Open Source War

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Concept by John Robb from the Global Guerillas blog:

(should be merged with Open Source Warfare


From :

"Open source war is a byproduct of globalization. It different than conventional guerrilla warfare in that the guerrillas don't have a center of gravity (a unifying ideology). In open source war, the guerrillas aren't loyal to a single group but rather dozens of different groups, each with their own motivations for fighting. The benefits of this organizational type, once it reaches critical mass, are numerous (and once it is entrenched, it is almost impossible to defeat). The good thing is that it is difficult to initiate, cross the chasm in adoption, and reach critical mass." (


How to start an open source war

John Robb:

Plausible promise.

An open source war is built on an idea that has wide acceptance. The key is finding the idea (eject the occupation or force a government to abandon an egregious exploitation of a target area -- see my notes on Indonesia in the post below). Once it is found, it needs to be turned into a plausible promise. This is accomplished by making successful attacks, an alpha release if you will, on the target. If done correctly, this proves that the target is vulnerable and the war has the possibility of being won.

Crossing the chasm.

The key to moving from a foco to a viable movement is to adopt open source behaviors. This includes sharing, trading, collaboration, and coordination with groups that are willing to participate but do not share the same motivations or loyalties as the initiating group. This is a very tough step, particularly for authoritarian groups. However, if it is accomplished the chasm in adoption is crossed very quickly. Operative tenet: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Critical mass.

The final step is gaining sustainability, where the movement renews itself as a natural byproduct of its operations. The best method I've discovered is to disrupt critical infrastructure (see State Failure 101 for more). The disruption of infrastructure damages the economy in a way that forces new groups to develop, by driving people to primary loyalties in order to survive. Groups formed by these primary loyalties will actively participate in the conflict (either in support of the government as paramilitaries or against it as guerrillas). The interaction of these groups, particularly their excesses, provides a useful dynamic. Finally, it also fosters the development of a micro-economy (a bazaar) of guerrilla freelancers that provides a large pool of expertise that can be drawn upon to scale operations (transnational crime is a great way to pay for this)." (

More Information

Listen to John Robb on Open Source Warfare