Open Source Terrorism and the Decline of the Nation State

I recently discovered Brave New War by John Robb:

War in the twenty-first century will be very different from what we've come to expect. Terrorism and guerrilla warfare are rapidly evolving to allow nonstate networks to challenge the structure and order of nation-states. It is a change on par with the rise of the Internet and China, and will dramatically change how you and your kids will view security.

In Brave New War, the counterterrorism expert John Robb reveals how the same technology that has enabled globalization also allows terrorists and criminals to join forces against larger adversaries with relative ease and to carry out small, inexpensive actions—like sabotaging an oil pipeline—that will generate a huge return. He shows how taking steps to combat the shutdown of the world's oil, high-tech, and financial markets could cost us the thing we've come to value the most—worldwide economic and cultural integration—and the crucial steps we must take now to safeguard our systems and ourselves against this new method of warfare.

This seems like a reasonable projection. And his solution, which is to increase decentralization to reduce the number of major attack points, also seems quite reasonable. Decentralization will be expensive - there is a reason we build giant, vulnerable facilities - but it does seem like a good counter-strategy.

His Global Guerrillas blog is very interesting as well - it's sort of the wikipedia/open-source/memetics/long-tail/Web 2.0 viewpoint applied to global insurgencies, drug gangs, etc. For example, he explicitly applies The Cathedral and The Bazaar to terrorism. And a recent post was fascinating from the viewpoint of David Friedman's hope that eventually the state will just wither away, or the Snow Crash model of the state just becoming slowly obsolete:


A strong sign that the nation-state is in decay is the frequency we see announcements of companies that are replicating some of the most sensitive government services. The most recent mover is Walmart, which is in the process of putting together its own intelligence arm (it's being built by a former CIA/FBI officer Kenneth Senser). For those unable to afford their own global intelligence unit, Blackwater's Cofer Black is building one called Total Intelligence Solutions.

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