A good post from John Robb over at Global Guerrillas about the “Ecology of war” Nature paper. Robb argues that the research put forward in the study has applications to what he calls Open Source Warfare. Robb believes that Open Source Warfare has become the dominant form of conflict for the 21st Century and it is defined as
a model of warfare that describes how many small autonomous groups can fight an insurgency despite the lack of a central command hierarchy.
This is an interesting theory, however up until now there has been little in the way of quantitative evidence to explain how insurgent forces could operate in such a decentralized fashion. Robb goes on to say that our model provides quantitative evidence for the mechanisms that would allow Open Source Warfare to successfully operate. These are;
A grouping mechanism. Why groups fragment and form. It assumes a constant insurgent population with a fluctuating number of groups depending on counter-insurgency pressure (more pressure = more groups).
A timing mechanism. A description of how insurgent decision making cycles (assuming lots of groups) impact the timing of attacks. The conclusion is that of cross group communication through the media (stigmergic learning) explains how this mechanism works.
These ground level mechanisms or rules of interaction provide a global structure to an insurgency. This structure is revealed by the nature (size, timing, location) of the attacks. What is interesting about the model is that these structures emerge without a centralized control hierarchy. As a final note Robb has this to say about our research paper
As a scientific study of the area, it does a great job.
Update: As Robb notes, in the Nature paper we use a constant population N for the insurgent forces. However, although it is easier to solve a model with a constant population – the structures and mathematical signatures produced by the model do not change if you allow the insurgent force N to increase/decrease over time. I will follow up tomorrow with a post about non-stationary insurgent populations and other generalizations to the model.