Brave New War, Aftermath: Mountainrunner’s Review

Mountainrunner wrote a great review of Brave New War yesterday, in which he emphasized that John Robb doesn’t bother explaining the motivation for “global guerrillas”:

When Robb does go into the Why, he, like William Lind and Martin van Creveld who he cites and builds upon, oversimplifies motivations and goals to the extent of ignoring fundamental realities. Not all groups he builds his case on seek to “hollow out” the state. These little details tell us how threats grow and expand and how to shut them down. The details show that in many, if not most, of Robb’s cases it isn’t an attempt to bring down the state or hollow it out, but by a variety of reasons that built up over time. The Why is messy business and he chooses to ignore the causes behind the guerrilla movement, leading to his own catastrophic superempowerment of groups in his examples.

I agree completely. Global guerrillas are two-bit realists more concerned with bothering a government than actually winning. To my knowledge, Robb has never satisfactorily addressed the issue of the motivation of “global guerrillas.” Mountainrunner’s words were the perfect opportunity for Robb to fix this error and address real concerns.

Brave New War, by John Robb

Instead. he pens this:

Knew it was going to happen. Oh well. To tell you the truth, I kinda expected more push-back to an outsider like me from the “conference crowd” guarding the walls around the counter-terrorism money/fantasy machine in Washinton. This guy is the only one to do so publicly.

Now, to the best of my knowledge Mountainrunner is a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and presumably not in a position to “guard the walls around the counter-terrorism money/fantasy machine in Washington.” However – demonstrating his grace — Mountainrunner’s answer is devestatingly funny:

I don’t know that I am trying to protect the “money/fantasy machine”, mostly because I don’t know what he means (a little help?). However, it does sound bad and I would probably agree the “money/fantasy machine” needs to be whacked based on name alone. Whatever it is, my issue with the book pivots on his failure to include and factor in purposes and support systems into the analysis of his guerrillas. Insight into these two not insignificant data sets can’t be dismissed or ignored, but that is just what BNW does.

Brave New War combines insight into a hurtful but ultimately harmless form of terrorism with selective use of buzzwords that flatter potential reviewers. Ultimately, however, it fails to address the issue of motivation (as MountainRunner points out). It has other problems, as well, but those are posts for another time…

9 thoughts on “Brave New War, Aftermath: Mountainrunner’s Review”

  1. Tactics vs. strategy. The global guerillas may all use the same tactics, but they do not all have the same strategy. The only broad strategy that could possibly be defined would be to protect a small (usually criminal) base of power, absent an ability to fully confront a state.

    Otherwise, they are simply Thugee with bigger toys and better communication.

  2. Curtis,

    Robb's book is a more “professional” presentation than his book, so while some errors overlap, others are unique to the book.


    I would agree with you on tactics, except that in the book Robb gives the global guerrilla strategic concern (avoiding a total war with the state, avoiding state collapse, etc.)


    Agreed. As of now he's taken down the post from the front-page, but the url still works. It will be interesting if he addresses the issue.

  3. Добрый день всем пользователям форума!

    Извините , если раздел: этот не подходит для этой темы.

    Предлагаю работу – участие в социологических исследованиях и опросах.

    Это прекрасная возможность для матерей, ухаживающих за детьми, для домохозяек, отцов, которые работают на двух работах, которые приносят мало денег, для людей, чья работа связана с Интернет, для студентов и т.д. т.д. Фактически, этим может заниматься каждый человек, который готов зарабатывать в комфортной обстановке у себя дома!

    Добавьте больше гибкости в Вашу жизнь. Подумайте об этом, Ð’Ñ‹ можете отвести детей в школу, придти домой и начать заполнять опросы. Работаете час или два, затем идете на гимнастику. Вернувшись, Ð’Ñ‹ делаете еще несколько опросов. Занимаетесь по дому, забираете детей из школы, а вечером участвуете в опрашиваемой группе в “чате” и делаете еще несколько опросов.

    Ð’Ñ‹ можете работать дома всякий раз, когда у Вас есть желание. То, что Вам будет нравится больше всего – это то, что Ð’Ñ‹ можете работать 30 минут или несколько часов… Ð’Ñ‹ можете приступить к заполнению опросов всякий раз, когда у Вас есть возможность и не обязаны заниматься этим много времени без перерыва.

    Информация о вакансии на :
    uxxicom dot com/ или

    удалённая работа
    надомная работа
    работа в интернет
    участие в платных опросах

  4. robb used to work at Gatner, he's very good at the hype cycle and very bad at details. remember professionals talk logistics, amateurs talk tactics which is all he does

  5. Shane,

    But why would Tom be spamming me… in Russian… about Uxxicom's work-from home schemes? Why??? 😉


    Sales is the better part of entrepreneurship, and John's great ability to get attention for his book is doubtless helped by his corporate experience. It's a valuable skill-set to have.

    That said, past jobs or even past views ultimately don't matter in honest debate: ideas do. The idea of “global guerrillas” drags down the rest of Robb's work. Much of what he says is reasonable in isolation, but the broader GG framework just doesn't make sense.

    A final thought: I hope you're not too hard on amateurs — after all, isn't my day-job! 🙂

  6. Shane,

    You wouldn't happen to have a good cyrillic Russian -> English/Arabic Russian resource would you?

    My SO is Russian and I've been learning some, but the thing that helped me learn Spanish best was that I could see the word and how it was spelled. For example, there seem to be a lot of Russian words with barely pronounced Y's and R's

    “To speak”, gavaru and “you speak” gavaritya ?

    Seeing the words in Cyrillic doesn't do much for my pronunciation. It seems learning Cyrillic as a precursor to learning to ask where the bathroom is or if she wouldn't be interested in spending the afternoon undressed is a big hurdle 🙂

  7. Pardon, I mean Latin/English… Was thinking Arabic numerals, or more accurately, Indian numerals. Typing faster than thinking is a trait programmers just can't seem to shake.

  8. Good thing you're not a rails programmer… you would just post

    ruby make/comment transcription

    and expect a black box to do the rest for you!

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