Brave New War: A Review

I had the pleasure of reading John Robb’s Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization over the last week. I’ve been familiar with his excellent blog, Global Guerrillas, for some time now, but reading the framework that he’s constructed for his own analyses has added a great deal of depth to my own understanding of his philosophy. Robb has a peculiar style of interpreting news and events, and one that’s very much influenced me. His predictions may not come true, but regardless, he has laid out some fine groundwork even just as a futurist.

Brave New War is broken into three parts: “The Future of War is Now,” “Global Guerrillas,” and “How Globalization Will Put an End to Globalization.” The first is devoted to examining the present security situation. This includes the origins and motives for a number of global non-state actors, as well as the American experience in Iraq. This is also where the history of Robb’s terminology is explained: fourth-generation warfare, effects-based operations, etcetera. He covers a number of other military engagements: the Gulf War, the Chechen War, and others. It’s all very plainly written, and definitely where to start if you haven’t read his blog or anything else on the subject.

The “Global Guerrillas” section is clearly Robb’s baby. He has put a good deal of effort into explaining the dynamics of these groups, and why they’re able to act so effectively. It’s here more than anywhere else in the book that Robb draws on systems and network theory to better understand the dimensions of global guerrillas. It’s here that the book really takes on a coherent shape, and to a certain extent takes on a flavor of business. From the “long tail” and returns on investment to the shadow economy and transnational gangsterism, we truly see why it’s globalization driving the new revolution in asymmetric warfare.

The third section is a little different. Rather than explain why the Iraqi oil pipelines are as vulnerable as they are, he turns to networks in the United States to see where our own weaknesses lie. At the outset, Robb clearly states that he’s not really writing in order to proscribe a solution, but rather in order to point out the significance of our problems and vulnerabilities. He certainly excels at that, but what struck me were just how good his limited suggestions were. They are as simple as they want us to be, and that’s really the core: simplicity. Resiliency, self-sustainability, and general preparedness are really the watchwords of Brave New War. That’s not to say we should all be survivalists living off the grid; rather, everyone should be both taking from and contributing to the grid, through local agriculture, family solar power units, and other ‘green’ developments.

The last part, particularly, was the piece I had missed when trying to follow Robb’s other work. His near-apocalyptic claims of the coming collapse of the state are a little overwrought, but even when he slips into hyperbole, there’s still an important kernel of truth underlying it. The state is weakening, and in no small part it now falls upon its citizens to maintain their own security.

Mostly, I hope that he’s wrong. But in the likely event he’s not, then this book will serve as the how-to manual for living in the network-centric world after statehood.

Buy Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization at

Crossposted at Goodreads.