5GW Defense: John Robb on "The Resilient Community"

2008-05-02 06:19:00

Chess Match 5GW Strategy

Let's rewind.

I've been talking about 5th Generation Warfare, but that's because I'm a hyperactive little kid who's fascinated by everything in the Universe. Here's a remarkable fact: 4GW is a problem that hasn't been solved yet.

Sure, there's a lot of written material about counter-insurgency operations, some of it truly brilliant. However, on a reality-based level, 4GW outfits are still doing billions in damage to better-armed, better-funded nations and corporations. In the face of this continuous loss, something remarkable has happened: the generals and the technocrats are sounding like damn hippies and calling for smaller, sustainable communities, energy independence and other radical cultural changes.

The important point to remember is never underestimate the motivation, patience, and creativity of an adversary! He is attacking against a defense that is na�ve, arrogant, unbalanced, and fragmented. We are critically dependent on our technology, but the gap between offensive and defensive capability is huge and growing. We must find a different path.

We have to recognize that our systems are vulnerable to sophisticated attacks and find ways to defend against them.

Urban Sprawl and Suburban Virus

Now, that sure sounds like Amory Lovins, especially his classic article "How to Get Real Security." But it's not: that quote is actually from James Gosler at Sandia National Laboratories. Of course, scientists are always saying weird things, so perhaps his call for rethinking the fundamental infrastructure of Western Civilization is just another voice in the wilderness. Gosler made that statement at the 2008 Unrestricted Warfare Symposium held by Johns Hopkins. The proceedings of the conference are available online, and there were some definite gems in what I read through last night.

Here's another clear-cut sign that 4GW remains an unsolved problem -- witness the palpable frustration of Philip Mudd, the "Associate Executive Assistant Director" of the FBI's National Security Branch:

What we have is an architecture of youth that is not organized in ways that we have seen in the past. They do not touch a known person; they do not touch a known cell. We cannot use known security tools. We cannot follow their phone calls because they are not calling anybody. We cannot follow who they are talking to on a computer because they are self-radicalizing on their own computer, and they are not chatting. We cannot follow them in terms of a vehicle or somebody they are meeting on the street because they are not a member of a cell. How do we stop them?

Good question, Mr. Mudd...

The Answer is: You Can't.

Urban Sprawl is Bad National Security

You can't defend strip malls, interstate commerce, nationwide electrical grids and our current system of agriculture. You can't defend the physical infrastructure of the internet and you can't defend huge borders.

As the distribution of power gets wider and deeper, old forms like nations and imperialism are no longer sustainable. As a general design rule: if it's not sustainable, it's not secure.

I'm a Vermont native -- an obscure part of the continental US, for American readers who might be unfamiliar -- and most folks there reached this conclusion about 200 years ago and have been trying to reverse the mistake of getting United to the US Federal Government. So it's remarkable that John Robb would be headed to my homeland to give a speech on "Defending Our Energy Security -Building Resilient Communities." (He'll be at the 2008 Vermont Distributed Energy Conference, if you'd like to attend.)

John Robb is a subject of controversy in 5GW circles, but more importantly, he's a really solid author and an original thinker. His last book, Brave New War, was excellent brainfood, and his blog Global Guerrillas is the best coverage on the topic I've found. So I'm obviously looking forward to his next project:

My goal with this book? I hope this book will provide readers with a useful eschatology for the current global system and a conceptual blueprint for the DIY (do-it-yourself) efforts necessary to build a Resilient Community.

The reaction the book will get? For those that completely tied to or immersed in the legacy system, this book will be a very scary read. For those that are fearless and willing to adapt in order to progress, it will become a go to reference.

You can get an early sense through his previous posts: exploring the pressures behind this transition with Transition Towns and Food and the RC, an exploration of energy independence through Microgrids, and the original brainstorm, The Resilient Community.

Urban Sprawl Leads to Cultural Decay

"The Internet is Killing Us"

That's from Philip Mudd again...I'll give him the last word:


In the nuclear age when the enemy was the Soviet Union, we had the luxury of imagery to look at sites, SIGINT (signal intelligence) to look at communications, HUMINT (human intelligence) to recruit sources and defectors, and international organizations like the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to watch material. Try to apply a single one of those to a 17-year-old in the United States today.

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