Review: Brave New War

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzkey, and the header of John Robb’s personal web log.

I once told John Robb that he was too far ahead of the curve, and pointed out that the logic for his thinking on the Global Guerrillas weblog was simply not diffused among the general public. With this book, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization,  he renders that concern irrelevant. Robb brings in a wide variety of sources and, in the tradition of John Boyd, creates an impressive “snowmobile” – a coherent replicatable synthesis of ideas – and does it well. For a full listing, refer to Mark Safranski’s excellent review.

This is the first real text on next generation warfare designed for the general population and it sets the bar high for following acts. It is smart, it is a short read, and it will change your thinking. It also embraces the new paradigm of authorship, in that Robb, by providing the logic for his thinking in the book and tracing new developments and specific examples online, is able to add value to both his paper and electronic streams. For the first time the leading war theorist is directly accessible to his customers. A sign of the times I suppose. Robb understands this and makes engaging in both print and web an incredible experience.

The initial examples offered are not new to readers of Global Guerrillas, and so I first zoomed in onthe thought provoking discussion of American air power being confused for strategy during Desert Storm. By building his case off the thread of Effect Based Operations Robb allows for the normal variant of strategic thinker to change vectors instead of starting from scratch.

This is very important, because at its very core, the book is a catalyst, a conversation starter, a first but pivotal step in assessing and adapting paradigms. The burdens of security are increasingly being off-loaded onto the shoulders of the average individual and those around him. Robb wants us to understand and embrace this change. He understands that there will be as many different approaches to resiliency as there are groups involved, and so he offers us the basics, a platform, to do with what we will.

James Fallows, in the foreword, seems to agree with this assessment:

I don’t agree with every one of the perspectives and recommendations offered here, and I expect many readers will find areas where they differ from Robb. But I am very glad to have read this book, and I expect others will be, too.

We would all do well to understand the logic and the framework John Robb offers in Brave New War, because our enemies have proven, without a doubt, that they do. 

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  • Jonathan Marks
    May 5, 2007

    My copy has just arrived, but as a regular reader of John’s Blog (and having met him at Supernova in 2004) I am looking forward to comparing the book. he has powerful logic that is well ahead of the curve. A delight to read, but this is all seriously worrying stuff.

  • shloky
    May 6, 2007

    “A delight to read, but this is all seriously worrying stuff.”

    Jonathan, my thoughts exactly.

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