is John Robb's blog, expounding the theory that the asymmetrical warfare practised in Iraq and elsewhere is organised along the same lines as open source software. Intertwined technological and political innovation is a house theme at SSR, so let's pause and contemplate this for a moment, or at least string together jargon in an appealing but fragmentary way.
This post from September
breaks down the parallels between the insurgents and the humble developers of the GCC compiler. John has also graphed the insurgent attacks; they follow roughly the same long tail distribution
as book sales on Amazon.com. He treats recent Al-Qaeda franchise terror attacks using the same framework.
This kind of sucks for advocates of open source software - we were only just getting over being called communists.
Of course open source insurgency sucks even more for the unfortunate people being killed and maimed by their local warfare entrepeneur.
Open source and long tail approaches are both made possible by a dramatic deflation in the price of information and shipping, in real terms, over the last 150 years. Anyone who's read the Art of War will recall how obsessed Sun Tzu was with knowing the movements and motivations of the enemy, so it should be no surprise to find parallels.
Parliamentary democracy as such doesn't deal with this problem. The genius of constitutional democracy is in its slowness and deliberation, inclusiveness and due process tempering the dangerous weight of collective decisions. These insurgents - and the smart policing mobs being grown to combat them - are by contrast highly flexible and autonomous groupings within the state. The instinctive response of rich world governments to these recent terrorist acts has been to try to lock down and track its citizenry further. This effectively raises the cost of information, shipping and the actions of everyday life for everyone, while giving everyday citizens less power to stop the attacks.
((Those Iraqi insurgents who are part of the Al-Qaeda franchise, rather than more conventional civil warriors, are in the bizarre position of insurging in order to establish a "caliphate" - far removed from the political autonomy they now possess. Please, hand me my straightjacket - I can't be trusted!))
The networked terrorist is a new, cheap and successful piece of military tech. Historically, responses to new military tech with old - especially when the new tech is cheap - fail. Democracies instead need smart policing mobs able to inform and if needed act to protect their own communities from threat.
((More analysis and the original heads up for Global Guerillas is at the addictive uber-development blog Worldchanging
Different aspects of this disturbance I have heard on the mass media for the last several days suggests the rioters are using modern communications to expand the disturbance beyond what a centralised command and control structure can handle (ie the French police and government). However, John Robb has a comment which has massive global ramifications for the authority of the nation-state.
From John Robb's Global Guerillas entry titled,
"Journal: Opensource Warfare in France"
This limited violence carries a simple but limited message: "we don't want your help, get out of our way." It does so without crossing the line into full scale war (an earmark of westernized global guerrillas?). Over time, this may become a familiar pattern of evolution: as the state loses its ability to monopolize the provision of economic opportunity, it will soon lose its monopoly on violence.
that the Australian government is trying to pass look like a death throe in the same way that the DMCA laws in the US and Au-US FTA are a solid recognition of an industry choking on the irrelevance of their business model.
It is entirely possible that the "National Security State" is a political and artificial fabric designed to re-assert the authority of the state and centralised government. It can be seen as a response to the crowd, the agile, and decentralised challenges to the nation-state which we have seen in Costa Rica, Iraq, and now France.
The Australian Government recently announced that it would expand the Army by two Battalions to reduce some of the pressure on the large number of deployments Australia has committed to, and seemingly, the expectation of a long infantry-based conflict with extremists and guerrillas in the Middle East. Fourth Generation Warfare [4GW] is the current buzzword, and has been put into modern language by
who writes about the effects of
and their effect on modern state and economic structures.
There is also the suggestion that all nation-states will feel some kind of domestic 4GW disturbance, such as France did recently, and that the technology of the nation-state and its military structure is ill-equipped to handle it.
