Brave New War, Part II: Systems Disruption and Open Source Warfare

The last two chapters of the second section of John Robb’s new book, Brave New War: The Next State of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, begin to seriously introduce the concepts Robb first introduced on his global guerrillas and personal weblogs. The first of these chapters, Systems Disruption, focuses on his main idea that the best way for small forces to battle states is to attack them at brittle parts of the strongest component: their infrastructure. Following that, Open Source Warfare compares a method of warfighting to the popular free and open source software movement that is behind the Firefox web browser.


Brave New War, by John Robb

“Systems Disruption” is a short chapter. The first pages recite various economic facts which are not under dispute. The parts that are questionable are not factually wrong but are open to question. The book uses the phrase “global guerrillas” again without providing a definition, though “systempunkt” is defined earlier in the chapter. Additionally, twice (pgs 103 and 110) I was struck that if these tactics is so open, obvious, and cheap, why are they not seen?

A clue can be found on page 107, where Brave New War emphasizes that global guerrillas should not aim for the destruction of the state.

Complete collapse would create total war… A complete urban or country takedown would prompt the state to launch a total war. This is a type of warfare that global guerrillas are not prepared or able to fight… By keeping the level of damage below what would be considered fatal to the state, total war is avoided

This may be the most important paragraph of the book. Global guerrillas are nuisances who can aim for nothing better. They, like thugs of all sorts, can kill and maim. But they are not as important or dandgerous are foreign states or internal insurgencies.

The next chapter, “Open Source Warfare,” is full of fun ideas. I covered similar ground in my posts, “The Unix Philosophy” and “Audacity.” Likewise, the concept of sematectonic (“Environmental conditions influence the behavior of all actors in the system…”) appears important for SecretWar/5GW. “Open Source Warfare” is an offensive chapter that introduces these important ideas to a large audience.

4 thoughts on “Brave New War, Part II: Systems Disruption and Open Source Warfare”

  1. i seriously doubt the GGs are thinking:

    man, we could take this whole thing down, but then it'd lapse into all out war, so we'll just punk enough to benefit our agenda

  2. I wonder if the GG — er, Iraqi insurgents/terrorists (because we're still only talking localized actors within a few TAZs) — I wonder if their main goal is merely noise. I.e., a little more static, so they can move around and do whatever they like. Some few kingpins may have ulterior goals, and many of the low-level actors may have wildly fantastic dreams (stoked or not stoked by the kingpins); but much of the activity is merely, as John says, to keep a solid nation-state from forming.

  3. Curtis,

    “I wonder if their main goal is merely noise. I.e., a little more static, so they can move around and do whatever they like”

    This may be some objective, but it's hard to see hwo they would focus on noise-creation. So perhaps one is a “gg” only as long as one focuses on means, but once one focuses on ends one is a normal terrorist or criminal?

    I read all of Brave New War and Robb never defines GGs, only describes them,

    Sean,

    “man, we could take this whole thing down, but then it'd lapse into all out war, so we'll just punk enough to benefit our agenda”

    I agree. I think Robb would answer this criticism by saying that GGs would pick up cues from the system as to whether they should push hard or not — but this leads back into the criticism of GGs-as-altruists.

  4. After having spent literally hours talking with insurgent members of QJBR, Islamic Army of Iraq and Ansar al Sunnah it was great to see their thinking/actions being completely covered in Brave New War. A recent quote by a 1st Cav soldier in south Baghdad stated in in their cat and mouse game with the insurgents this was one really really smart mouse.

    I think those that doubt the book, or it's terminology should spend some time in Iraq studying the problem up close and personal. The evolutionary changes in insurgent structure, speed of adoption of battle tactics amoung all the groups to include the Shiite militias, the constant unending evloutionary changes in IED technology and insurgent counter IED techniques is amazing to watch AND there is no common standard 4G explanation for this. This insurgency and for that matter al Qaede has moved their fight from the physical battle space to cyperspace and 4G does not talk about that shift.

    I am amazed that many still do not believe that there is a global Sunni Salafi/Tikfiri driven global jihad.

    This book comes close to the reality in Iraq and the evolutionary changes in insurgencies that leave the realm of 4G.

  5. Richard,

    Thank you for your excellent comment. Knowledgeable feedback like yours makes tdaxp what it is.

    I want to understand your thinking more, so I have some thoughts and:

    “The evolutionary changes in insurgent structure, speed of adoption of battle tactics amoung all the groups to include the Shiite militias, the constant unending evloutionary changes in IED technology and insurgent counter IED techniques is amazing to watch AND there is no common standard 4G explanation for this. This insurgency and for that matter al Qaede has moved their fight from the physical battle space to cyperspace and 4G does not talk about that shift.”

    I agree with this, so far as the GW framework is technologically-neutral and “open source warfare” describes rapid shifting of technology. Indeed, my post on the Unix Philosophy [1] covered much of the same ground.

    “I am amazed that many still do not believe that there is a global Sunni Salafi/Tikfiri driven global jihad.”

    I agree — but this poses a problem for the book.

    Remember that “global guerrillas” appear to oppose the formation of any strong government. If the jihadis actually want to replace the current apostate regimes with the beautiful Sharia, then they are not global guerrillas. Likewise, if the “global Sunni Salafi / Tikfiri driven global jihad” merely aims to weaken but not destroy or replace states, then they are not trying to implement the Sharia.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/04/09/the-unix-philosophy-modularity-and-patriarchy.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/02/05/working-definition-of-global-guerrillas-try-2.html

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