Monday, September 03, 2007

Review of Brave New War #2

Review of Brave New War by John Robb (Continued).

The author emphasizes the vulnerabilities of a technological society to the forces of chaos. The state is too slow and unwieldy to adequately defend against those forces that wish to sow disorder and yet have no interest in replacing a government with themselves (as was the case with previous forms of guerrilla warfare). Although some success may be gained by spectacular (and deadly) attacks such as witnessed on 9-11-01, in general, the small and weak are better off overcoming the large and strong by means and methods of systems disruptions. Deadly attacks will provide diminishing returns by hardening resolve and creating new enemies. Also, the response is not universal. A terrorist attack on Italy would not be as effective as one against the US as a smaller state does not possess the resources to massively over-react. (In addition, the perpetrators generally do not live to fight another day.) On the other hand, attacks against infrastructure and other technological systems are relatively easy to plan and implement with little risk to the participants (assuming a certain level of knowledge of those systems). An example cited by the author was an attack on Iraqi infrastructure that cost several thousand dollars to carry out, but resulted in the loss of $500 million in lost oil export revenue. (The cell responsible also escaped unnoticed and unscathed.) Compared to actual combat, it simply does not take much to fight this type of economic warfare.

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