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  • Open source war

    The following details one blogger's thoughts on the future of war. I brought it here to stimulate thought and debate.

    Originally posted by Global Guerillas
    The Bazaar
    The decentralized, and seemingly chaotic guerrilla war in Iraq demonstrates a pattern that will likely serve as a model for next generation terrorists. This pattern shows a level of learning, activity, and success similar to what we see in the open source software community. I call this pattern the bazaar. The bazaar solves the problem: how do small, potentially antagonistic networks combine to conduct war? Lessons from Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" provides a starting point for further analysis. Here are the factors that apply (from the perspective of the guerrillas):
    • Release early and often. Try new forms of attacks against different types of targets early and often. Don’t wait for a perfect plan.
    • Given a large enough pool of co-developers, any difficult problem will be seen as obvious by someone, and solved. Eventually some participant of the bazaar will find a way to disrupt a particularly difficult target. All you need to do is copy the process they used.
    • Your co-developers (beta-testers) are your most valuable resource. The other guerrilla networks in the bazaar are your most valuable allies. They will innovate on your plans, swarm on weaknesses you identify, and protect you by creating system noise.
    • Recognize good ideas from your co-developers. Simple attacks that have immediate and far-reaching impact should be adopted.
    • Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away (simplicity). The easier the attack is, the more easily it will be adopted. Complexity prevents swarming that both amplifies and protects.
    • Tools are often used in unexpected ways. An attack method can often find reuse in unexpected ways.
    Since the mid-90s, and arguably earlier, war has not been conducted between nation-states. Wars are now conducted between networks.

    How should the major (and minor) powers re-structure themselves to deal appropriately with this new reality?

    Analogies to competing developments in open-source software are likely the most informative when thinking about these things. I think the answer is found in decentralization. I don't know how, but I know that hierarchies and decentralized networks are incompatible. This has massive - maybe terminal - repercussions for the modern nation-state.

    What do you guys think?

    [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
    [ma-c2][taw-c1]

    Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
    Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

    Treat others as you would have them treat you

  • #2
    Re: Open source war

    That's an interesting parallel. I'm not sure major powers can restructure themselves in the ways outlined above, though. Note that large corporations still generally have trouble accepting open source, although most of this is a result of Microsoft's FUD, I would imagine.
    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. ~
    I have a tendency to key out three or four things and then let them battle for supremacy while I key, so there's a lot of backspacing as potential statements are slaughtered and eaten by the victors. ~
    Feel free to quote me. ~

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    • #3
      Re: Open source war

      Al Qaeda is a network, and due to its highly decentralized structure, has the ability to operate "doughtnut-shaped" - without any central leadership - at nearly 100% effectiveness. Even a highly effective cruise missle strike, which succeeded in knocking out Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and their top generals and captains would do little to slow the pace of operations of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the various insurgent and mercenary groups that it operates with. This pattern is the same around much of the world. Such a strike would, I imagine, have little material effect beyond having a new face on the tapes that are released via As-Sahab.

      A resistance to a networked offensive can be made, even with a hierarchical structure. This is exactly what the US is trying to do. Still, that resistance is likely only to be as effective as the hierarchy has the ability to emulate a network. Command decisions must be pushed downwards in the chain of command, to the platoon and section leaders. This is probably most easily accomplished by relaxing the rules of engagement. Openness must to introduced - in such a way that facilitates swarming, yet minimizes the compromises made to operational security.

      [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
      [ma-c2][taw-c1]

      Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
      Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

      Treat others as you would have them treat you

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Open source war

        The closest thing we have to a hierarchy-built network is the "Salvador option": locally-recruited autonomous squads carrying out guerrilla strikes against enemy guerrillas. An older term for this is "proxy war." Not pretty, and a pretty sad track record of effectiveness.

        It's dangerous to get carried away with this new ideological structure forming in military analysis circles. It's cute, and can be helpful, but you find that a lot of the concepts involved have come before by different names. Only the details, technology and pace of the conflict have changed.

        One risks losing sight of the central causes of conflicts - poverty, desperation, nationalism, fear. Fighting global terrorism, stabilizing Iraq, and ending the violence in Palestine all have major political, diplomatic, and economic components that undercut a lot of military theory.
        In game handle: Steel Scion
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        • #5
          Re: Open source war

          Originally posted by Steeler View Post
          One risks losing sight of the central causes of conflicts - poverty, desperation, nationalism, fear. Fighting global terrorism, stabilizing Iraq, and ending the violence in Palestine all have major political, diplomatic, and economic components that undercut a lot of military theory.
          a) You missed Religious Fundamentalism.
          b) Nationalism cannot be fixed; it can merely be prevented in following generations.
          The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. ~
          I have a tendency to key out three or four things and then let them battle for supremacy while I key, so there's a lot of backspacing as potential statements are slaughtered and eaten by the victors. ~
          Feel free to quote me. ~

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Open source war

            Originally posted by Steeler View Post
            The closest thing we have to a hierarchy-built network is the "Salvador option": locally-recruited autonomous squads carrying out guerrilla strikes against enemy guerrillas. An older term for this is "proxy war." Not pretty, and a pretty sad track record of effectiveness.

