Insurgent Advantage

Brave New War Cover David Brooks reviewed John Robb‘s new book, Brave New War, in yesterday’s NYT. It’s subscriber-only but full-text variants are available around the Web, including here.

Matt Yglesias, Brian Beutler, and Eric Martin think this is all a blinding flash of the obvious — that guerrilla tactics are effective — but there’s much more to Robb’s book than that.

My own review of the book is written and forthcoming at The Examiner, so I won’t go into much detail here. Essentially, Robb contends that modern global guerrillas have morphed into something much more elusive and immune to traditional counterinsurgency tactics because of the force multipliers of modern information technology and an organic, “open source” structure.

Indeed, Brooks’ basic summary is right. His conclusion, however, is an odd one to draw from Brave New War:

If the Iraqi insurgents defeat the U.S. then every bad guy on earth will study and learn their techniques. The people now running for president will find themselves in bigger heaps of trouble than the current one now is — trouble that this presidential campaign hasn’t even dealt with.

Robb opposes the war and thinks it’s unwinnable. Further, he would argue that every bad guy on earth will study and learn their techniques anyway and that, in the unlikely event we figure out how to beat them, they’ll simply evolve into something else entirely and we’ll have to figure it out all over again.

Now, I’m less fatalistic than Robb about the inevitability of guerrilla victory, since societies ultimately adjust to systems disruptions and the guerrillas thus have to constantly escalate their attacks to have an impact. Militaries adapt, too, especially at the small unit level. But I agree that the advantage is with the guerrillas, simply because breaking things is easier than building them.

At any rate, Thomas Barnett is right: Brooks’ review should provide a nice publicity boost for an important book. Of course, if the geniuses who run the NYT just did away with their idiotic subscription wall so that people could actually read their columnists, that would be much more true.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The way I read him John Robb is even more pessimistic than you’re painting him, James. I think he sees a situation not unlike that prevailing in Iraq right now taking hold in much of the world with rump governments barely surviving, allowed to endure by guerrillas because they provide services the guerrillas themselves don’t care to provide.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I don’t get the sense Robb sees an apocalyptic future so much as that the guerrillas are the global equivalent of computer spam and viruses. They’re annoying, occasionally disruptive, and something that we simply have to learn to live with.

  3. Astyanax says:

    Ongoing discussion with John Robb about his book at this website.

  4. Tom around the web…

    Pride of place this week goes to New Yorker in DC + He linked The more interesting challenge from China. + And linked The “noneconomics” don’t help on China, because the economics are doing just fine (and cross-posted at TPMCafe…….

