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Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization [Hardcover]

John Robb
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 9, 2007 0471780790 978-0471780793 1
""For my money, John Robb, a former Air Force officer and tech guru, is the futurists' futurist.""

The counterterrorism expert John Robb reveals how the same technology that has enabled globalization also allows terrorists and criminals to join forces against larger adversaries with relative ease and to carry out small, inexpensive actions--like sabotaging an oil pipeline--that generate a huge return. He shows how combating the shutdown of the world's oil, high-tech, and financial markets could cost us the thing we've come to value the most--worldwide economic and cultural integration--and what we must do now to safeguard against this new method of warfare.

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Editorial Reviews


""a fast, thought-sparking book."" (""The New York Times"", May 18, 2007)

From the Inside Flap

During the summer of 2004, a small group of Iraqi insurgents blew up a southern section of the Iraqi oil pipeline infrastructure. This attack cost an estimated $2,000 to produce, and no attackers were caught, while the explosion cost Iraq $500 million in lost oil exports—a rate of return 250,000 times the cost of the attack.

In Brave New War, the controversial terrorism expert John Robb argues that the shift from state-against-state conflicts to wars against small, ad hoc bands of like-minded insurgents will lead to a world with as many tiny armies as there are causes to fight for. Our new enemies are looking for gaps in vital systems where a small, cheap action—blowing up an oil pipeline or knocking out a power grid—will generate a huge return.

Drawing on scores of chilling examples from the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, Robb reveals how the technology that has enabled globalization also allows terrorists, criminals, and violent ideologues of every stripe to join forces against a far bigger and richer foe without revealing their identities, following orders, or even working toward the same ultimate goal. This new brand of open-source warfare enables insurgents to coordinate attacks, swarm on targets, and adapt rapidly to changes in their enemy's tactics, all at minimal cost and risk. And now, Robb shows, it is being exported around the world, from Pakistan to Nigeria to Mexico, creating a new class of insurgents he calls global guerrillas.

This evolutionary leap in the methods of warfare makes it possible for extremely small nonstate groups to fight states and possibly win on a regular basis. The use of systems disruption as a method of strategic warfare gives rise to a nightmare scenario in which any nation—including the United States—can be driven to bankruptcy by an enemy it can't compete with economically. We are staring at a future where defeat isn't experienced all at once but as an inevitable withering away of military, economic, and political power through wasting conflicts with minor foes.

How can we defend ourselves against this pernicious new menace? Brave New War presents a debate-changing argument that no one who cares about national security can afford to ignore: it is time, says Robb, to decentralize all of our systems, from energy and communications to security and markets. It is time for every citizen to take personal responsibility for some aspect of state security. It is time to make our systems, and ourselves, as flexible, adaptable, and resilient as the forces that are arrayed against us.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (April 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471780790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471780793
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #778,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Order emerges from chaos - ready or not May 14, 2007
Since the end of World War II, the world's population has nearly tripled, the Internet has allowed anybody to network with everybody, nuclear weapons have made conventional war obsolete among major powers, and the fall of the Soviet Union has unleashed a witches' brew of armed non-state groups - global guerrillas - that operate in the cracks of the disintegrating state system.

This is just the static picture; the dynamics are even scarier. Global guerrillas practice something Robb calls "open source warfare," which means that in the modern environment, people even on different continents can form or join groups, train, and carry out operations much more quickly than in the past or than the major legacy states can today. As the groups learn from each other (and a sort of Darwinism selects out the unfit), a larger pattern forms, an "emergent intelligence," similar to a marauding colony of army ants, no one of which is very sophisticated, but operating together according to simple rules, they are survivable, adaptable, and in a suitable environment, invincible.

As Robb summarizes it:

... the behavior of these insurgencies as a whole seems to learn, achieve goals, and engage in self-preservation, despite the vast differences in how individual groups are organized. (p. 126)

One could dismiss all of this as speculation except for a couple of facts:

* Much of the software industry and a lot of the Internet (e.g.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave New Concept April 30, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For anyone involved in strategic planning, security, financial markets, energy infrastructure, scenario planning, transportation or communications networking, this book is a must-read. For those of us who follow his work at the GlobalGuerrillas blog, much of the information is familiar, but presented here in book form, the many strands of thought that make up the concept come together effectively.

