Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Switch by John Robb

Traditional guerrilla movements and insurgencies were founded on strict ideologies or political agendas. As a result, their organizations tended towards hierarchy and strong central control. However, the advent of a dominant global market (that no organization, despite claims to the contrary, controls) and the subsequent and inevitable weakening of the nation-state changed that. It substituted market values for ideological or political values and insurgencies are quickly changing to reflect that. For example:

* A group is only successful, long term, if it can consistently generate wealth (as in: enjoy economic success).

* Dynamism, resilience, and flexibility are prized over size, rigidness, and purity.

* Alliances, cooperation, and interconnectedness is better than "go it alone" or rabidly competitive approaches.

The Impact on Organizations

This "switch" also means that control of the nation-state became is nearly useless in an environment where success was only generated by competition within a global market system at a local level. As a result, modern or 21st Century guerrilla movements/insurgencies increasingly don't put ideology or politics first (although there are some high profile hold-outs, reversals such as al Qaeda suffered in Iraq demonstrate that an inability to invert goals is the path to failure). Increasingly, they put economics first, or more specifically: they focus on the ability of the group and its members to generate wealth. They do this through the integration of their military capability with production centers and supply routes that power the multi-trillion dollar flows of Black Globalization. This connection provides them with the ability to:

* Grow Support. Become competitive with the state in an ability to generate wealth (and everything that economic advantage implies: from services to security) for supporters. This is a competition for legitimacy and nation-state are increasingly losing that competition.

* Grow Operations. Grow operations through the development of business operations that enable ever greater wealth. Contrast this to the spiraling deficits and (soon) cuts in security budgets at the nation-state level.

* Gain Efficiency and Productivity. Financial success enables these groups to efficiently expand operations through dynamic market operations that enable the rapid purchase of everything from assassinations to IED attacks. This not only vastly expands the pool of participants, it enables specialization and rapid innovation.

It should be apparent that "the switch" to economic agendas in combination with decentralized organizational structures makes modern guerrillas much more dangerous than ever in history. While 9/11 demonstrated the growing leverage (in an ability to do harm) of small groups and Iraq/Afghanistan the power of doggedness of decentralized organizations, this depression will demonstrate the strength of economically driven operations. Barring a major and unforeseen redux in how nation-states operate, we might see the world look like Swiss cheese by early in the next decade: as in, most nation-states riddled with ungoverned spaces/holes in their territory, lost to insurgent groups.

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