies on networks of peers rather than the hierarchies of command and control we see in conventional militaries. This structure provides an open source movement with levels of innovation and resilience that rigid hierarchies can’t match. Unfortunately, these attributes are likely not constrained to merely local tactical activity. Open source movements can exhibit emergent intelligence that guides the movement’s collective actions towards strategic goals.”
My View: Open source warfare exists when the tragedy of the commons with regards to violence-related marketable information does not. It requires security providers to value the destruction of the market leader more than their own existence. Open source warfare is thus more likely to be used by zealous organizations and less likely to be used by criminal enterprises. As this gives organized crime an unfair advantage in the security arena, open source warfare tends to kill-off organizations that practice it.

Concept: systempunkt

TDL’s view: “a systempunkt can erode the credibility of a government agency and eventually force that agency to give up its power and yield to it to private entities (although I think it would be extremely difficult to do so.)”
Robb’s view: “It is the point point in a system (either an infrastructure or a market), always identified by autonomous groups within the bazaar, where a swarm of small insults will cause a cascade of collapse in the targeted system. Within infrastructure, this collapse takes the form of disrupted flows that result in immediate financial loss or ongoing supply shortages. Within a market, an attack on the systempunkt destabilizes the psychology of the market to induce severe inefficiencies and uncertainties. The ultimate objective of this activity, in aggregate, is the collapse of the target state and globalization.”
My View: The systempunkt is the right bomb, in the right place, at the right time, that can collapse an otherwise stable and emergent complex adaptive system. As no such strike has ever been observed, the systempunkt is a theoretical construct of global guerrillas theory.

Final thoughts: The systempunkt does not exist, open source warfare is suicidal for groups that practice it, and bazaars of violence are regular but unstable features of social life in unstable countries. For this reason, Robb’s theory rely on super-altruistic global guerrillas, who practice open source warfare despite its high costs in order to extend the life of violence bazaars.