Please note, this is not of my creation, I am simply spreading it in it’s original and complete form, with author permission. My hope is that this document will inspire and help facilitate a peaceful transition.
Open Source Warfare Standing Orders
(as listed by John Robb)
Standing Orders Index:
1: Break Networks
2: Grow Black Economies
3: Virtualize Your Organization
4: Repetition is More Important Than Scale
5: Coopetition not Competition
6: Don’t Fork the Insurgency
7: Minimalist Rule Sets Work Best
9: Share or Copy Everything That Works
10: Release Early and Often
11: Co-opt, Don’t Own, Basic Services
STANDING ORDER 1: Break Networks
The first, and most general, standing order of any modern insurgency is simple:
The only caveat being: avoid breaking communications networks. These networks are small group enablers/catalysts, and enable the spread of social contagion virally. Public communications networks, as they are currently use, are asymmetric — in that they aren’t accessible (increasingly less as governments restrict access) by modern nation-states.
Within John Boyd’s framework of grand strategic victory, this achieves the following:
- It disconnects the enemy from itself and its allies (attrition and physical collapse)
- It forms non-cooperative centers of gravity within the enemy camp (moral collapse)
- It creates FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt — psychological collapse)
STANDING ORDER 2: Grow Black Economies
The second standing order of modern insurgencies is to generate economic connectivity in order to manufacture allies and increase the ability of the insurgency to fund itself. It’s simple:
…grow black economies…
This requires cooperation with existing criminal organizations within “illegal” economies. This requires a variant on how the nation-state grew via becoming a protection racket — protection at a rate worth that is worth the value provided and the willingness to expand the business potential of those being protected. Induced shortages, through network disruption, expand business opportunity. Further, broken “legal” economies, generate a plethora of free lancers that populate a self-reinforcing bazaar of violence.
STANDING ORDER 3: Virtualize Your Organization
Modern insurgent groups don’t require cohesive groups of “soldiers.” They can and often virtualize through the use of contractors/freelancers. The standing order for this is simply:
…virtualize your organization…
Optimally, the bulk of a insurgent group’s attacks are virtual. This means that the organization that is assembled for an attack is hired specifically for that job. They do the job and go away. This works best with non-kinetic operations (which should be the vast bulk of any group’s attacks). This is self-reinforcing with network disruption — the more system disruptions that occurs, the greater the number of freelancers available. In a short period of time, specialization of skill sets emerge within the bazaar of violence, as participant freelancer work to enhance their marketability/rates (this in turn enables high levels of productivity).
STANDING ORDER 4: Repetition is More Important Than Scale
The ability to repeat disruptions targeted on specific groups generates changes in behavior (economic, social, and psychological) akin to an excessive tax. This is in contrast to large, one-off, attacks that cause massive disruption and then quickly dissipate as the targeted system returns to equilibrium. The standing order for this is:
…repetition is more important than scale….
Simple, low cost, easy, and repeatable (in that nobody is caught) attacks are both sustainable and generate the greatest potential returns. This doesn’t mean that these attacks don’t have a significant impact. Network effects from disruption almost always guarantee and outsized return — the great is the enemy of the good enough.
STANDING ORDER 5: Coopetition not Competition
All insurgent groups, regardless of their motivation, are allies by default. Every group that joins the insurgency, makes it stronger, even if it is ideologically antagonistic. The approach should be:
…coopetition not competition…
Coopetition is a term that encompasses how rivals can compete for market share but cooperate to grow the market and speed up combined growth. In commercial coopetition, this is done by rivals sharing common platforms (a very important concept) that enable them to reduce costs (as in firms that share suppliers), widen variety, increase flexibility, etc. For example, coopetition is the basis for Internet standards and the Web. Vertical integration is an anathema to successful coopetition.
STANDING ORDER 6: Don’t Fork the Insurgency
There is a tendency, among subgroups in an open source insurgency, to increase local cohesion at the expense of whole. Usually this is done by disrupting social networks to create antagonism between member groups. The order is:
…don’t fork the insurgency…
Social network disruption is nearly as easy as disrupting physical networks, but it can be very dangerous. Social network disruption should only be used if it cleaves the nation-state into non-cooperative centers of gravity without sacrificing open source cohesiveness. In contrast, social network amplification is almost always good.