The professional military rose in the nation-state due to the high capital investment that was required in the nation-state's military capability. In the 18th Century the Navy was the dominant form of projection and nation-state power. Ships and maritime technology development was highly expensive and the civil and military bureaucracy that supported them was both expensive and complex. John Reeve writes in
The Navy and the Nation
Navies have been, for centuries, probably the most complex institutional creations of human society and certainly of human governments. The British Navy - the strategic weapon which built the greatest empire the world has ever seen - was, by the eighteenth century, arguably the largest and certainly the most sophisticated organisation within British society.
To build and sustain a navy has, traditionally, required the balancing and integration of human, technological, environmental, fiscal, economic, political, diplomatic and military factors.
The development of armoured warfare and precision based aerospace warfare place similar demands on the nation-state which develops, supports and sustains such a structure in government, civil and martial backing.
Capitalism is the process of commoditisation of economic products. It works with a fury toward this end until anything on the market approaches its cost of production. Military technology has not been immune to the process of capitalism. Much of the military technology that was unique to nation-states, solely for reasons of capitalisation, are now becoming cheap enough that non-state actors can afford them; satellites, UAVs, chemical weapons, etc.
Governments like professional militaries as they are far more obedient than volunteer, conscripted or militia forces. The American and Australian experience of Vietnam being a case in point. Both countries used conscription and faced social disturbance at home with what was an unpopular war. The coercion of civilians into the military forces spread the social dissatisfaction. New Zealand, in contrast, only sent regular forces to Vietnam, and did not face the same civil disruptions domestically.
The strength of civilian armies, or militia, has been a basis of republican government for a long time.
advocated for militia forces as he believed they were more committed to the state than mercenaries. Presumably this isn't a concern of the modern-state but the conflict in Iraq has shown a disconcerting outsourcing of military functions. Though this may be for domestic political purposes, in order to deflect the true size and cost of the military deployment.
The Jefferson and Madison advocacy for militia was based on the fear of a standing army usurping the constitution; something we saw recently in Thailand, and not so long ago in Pakistan. On our borders we have also seen Suharto's Indonesia where the military become indiscernible from civil government in an unhealthy mix which Indonesia is still struggling to remove from their system. Jefferson wrote in 1799;
I am for relying, for internal defence, on our militia solely, till actual invasion, and for such a naval force only as may protect our coasts and harbours from such depredations as we have experienced; and not for a standing army in times of peace, which may overawe the public sentiment; nor for a navy, which, by its own expenses and eternal wars in which it will implicate us, will grind us with public burthens, and sink us under them.
Capital costs of defence and the level of specialisation in the 1800s quickly surpassed Jefferson's beliefs and the United States ended up with a standing army and navy. It is pretty unavoidable given the level of capitalisation and organisation required - only a nation-state can do it.
Australia has a strong militia tradition which has only been dropped in the last forty years or so, though it still exists civilly in organisations such as the Bush Fire Brigade and State Emergency Services. The Defence Act of the 1900s enforced a morality on the government's approach to military affairs by requiring that only volunteers serve outside of Australia.
This was a very moral law
This meant that the First and Second Imperial Force's were volunteer forces. The Citizen's Military also played a massive role in World War II, especially in New Guinea which was an Australian territory at the time so the government could send militia units there without contradicting the Defence Act. By the end of the war though the Curtin government had moved the definition of Australia as being somewhere just short of the Phillipines. However, Kokoda was one of the great militia victories.
Australia used to maintain militia air squadrons in the 1950s as well but increasing costs of airwarfare platforms eventually scuttled it. The modern professional military is only a recent thing and prior to the 1960s a large component of the Australian military and readiness was wrapped up in militia.
Australian Militia and 4GW
The modern fourth generation of warfare is exposing the weakness of centrally controlled regular units who rely on firepower and force multipliers to complete their mission. The Iraqi experience has shown that local para-military groups are far more effective in rooting out and destroying insurgents and guerrillas.
Jim Hoagland wrote on the insurgency in Iraq
and the realisation that the media and punditry are coming to on the issue of fourth generation warfare;
"Insurgency is here to stay," Jeb Nadaner, deputy assistant defense secretary for stability operations, said at a recent U.S.-British conference in Washington on reorganizing governments to fight irregular warfare.
