Sunday, October 24, 2004

Open Source Bazaar Model of Terrorism

A few months back, I had made a posting here about the Clash of Paradigms. This theme of Paradigms in Collision - the Centralised vs. the Network - was also the subject of one of the issues of Alternative Perspective Newsletter last month.

Today, I found this very interesting posting on John Robb's Blog Global Guerillas, which uses Eric Raymond's open source model (The Cathedral and the Bazaar) to understand the Fourth Generation warfare - the insurgency, guerilla warfare, terrorism, etc. - as being enacted in Iraq. To quote:

"A major difference between the guerrilla war we are fighting in Iraq and previous insurgencies is its lack of center of gravity as we commonly understand it (an ideology/party, ethnic independence, etc. or hierarchy). The real center of gravity in Iraq is a bazaar of violence. This bazaar is where a combination of local and global "hot" money is funding a diverse set of groups, each with their own methods of operation and motivations. Groups engage in co-opetition to share resources, intelligence, and funds.... A bazaar of violence is a hallmark of global guerrilla warfare. When a state collapses, as it did in Iraq, global guerrillas quickly arrive with money and violence. Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt."

In another piece, Robb, describes the tactics of this Open Source Bazaar:

  • "Release early and often. Try new forms of attacks against different types of targets early and often. Don’t wait for a perfect plan.

  • Given a large enough pool of co-developers, any difficult problem will be seen as obvious by someone, and solved. Eventually some participant of the bazaar will find a way to disrupt a particularly difficult target. All you need to do is copy the process they used.

  • Your co-developers (beta-testers) are your most valuable resource. The other guerrilla networks in the bazaar are your most valuable allies. They will innovate on your plans, swarm on weaknesses you identify, and protect you by creating system noise.

  • Recognize good ideas from your co-developers. Simple attacks that have immediate and far-reaching impact should be adopted.

  • Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away (simplicity). The easier the attack is, the more easily it will be adopted. Complexity prevents swarming that both amplifies and protects.

  • Tools are often used in unexpected ways. An attack method can often find reuse in unexpected ways."

    Sham said...

    Very interesting approach.

    Decentralized teamwork seems to work because all of them seem to have one and only one goal to be achieved in the short term and this shortterm goal is in sync with each of their ultimate goal.
    Hence, ideological differences seem very easy to cope up.

    One more thing I sensed (might be degressing) is that in the olden times, whenever a seige was laid on a fort or a city, the boundaries were pretty tightly closed. No one could enter or leave the place. In the present, probably this task is as big as winning the war I guess but looks like this would solve a huge chunk of the 'network organization problem'

    Anonymous said...

    Very nice analogy of the situation in Iraq with the Bazzar approach in software development. One only wonders whether in future this new form of violence will grow into a hydra headed monster movement like Linux.
    Maybe the only difference between the open source software development model and this new form of terrorism is that open source software was welcomed by the masses who were tired with expensive and buggy proprietary software, whereas the die hard costituency for this form of violence is bound to be smaller in size.
    -Rajarshi Banerjee

    Madhukar said...


    Violence begets violence!!
    To me it often seems that the centralised/state-sponsored violence (often given a "precision-bombing" angle by the media) is perhaps a greater cause for the bazaar of violence to spread...

    compare more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died in this "liberation" to less than 2% of that from the "coalition", and the reason becomes clear...