Saturday, November 24, 2007

John Robb in IEEE / Slashdot!

John Robb, who has both personal and theoretical blogs, was mentioned in a recent article in IEEE Spectrum that was picked up by Slashdot:

“What we are seeing is the empowerment of the individual to conduct war,” says John Robb, a counterterrorism expert and author of the book Brave New War (John Wiley & Sons), which came out in April. While the concept of asymmetric warfare dates back at least 2000 years, to the Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu, the conflict in Iraq has redefined the nature of such struggles [see photo, “Road to Perdition”]. As events are making painfully clear, Robb says, warfare is being transformed from a closed, state-sponsored affair to one where the means and the know-how to do battle are readily found on the Internet and at your local RadioShack. This open global access to increasingly powerful technological tools, he says, is in effect allowing “small groups to…declare war on nations.”

Need a missile-guidance system? Buy yourself a Sony PlayStation 2. Need more capability? Just upgrade to a PS3. Need satellite photos? Download them from Google Earth or Microsoft's Virtual Earth. Need to know the current thinking on IED attacks? Watch the latest videos created by insurgents and posted on any one of hundreds of Web sites or log on to chat rooms where you can exchange technical details with like-minded folks.

Robb calls this new type of conflict “open-source warfare,” because the manner in which insurgent groups are organizing themselves, sharing information, and adapting their strategies bears a strong resemblance to the open-source movement in software development. Insurgent groups, like open-source software hackers, tend to form loose and nonhierarchical networks to pursue a common vision, Robb says. United by that vision, they exchange information and work collaboratively on tasks of mutual interest.


Congrats!

(The comments in the Slashdot article are exceptionally good.)

07:55 Posted in John Robb | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The evolution of a blogger

Many of his posts are still aggrevatingly incomplete. His most recent post on his personal blog, "Peer to Peer Globalization," is self-contradictory. And his most recent prediction (which, admittedly, was just bandwagoning) has been falsified.

Still, (as I was mentioning to A.E. earlier), John Robb is becoming more interesting. Recent posts on "guerrilla group size in Iraq" and "The U.S. Embraces Open Source Warfare" are right on the money. Indeed, they reflect what I've been saying for a year or two.

I noted how Robb's work splits between the useful and he aggrevation in my impressions of his book, Brave New War. Still, thre's hope for more of the former and less of the latter. He seems to be moving away from the undefined concept of "global guerrilla," instead focusing on the advantages of decentralization, distribution, and resilience. John's a great marketer, so such a transition could be very helpful.

08:05 Posted in John Robb | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So what is the definition of "global guerrilla," anyway?

I thought global guerrillas opposed the hegemony of the state. Apparently not (or else John has now transformed into an official anarchist cheerleader):

Chris Anderson (the editor of Wired magazine) has been pushing the envelope of do-it-yourself reconnaissance using low cost UAVs, stitching software (in conjunction with Google Earth), a GPS datalogger ($99), and digital cameras (the Canon PowerShot SD650, at 6 MP). Yet another global guerrilla (for good) tinkering project for applications in security and disaster response.


Thanks to Curtis of Dreaming 5GW and the 5GW Theory Timeline for the link.

09:50 Posted in John Robb | Permalink | Comments (27)

Monday, September 03, 2007

The War of Ideas in the Context of the Nation-Building-Industrial-Complex

Robb, J. (2007). Unleashing the dogs of war. Global Guerrillas. September 2, 2007. Available online: http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2007/09/unleashing-the-.html (from ZenPundit).

John Robb has an excellent piece on the Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex, the institutional support needed to expand and defend globalization against terrorism, socialism, and stupidity:

If you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end with this US presidency, think again. These wars will likely outlast the next several Presidents. The old Vietnam era formulas don't apply anymore. The reason is that the moral weaknesses that have traditionally limited the state's ability to fight long guerrilla wars have dissipated, and modern states may now have the ability and the desire to wage this type of war indefinitely. Here's what changed:...

[T]he military and its civilian leadership still don't have the ability to garner wide domestic support for guerrilla wars beyond the initial phases. However, they do have the ability to maintain support within a small but vocal base...

The current degree of corporate participation in warfare makes the old "military industrial complex" look tame in comparison.


If this Long War really came down to a "war of ideas," we would lose. Fortunately, it won't. However, it's still useful and helpful to have a "small but vocal base" to distract and wear down opponents as the broader structure of the Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex fights on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Viral swarming

Robb., J. (2007). The coming urban terror. City Journal. Summer 2007. Available online: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_3_urban_terrorism.html (from Global Guerrillas).

A few days ago, John Robb emphasized the danger of engineered viruses. The piece was a hit, being featured on adayinthelife, Ed Driscoll, jilosophy, Noisy Room, and Zenundit, among others. However, a focus on bioweapons overlooks a much more serious threat: bioswarming.

Certainly cheap, available viral technologies will hardly be an unreserved boon, but limits on conceptual complexitiy may prevent much harm. "Engineering" viri requires either the computational power or cognitive skill to model an unimaginatively complex program's interaction on a world that's exponentially more complex yet.

A graver threat, and one more in keeping with Robb's affection for swarming and distributed action, is a natural plague. And considering that viri thrive on several forms of diversity, the fact that man is now an urban species is alarming. Especially when you consider that much of the Gap hosts large, urban, and poor populations that lives with minimal hygiene and a great genetic diversity (all the better for viruses to evolve in).

