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Is Mammon having a “secularism” crisis?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — Robb’s analysis, capitalism as religion metaphor, irony, warning ]


image source — btw, contact jonesharris [at] btinternet.com if interested

Okay. The Church of England‘s own website, whose banner reads A Christian presence in every community, now hosts a list of, well,


which seems a rather unfortunate way to phrase things — but the point is, something called “secularism” is gnawing away at belief and church attendance, and I’m wondering if it may not be gnawing away at belief and bank attendance, too…

And since Mammon is the theological term for riches or material wealth personified, I’m asking, metaphorically speaking, whether Mammon is now facing its own “secularism” crisis…

Well, to be honest, I’m not the one doing the wondering, really — I’m borrowing the whole idea from the imperturbable John Robb, fighter pilot, entrepreneur and author of Brave New War, and spicing it up a bit with nice pictures of a church conversion to drive the irony of the whole thing home.

From two of Robb’s recent posts on his Global Guerrillas blog:


Oct 5 JOURNAL: The Pope of the Church of Capitalism

The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is part:

Religious figure. The Pope of the Church of Capitalism. The leader of the Church. Final arbiter on the meaning of scripture (arcane economic indicators and economic papers). Is trained in ancient mysteries (economics). Has a council of Cardinals (the Fed board). He also issues indulgences (bailouts and free loans) to banks that he likes.


Oct 7 OCCUPY (Insert Your City Here): Protesting Capitalism’s Crisis

What Occupy is Really About The real reason we are seeing this movement right now is because

Capitalism, the last great ideological system, is in crisis.

This isn’t merely a crisis of outcomes (economic depression, financial panic, etc.), it’s a crisis of BELIEF. While people generally believe in the idea of capitalism, a critical mass of people now think that the global capitalist system we currently have is so badly run, so corrupt, so terrible at delivering results that it needs either a) a complete overhaul or b) we need to build something new.

In short, in its tiny way, this protest may be the start of a reformation of the church of capitalism.

A splintering that may change everything…. For better or worse depending on how well you did in the old, corrupt system.


So, anyway — is it time for capitalism to rid itself of the sale of indulgences?

The religious metaphor is, of course, what fascinates me.

But there’s a warning here, too, about the dangers of radically polarized populations and mobs and their heated passions, as Robb quietly implies with his “for better or worse” — are we ready to go through another (networked, and no doubt accelerated) Thirty Years War?

That is something I devoutly hope we can avoid.

Oslo and Utoya: open source warfare

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

[ by Charles Cameron — analysis of 2083 manifesto, John Robb ]


Just a quick note — section 3.18 of the 2083 European Declaration of Independence reads as follows:

3.18 “Open source” warfare – clandestine cell systems – the most efficient way of warfare in Phase 1

A clandestine cell structure is a method for organising a group in such a way that it becomes virtually immune to detection, penetration and decapitation. As such, it is a critical strategic element of our operations. It is not in any way lead under a fixed, fragile hierarchy but works as an extremely distributed movement, a resilient network made up of small, autonomous groups or cells. Each group is lead by a cell commander, often working solo, who makes all the decisions based on fixed fundamental principles. We therefore avoid the use of electronic communications (including mobile phones, email and internet chat), because electronic intelligence, signals intelligence, ELINT, SIGINT, is a strength of conventional militaries and counterintelligence organisations.

Solo Martyr Cells are completely unknown to our enemies and has a minimal chance of being exposed. The relatively indestructible and impenetrable nature of the Cell System allows the individual to stay hidden until he is ready to “activate” himself. Even then he will escape the scrutiny often reserved for young men of Arab descent. Optimally he should not have any affiliations to “extremist networks” or to any extreme right wing movements for obvious reasons. This will disallow the National Intelligence Agencies to place the individual on their “radar”/under surveillance. As with the “open source” concept in general our core principles which include armed resistance against the cultural Marxists/ multiculturalists are made available for public collaboration. Our evolving approach to conducting warfare makes it extremely quick to innovate and share tactics rapidly from cell to cell without the direction of a vulnerable leadership hierarchy.

Each European country has tens of thousands individuals who are affiliated with far right conservative movements (from moderate to extreme). In addition, there are several thousand individuals who sympathise with armed resistance groups against the cultural Marxists/multiculturalists (many of them being in the police force and the intelligence agencies themselves).

National Intelligence Agencies have very limited resources and will not be able to monitor tens of thousands of people efficiently (they will not waste excessive resources on individuals who are not considered an immediate threat). They will not have any chance whatsoever to implement efficient means against Solo or even Duo cells because you are not on their “priority watch list”. Even if you are on a watchlist you have several opportunities.


Groups and individuals who use terror (spreading fear and means of intimidation) as its primary weapon (even if concentrated on specific individuals or government buildings only) will always have limited “open” support in the population.