Other speakers -- including conference organizer John Hillen, the State Department's top political-military expert -- spoke bluntly to the group about the continuing failure of the U.S. military and civilian bureaucracies to adapt to an era in which armor and infantry battles occupy only a small space on the overall battlefield and are in any event too costly to be carried on for very long.
As France has shown there are implications when fourth generation warfare is applied locally. At the domestic level it should be handled by civil responses, such as the police force and in extreme circumstances of emergency the Bush Fire Brigade and State Emergency Services but if the issue does spiral to armed militia the Australian military will be of limited to no use.
The other issue Australia is facing is that it will have great difficulty expanding its Army in a tight labor market and one where soldiers are being deployed everywhere and anywhere. It is best to make up a reserve pool by increasing the militia franchise outside of the Army Reserve format. The Swiss have
an interesting compulsory system
which is something between a regular and volunteer force. Not unlike the mixes Australia used to have in the early 1900s.
Given the decentralised nature of terrorism and systems disruption, it is probably a good idea to train as many as possible in emergency response, civil (BFB and SES) and military (Regular and Irregular) incase the nation-state suffers catastrophic collapse. I do not think Australia will, but it is wise to lay the foundations of social organisation so that if something of that nature does occur it is quickly and easily dealt with.
We may have to change our thinking of state on state violence as well. It is possible that the capital intensive form of warfare and military sustenance in the industrial era was an aberration which we will not see again. It certainly appears that 4GW has more in common with pre-industrial warfare than twentieth century violence.
I think we should change the structure of the ADF from an industrial military force to a more decentralised one; and this means moving as much of the knowledge and expertise into militia structures as possible.
The market and democratic systems enable disruptive technologies and systems to challenge the established order and, if it is good enough, entirely replace it. As a recent example the iPod and Bose speakers had totally replaced the old metre high speakers with CD, turntable, radio, cassette type stereo system. Bureaucracy is a different animal though.
From John Robb
The poor results we get speak for themselves and costs are astronomical. Personally, I don't [think] the CIA or the NSA can be reformed through deck shuffling and coddling. One solution would be to hire Jack Welsh, let him fire 75% of the people already there, and allow him to build a new, functional system from the ground up.
Organisational disruption and replacement in bureaucracy is an internal process which runs in opposition to a bureaucratic form having an internal self-interest in perpetuating its current form. This dampens volatility but also hampers drastic internal re-organisation.
It becomes a political risk in government organisation as well, which further dampens the political desire for drastic change. Competition and self-organisation in the face of internal competitors are important external efficiency arbiters.
Robb is advocating market organisational approaches to government bureacracy - but market companies are easy to judge empirical results. There are a myriad of feedback mechanisms, there isnt with government departments and even less with the more opaque institutions like intelligence.
Until government has transparent feedback mechanisms I cannot see disruptive organisational revisions occurring. Government doesn't need to survive in a market the way a company does, its only concern is ensuring it doesn't fall under negative public opinion that will require political action - such as the Australian Wheat Board faced.
The AWB was darwined, but for a singular incident that was politically repugnant, not because it was uncompetitive or inefficient.
From the article:
Whereas the nation-state used centralized control to enable slower regions to catch up, the market-state will need to accelerate (mostly by getting out of the way) innovation at the regional/community level.
This has implications for how Australian governance has heavily centralised into Canberra and forsaken the federalist structure for a unitary nationalist one. In the next phase of human development and achievement, centralisation, especially political centralisation, is a weakness - not a strength.
Bill Totten quoting John Robb
he [Robb] describes the "end result" of the war on terror as "a new, more resilient approach to national security, one built not around the state but around private citizens and companies ... Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for, much as health care is allocated already".
Very Gibsonesque, but I don't see it, the state still has a monopoly on violence. Terrorism is tangential and fringe violence, it is causing the state fits, such as outsourcing the implementations of its security policies, but it is not replacing the state's dominance of domestic violence.