Human diversity is here to stay, and is indeed a weapon that works against any one virus being able to cut down a large swath of mankind. The rest of the risk factors, though, can be lessened through economic growth. "Cities" as we know them are much better than those in the Gap -- indeed, by Gap standards we barely live in "cities" at all. But as long as the Gap exists, it (and not some crackpot scientist) is the most likely source for a plague. Indeed, nearly disease we know about is Gappish in origin (HIV, the flu, SARS, etc.).

Plagues are just one reason why a lassiez-faire attitude toward shrinking the gap is not just genocidal in effect against them, it is democial in effect against us. "Devil take the hindmost" translates to "just kill a lot of people generally."

Shrinking the gap is the greatest human genetic engineering feet in the history of man. For the first time ever, genocide will not be a regular method of group-level selection. For the first time ever, mass rape will not be a regular method of group-level propagation. Such a breathtaking change is already the case among 2/3rds of humanity. We should shrink the gap not only to make their lives better, but to defend ourselves, too.

Shrink the Gap. Declare war on genocide. Overthrow the state of nature.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

LOL

Got to love how John Robb responds to intellectual criticism with a "LOL" and a defensive smear.

06:52 Posted in John Robb | Permalink | Comments (12)

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex is a 5GW Platform

Robb, J. (2007). A private sector war in Iraq? Global Guerrillas. July 4, 2007. Available online: http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2007/07/iraq-is-now-a-p.html.

John's right:

This trend towards privatization will not be reversed despite the desire by many to return to 20th century legacy force structures. Instead, the trend will continue to accelerate as the threat of disorder (accelerated by global guerrillas) begins to dwarf state vs. state conflict -- the last refuge of the uniformed military.... experience with platforms (usually with a layer of information technology as a fundamental building block) across a wide variety of complex situations (most successful global firms are transitioning to them, as evidenced by a Harvard Business School study I conducted a couple of years ago) shows that they could work in this area too since they grow efficient business ecosystems, establish coherence, supercharge innovation, and provide substantial improvements in flexibility/adaptability.


Platforms are a vital part of our future success. The Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex that I outlined for our 5GW to Shrink the Gap is such a platform.

While Robb presumably sees platforms are more useful in distributing small-scale violence, this is less of a threat to the United States than to other nations. Unlike the regimes spawned by the French revolution, America was built with "bazaars of violence" in her DNA: The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution protect the rights of the States to form their own militias and the right of the people to arm themselves in self-defense organizations as well.

For more on platforms, see the related articles at Kent's Imperative, Thomas P.M. Barnett, and Zenpundit, and the related discussion at Dreaming 5GW

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

5GW + Shrinking the Gap: The Money/Fantasy Machine

Mountainrunner's review of Brave New War was greeted thusly by John Robb:

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.


Respondingly publicly, MR wrote:

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.


At the time, I noted this was a humorous way to turn the other cheek. However, MR is wrong. The "money/fantasy machine" is a vital part of shrinking the Gap.

Read more ...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Science and War, Conjectures and Refutations

One of the reasons I believe that John Robb's work is general unhelpful is that it too easily reaches for emotionally charged appeals. If Robb used more precise and objective in his writings, he could add a good deal to the vertical domain of sub-state conflict study.

To take a recent example, Mountainrunner's recent review of Brave New War was met with an odd attack on "the 'conference crowd' guarding the walls around the counter-terrorism money-fantasy machine in Washington" (emphasis Robb's). This unfortunately set a pattern, as Mountainrunner's follow-up was met with this from Amendment Nine:

It seems the critique leveled against Robb is unfair and misplaced. I care more about that latter as fairness in critiquing works has never been a strong suit of mine. The criticism to date, if I can generalize, is thus: John Robb doesn't explain the motivation of his guerrillas, he doesn't go into what makes them tick, so therefore his theory of how to deal with them and where they are taking history is unhelpful. A few tastes of this here, here, and here.


So far, so good. AIX's Phoicon idenitifes a specific criticism he disagrees with, and cites sources relating to that disagrement. Immediately after this, though, he reaches for a simplistic and uninformed counter:

This is sad. An entire generation of Americans seems devoted to nothing but Freudian apologetics. Why do these "thinkers" care so much about the "motivations" of guerrilla warriors? Because Freud said thats important. And what Freud says is the Gospel truth, never mind the evidence to the contrary.

Its true! These neo-conservative, neo-liberal, grand world visionaries are so used to sucking off the milky tit of Freud and the thoroughly discredited academics who espouse Freud's doctrine in the quiet confines of literature departments across the US that they no longer realize Freud has infected all parts of their thought.

We care about the guerrilla's motivations less than we do Billy Budd's. Or is it more? I can't remember. You see my mommy didn't love me enough when I was a boy and so ever since then I've been attracted to the smell of ivory tower feces and a dog's ass.

Robb's writings (cannot speak for his book) are unconcerned with motivations because motivations are spiritual. They aren't really important in a historical context. What are important are the consequences of their actions.

What were the motivations for the US Civil War? The list goes on. I'm sure Sigmund would relate it all to the Lincoln's sexual attraction to negro males. Just as I'm sure Dan, Mountainrunner, and the rest of these "thinkers" would opine endlessly on the sexual aggression of suicide bombers, their orgasmic climax of climaxes, and their aspirations to make love to multiple virgins. But what of the consequences? What of the real world?

Read more ...

20:10 Posted in John Robb, Science | Permalink | Comments (13) | Tags: phoicon

Sunday, June 10, 2007

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...

1 2 3 4 Next