The rather excessive secrecy and decentralised concept of our command structure can contribute to a reduction or distortion of information about our goals and ideals. This would only be a problem if f. example a cell commander fails to send an announcement to predefined news agencies and blogs. The biggest threat is that media or government agencies might attempt to distort our messages and material and present it to the media as NS or racist in nature in an attempt to de-legitimise us. This has the potential to prevent the wanted effect of our operation, support for our cause and political pressure on current regimes (to halt Muslim immigration and Islamisation). However, if the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist governments attempt to falsely give credit to racist organisations they risk creating more activity among the NS movements so it is a double edged blade even for them.

There appear to be two references to “open source warfare” in the document: this one is the main one, on p. 840 of my downloaded .docx version. There’s also a mention of “open source intelligence”.

I haven’t found a reference to John Robb in this context — but given that John pioneered the concept of OSW in his writings, I will be interested to see his comments on the brief version described above.

Genghis John

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Not John Boyd this time, but John Robb.

John recently gave me a preview of this idea in a much more specific context:

….Here are some of the economic reforms that turned the horde of Genghis Khan into a steamroller than flattened most of the world’s kingdoms/empires.*  He:

  1. Delayed gratification.  He banned the sacking of the enemy’s camp/city until all of the fleeing soldiers, baggage, etc. were rounded up.  This radically increased the loot accumulated and ensured it could be shared among all of the participants (he confliscated the wealth of those men that cheated by looting early).
  2. Systematically shared the loot based on contribution and merit.  He disregarded title or status and systematically rewarded loot to everyone in the horde that earned it (the traditional approach was to let a few take it all — sound familiar?).  Of course, that fairness pissed off the nobility since they were used to backroom dealing and hereditary rights.  However, the benefits of this system, were far greater than the costs.  To wit:  He cemented the loyalty of the men and was able to attract thousands to his banner for every noble lost.
  3. Protected those that make sacrifices.  For men killed in the campaign, he paid their share of loot to their widows/orphans posthumously.  

*of course, the first unsaid lesson is:  attack the places with the most loot.

Farrall in Foreign Affairs:How al Qaida Works

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Leah Farrall, the Australian former counterterrorism official who blogs at All Things Counterterrorism (and is a friend of Charles Cameron ) has an important analytical article in Foreign Affairs (hat tip to the oratorical Josh Foust):

How al Qaeda Works

Despite nearly a decade of war, al Qaeda is stronger today than when it carried out the 9/11 attacks. Before 2001, its history was checkered with mostly failed attempts to fulfill its most enduring goal: the unification of other militant Islamist groups under its strategic leadership. However, since fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas in late 2001, al Qaeda has founded a regional branch in the Arabian Peninsula and acquired franchises in Iraq and the Maghreb. Today, it has more members, greater geographic reach, and a level of ideological sophistication and influence it lacked ten years ago.

Still, most accounts of the progress of the war against al Qaeda contend that the organization is on the decline, pointing to its degraded capacity to carry out terrorist operations and depleted senior leadership as evidence that the group is at its weakest since 9/11. But such accounts treat the central al Qaeda organization separately from its subsidiaries and overlook its success in expanding its power and influence through them. These groups should not be ignored. All have attacked Western interests in their regions of operation. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also long targeted the United States, but its efforts have moved beyond the execution stage only in the last two years, most recently with the foiled plot to bomb cargo planes in October 2010. And although al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has not yet attacked outside its region, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was reportedly involved in the June 2007 London and Glasgow bomb plots.

It is time for an updated conception of al Qaeda’s organization that takes into account its relationships with its subsidiaries. A broader conceptual framework will allow for a greater understanding of how and to what degree it exercises command and control over its expanded structure, the goals driving its expansion strategy, and its tactics.


Although al Qaeda had tried to use other groups to further its agenda in the 1980s and early 1990s, Osama bin Laden’s first serious attempts at unification began in the mid-1990s, when the organization was based in Sudan. Bin Laden sought to build an “Islamic Army” but failed. Al Qaeda had no ideology or manhaj (program) around which to build lasting unity, no open front of its own to attract new fighters, and many of its members, dissatisfied with “civilian work,” had left to join the jihad elsewhere. Faced with such circumstances, bin Laden instead relied on doling out financial support to encourage militant groups to join his army. But the international community put pressure on Sudan to stop his activities, and so the Sudanese government expelled al Qaeda from the country in 1996. As a result, the group fled to Afghanistan.