NOTE: This is grand strategic mistake of al Qaeda in Iraq (unlikely to be repeated). As I mentioned in my 2005 NYTimes OP-ED entitled The Open-Source War: “there are few visible fault lines in the insurgency that can be exploited.” That was true until attacks on Shiite civilians and ultimately the Golden Mosque attack forked the insurgency.
STANDING ORDER 7: Minimalist Rule Sets Work Best
In many cases, modern insurgencies find themselves managing local autonomous zones (as in autonomy from nation-state governance due to inattention, weakness, mendacity, etc.). This management often requires the establishment of rule sets. The simple order is:
…minimalist rule sets work best…
Global guerrilla insurgencies, by design, aren’t a replacement for the nation-state. Maximal, heavy-handed, and corrupted rule sets of the nation-state should be replaced by minimalist rule sets that are fairly applied to encourage the rapid growth of black economies, reduce resistance (among local populations), and ensure order.
STANDING ORDER 8: Self-replicate
This is a hard point to grasp, but it provides a substantial amount of leverage for small groups. It’s important to manufacture copies of yourself that can advance your goals whenever possible. In short:
This can take a direct physical form in the case of technological copies — this includes everything from software bots (which can reach millions of “hacked” computers) and genetically engineered contagion. These technological copies will only get smarter and more responsive as technology improves.
Another method is to create socially engineered copies of your organization through the use of social media. Basically, this means providing the motivation, knowledge, and focus necessary for an unknown person (external and totally unconnected to your group) to conduct operations that advance your group’s specific goals (or the general goals of the open source insurgency). All forms of self-replication will rapidly improve with advances in technology and connectivity.
STANDING ORDER 9: Share or Copy Everything That Works
In open source warfare, there is no pride in exclusive ownership. Everything that can be shared, should be shared. Everything that can be used, should be used. In sum:
…share or copy everything that works…
Small insurgent groups don’t have the capability to advance and innovate, over the long term, solely through internal efforts. They must rely on other groups to advance the ball for them. To continue to improve, the group must be quick to copy improvements that appear to work, regardless of the source. Further, since the success of a single group increases with the success of the whole open source insurgency, every innovation must be shared the moment it is put into use.
STANDING ORDER 10: Release Early and Often
Innovations, from tactics to weapons, should be released as soon and as often as practicable. Perfectionism, sclerotic planning processes, excessive secrecy, risk aversion, and other plagues found in hierarchical organizations are the enemy of success. The rule is:
…release early and often...
Make the attack to demonstrate the innovation and generate the coverage (media). Let the other members of the open source insurgency advance the ball. Remember, with many minds looking at the problem, no bug/deficiency/defect is too difficult to overcome.
STANDING ORDER 11: Co-opt, Don’t Own, Basic Services
On a roll with a Roger’s Rules or Sun Tzu approach to post-industrial insurgency. Probably will roll these up when I’m done, expand the discussions for each, and put them into a PDF. Refinements and critiques are always welcome.
Open source insurgencies typically don’t supply basic services (within the nation-state context, political goods) or assume any responsibility for their delivery, to controlled autonomous zones and their resident populations. Instead, they parasitically ride on a degraded form of the global/national economy’s corporate and public services — from electricity to water to food. Within controlled zones, the objective is to:
…co-opt, don’t own, basic services…
Co-option of basic services enables a steady stream of income from taxation/theft. The ongoing flow of these services enables a relatively normal functioning of the underlying social construct. It also enables global guerrillas the flexibility to focus exclusively on member/group enrichment and its ongoing war to hollow out the nation-state. In the event that broader disruption has forced the creation of black market services (as in an alternative power grid, as we saw in Baghdad), this alternative service is operated within the confines of a protection racket and is not owned directly.
Alternative services, that are owned and operated by the insurgent group, are typically not advisable unless no other alternative exists — as in, a completely hollow or deeply failed nation-states.