Several years ago when I was living in Virginia our neighbour died from a heart attack in his garage. I didn't know him well as the house had been flipped several times. Apparently he bought the house with 100% finance, which was not uncommon back then, and was waiting for his bride from Costa Rica to join him. After his death the house remained unoccupied for approximately six months as the family, bride and bank wrangled over it. Consequently I mowed the lawns every week so that the house would not appear vacant and abandoned.
John Robb has an entry describing the disturbance that an absent home owner can cause on a community
. Basically banks are thoughtless owners and are not community members, as a result crime increases, houses are being vandalised, and even stripped for their high worth materials, such as copper. The problems are more than what the local police force can deal with. The effects of bad governance and economic mismanagement go beyond just economic winners and losers.
Above is a foreclosure heat map which shows the US States with the highest foreclosure rates in red. Virginia is quite low, but I am willing to bet that the foreclosure rate in Loudoun County of Northern Virginia is higher than the state average.
Strong statement from John Robb
: "Comparative advantage only applies to corporations, not nation-states and their populations."
Jon Robb offers
a highway robbery style of Wall Street manner of business:
Actually, Wall Street in combination with the Fed and the US government, systematically looted the incomes of Americans for three decades despite scintillating productivity improvements.
I can recall Nicholas Gruen saying that income tends to rise with productivity improvements and is the best indicator of rising income.
However we have seen the rise of the information worker in the same period which has split the workforce into two; the highly paid and educated mover of information and the service economy of low paid work which supports the working and lifestyle of the information worker; keeping offices clean, restaurants served, hotels managed, etc.
This is more consistent with Richard Florida's reading of the creative class which suggests the productivity gains have been heterogenous, rather than homogenous across professions. Robb continues:
Next, dissatisfied with that pile of money, they went after the remaining wealth of Americans, their homes, via low cost and often toxic mortgages and thereby destabilized the bedrock of the global economy.
I did not use the ARM mortgages as I did not trust them. They sounded shady to me. However the construction and home buying boom meant that I moved from a condo to a house faster than normal. Our condo had fourteen people look at it over a weekend and then we were offered above market for it.
I got embarrassed about that and bundled in home insurance in return for the offer. Probably an indication or sense that we knew things weren't right.
The flip-side was that the house we bought was over-priced and expensive, and within two years, if I had not bought when I did, I could not afford to live in the neighbourhood I was in. Robb writes:
Finally, and likely worst of all, when they crashed the entire system they found the means to get at the final and sole remaining pile of relatively untapped cash left: the US government. Through a system of private gains and socialized losses, they are in the process of devouring this last remaining source of wealth.
Which is the US Government and borrowing against the ability of the US taxpayer to repay anything the US Government borrows - and this whole TARP has been done on the tick again, borrowed, borrowed and borrowed.
One of the guys I play paintball with commented one time that sometimes he wishes the whole world would collapse and the fools be weened out. As he said, he knows he can look after his family. I fell similar in that respect, I can compete in the labor market and in the free market entrepreneurially. I have no other choice.
Those working the financial markets should have to face the same as I do. The banks should have been allowed to fail. They are crap now after being bailed out, and were crap before, I fail to see the distinction, or the value of throwing US taxpayer money in there. My productivity is paying for that too, as is my ability to be productive in the future. In my not so humble opinion, it is morally wrong.
Most Popular on South Sea Republic
The articles that have been viewed the most:
Most Popular Restaurants in Phoenix
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Most Popular Hikes in Arizona
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Alternate Australian Constitutions
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
Archives For South Sea Republic
South Sea Republic started in 2004 as an Australian constitutional blog in 2004 based on scoop software. It was an immigrative outgrowth of Kuro5hin. The archives for each year since then;
The articles are ordered by views.
Who Is Cam Riley
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.
Websites Worth Reading
Websites of friends, colleagues and of interest;