In short, modern communications technology and complex infrastructure make it much easier for small groups to "hollow out" a state. These groups usually don't want to take over a government, they just want to make the state weak so they can get on with their goals of smuggling, ethnic violence, or other profitable criminal activies. This ability to leverage violence and the inability of most to understand the goals of these groups will loom large in policy circles in the future.

This is the kind of book that sparks a lot of further reading and research, in my opinion. Mr. Robb is taking concepts from war, commerce and communications and making a useful model from them. This concept will be useful for families, corporations and countries.

If you want to understand the concepts that will define debate about war, insurgency, globalization and society in the coming decades, buy a copy of this book. If you are low on cash, skip a few lunches and save up the money. It is worth it.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehending the chaos... May 9, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm giving 'Brave New War' five stars not because it's engaging and fascinating (which it is), but because it's an important book. The media rarely addresses the dramatic changes now underway in military conflict with anything deeper than good-versus-evil jingoism. But here, Robb explores the drivers that are reshaping global warfare and the decentralized networks (digital and physical) that make this possible. The author provides an entirely new toolset for understanding why the world is changing and why familiar solutions no longer work.

This book does not pull its punches. Some may be upset by its matter-of-fact presentation of guerrilla strategies, but it is precisely this type of honest analysis that's needed if we're going to build a sustainable civilization. If you live in the modern world, then you need to read this book. If you are in command of an army, then you especially need to read this book.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but not great July 18, 2007
Robb's done some excellent analysis on his blog, which I am a frequent visitor. I looked forward to this book in which expands on many of the points previous hit upon in the blog.

He did a good job of describing some of the tactical changes in warfare and how small loosely linked groups are all working towards a common outcome; that of creating an on-going state of chaos which eventually weakens and undermines the state. While his prose is good in this regard, he did not make the case that this is some type of 'Brave New War'. Rather it smells like typical guerrilla warfare with better tools (telecommunications).

Ultimately, it is on this point that the book loses its energy. After putting forth a framework for open source insurgency, Robb takes scenario after scenario and forces his explanation into this narrow framework. In several cases it is apparent he is fitting square pegs into round holes. The book loses some credibility in these cases.

I liked it though, and found it well worth the money. However, Brave New War does not go into the category of grand strategic thinking. Rather, it is a solid look at some of the emerging tactics of what others have called World War IV.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book on the Future of Warfare (That We're Already In)
Holy s*** this book was amazing! I’m not sure what it was that sucked me in so completely, but I was totally engrossed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by RF
4.0 out of 5 stars Why Open Source Warfare is more terrifying than terrorism
Brave New War makes an important distinction. Much of what we label terrorism isn’t actually terrorism, but is really Fourth Generation Warfare – attack of the global guerrillas. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Steve Brooks
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I understand
Now I see why our government has begun to operate from a fear-based stance. It is afraid of what it can't see. Read more
Published 6 months ago by William P Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars An Accurate and Insightful Piece
A "Brave New War" commands the immediate attention of those who seek to understand global evolution and next-generation warfare. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Erinveine
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but I can not recommend this book.
Taken in by the title and the brief advert descriptor, I bought this book as reading material for my ongoing PME program, but was sorely disappointed. Read more
Published 11 months ago by W.R. Muenzberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and accurate
This is the reference text for resilience reasoning; why we should be prepared for the collapse of globalization, and the unstoppable wave of global gorilla tactics. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Resilient Australia
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for those of us wanting to understand the crazy world we...
John Robb put into words what I saw first-hand in Sri Lanka during the 1990s: a tiny rebel movement running in circles around a government fielding 200 times more troops. Read more
Published 18 months ago by dj
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read to understand the conflicts of the future
I've been following John Robb's blog Global Guerrillas for a few years, and while I was able to absorb some of his prescient thinking online, I just recently finished Brave New... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Jack Donovan
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% Must Have
I first read this book in 2007 as research for Robert Greene's address to a class at West Point and it's stuck with me and stood up better than almost all the books I've read on... Read more
Published on March 23, 2012 by Ryan C. Holiday
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy and Read this Book NOW
I don't write many reviews on but this is one I feel compelled to write. I have followed this author, John Robb, for years on his excellent blog ([...]). Read more
Published on July 30, 2011 by Jonathan Burnham
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