  5. […] The Insurgent AdvantageThanks to a series of organizational technological innovations, guerrilla insurgencies are increasingly able to take on and defeat nation-states.  ARTICLE » DAVID BROOKS The New York Times Friday, May 18TAGS: •  Authors > The New York Times > David Brooks   •  The New York Times > Terrorism   •  The New York Times > United States Armament and Defense   •  The New York Times > Bombs and Explosives   more Who’s Blogging View as List View as Thread Most Relevant First Most Recent First Breaking News: Guerilla Tactics Work Matthew Yglesias elap(‘1179513152′);I agree with Brian Beutler. David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place: If the Iraqi insurgents defeat the U.S. then every bad guy on earth will study and learn their techniques. So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This…. Eric Martin american footprints elap(‘1179519252′);Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler … David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place…OverUnderestimating The Insurgency Cassandra Villainous Company elap(‘1179579951’);In today’s NY Times, David Brooks presents some disturbing food for thought: The war on terror has shredded the reputation of the Bush administration. EDITORIAL: NYT’s David Brooks on Brave New War John Robb Global Guerrillas elap(‘1179491320’);David Brooks, one of the best editorialists on the illustrious New York Times roster, examines Brave New War today with “The Insurgent Advantage” (which is, unfortunately, for subscribers only, although more than a few people have copied it onto their.. H&I* Fires, 19 MAY 2007 Denizens Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah’s Military Guys.. elap(‘1179553142′);Open post for those with something to share, updated through the day. New, complete posts come in below this one. Note: If trackbacking, please acknowledge this post in your post. That’s only polite … [Added by the Armorer: Cassandra weighs in on this issue, too.The insurgent advantage’ Bill Doskoch Bill Doskoch: Media, Politics, Film, Minutiae elap(‘1179591745’);The NYT’s David Brooks talks about a new book that outlines why nation states are at a structural disadvantage when fighting the insurgencies of today … Someexcerpts: (TimesSelect)So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This, and the Doctor Says…. Eric Total Information Awareness elap(‘1179510060′);Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler … David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place…After All, We Can Only Lose If We Don’t Win…. … Aaron The Stopped Clock elap(‘1179581940’);After All, We Can Only Lose If We Don’t Win…. In yesterday’s Column, The Insurgent Advantage, David Brooks reviewed a book, John Robb’s Brave New War, in a manner which I hope doesn’t reflect the actual conclusions of that book. Insurgent Advantage James Joyner Outside the Beltway elap(‘1179580669’);David Brooks reviewed John Robb’s new book, Brave New War, in yesterday’s NYT. It’s subscriber-only but full-text variants are available around the Web, including here. OPINIONThe Insurgent Advantage DAVID BROOKS The New York Times elap(‘1179467403’);Thanks to a series of organizational technological innovations, guerrilla insurgencies are increasingly able to take on and defeat nation-states. So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This, and the Doctor Says….Total Information Awareness elap(‘1179510060′);Eric: Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler… David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place… After All, We Can Only Lose If We Don’t Win…. …The Stopped Clock elap(‘1179581940’);Aaron: After All, We Can Only Lose If We Don’t Win…. In yesterday’s Column, The Insurgent Advantage, David Brooks reviewed a book, John Robb’s Brave New War, in a manner which I hope doesn’t reflect the actual conclusions of that book. EDITORIAL: NYT’s David Brooks on Brave New War Global Guerrillas elap(‘1179491320’);John Robb: David Brooks, one of the best editorialists on the illustrious New York Times roster, examines Brave New War today with “The Insurgent Advantage” (which is, unfortunately, for subscribers only, although more than a few people have copied it onto their.. Insurgent Advantage Outside the Beltway elap(‘1179580669’);James Joyner: David Brooks reviewed John Robb’s new book, Brave New War, in yesterday’s NYT. It’s subscriber-only but full-text variants are available around the Web, including here. Breaking News: Guerilla Tactics WorkMatthew Yglesias elap(‘1179513152′);DISCUSSIONI agree with Brian Beutler. David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place: If the Iraqi insurgents defeat the U.S. then every bad guy on earth will study and learn their techniques. So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This, and the Doctor Says….Total Information Awareness elap(‘1179510060′);Eric: Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler. Insurgent Advantage Outside the Beltway elap(‘1179580669’);James Joyner: David Brooks reviewed John Robb’s new book, Brave New War, in yesterday’s NYT. It’s subscriber-only but full-text variants are available around the Web, including here… Matt Yglesias, Brian Beutler, and Eric Martin think this is all a blinding flash of the obvious — that guerrilla tactics are effective — but there’s much more to Robb’s book than that. So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This…. american footprints elap(‘1179519252′);Eric Martin: Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler. Insurgent Advantage Outside the Beltway elap(‘1179580669’);James Joyner: David Brooks reviewed John Robb’s new book, Brave New War, in yesterday’s NYT. It’s subscriber-only but full-text variants are available around the Web, including here… Matt Yglesias, Brian Beutler, and Eric Martin think this is all a blinding flash of the obvious — that guerrilla tactics are effective — but there’s much more to Robb’s book than that. So I Tells the Doctor, It Hurts Whenever I Do This…. american footprints elap(‘1179519252′);Eric Martin: Matt Yglesias (riffing off of Brian Beutler’s discussion of David Brooks’ latest offering) has this to say: I agree with Brian Beutler… David Brooks’ discussion of insurgent tactics in Iraq ends up in a very strange place… OverUnderestimating The InsurgencyVillainous Company elap(‘1179579951’);Cassandra: In today’s NY Times, David Brooks presents some disturbing food for thought: The war on terror has shredded the reputation of the Bush administration. H&I* Fires, 19 MAY 2007 Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah’s Military Guys.. elap(‘1179553142’);Denizens: Open post for those with something to share, updated through the day. New, complete posts come in below this one. Note: If trackbacking, please acknowledge this post in your post. That’s only polite… [Added by the Armorer: Cassandra weighs in on this issue, too. The insurgent advantage’Bill Doskoch: Media, Politics, Film, Minutiae elap(‘1179591745’);Bill Doskoch: The NYT’s David Brooks talks about a new book that outlines why nation states are at a structural disadvantage when fighting the insurgencies of today… Someexcerpts: (TimesSelect) Related Articles4 Uganda troops, civilian die in Somalia blast GULED MOHAMED Boston Globe elap(‘1179417859’);A remote-controlled bomb killed four Ugandan peacekeepers and a civilian in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, yesterday as Islamist militants followed through on a threat to wage an Iraq-style insurgency.MOGADISHU…BlogRunner > Iraq   BlogRunner > Africa   Lawyers on Haditha Panel Peer Into Fog of War PAUL VON ZIELBAUER The New York Times elap(‘1179399603’);The military hearing opened a rare public window onto a debate about how the Marine Corps is fighting in Iraq against a ruthless insurgency.DISCUSSIONBlogRunner > Iraq   NYT > United States Armament and Defense   NYT > Military Personnel   British ‘hold talks with Sunni rebel leaders’ DAMIEN MCELROY The Telegraph elap(‘1179193843’);British military officers have held secret talks with leaders of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, according to the country’s president.DISCUSSIONBlogRunner > Politics   BlogRunner > Iraq   U.S., Iran to hold talks on Iraq RAMIN MOSTAGHIM AND LOUISE ROUG Los Angeles Times elap(‘1179154202’);The U.S. and Iran will hold rare meetings within the next few weeks in Baghdad to discuss the insurgency in Iraq, officials from the two nations said Sunday.BlogRunner > Iraq   BlogRunner > Iran   U.S., Iran to hold rare talks; subject is Iraq RAMIN MOSTAGHIM AND LOUISE ROUG Los Angeles Times elap(‘1179124202’);The U.S. and Iran will hold rare meetings within the next few weeks in Baghdad to discuss the insurgency in Iraq, officials from the two nations said Sunday.DISCUSSIONBlogRunner > Iraq   BlogRunner > Iran   A Tough Fight Still Looms, Cheney Warns G.I.’s in Iraq ALISSA J. 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