OPEN-SOURCE WARFARE vs. PNM THEORY [ UPDATED]
It is great fun for me to see two brilliant minds clash. And I saw this one coming. :o)John Robb
of Global Guerillas
has an op-ed in the New York Times
( you have " arrived" as a pundit when you get your NYT op-ed) that forecasts an El Salvadorized exit of American forces from Iraq:"Given this landscape, let's look at alternative strategies. First, out-innovating the insurgency will most likely prove unsuccessful. The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid - demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq). ...What's left? It's possible, as Microsoft has found, that there is no good monopolistic solution to a mature open-source effort. In that case, the United States might be better off adopting I.B.M.'s embrace of open source. This solution would require renouncing the state's monopoly on violence by using Shiite and Kurdish militias as a counterinsurgency. This is similar to the strategy used to halt the insurgencies in El Salvador in the 1980's and Colombia in the 1990's. In those cases, these militias used local knowledge, unconstrained tactics and high levels of motivation to defeat insurgents (this is in contrast to the ineffectiveness of Iraq's paycheck military). This option will probably work in Iraq too. "
I can't be too hard on Robb here because, frankly, I foresaw the same " controlled civil war" possibility ten months ago
. On the other hand, Robb may be getting more than a little carried away by following up on his op-ed by predicting that Iraq will then yield a Global 1980's Lebanon.
More as to why in a moment.Dr. Barnett
caught Robb's editorial today and has offered a serious rebuttal on his blog
:"Remember, super-empowered individuals can rule vertical scenarios temporarily, but it takes states, and all their resources, to rule horizonatal ones. In short, don't confuse disruption capacity with rule-making capacity. To believe the former rules all is to engage in what that battle-tested revolutionary, V.I. Lenin, called the child-like belief that the right bomb in the right place at the right time changes everything. Modeling ourselves on OBL's and Al Qaeda's infantilism isn't the answer. Building the bigger open-source net is. This is my A-to-Z rule set on processing politically bankrupt states.
Creating better rules is how we win. By doing so we attract good citizens and good states, slowly but surely. Killing symmetrically is gratifying, but ultimately pointless. Reformatting their world so that their cause dies is the real victory. Not a matter of making it like our own, but simply making it connective in a deep sense with the outside world, so that individuals can choose their level of connectivity no matter what the authorities say or do.
So I say, bet on numbers. Bet on bigger networks. Bet on growing the Core and, by doing so, restricting the enemy's operating domain."
There are major divergences in perspective between these two theorists beyond a simple classic pessimist vs. an optmist.
Robb is arguing that the operative Rule-set within the battlespace
that is Iraq ( actually everywhere) has changed to our disadvantage and that of all nation-states. He is also an "Entropist" - Robb along with other key 4GW thinkers like William Lind
are betting their chips that the global system is increasingly suffering effects under the Law of Entropy
and is winding down. Agents of centrifugal disintegration and systemic disruption are thus superempowered because their efforts are in sync with the general momentum of the times. The wind is at bin Laden's back, as it were.
Barnett is arguing that the Rule-set within the battlespace is totally irrelevant; what matters is the power and legitimacy to write
the Rule-sets that shape and determine the battlespace
. In other words, al Qaida might attack on ground of their own choosing but we can ultimately determine what ground matters and al Qaida cannot. Moreover, Barnett is an
" Evolutionist" - he's betting on the Darwinian nonzero sum
outcomes that undergird the formation and perpetuation of complex systems .
The larger the scale the less valid becomes Robb's argument because the battlespace ( Iraq, Chechnya, Colombia, wherever) will resemble less and less a closed system that would permit progression to complete breakdown. Human beings are social and economic creatures, they bias their actions toward aggregating added value. In terms of market conclusions, the larger the crowd, the wiser it is.
Globalization trumps guerillas.UPDATE:John Robb rebuts Dr. Barnett's rebuttal
. Disputes holding pessimistic views, aligns with Thomas Friedman's " Flat world". An excerpt:"Our dispute is solely on how we get there. It isn't a contest of light (light) and dark (pessimistic) views. We are both optimistic about the future......This viewpoint translates into our approach to solutions. He's sees Iraq as a non-attempt at state-sponsored nation-building and I see it as the best attempt that this approach could muster." Go read the whole thing at Global Guerillas.