            It's dangerous to get carried away with this new ideological structure forming in military analysis circles. It's cute, and can be helpful, but you find that a lot of the concepts involved have come before by different names. Only the details, technology and pace of the conflict have changed.

            One risks losing sight of the central causes of conflicts - poverty, desperation, nationalism, fear. Fighting global terrorism, stabilizing Iraq, and ending the violence in Palestine all have major political, diplomatic, and economic components that undercut a lot of military theory.
            I agree that it is important to not confuse the causes with the methods of war. That said, if networks are a fundamentally different way of organizing, then it is important to discuss what networks are, and the fundamental strengths and weaknesses that arise from them.

            After, no matter what motivates Al Qaeda, they operate as a network. The US military - and all other armies globally, I believe - is a hierarchical structure. Is a hierarchy an inferior structure from that of a network? If so, is the US at risk of losing the war, not due to a technological disadvantage, nor political weakness or indecision, nor due to a (perceived) abandonment of the American principles of freedom, but because of its embedded(?) reliance on hierarchies?

            You mentioned the Salvador option. The story of Salvador option is interesting, because it potentially shows that pushing command too far down the chain is a bad thing. However, perhaps it actually shows that giving command to the wrong people is bad. A network requires some mechanism for self-selection (to select either for those who would be good at further the goals of the network, or alternatively to select against those who would act against the interests of the network).

            Consider Tactical Gamer. While not itself a network - it is more of a community - Tactical Gamer has an effectively self-perpetuating philosophy of mature, semi-realistic, team-oriented game play. This is because, as new players arrive, they quickly acquire a sense as to whether or not TG is a place they would like to be a member of. Existing members help to instill the ethics and values of TG in its new members, but those members probably already have a proclivity to those views in the first place - or else they would not have signed up to become a member, or even spent time composing posts for the boards.

            Is Al Qaeda able to capitalize on this idea - of a self-perpetuating philosophy - in such a way as to push the previously described command decisions downwards but with confidence that the will of the leadership will be carried out? And if it is, then isn't a consequence of that stipulation that the leadership, which would now provide little more than an idealogical context (or narrative) for operations, could be removed with little effect on daily or long term operations?

            [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
            [ma-c2][taw-c1]

            Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
            Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

            Treat others as you would have them treat you

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Open source war

              This thread appears to have died on the vine, which I think is a shame because I see as being so relevant to where the world is going. With that in mind, let's shift the topic of discussion here from foreign wars to local security - after all, war ostensibly begins from the national (read: local) interest.

              The same blogger I quoted in my opening post has written an essay, published by Fast Company. In it, he details his vision of the future of security - where responsibility for security devolves from the national systems (the armed services, centralized intelligence services and national police like the FBI and the RCMP) to local systems, provided initially by the wealthy and for the wealthy, but over time devolving to the middle class through the use of co-operatives and community cost-sharing structures.

              Thoughts and comments are welcome.

              Originally posted by Security: Power to the People
              We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid and Nigeria to Russia, stateless terrorist groups have emerged to score blow after blow against us. Driven by cultural fragmentation, schooled in the most sophisticated technologies, and fueled by transnational crime, these groups are forcing corporations and individuals to develop new ways of defending themselves. The end result of this struggle will be a new, more resilient approach to national security, one built not around the state but around private citizens and companies. That new system will change how we live and work--for the better, in many ways--but the road getting there may seem long at times.
              Source: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/...-security.html

              [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
              [ma-c2][taw-c1]

              Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
              Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

              Treat others as you would have them treat you

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Open source war

                My readings into open-source war have lead me into fourth generation war. The linked document is by William S. Lind, one of the original thinkers on 4GW. A warning: the PDF is 41 pages long - but it is an easy (and relevant) read. I highly encourage any soldiers (including those soon to be) here with whom the prosecution of war will be charged, and any citizen who wonders why war is fought in a particular way to read this manual.

                Fourth Generation War

                A shorter article, written by the same author on the same subject, but perhaps more palpable in length, can be found here:

                Understanding Fourth Generation War

                As usual, I'd be happy to discuss any thoughts or opinions that are presented.

                [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
                [ma-c2][taw-c1]

                Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
                Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

                Treat others as you would have them treat you

                Comment

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