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Brave New War by John Robb is a book that was really written for two audiences.

The first is the relatively small number of specialists in military affairs, serious students of geopolitics and bloggers who are already avid readers of Robb’s Global Guerillas site. For them, Brave New War is a systematic and footnoted exposition of the theories of conflict and “dangerous ideas” that Robb discusses daily on his blog. They will be entertained and challenged by the same analysis that makes them return again and again to Global Guerillas to debate John Robb and one another.

The second audience is composed of everyone else. Brave New War is simply going to blow them away.

Brave New War is a tightly written, fast-paced work on the emergent nature of warfare, conflict global society with a decidedly dystopian take. In a mixture of original ideas and synthesis of the works of other cutting edge “thought leaders”, Robb, a platform designer and former mission commander for USAF Counterterrorism operations, draws analogies from the tech world to explain changes in warfare in the age of globalization. Calling the Iraq War “ the modern equivalent of the Spanish Civil War” Robb highlights a robust number of critical concepts in Brave New War that are, in his view, altering international and subnational conflict, including:

Bazaar of Violence
Black Swans
Brittle Security
Dynamc Decentralized Resilience
Emergent Intelligence
Fourth Generation Warfare
Guerilla Entrepreneurs
Global Guerillas
Minimalist Platforms
Open-Source Warfare
Plausible Promises
Primary Loyalties
Stigmergic Systems
Superempowered Groups
The Long Tail of Warfare

Urban Takedowns

Some of these concepts are Robb’s, some belong to others and in Brave New War you will find citations for figures as diverse as William Lind, Chris Anderson, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Valdis Krebs, Eric S. Raymond, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Philip Bobbitt, Moises Naim and David A. Deptula. One of the great strengths of Brave New War is Robb’s capacity as an analyst and theorist to apply the revelations of research into network theory to warfare, and to conceptualize armed political conflict within the framework of platforms and ecosystems. This gives Robb’s arguments a degree of horizontal “interconnectedness” seldom seen in works on military affairs ( except, as Robb himself points out, in the work of his frequent online sparring partner, Thomas Barnett).

Robb is betting heavily on increasing levels of global instability and systemic breakdown as “feedback” from global guerillas overloads “the system” and disrupts globalization. It is this orientation toward discerning the worst-case scenarios and descent into entropy that will raise hackles amongst some readers, though Robb ultimately predicts a strengthening of systemic resilience and a burst of innovation as a result of these tribulations.

Brave New War is the must read book of 2007.


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6 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    That list of concepts is also a list of jargon.

    I started reading Thomas Barnett early on and thought that he had a number of good ideas. But after a while, my mind got so clogged with the jargon that I gave it up.

    I also like a lot of what Robb says on his blog, but I’ve run into the same roadblock. If I don’t spend more time than I have for this on learning the jargon, after a while I don’t understand what he’s saying.

    It’s legitimate and sometimes even useful to develop distinctive names for new concepts, but too much is too much. I’d like to participate in the Barnett and Robb discussions, but I can’t devote that much time to them.


  2. mark Says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    The jargon point that you make is a fair one and seems endemic to military-strategic literature. Monographs and academic mil papers are even moreso like that.

    OTOH, BNW does not present the concepts in the manner which I have done ( to highlight and for brevity)and Robb does so with more prefacing and explanation than he does in his blog posts where he assumes a high degree of familiarity on the part of readers.

    In other words, the book reads more smoothly than the blog ( different format, different style)

  3. A.E. Says:

    I second what Mark said.

    If the jargon on Robb’s blog daunts you, his book is totally different. As I said on my own blog review of BNW, it reads more like an really good action novel than a ponderous policy brief.

  4. subadei Says:

    And I’ll third that.

    One of the biggest difficulties I faced in understanding John Robbs GG framework was in relying solely on the intellectual backstop he uses to fling ideas at (GG.com.) His book, as A.E states reads like an action novel while at the same time, as Mark states, is directed to the “layman” as well as the practiced theorist.
    In effect the blog talks at you (the “you” being the uninitiated) whereas the book talks to you.

  5. Eddie Says:

    Agree with all the above. I used to copy & paste Robb’s archives back in the day to try to understand the framework and terms he was bringing to the discussion. Did not quite work out for me, so I just enjoyed his personal blog more than GG.
    After reading “Brave New War”, I feel much more comfortable with the terms and ideas Robb uses. Its an excellent introduction to a vision of the world that is intriguing and groundbreaking. The proof in the pudding for me is being able to pass it on to other sailors and they “get it”.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Nice to hear. Maybe I’ll buy it.


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