Thursday, 30 June 2011
WAR NERD: How the IRA used Systems Disruption
I've enjoyed The War Nerd for years. Great, colorful writing. The author of the column, “Gary Brecher,” was never on the same page as me when it came to warfare. However, that's changed.
He now thinks, and makes an excellent case for global guerrilla thinking. In short: that blood and guts warfare is counter productive and that systems disruption (hiting network systempunkts/nodes to generate high ROI‘s and publicity) is a potential path to long term victory for guerrillas. In short: in the modern context, if you keep the blood/guts to a min, and keep the cost ratio massively in your favor while staying alive, you will eventually win.
To demonstrate this, he has a great article on how the IRA eventually adopted systems disruption:
“In 1994, they took the idea of non-lethal warfare a notch up by doing one of the most revolutionary things any guerrilla army has ever done: IRA mortar teams dropped shells on the runways at Heathrow Airport, totally stopping air traffic… but the shells weren’t even designed to explode. Intentional duds. That’s amazing; I’ve never heard of anything like that. It shows how far they’d come by that stage, away from the simple Al Qaeda maximum-blood crap I bought into in that earlier article. In contemporary urban guerrilla warfare, at least in Western Europe, killing civvies is counterproductive. What you want to do, what the IRA had mastered by the 1990s, was messing with the incredibly fragile and expensive networks that keep a huge city going. Interrupt them and you cost the enemy billions of dollars, and they don’t even have any gory corpses to shake in your faces. Fucking brilliant, and I was too dumb to see it!
…The real crunch came when Lloyd’s of London went under. Guess why. Yup, it was the hundreds of billions of dollars they’d paid out for every highrise and pane of glass that had to be replaced after those London bombs went off.
When Lloyds goes under thanks to a few hundred Irish Catholics, the lowest of the low in the UK pecking order, something’s gotta change. If this was a game show and Northern Ireland was the prize, “What would you pay?” would get an answer in the “Uh…two cents?” range. But the Brits were paying incredible amounts to keep the nasty little place a Protestant game preserve. The 1992 bomb alone caused 800 million pounds worth ofdamage to central London.
That’s about a billion and a half dollars. For what? Proving you’ve got a stiff upper lip?
….Nerf wins—low-casualty, high-cost performance-art style guerrilla bombings. And Al Qaeda style maximum-splatter is for hotheaded idiots who forget that the real job of a guerrilla force is to stay in existence, lean on the enemy, wear him out and bankrupt him.”
Thing is, al Qaeda is starting to adopt this method too. They are now using system disruption (max ROI, but not the theatrics yet) as a method of attack and have rebranded themselves “open source jihad.” Open source organizational forms is the “other” innovation in guerrilla warfare. When combined with systems disruption, it's extremely powerful.
Phi Beta Iota: It is devine intervention no less that places John Robb's entry immediately after Penguin's latest blast at Courtier Dr. Robert Gates, Obama Honors Gates for Civility. From 1988 onwards, the mandarins of security and secrecy were told by Robert Steele and ultimately 750 other high-profile speakers that open source was in, closed source was out. Many observed that 9-11 cost $500,000 to mount, and over $5 million to respond to. Since then the ratio has grown–mostly because of the corruption of US “decision-makers,” from 1:5 to more like 1:N. A three trillion dollar war for what? US “leaders” are not stupid. This is a repeat of Viet-Nam, whose primary purpose, never mind the 50,000 US and million Vietnamese dead, was to “churn” or use up the US military equipment so it would have to be bought new. Iraq was complicated by the matching corruption in finance and health, causing the tri-fecta of national melt-downs. All is not lost–but before we can begin reconciliation and reconstruction, the truth must be on the table: a liar is a liar, a traitor is a traitor, a crime is a crime. The “system” is corrupt to the core. The only thing that will change that is a system that displaces it–the old corrupt system cannot be repaired or improved–it will continue to do the wrong things more expensively.