Sunday, July 10, 2011

Navigating the Apocalypse 1.5 – Open Source Jihad

On May 2nd, 2011 a hit squad of US navy seals & CIA operatives raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, killing him with extreame prejudice. The death of bin Laden, one of the two stated goals of US president Barack Hussein Obama, should also have been a death-blow to al-qaeda, effectivly eliminating them as a viable threat to the Western World’s stratigic intrests. There was much subsequent debate on the Sunday morning talk shows as to possible retaliatory strikes from al qaeda in response to bin Ladens assasination.

It is not clear at all, however, if the threat of a terrorist strike from bin Laden’s al qaeda was the western world’s main concern in their war on terror. In fact, it is not clear that bin Laden was still a relevent player in al qaeda’s jihad against the west, even as US military intelligence reported that bin Laden had been controlling the jihad from said compound. A more likley scenario was presented by author John Robb.

In addition to writing “Brave New War,” published in 2007, Robb is a former USAF pilot in special operations. His blog, Global Guerrillas, explores the concepts of networked tribes, systems disruption, Resilient Communities and decentralized strategic platforms. Robb sheds light on what may be the socio-economic, political, as well as covert military future of 21st century Earth. The following information was posted by Robb on Sunday, 21 November 2010…

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Early in 2010 year, al Qaeda formally announced that it had adopted open source warfare (a new, extremely potent theory of 21st Century warfare that makes it possible for a large number of small autonomous groups to defeat much larger enemies) as its preferred method of conducting its insurgency against the west.

The adoption of open source jihad led the organization to launch a new English language magazine called Inspire. This magazine, filled with tools (software, etc.), techniques, and philosophy (on how to carry out open source jihad), demonstrated its desire to shift its role from closed leadership (of operations) to coaching small groups to act on their own. It also led al Qaeda to make a demonstration (an attack) that could provide a plausible promise for its open source collaborators/partners.

Systems Disruption and Parcel Bombs

"To bring down America we do not need to strike big. ...security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch."
- Al Qaeda's Inspire e-Zine

To provide a plausible promise (proof that open source warfare can be successful against the enemy), al Qaeda turned to systems disruption. Systems disruption, a major part of open source warfare theory, is a method of attack that uses knowledge of networks to amplify the damage of the attack. With systems disruption, even small attacks (that cost little and generate little risk to the group) can have national or global impact. As such, it's perfect for the type of attack made by the small autonomous groups within an open source insurgency. It also has a proven track record, in conflicts from Mexico to Nigeria. It works.

Al Qaeda's choice of a demonstration was to use parcel bombs (called Operation Hemorrhage -- a classic name for a systems disruption attack). These low cost parcel bombs were inserted into the international air mail system to generate a security response by western governments. It worked. The global security response to this new threat was massive.

Returns on Investment (ROIs)

Part of effective systems disruption is a focus on ROI (return on investment) calculations. As paraphrased in Inspire: it is such a good bargain for us to spread fear amongst the enemy and keep him on his toes in exchange of a few months of work and a few thousand bucks. We knew that cargo planes are staffed by only a pilot and a co-pilot, so our objective was not to cause maximum casualties but to cause maximum losses to the American economy. It's pretty clear that the security costs inflicted as a result of this operation are counted in the millions of dollars, making for an impressive return on investment for the operation. ROIs from systems disruption can reach one million to one.

Given this successful demonstration attack, we should expect to se many more attacks that employ systems disruption in the future as open source jihadis adopt the method. My intent with developing open source warfare, systems disruption, etc. back in 2004-6 was to develop a truly modern theory of warfare that reflected trends already in motion. Apparently that is proving to be the case as insurgents adopt it from Nigeria's MEND to al Qaeda.

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What is clear from the above is that the views expressed assume that overt, strategic (and evolving) military methods are needed to combat a perceived (also evolving) jihad against the West in its “war on terror.” What is also clear is that the fear based, dog-eat-dog, Planet of the Apes mentality that ruled the 20th Century is rapidly spiraling out of control. In many ways, it could be argued that the 21st Century political reality is devolving into warring factions of opposing zealots, waging ever bloodier religious wars. In this regard we would indeed find ourselves “Navigating the Apocalypse.”

We could, on the other hand, overtake the old paradigm of not-enough to go-round 20th Century politics as usual and replace it with the “Archaic Revival” version of a de-centralized 21st Century. Terrence McKenna’s vision of a return to a global agrarian society presumes that humanity’s collective unconscious not only desires this, but is taking us toward just such a world.

“This is where the future is taking us because the secret faith of the twentieth century is not modernism, the secret faith of the twentieth century is nostalgia for the archaic, nostalgia for the paleolithic, and that gives us body piercing, abstract expressionism, surrealism, jazz, rock-n-roll and catastrophe theory. The 20th century mind is nostalgic for the paradise that once existed on the mushroom dotted plains of Africa where the plant-human symbiosis occurred that pulled us out of the animal body and into the tool-using, culture-making, imagination-exploring creature that we are.”

- Terrence McKenna

McKenna identified the current political power structure as the “dominator culture,” who has exploited Earth’s disproportionate available resources for their profit, resulting in the economic and political catastrophe that is evidenced in today’s world headlines. R Buckminster Fuller used the slightly more poetic phrase… the “Great Pirates" to discribe the few who control the many. It is evident that those in apparent control have a vested interest in either a status quo or a continued deterioration of economic conditions world wide. It is in the dominator culture’s best interest to suppress any thought of equality and justice… of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps our best opportunity to supplant the dominator culture, to loosen the vice-like grip that the great pirates have on the world’s resources is through the proliferation of global communications via social media and other tools as evidenced in the “Arab Spring.” Perhaps navigating the apocalypse requires that we out maneuver and outsmart the old guard. And finally, if all else fails… perhaps Gaia has her own plans. Perhaps our future shall include an “Open Source Earth.” To quote Michael Crichton from his 1990 novel, Jurassic Park…

The history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully… perhaps even dangerously... but life finds a way.