By mid-1996, al Qaeda was a shell of an organization, reduced to some 30 members. Facing irrelevance and fearing that a movement of Islamist militants was rising outside of his control, bin Laden decided a “blessed jihad” was necessary. He declared war on the United States, hoping this would attract others to follow al Qaeda. It did not. A second effort followed in 1998, when bin Laden unsuccessfully used his newly created World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders to lobby other groups to join him. Later that year, al Qaeda launched its first large-scale attacks: the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which it hoped would boost its fortunes. But these, too, failed to attract other groups to join, with some instead criticizing al Qaeda for the attacks and its lack of a legitimate manhaj.

With no coherent ideology or manhaj to encourage unification under his leadership, bin Laden instead pursued a predatory approach. He endeavored to buy the allegiance of weaker groups or bully them into aligning with al Qaeda, and he attempted to divide and conquer the stronger groups. In the late 1990s, he tried and failed to gain control over the Khalden training camp, led by the militants Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and Abu Zubaydah, and over the activities of Abu Musab al-Suri and Abu Khabab al-Masri, senior militant figures who ran their own training programs. Bin Laden’s attempts in 1997-98 to convince Ibn al-Khattab, a Saudi militant who led an international brigade in Chechnya, to come under al Qaeda’s banner also failed. His efforts in 2000-2001 to gain control over a brigade of foreign fighters in Afghanistan met a similar fate: the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who had supreme authority over the brigade, instead handed the leadership of it to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, another group bin Laden was attempting to convince to align with al Qaeda. Around the same time, bin Laden also unsuccessfully lobbied the Egyptian Islamic Group and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to join al Qaeda’s efforts. And although al Qaeda supported the militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in his establishment of an independent training camp in Afghanistan, bin Laden was unable to convince him to formally join the organization.

The only real success during this period was al Qaeda’s mid-2001 merger with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al Qaeda’s second-in-command. The merger was possible thanks to Egyptian Islamic Jihad’s weakened position and its reliance on bin Laden for money. The decision was nevertheless contentious within Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and several of its members left rather than join with al Qaeda. In the end, al Qaeda’s only successful merger during its Afghanistan years added just five people to its core membership. Compared to this dismal record, the past decade has been highly successful….

Read the rest here (subscription required) or for a brief time in full, for free, here.

First, I’d like to say congratulations to Ms. Farrall who has been working hard researching the nuances of ideological, theological, tactical and organizational differences and personal rivalries that existed within the mutable and murky subterranean world of professional Islamist revolutionaries. It’s important work. Her recognition in FA is deserved and American terrorism experts should give her arguments close scrutiny.

Secondly, I will say her article shows the extent to which our takfirist enemies, not just al Qaida,  take seriously the ideas behind their global insurgency and that, to them, it is both global and local. The “internationalist” jihadis like Bin Laden seek to weld themselves together with the parochial “Nationalist-Islamists” and David Kilcullen’s local “accidental guerrillas” with a “eucumenical” radical Islamism. As many USG officials seek to ignore or promote an official line of ignoring the ideological and theological motivations of our enemies, they will probably dismiss Farrall unless she gains enough media prominence that this is no longer feasible – at which point, they will make nasty and anonymous criticism about her on background to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Thirdly, Farrall has a very important point here when she wrote:

….They drew from takfiri thought, which justifies attacking corrupt regimes in Muslim lands, and on materials that outline the Muslim requirement to target the global enemy: in this case, the United States and the West. (This was framed in the context of defensive jihad, the need for which was reinforced by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.) The hybrid ideology and manhaj that emerged make little distinction between targeting local enemies and targeting global ones and have a one-size-fits-all solution — jihad. Partnering with al Qaeda does not, therefore, require a local group to abandon its own agenda, just broaden its focus. This helped assuage other groups’ fears that merging with al Qaeda would mean a loss of autonomy to pursue their own local goals.

This is what Global Guerrilla theorist John Robb would call “a Plausible Promise“, a required step in building an “open source insurgency” which can attract groups with differing agendas, opportunitic actors and ideologically motivated, socially alienated “lone wolves” to their banner. Al Qaida has tacticians who apparently agree, having formally adopted “Open Source jihad” in late 2010. So far, the executive branch departments of the USG seem to be studiously determined to ignore that as well, a stance that corrupts our analytical integrity and cripples our operational effectiveness. Lying to oneself is rarely a good way to get an advantage over an opponent.

I think I can speak for Charles Cameron in that we here at zenpundit.com hope to see more articles from Ms. Farrall in the near future.


SWJ BlogThe Hasan Slide Presentation A Preliminary Commentary by Charles Cameron

Fiction: Tom Scott, Flash Mob Gone Wrong

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

by Charles Cameron 

A tip of the hat to John Robb, astute observer of emerging human dynamics and author of Brave New War, for the pointer on his Global Guerrillas blog today to this recent Tom Scott talk, in which a smart mob is not so smart:
Coming soon to a future near you?
[ cross-posted from SmartMobs ]

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