John Robb on Open Source Warfare

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Podcast 1 Description


Conversation of John Robb with the Council on Foreign Relations.

"U.S. forces and the fledgling Iraqi government struggle against the insurgency in Baghdad. Drug gangs in Mexico wrest power from the government. Militias attack oil interests in Nigeria. Armed Software executive and former Air Force counterterrorist operative John Robb tracks them all on his popular blog. In his book, Brave New War, Robb uses the theory of open-source software development to describe modern insurgencies. Collaboration on software produces innovation. “In Iraq, we see similar levels of innovation,” he says. “And this has radically changed how we fight war.” He concludes that the Defense Department is ill-equipped to face the challenges of this new type of warfare. “The U.S. Defense Department is a huge bureaucracy. Most of its focus is on these large weapons systems that are pretty much useless in modern conflict.”

Podcast 2 Description


Panel with Radio Open Source:

"John Robb has an unusual resume: he went from being an Air Force officer in a counterterrorism unit coordinating Delta Force folks and Navy Seals in the late 80s to working as one of the first Internet technology analysts in the mid-90s. Since then, as the world has gotten more wired and no less bloody, he’s been putting these two disparate strands of experience together, writing and arguing that globalized connectivity and democratized technology will lead not just to increased productivity and creative possibility but to sophisticated attacks and chaotic disruptions. That, in other words, the bad people people out there are just as wired as the good ones.

Robb’s contention is that in our near future, when non-state actors commit cheap but effective network attacks (think internet, electricity, oil, water, transportation, etc.), our lugubrous, inefficient, centralized states won’t be able to help us (think Katrina, or Iraq). Instead, we’ll have to get resilient.

Rich corporations and individuals will lead the way:

Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for, much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals and multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of our collective system, opting instead to hire private military companies, such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their homes and facilities and establish a protective perimeter around daily life. Parallel transportation networks — evolving out of the time-share aircraft companies such as Warren Buffett’s NetJets — will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next. (John Robb, Security: Power To The People, Fast Company, March 2006.)

But his real call to action is more public, and more local. He’s looking for a 21st-century self-sufficiency, with community food production, a more supple and sophisticated power grid, and an underlying assumption that the only way to survive attacks in a globalized world is to be able to survive locally." (