The conflict in Iraq has foreshadowed the future of global security in much the same way that the Spanish civil war prefigured World War II: itâ€™s become a testing ground, a dry run for something much larger. Unlike previous insurgencies, the one in Iraq comprises seventy-five to one hundred small, diverse, and autonomous groups of zealots, patriots, and criminals alike. These groups, of course, have access to many of the same tools we doâ€”from satellite phones to engineering degreesâ€”and they use them every bit as effectively.
But their single most important asset is their organizational structure, an open-source community networkâ€”one that seems to me quite similar to what we see in the software industry. Thatâ€™s how theyâ€™re able to continually stay one step ahead of us. It is an extremely innovative structure, sadly, and it results in decision-making cycles much shorter than those of the U.S. military. Indeed, because the insurgents in Iraq lack a recognizable center of gravityâ€”a leadership structure or an ideologyâ€”they are nearly immune to the application of conventional military force. Like Microsoft, the software superpower, the United States hasnâ€™t found its match in a Goliath competitor similar to itself, but in a loose, self-tuning network.
John's blog is one of the most insightful I have seen recently on global security. He probably overstates the uniqueness of current insurgencies (e.g. Algeria, Vietnam and Afghanistan also benefited from dispersion, small cells and distributed decision-making), but his long-term view that small groups are becoming more capable is spot on.
I have already ordered the book. I will update when I have read it!